Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Dunn: Jesus Remembered 3

I'm not going to finish by Easter, sad to say. Looks like it's going to end up being a chapter a week from here on out. Today I'm on to chapter 6 of James Dunn's Jesus Remembered, the last chapter of his Prolegomena on faith and the historical Jesus. This chapter is titled, "History, Hermeneutics and Faith." My first two reviews were basically:

Flight from Dogma
Flight from History

If the preceding material has largely gone through the history of the discussion, Dunn now presents his hermeneutic. This is good reading. I think what has impressed me the most about this book so far is the breadth and depth of Dunn's reading. Usually I am impressed with his ability to conceptualize and organize complex bodies of thought--something I pride myself on and that has therefore always attracted me to him.

But this time I am less impressed by this talent of his and more by the breadth of literature he covers, particularly in his footnotes. His footnotes in this book are not mere references to other literature. They are smatterings of significant quotes in the history of interpretation and hermeneutics. We find everything from Schleiermacher to Lonergan to Husserl.

Let me go through the chapter using a list:

1. "... history and hermeneutics are close companions, Siamese twins perhaps. That will no doubt be part of the reason for the failure of history and faith to bed well together: hermeneutics is the too little acknowledged third partner -- a somewhat uncomfortable ménage à trois" (99).

Indeed, this is the fly in the ointment, the ghost in the machine, the elephant in the room. If the process of connecting reader and text is not clarified, then we have the chaos that is Christians reading the Bible.

2. "Christians cannot but want to know what Jesus was like" (101).
I think this is true. It ultimately is not the Jesus of the Gospels that is the object of historic Christian faith, at least in terms of traditional, orthodox Christianity. If it turned out that the Jesus of history was significantly different from Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, that would be of great interest and moment to everyone, including Christians.

Indeed, while Christianity can remain substantially true even if vast amounts of biblical narrative turned out not to be historical (in fact even if almost all of it was not historical), this is not true of Jesus. If Jesus was not a real person, indeed, was not God incarnate, if Jesus did not truly die and rise from the dead in history, then historic Christianity is to be rejected. Certainly there are forms of Christianity that can and have exist without a historically risen Jesus, but they are fundamentally different in character.

3. Dunn affirms Troeltsch's "probability rather than certainty" in historical inquiry. He is more careful about Troeltsch's "analogy" (things now are like things then) and "correlation" (the universe is a closed system of interrelationships). The first seems to make it hard to affirm the unique as historical, while the second was more appropriate to a Newtonian rather than a quantum world.

Dunn prefers to speak of a distinction between event, data, and fact (drawn from a book from his own education by Collingwood). The event belongs to the irretrievable past (check). Data is what is available to us, which has come down to us through history (check). Such data is of course extremely partial and somewhat arbitrary. Where I don't really like Dunn's definitions are in how he defines "fact." Facts for him are what the historian tries to reconstruct. They are interpretations of data.

I personally find this approach to "fact" confusing.

4. In his sections, "What Rights Does the Text Have?" and "The Priority of Plain Meaning" Dunn takes the expected position that "respecting the text and allowing the text so far as possible, using all the tools of historical criticism, to speak in its own terms is still valid. Any less a goal for exegesis would be self-condemned" (115). Certainly this is true for exegesis.

However, I ultimately disagree with Dunn's apparent implication that texts have inherent rights. People have rights. It is respectful to heed a text's intent when its author is aware we are reading it and is trying to communicate with us. I would even say it seems most natural to read a text for its original meaning. But ultimately, I agree with Robert Morgan, "Texts, like dead men and women, have no rights" (114).

I agree with Dunn's sense of the plain meaning of a text as rich and extending beyond grammar and syntax to the social and historical world behind it.

5. I thought this sentence was interesting as Dunn critiqued a certain tendency with regard to current thinking on pre-suppositions. The inductive Bible study book we use in the undergraduate program at IWU draws what I believe is an artificial distinction between "pre-understanding" and "presupposition." Dunn apparently collapses the two:

"The point is sometimes missed when more conservative biblical scholars deem it sufficient to declare their presuppositions before embarking on what most of their fellow scholars would regard as uncritical exegesis, as though the declaration of presuppositions somehow vindicated the exegesis itself (since 'Everyone has presuppositions'). But the point is not simply that any reading of a text is shaped by the pre-understanding brought to it. The point is rather that as the exegete moves round the hermeneutical circle between pre-understanding and text, the text reacts back upon the pre-understanding, both sharpening it and requiring of it revision..." (121).

6. "Hermeneutics is best conceived as a dialogue where both partners must be allowed to speak in their own terms, rather than as an interrogation of the text where the text is only allowed to answer the questions asked" (124). "It is not that the encounter is a 'picnic' to which the text brings the words and the reader the meaning, to pick of Northrop Frye's engaging metaphor."

This is one valid approach, although I can't see how we can deny the other as well.

7. "... the 'historical Jesus' is the Jesus constructed by historical research" (125, italics his), not the real Jesus or the Jesus of history.

8. With Kähler, "We do not have a 'neutral' (!) portrayal of Jesus. All we have in the NT Gospels is Jesus seen with the eye of faith" (127).

9. Form criticism missed its chance to connect to the initial reaction to Jesus in oral tradition. Instead, it got stuck in the literary forms themselves and the tradition in process.

10. "The Synoptic tradition provides evidence not so much for what Jesus did or said in itself, but for what Jesus was remembered as doing or saying by his first disciples" (130). Here we get to the title of the volume and, I believe, what Dunn wants to be known as his signature approach.

We cannot really get back to what Jesus did or said. What we might get back to is the impact that Jesus had on those who heard and saw him. The Gospels give us entry to Jesus remembered in distinction from some absolute, objective sense of who Jesus really was. This Jesus bears a relationship to the "historic" Jesus, but our reconstructions are a "historical" Jesus of our reconstruction.

11. Also signature is the connection between faith and that impact. The Jesus of history created faith in those around him. Dunn is not committing at this time what kind of faith that was, but there was faith created as part of his impact.

One of Dunn's signature ideas in this book is that we have here to do with pre-Easter faith. It is conventional at least since Bultmann to speak of Easter faith. But Dunn rightly argues that if the life and teachings of Jesus had not made a faith impact of some sort before Easter, then we cannot make sense of the Gospels.

"However great the shock of Good Friday and Easter for the first disciples, it would be unjustified to assume that these events marked a discontinuity with their initial disciple-response" (133).

12. Dunn ends the chapters with two broad corollaries (in the queen's English said, co-ROL-laries). The norms of the quest are a) the Greek text, b) the plain meaning, c) the Synoptic form. Dunn shows himself thoroughly Protestant here. "It is this readiness for self-criticism in the light of tradition... which marks out the western church -- its willingness to recognize and acknowledge when it has departed from its norm, whether in the condemnation of a Galileo or in its centuries-long tradition of anti-Semitism -- a dialogue of criticism which remains something of a barrier and bewilderment for the Christianity of East and South" (135-36).

Secondly, "the foundational documents of the Christian tradition should still be heard to speak meaningfully to the present day" (136), outside the church. If all we have of Jesus is the reading of a Christian community--rather than one anyone might access as appropriate to more normal historical understanding, then Jesus is unable to speak to the world.

Til next week...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pagan Christianity 1

I thought I might aim to read through Frank Viola and George Barna's book Pagan Christianity on Thursdays for a while. While I expect to disagree with it greatly, it is no doubt an important respresentation of where a whole lot of the church is today. That begs us to ask, what truth about the church does this book embody, even if I believe we should strongly disagree with a lot of the specifics of what it says. I am also proud to say that Frank Viola is my friend on Facebook. :-)

I start today with the Preface and Acknowledgements by Viola. First, I have enjoyed the interspersed quotes. They've picked some great ones.

In the Preface, Viola gives the main point of the book: "the church in its contemporary, institutional form has neither a biblical nor a historical right to function as it does" (xx). On the following page, he makes a more modest claim, "those who have left the fold of institutional Christianity to become part of an organic church have a historical right to exist--since history demonstrates that many practices of the institutional church are not rooted in Scripture."

I don't think I have a problem with the right of "organic" churches to exist. He defines an organic church as "a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic churches are characterized by Spirit-led, open-participatory meetings and nonhierarchical leadership" (xix). I don't have a problem with the house church movement in general. I will certainly grant to organic churches the right to exist. :-)

However, in practice a group of individuals just going with the flow of the "Spirit" might just as easily turn out to be a group that commits mass suicide to join a passing comet. What Viola and Barna don't realize is that what keeps the house church movement sane is as much its Christian subconscious as its use of the Bible itself. Nothing in the Bible itself will keep you from going off with David Koresh. Such groups certainly would claim to be Spirit-led. In practice, more than anything else, even more than the text of the Bible itself, it is our inherited Christian glasses that keep us on track. And these glasses would not wrongly be called "tradition."

Viola and Barna are not aware of their own glasses while they are in the process of enlightening the rest of us hoping that "every literate Christian would read this work" (xx) so they can be rescued from their ignorance.

Viola begins his preface with a "parable" involving Jesus, Pharisees, and Sadducees. I call it a parable not because Viola does, but to highlight the fact that he is passing on to us a tradition on how to interpret Jesus' interaction with "characters" in the story called Pharisees and Sadducees. No doubt most of Viola's readers will be familiar with the "tradition of the contemporary elders" that he passes on.

Pharisees are those who added to Scripture. Sadducees are those who took away from Scripture. Both of them took steps to put the Son of God to death. Let he who has ears to hear, hear. The interpretation is that those in the "institutional" church oppose the spirit of Jesus by adding "reams" of things that are not in the Bible. Meanwhile, there are many practices of the early church that the institutional church has removed from its practice.

Why do I call this a Violian parable? Because it is a (contemporary) traditional interpretation of the Pharisees and Sadducees that goes well beyond the Bible. For example, it is true that Jesus and Paul disagreed with the Sadducees on the topic of resurrection. But nowhere in the Bible is the objection made to the Sadducees that they take things out of Scripture. The objection is to what they teach (e.g., Matt. 16:12). In other words, Viola is following traditions of his own outside the Bible without knowing it. I don't have a problem with it--he does.

As a matter of fact, although Viola can claim some good scholars behind his understanding of the Sadducees, the idea that they did not believe in angels and restricted Scripture to the Law are both a matter of significant debate among scholars. Both of these claims are based on single statements (e.g., Acts 23:8), the meaning of which is genuinely ambiguous.

On the matter of the resurrection, it is important to point out that on this issue the Sadducees were actually more Scriptural than the Pharisees, since only one passage in the Old Testament points to resurrection (Dan. 12:2) and many deny it (e.g., Job 14:14). The Sadducees thus represent with the Old Testament Scriptures the approach that Viola and Barna are advocating!

With regard to the Pharisees, it is true that they had traditions on how to keep Scripture. So do we! Because the Bible does not address every possible situation that might occur--indeed, the overwhelming majority of decisions we must make in life are not addressed in the Bible--we are forced to apply more general biblical statements to the specifics of our world and situation.

Is Viola against abortion or pornography or pre-marital sex. These are appropriate Christian beliefs. But the Bible has no verse against abortion. Indeed, the only explicit comment on the death of an unborn child (Exod. 21:22) involves a fine in distinction from "serious injury" that might occur to the mother. The oft quoted Matthew 5:28 as a prohibition of lust was about adultery and thus is not about unmarried individuals lusting after each other. And it would be difficult to find any explicit prohibition of pre-marital sex in the Bible other than an assumed expectation for women to be virgins when they married.

What I am saying is that the common Christian prohibitions on things like abortion, pornography, and pre-marital sex is appropriate Christian working out of basic principles in life that is exactly the kind of "tradition of the elders" that the Pharisees generated over time. Jesus criticizes them sometimes for what they add and especially for the misplaced emphasis of their worst representatives.

But in Matthew 23:3 he tells the crowds to obey their teaching. He affirms their tithing of mint, spice, and cummin (23:23)--which is added tradition on how to tithe. And perhaps even more significantly, Paul identifies himself as a Pharisee in the present tense in Acts 23:6.

My point is that before the book even begins, in Viola's preface, he has already demonstrated a penchant to interpret Scripture within a tradition, and the impossibility to apply it without in a sense "adding" to it.

This is going to be fun!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lennox in IWU Chapel on Atonement

Steve Lennox spoke on atonement in chapel today. Eventually, you will be able to hear it on iTunes, launching from this webpage. He came up with a nice little acrostic on atonement:

L = liberation from the power of Sin (I suspect we might map this to Christus Victor too, victory over evil powers)

O = order (here he covered satisfaction type material--the need for balance in God's creation and justice)

V = vicarious exchange (substitution type material)

E = example (moral influence type material)

There was good application stuff to the tune of about 6 points, but I didn't write it down. So you'll have to listen to the podcast.

By the way, I also found out that Peter Enns is now attending a Nazarene church. Welcome to the Wesleyan tradition! Unlike the PCA, we don't eat our young... at least not as often :-)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Table of Contents in my NT Survey Book

I realized today that you can't look into the Table of Contents on Amazon of the New Testament Survey textbook I wrote a few years back, Jesus is Lord: An Introduction to the New Testament. So here it is for anyone doing a search. P.S. I think it's about 30 dollars cheaper straight from the publisher.

Unit 1 Introduction
1. Why Read the NT
2. How to Read the Bible as a Christian
3. An Overview of the NT
4. Who Chose These Books?
5. Why Are There So Many Different Bibles?

Unit 2 Background
6. The Story Behind the Story: Abraham to Moses
7. The Story Behind the Story: From Promised Land to No Land
8. Jewish Groups at the Time of Christ
9. Ancient Family Values
10. Money and Power in the Ancient World
11. How They Viewed the World
12. Religious Thinking at the Time of Christ

Unit 3 Gospels
13. What Is a Gospel?
14. The Life and Teachings of Jesus: An Overview
15. The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus, the Son of David
16. The Sermon on the Mount
17. Being a Follower of Christ
18. The Gospel of Mark: Jesus, the Suffering Messiah
19. The Gospel of Luke: The Beginnings of Jesus’ Mission
20. The Synoptic Question: How Do Matthew, Mark, and Luke Fit Together?
21. Jesus and the Downtrodden
22. The Parables: Stories Jesus Told
23. The Gospels and Judgment Day
24. Stories of Jesus’ Birth
25. John: Jesus the Way
26. The Story of Jesus in John
27. What Would Jesus Do?
28. Other Gospels Not in Our Bible

Unit 4 Acts
29. Acts: Luke’s Sequel
30. The Story of the Church in Acts: Part 1: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria
31. The Story of the Church in Acts: Part 2: To the Ends of the Earth
32. The Basic Christian Message
33. Baptism with the Holy Spirit
34. Christians and Troublemakers in Luke-Acts
35. Did the Early Church Have Denominations?

Unit 4 Paul’s Letters
36. The Life and Writings of Paul
37. Paul’s Mission and Message
38. Paul’s Letter to Rome: Is God Really Faithful?
39. How Do You Get to Heaven?
40. Contemporary Issues in Romans
41. The Corinthian Letters: Unity Problems
42. Contemporary Issues in 1 Corinthians
43. Is Death the End?
44. 2 Corinthians: Healing Relationships
45. Galatians: Paul on the Defense
46. Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon: Letters from Prison
47. Ghostwriting in the New Testament?
48. 1 and 2 Thessalonians: Paul’s Earliest Preaching
49. 1 and 2 Timothy: Passing on the Torch
50. Paul’s Later Writings and Society

Unit 6 Hebrews, General Letters, and Revelation
60. Hebrews: Don’t Give Up the Race
61. James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1-2-3 John, Jude: The General Letters
62. The Apocalypse: Jesus Revealed!

Epilogue
63. Where Do We Go from Here?

Interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:4

I did some spade work in relation to an assignment my Thessalonians/Corinthians class did for today. The following are PowerPoint slides for class discussion today, going through much of the evidence and doing the exegetical process. Very difficult question! Hard to know the answer!

2 Thessalonians 2:4

Interpretive Question: What does it mean for the man of lawlessness “to sit in the temple of God, showing himself to be divine”?

I. Preliminary Look at Immediate Context
a. Thessalonians 2 seems to deal with events prior to the Day of the Lord.

b. This man of lawlessness would appear before the Day and do whatever this verse is talking about.

II. Broader Literary Context
a. 1:7-10 speaks of the “revelation” of Jesus from heaven with his angels, when he will come and visit judgment on those who trouble the Thessalonians.

b. So we observe 1) a context of Jesus’ return to earth in judgment and 2) an apparent expectation that it will happen while the audience is alive.

c. 2 Thessalonians 2 then goes on to speak of the parousia, arrival of the Lord… apparently the same event.

d. Chapter 2 thus would seem to be about events that Paul expects to take place within the audience’s lifetime.

e. The “Day of the Lord” would seem to be another way of referring to the same judgment.

III. Genre and Critical Issues
a. Some argue that 2 Thessalonians is pseudonymous, perhaps meant to balance out the immanent expectation of 1 Thessalonians.

b. If so, we can ask how much later than Paul it would have been written, something to keep in mind.

IV. Historical-Cultural Background
A. Intertextual Evidence
1. The “Day of the Lord” evokes Old Testament imagery of a day of visitation when God judges some group (e.g., Amos 5:18). There the judgment is more local or epochal. In 2 Thess. more universal.

2. Daniel 11:36--in reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, who “will exalt himself over every god.”

B. Other texts by Paul
1. The parousia for Paul refers to Jesus’ return in salvation and judgment. “Gathering together” in 2 Thess. 2:1 would seem to refer to the same event as 1 Thess. 4:17.

2. The idea that the “letter as through us” might refer to 1 Thessalonians seems incredible. Paul elsewhere says nothing about this “man of lawlessness” or any such action in a temple.

3. Temple in Paul
a. 1 Corinthians 3:16--“You are the temple of God.”

b. 1 Corinthians 6:19--“Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

C. Contemporary Literature
1. The rest of the New Testament
a. Mark 13/Matthew 24--“When you see the abomination of desolation standing where it should not be”--AD70, possibly end times as well

b. Luke 21—Jerusalem surrounded by armies--AD70

c. Revelation 13 and 17
Beast from the sea and beast from the land have some similarities. Beast from the sea makes war on the saints and takes imagery from Nero. Beast from the land performs wonders. No mention of temple in Revelation.

2. Outside the New Testament
Ascension of Isaiah 4:2-12 (2nd cent.)
"After it is consummated, Beliar the great ruler, the king of this world, will descend, who hath ruled it since it came into being; yea, he will descent from his firmament in the likeness of a man, a lawless king, the slayer of his mother: who himself (even) this king, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted. Of the Twelve one will be delivered into his hands.

"This ruler in the form of that king will come and there will come and there will come with him all the powers of this world, and they will hearken unto him in all that he desires. And at his word the sun will rise at night and he will make the moon to appear at the sixth hour. And all that he hath desired he will do in the world: he will do and speak like the Beloved and he will say: 'I am God and before me there has been none.'

"And all the people in the world will believe in him. And they will sacrifice to him and they will serve him saying: "This is God and beside him there is no other.” And the greater number of those who shall have been associated together in order to receive the Beloved, he will turn aside after him. And there will be the power of his miracles in every city and region. And he will set up his image before him in every city. And he shall bear sway three years and seven months and twenty-seven days."

D. Other Historical Evidence
1. Temple echoes?
a. Desecration by Antiochus Epiphanes (167BC)

b. Entrance into Holy of Holies by Pompey (63BC)

c. Desired desecration by Caligula (40BC)

2. Contemporary Events of Interest
a. Martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome (AD60’s)

b. Jewish Revolt against Rome (AD66-73)

c. Destruction of the Temple (AD70)

V. Immediate Literary Context
Vs. 1— “concerning the arrival of Lord and our gathering”
context of parousia, meeting him in air

Vs. 2– “Day of Lord has come”
Sure seems like some situation must be prompting… too many potential sources of such a belief involved. Could it be over-enthusiasm for Christ’s return? Nero’s persecution? Of Paul? Of Roman Christians or Peter? The revolt?

Vs. 3—“apostasy” and “man of lawlessness”
Apostasy—Acts 21:21: “turning away from Moses”; Jeremiah 2:19—turning away from God; 1 Macc. 2:15—the apostasy as the forced Hellenization of Israel; Seems most likely to refer to Jews or Christians turning from God.

Vs. 4—opposes everything being called God
Evokes images of Antiochus, Caligula. Not obviously a Jew, although how otherwise would he be part of a turning away? Turning away seems to be in the direction of the man of lawlessness, so probably not Jewish revolt.

“sits in the temple to show he is divine”
Everything thus far has seemed literal—real parousia, real gathering, real individual opposing God, real turning away. So probably should take temple literally. The temple was standing at the time, so probably pre-AD70.

So likely resonances:
a. apostasy—like the turn away from God at the time of the Maccabees, turn toward the Romans?

b. man of lawlessness—like Antiochus or Caligula (if a specific person was in view, Nero is the best suggestion)

c. sets himself in the temple—like the desecration of Antiochus or Caligula, but in person like Pompey

d. signs and wonders will accompany

VI. Conclusion
Similarities to Mark 13/Matthew 24, possible blurring of contemporary events with end time events

Expectation of desecration of temple by political figure, perhaps literal originally, metaphorical now?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Writing an Interpretation Paper

I did a final vidcast summary for my students to write up the mini-interpretation I assigned them. It is on Writing It Up.

You can access the growing collection of exegetical review material here on my archive site.

Monday Enns: New Testament Interpretation of Old

Enns' writings remind me of some of the unpublished stuff I wrote when I first started teaching college. As I read Enns, I thought of some of the notes Drury wrote after kindly reading some of it.

First, I was doing my "therapy" in those writings for PFSD, Post-Fundamentalist Stress Disorder. PFSD occurs when, after fighting to the death in the fundamentalist infantry, you find out that you're not actually fighting for God but for a peculiar twentieth century cultural phenomenon. Like Paul, you realize you were a "zealot without knowledge." You feel betrayed. You feel stupid. You feel angry. Not that Enns gives off much of this vibe...

But as part of the therapy, you often "shell" your imaginary reader with far more examples than are necessary--and of course the deconstructive examples are pervasive, which of course contributes to the sense of absolute stupidity on your part. I thought of Drury when I read this sentence in Enns, "It may seem that these examples have been drawn out further than they need to be" (131). Drury has written notes like that to me--I got the point three pages ago... :-)

The way that the New Testament interprets the OT provides one of the greatest bits of "naughty data," if not the greatest, in the Copernican Revolution that is currently underfoot in evangelical hermeneutics. Evangelical hermeneutics, as an extension of Protestant hermeneutics, has insisted that the Bible alone is the authority over the Christian. As hermeneutical developments proceeded to understand original meaning more clearly, it became the "original meaning alone" is authoritative over a Christian.

But what if we were to find that, as it turns out, the New Testament itself does not interpret the OT in terms of its original meaning. Does this fact not deconstruct the entire hermeneutic? Does it not imply a controlling factor in interpretation beyond the text itself?

The Ptolemaic scientists of evangelicalism have not missed the potential threat to "normal science," to their paradigm. They have launched a coping strategy, called Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old. The goal is to find as many connections as possible between the New Testament use of the Old Testament and anything that might smack of attention to original context.

But alas, this is supposed to be a review of Enns. Let me try to summarize him.

1. The NT reads the OT in a "Christotelic" and "ecclesiotelic" fashion. That is to say, they read it knowing that Christ is somehow the goal toward which the Old Testament story is heading (154). Enns does not mean that they see Christ in every OT passage. The "ecclesiotelic" way of reading is a way that sees it leading to the people of God as understood in the NT.

2. In other words, and perhaps Enns spends too much of his time showing this--the NT by and large is unconcerned to read the OT in context, indeed sometimes felt free to change the wording in striking ways. Some of his examples include Matthew 2:15's interpretation of Hosea 11:1 (one I've mentioned here often), 2 Corinthians 6:2's use of Isaiah 49:8, Galatians 3:16 and the seed of Abraham, Paul's editing of Isaiah 59:20 in Romans 11:26-27, Hebrews 3:7-11 and Psalm 95:9-10.

3. Enns shows that the NT in such exegetical techniques is doing things similar to the way other texts like the book of Wisdom, Jubilees, or the pesher commentaries at Qumran interpreted the OT. The NT is in the flow of such interpretive traditions, as we see in 2 Timothy's comments on Jannes and Jambres, 2 Peter 2:5's comments on Noah preaching, Jude 9's mention of Michael arguing with Satan over Moses' body, Jude 14-15 quoting 1 Enoch 1.9, Acts 7's mention of Moses' Egyptian education, the idea that angels delivered the Law to Moses, or 1 Cor. 10's idea of a rock following Moses in the desert.

4. Biblical interpretation is a community activity.

Conclusion
So what does he want us to take away from this book? Basically, the message of the Bible is incarnated and thus multidimensional. Secondly, the Bible sets trajectories, not rules, because there is theological diversity present and dialog. Finally, "the primary purpose of Scripture is for the church to eat and drink its contents in order to understand better who God is, what he has done, and what it means to be his people, redeemed in the crucified and risen Son" (170). Scripture is "a means of grace for the church." He appeals to his audience (and perhaps at the time to Westminster Theological Seminary) to listen to the text rather than to shove it in their preconceived categories.

I suspect if we are left at the end of the day wondering what this looks like, it will not surprise us of a Reformed thinker (I'm assuming Enns is Reformed). Part of the Reformed ethos, whether it be Barth or Jamie Smith or William Placher, is to leave it up to God to make the right understanding happen. How do we as a community come to a right understanding of the meaning of Scripture? God will take care of it. Am I wrong?

I would extend this thought in a direction Enns doesn't take it. Where does this trajectory lead? Does it not lead to the consensus of Christendom?

Gathering Evidence from Historical-Cultural Context

Here are the three vidcasts I've made so far in the series on "How to Answer Interpretive Questions:"

3. Gathering evidence from historical-cultural context

2. Gathering evidence from literary context

1. Asking good questions

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Gathering Evidence from Literary Context

Here is a vidcast I just shot on gathering evidence to answer questions in the interpretation of a passage by drawing on literary context. If you'd like some controversy, I use Romans 7:25b and Philippians 3:12 as my examples.

The first vidcast in this series was on what constitutes a good (original meaning) interpretive question.

More to come.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Review: Dunn's Jesus Remembered 2

Today I have made my way through Chapter 5 of James Dunn's Jesus Remembered. The chapter is entitled "The Flight from History." My review of the earlier chapters is here.

I enjoyed the beginning of this chapter. Dunn is so well read and has lots of delicious quotes here, there, and in the footnotes. One of the things I have struggled with in chapters 4 and 5 is exactly what Dunn himself struggled with in writing the chapters. History is sloppy. How do you take the ebbs and flows of history and conceptualize them in a way that does minimal damage to them.

This is the problem with so much of the ideological history we hear. This idea led to this idea led to this idea. The absurdity of shoving the infinitude of life onto such a narrow string!

So we must give great latitude to the attempt to capture the history of historical Jesus research under two headings: 1) The Flight from Dogma (chap. 4) and 2) The Flight from History (chap. 5). In chapter 4 Dunn discussed such research as it pursued reason moving away from the church. In this chapter he discussed those who, because of the desire for something greater, have minimalized the importance of history in the equation of Jesus.

Since history doesn't fall neatly into such categories, we will have to make do with the occasional oddity that results. It seems to me that each subsection is a gem, delightful. The overarching categorization has not gelled with me.

1. The first gem is a piece on the "Historical-Critical Method." Here I think Dunn aims to state the problem of the historical method as it has given rise to various flights from it. He mentions two key figures in the formulation of the historical-critical method: Lessing and Troeltsch.

Gotthold Lessing (1729-81) is the first key figure. Lessing is of course known for the idea of a "ugly, broad ditch" between historical uncertainty and the necessary truths of reason. "Accidental truths of history can never become the proofs of necessary truths of reason."

Ernst Troeltsch is the second (late 1800's). The historical method 1) is about the probable, not the certain, 2) is based on the notion that the past is analogous to the present, and 3) that events are interrelated with the surrounding causes and effects in which they are enmeshed.

2. Protecting Faith from History
Lessing protected faith by connecting it to innate reason, something seriously questioned in the days that followed him. Wilhelm Herrmann, one of Bultmann's teachers, suggested that the secure place for faith was in religious experience. Martin Kähler argued that we simply do not have any historical sources to show us the Jesus of history, we are stuck with the Christ of faith in the gospels. "The biblical Christ is the 'invulnerable area' from which faith can gain its certainty without relying on the heteronomous guarantees of external authorities."

3. Rudolph Bultmann
Barth and Bultmann followed Kähler's lead. So Barth in his Romans commentary, "In history as such there is nothing so far as the eye can see which can provide a basis for faith." Barth argued with the Liberal Adolf Harnack that historical criticism has its place, but it also has its limitations.

Bultmann of course reduced faith to an existentialist core that had no place at all for a historical element in faith. Indeed, he did not believe that Jesus had really risen from the dead in history. Wrede had argued that Mark was theological. K. L. Schmidt had argued that all the historical connectors in Mark were Markan rather than a part of his sources, so we were left with individual stories. Bultmann thus develops "form criticism" of the Gospels, where small stories are analyzed for their genre and Sitz im Leben, their "situation in life."

Bultmann concludes that we can know almost nothing of the life and personality of Jesus, although we can know the essence of his message.

4. Second Quest (the "new" quest)
Ernst Käsemann comes on the scene in 1953, suggesting too sharp a discontinuity between the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith in the thinking of Bultmann, his Doktor Vater. Perhaps the results of form criticism are not so bleak. Indeed, Joachim Jeremias finds considerable probable teaching that can be traced back to Jesus with probability, not least his reference to God as Abba. Ernst Fuchs suggests that Jesus' conduct, largely overlooked in the quest in deference to a focus on Jesus' sayings, tell us much of who Jesus was.

Norm Perrin comes up with criteria for determining with historical probability the sayings of Jesus, the "criterion of dissimilarity" becomes prominent. "Coherence" and "multiple attestation" backed up dissimilarity. Others have added other criteria, Aramaic quality, embarrassment, memorability...

Has the second quest ever ended? Since the whole "new quest" is a construct we have placed on historical data, the question seems hardly worth asking.

5. Third Quest
The distinguishing mark of the "third" quest is reintroducing the Jewishness of Jesus into the equation. Sanders and Wright are the main ones Dunn mentions here.

6. Postmodernism
The chapter ends with a brief foray into some of the hermeneutical developments that call into question the very possibility of any meaning in texts at all, let alone discovering historical realities behind texts. He mentions narrative criticism as the earlier new criticism of literary criticism meeting biblical studies. Narrative criticism brackets questions of the real author and real reader in deference to the implied author and reader.

Stanley Fish is mentioned with his idea of meaning to texts being established in interpretive communities. Then there is Gadamer's Wirkungsgeschichte, our meeting of texts in the flow of their impact on subsequent tradition.

Liberal Arts as Entertainment

Jared Callaway led me to this article in the New York Times by Stanley Fish about the future of liberal arts education. Fish predicts that the utilitarian trajectory of education--how will this major help me get a job--will eventually squash the liberal arts in all but high end universities like Harvard and such. Of course, as Adam Smith did not anticipate the persistent irrationality of the consumer, Fish doesn't take into account (or at least doesn't mention) ideological traditions like conservative Christian colleges where certain ideas in tension with the broader culture stand at the very center of their identity. They will live a long time.

But from my very early days at IWU, I was told that although we call ourselves a liberal arts institution, we more have to trick our students into liberal arts types things. We're not really about the liberal arts, but, in effect, we slip our students a Mickie for their own good. I was told this by the Dean at the time, although not in those words!

I believe no culture in our times will be great without the liberal arts. A purely pragmatic society is a sick society, or at least one more akin to unreflective animals than to great humanity. But I acknowledge that the benefits are not immediately or transparently seen. And they are certainly not desired by the majority. It is hard to argue for the liberal arts in terms of immediate pay off. Most students do not go to college to get the liberal arts and institutions that focus on them without giving consumers a sense of "job acquisition" will close, will fail.

It doesn't matter that the liberal arts are valuable, are important. Those who have left the cave can shout to the top of their lungs, and they will still be killed, eaten for supper. People won't pay for it, and your college is down the tubes. As a word of warning to IWU, our prosperity is toast if we become too "principaled" in this area. The institutions that we would be imitating are the ones in financial crisis. A word to the wise is sufficient.

The vast majority of humans need to be tricked into virtue, brainwashed, because it is not the default tendency. Homo sapiens is a herd animal. It does not naturally think of the greater good over the pleasure of its group or, in the West, the pleasure of itself as an individual. You will find money to fund weapons development. You will find money to fund pressing medical developments....

... and the ignorant Philistines who run the world will make fun of those who want to use government funding to build a telescope in Chicago. They are ignorant... and they run the world, will always run the world. Plato's Republic was a dismal failure when he tried it on a real king in the making. Why be selfless when you're the king?

Linebackers bring pleasure to millions and they are paid millions. It is the nature of things. Latin teachers give pleasure to dozens and they are pain dozens. So shall it be.

I do believe that one of the things that has made America great are the tax deductions we give for charitable giving. We have made a utility out of giving to things whose profit to you would not otherwise have been apparent. It is the non-instrumental pursuit of truth--truth for its own sake--and the non-instrumental expression of feeling (art for its own sake) that make us truly human and that make a society great. And they have made us great. The pay-off is immense, although not immediately quantifiable.

As for the all powerful rabble, give them the liberal arts as entertainment. You can get someone to leave their X-box long enough to see The 300. We can trick them into thinking about hard choices in a movie that presents them. This has always been the case.

Entertainment can be a catalyst for self-reflection and for inadvertent learning. Bread and circuses--that's what I'm talking about. Give them the liberal arts on a sandwich and sneak in history and science as part of the circus. Let's start a conspiracy for the betterment of humanity!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

An "A-HA" moment I had for online education...

I believe in online education. I don't prefer it either as a teacher or a student. But I believe in it. Most of the arguments against it are vastly outweighed by its advantages, that is, if it is done have right.

Here are some things I believe about online education:

1. Because everyone has to participate in an online class, the average learning in an online class will almost always far exceed the average learning in an onsite class...

... that is, unless the onsite teacher uses teaching methods that engage every student, and every student's learning style...

... which hardly any professors do. Most of us prefer to lecture, perhaps the least effective of all teaching methods.

2. I do prefer embodiment, embodied interaction. But I guarantee you in keeping with #1 that there's a whole lot more interaction on the whole in an online class than there is in the vast majority of onsite ones.

Those who make a big deal about email, texting, etc. being the bane of society have a point--for their personality. One of the great things about doing the Myers-Briggs personality inventory when I went to seminary was the realization that other people don't think the way I do. Learning of the different Kolb learning styles had the same effect. So many people just assume that what works for them is what works for everyone else.

Wrong! Don't impose your personality on other people if it doesn't apply.

3. Online education is here to stay. There are some pitiful academics who said it was a fad (like the internet) when it first came out. There are some accrediting bodies that are holding tightly onto at least some embodied courses... and the institutions where they hold power will be the first to close. New accrediting bodies are already rising up and causing the old ones to get with it or go out of business.

Not even a question. Get with it or get run over.

4. Now for my AHA moment. One of the aspects of online education that is potentially hampering is the inability to go to a library and browse. Now IWU has excellent library services that send books to distance students when they are requested. The problem for me is the difficulty in browsing. I like to go browse a shelf at the library. I will inevitably find books I wouldn't have known about, just because they're shelved in a section I'm looking at.

Here was my AHA moment. Google Books has made it possible for me to do one better than a bibliography for a class whether onsite or online. Right now one of my undergraduate classes is doing an interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:4. I have a set of 2 Thessalonians commentaries on reserve in the library. And I have the same set of books and a few more in an online library by way of Google Books here. There they can search this set of books that I've set up for them.

Google has a function for searching other people's "libraries." Just imagine if, over time, we were to create Wiki-libraries based on bibliographical categories!

Missional Hermeneutics

Both Brian Russell of Asbury Orlando and IWU's own Steve Lennox, not to mention the prolific Scot McKnight and the lovely Mission of God by Christopher Wright, have been knocking at the door of my mind on missional thinking. (Steve will have to read on to have any clue what I'm talking about :-) "Missional" is a big buzz word right now. IWU's MDIV has actually named a 6 hour course "Missional Christianity," which includes not only the traditional topic of evangelism, but church "multiplication" (another buzzword) and Christian service, which relates to the growing return of the church to its mission to the poor and needy.

The idea that the church is missional does not seem controversial to me, that one of its principal duties is to go as ambassadors of reconciliation between God and the world in all its aspects (not just spiritual but social, economic, psychological, etc...). But Brian asked me today what I thought about a missional hermeneutic. To my shame I admitted to myself that I just haven't been getting the big picture of the missional movement or how its current flavor might differ from the missions, evangelism, and church growth movements of the past, other than the welcome addition of service.

So I grabbed Wright's Mission of God off the shelf to try to figure out what a missional hermeneutic might be and I think something clicked. Here's what it was:

The thing that, for Christians, pulls the Bible into a single book is not really a creed. Protestants have often had a tendency to reduce the Bible to a set of propositions, which is why we love Paul's letters and sometimes ignore the Gospels. Calvinist evangelical/fundamentalist institutions like Wheaton or Westminster Theological Seminary formulate their identities by way of lists of desicated beliefs. My strong hunch is that these cognitive elements are way more important to belonging at these institutions than personal piety or godliness.

But at least half of the Bible is narrative, and virtually none of the remaining material appears in the form of philosophically absolute propositions. The drive to encapsulate the Bible in propositional form is understandable, but clearly there is a huge gap between any set of such propositions and the biblical texts themselves. Anyone who knows me knows that I do not reject the "rule of faith," by which I understand the basic propositional beliefs held by the consensus of Christians throughout the ages.

But as I think Brian has realized long before me, and as Lennox has been hinting at as he alludes to his forthcoming book on the story of God (that he needs a sabbatical to write, say, Spring of '11), Christians don't join the individual pieces of the Bible together so much by way of propositions. We join the individual, distinct books of the Bible together into an overarching narrative, into God's story. We do this just as the Christians of the ages have.

I looked at this dimension to Hebrews' use of Scripture in a forthcoming chapter in a collection of essays from the 2006 St. Andrews Conference on Hebrews and Theology. Pre-modern use of Scripture both places ourselves as readers in the story of the text while at the same time placing the text in the story of history. So we like the New Testament authors are awaiting the second coming in the same age as they were--we are part of the story in Luke 21. But Genesis is in the overarching story of salvation's history as well.

Most of us do not notice that this overarching story is as much a Christian as a biblical creation. Nothing about Leviticus requires us to consider Hebrews as an appropriate later "chapter" in the story. As Christians, we take cues from the New Testament and the later church on how to situate the books of the Jewish Bible within the story. Paul's understanding of Genesis goes well beyond anything Genesis requires, and most of us read Paul reading Genesis through the eyes of Augustine.

So I think I might now understand what a missional hermeneutic might be--or at least the way in which I might conceptualize and embrace one. Far more than a Christian propositional framework for reading Scripture, the Christian way of reading Scripture reads it as the story of God moving in history, from creation to ultimate redemption. Like most stories, this story has a direction and an appropriate denouement.

God had a reason to create, a purpose for the creation. The driving point of any story is an unfufilled goal or purpose. The story of God in history is the story of God's mission to redeem, to reclaim, to reconcile the world to Himself. The principal moment in the story and the turning point in the mission is the incarnation, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ. The rest is the working out of those events. God's coming to Israel, God's mission in the church are both part of the mission.

A missional hermeneutic is thus a Christian approach to Scripture that reads the individual texts of the Bible as a part of this story.

This is a Christian reading of these texts together. The "Old" Testament texts do not in any way beg to be read in this way, which is why Judaism can have such a drastically different understanding of God's story than Christians do. And key features of the Christian reading of the New Testament come more from the church than from the Bible. The incarnation, for example, seems to play no appreciable role in the soteriology of the New Testament. I included it above because it is essential to the Christian understanding of the story, not because it plays a major role in the New Testament. The same could be said of the virgin birth.

So thanks Brian for the push! I do not think that mission is the only hermeneutical category for a Christian reading of Scripture, but clearly it is one of the most important, perhaps the most important.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

IWU MDIV Announcement

IWU Unveils New Master of Divinity Degree Program

MARION, Ind. — Indiana Wesleyan University announces a new Master of Divinity program,
an innovative model for ministerial education created from the ground up as an “in-ministry” degree. Designed for men and women active in professional ministry, the 75-hour program can be completed online with some onsite intensives or completely onsite at the main campus in Marion, Ind. The first class of students will start in August 2009.

Unlike M.Div. programs where courses in Bible, theology and Christian history are often disconnected from courses in preaching, worship and congregational leadership, the IWU program will focus on skilled application of the best biblical, theological and practical scholarship. Core courses will be designed by a team of scholars representing multiple theoretical and practical disciplines. “This new M.Div. fully integrates theory and practice,” says Russ Gunsalus, the Chairperson of the IWU Graduate Studies in Ministry Department. “From day one, students will apply lessons from class to their ministry and will use action research from their ministry in their class.”

The curriculum consists of 60 hours of core courses and 15 hours of electives. Courses are offered in one-week intensives and 16-week formats. Currently two 15-hour concentrations, focusing on ministerial leadership and youth ministry, are offered. Some of the featured courses include:

• Pastor, Church and World,
• Cultural Contexts of Ministry,
• Missional Christianity,
• Congregational Spiritual Formation,
• Christian Proclamation,
• Congregational Relationships,
• Congregational Leadership, and
• Christian Worship

The theological, biblical and historical foundations of the curriculum will be integrated into each
course and into an additional foundational course in each area.

IWU’s M.Div. program will also offer a series of one-hour spiritual transformation courses throughout the curriculum. Dr. Ken Schenck, a chief architect of the curriculum, says that a founding goal of the program is to provide students with an experience that is spiritually formative. “Throughout the core of the program, students will take on-going courses designed to move them through a process of spiritual transformation that will lead them toward increased wisdom, self-understanding and holiness.”

The program climaxes with an “Integration Capstone” course that provides the graduating student with a synoptic assessment of personal progress and action plans for future ministry.
Online students must take a minimum of 18 hours in intensive onsite courses. The remaining 57 hours can be pursued either onsite or online. Onsite students can complete the whole program in Marion. A convocation service, coinciding with intensive onsite course offerings, will annually unite the entire M.Div. family of faculty, students and administrators.

According to Nathan Lamb, IWU’s Director of Graduate Ministry Recruitment, the university’s vision for graduate ministry education is to equip ministers to lead healthy, growing, missional churches. “As the demands of modern-day ministry continue to evolve, your on-going effectiveness will be directly linked to your commitment to grow spiritually and professionally,” says Lamb. “For pastors seeking an M.Div., this new program offers an affordable, convenient option from a school ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the ‘best Master’s universities in the Midwest.’”

For more information, email nathan.lamb@indwes.edu or call 1.800.895.0036, ext. 2089.

Asking good original meaning questions...

I shot this vidcast this morning as the first in a series for my Bible students to review the process of (original meaning) interpretation, how to answer an interpretive question about a biblical text.

In the vidcast, I present five guidelines for good original meaning questions. What is of course interesting is to notice how these guidelines stand in significant tension to reading the text as Christian Scripture. I don't see how we can reject either reading as orthodox Christians. There is no question that these are the guidelines that must be followed if we want to know what the text originally meant. By the same token, we are not limited in any way to their guidance when we then revisit these same texts with Christian eyes.

Good (original meaning) interpretive questions...

1. ... are based on disciplined observation of what the text says rather than on the “filler” we all inevitably bring with us to the text.

2. ... ask what the text meant, not what it means today. For the most part, the original meaning of the text was not addressed to us or our time but to the time of its original audiences.

3. ... make a distinction between biblical narratives and history

a. All history telling involves selection. There is no one to one relationship between any historical narrative and actual history.

b. Ancient history seems to have an artistic and theological element that can make it hard to harmonize biblical narratives.

c. Conflicting narratives should not be forced together. That does violence to both narratives in deference to the new one we create.

d. We miss out on the perspective of the text we are looking at when we are more oriented toward fitting it together with other texts or into our reconstructed historical narrative.

4. ... make a distinction between the perspective of a text and an absolute perspective. Not only were the biblical texts originally written to address particular times and places in particular languages. They did so starting with the paradigms of these audiences, often speaking to particular situations, usually with limited scope, in a “flow” of revelation.

5. ... does not read into one text of Scripture material from another text. Respect each text enough to let it speak for itself without forcing the categories of another text on it.

Good Types of Questions:
1. Questions of Definition
Who? What? Where? When?

2. Why Questions

3. How Questions

4. Significance for Original Meaning Questions

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Excerpt from Calvin's Institutes

"But a most pernicious error widely prevails that Scripture has only so much weight as is conceded to it by the consent of the church. As if the eternal and inviolable truth of God depended upon the decision of men! For they mock the Holy Spirit when they ask: Who can convince us that these writings came from God? Who can assure us that Scripture has come down whole and intact even to our very day? Who can persuade us to receive one book in reverence but to exclude another, unless the church prescribe a sure rule for all these matters?

"What reverence is due Scripture and what books ought to be reckoned within its canon depend, they say, upon the determination of the church. Thus these sacrilegious men, wishing to impose an unbridled tyranny under the cover of the church, do not care with what absurdities they ensnare themselves and others, provided they can force this one idea upon the simple-minded: that the church has authority in all things.

"Yet, if this is so, what will happen to miserable consciences seeking firm assurance of eternal life if all promises of it consist in and depend solely upon the judgment of men? Will they cease to vacillate and tremble when they receive such an answer? Again, to what mockeries of the impious is our faith subjected, into what suspicion has it fallen among all men, if we believe that it has a precarious authority dependent solely upon the good pleasure of men!"
________
This is a great debate. I would shift the nature of the debate thusly:

1. Calvin is right to question whether the political church has greater authority than the Bible. When I speak of the authority of the church, I mean the church universal and timeless, the communion of the saints, the church of the ages, the "invisible" church, the church possessed of and directed by the Holy Spirit.

2. Calvin of course is not fully aware of the flexibility of language or the distinction between his understanding of the Bible and the original meaning of the Bible. To that extent, he does not realize the impact the church has already had on his understanding of Scripture.

Happy Inauguration Day!

No doubt there are different feelings out there about today, some overwhelmingly positive, some overwhelmingly negative, some apathetic, some pessimistic.

I am somewhat optimistic. Here are the top 10 things I'm glad about today, recognizing that many out there will have strongly different feelings:

I'm glad...

10. ... that I will now be able to look at Dick Cheney's house on Google Earth (... and that the Vice President is no longer a member of both the Executive and the Legislative branches).

9. ... that the most influential voices with the President's ear on matters of science now actually have degrees in science.

8. ... that the new President and Vice-President don't think they can ignore laws passed by Congress by writing secret notes to themselves.

7. ... that agents of the U.S. who torture prisoners will now be in big trouble rather than given a bonus (and that we won't be putting the names of our secret agents on Google Government).

6. ... in hope that Wall Street will have to follow a few rules, rather than basically being able to do whatever they want with everyone else's money without oversight.

5. ... in hope that we might move closer to everyone having health care and that we might address how to educate our children better, rather than just setting standards and punishing those who don't find a way to meet them on their own, with hopelessly disfunctional children.

4. ... in hope that we might try a little more diplomacy with realistic expectations rather than taking an all or nothing approach that, either way, raises up more future terrorists than it kills or starves.

3. ... that we have instantaneously regained significant moral standing in the world's eyes, a new opportunity to convince the world that we are a genuine force for good in a world full of evil.

2. ... that an African-American has been elected President.

1. ... that the country gets a new start, a hit of the reset button. In short, I'm glad for a change.

We don't know yet if Obama will be a good President or if he will be able to do any better than the Bush administration did with their circumstances. But we can hope.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Enns: Old Testament Diversity

Today our reading group discusses chapter 3 of Peter Enns' Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament. We read chapters 1 and 2 last Monday. Today we discuss chapter 3, "The Old Testament and Theological Diversity."

I had a few overarching thoughts as I read this chapter. Here are a few:

1. He is conservative! At least he talks conservative. What I mean is he treats Exodus as written by Moses at the time of the Exodus and Deuteronomy as written by Moses some 40 years later before Israel entered Canaan.

I'm not sure how you count Old Testament scholars, but I bet the vast majority of card carrying PhD's in OT don't think Moses wrote either Exodus or Deuteronomy, at least not in their current forms. Good grief, there are a lot of "biblical minimalists" out there who would doubt whether Moses even existed! There is no doubt in this chapter that Enns is conservative and evangelical.

2. Why did this guy get fired? Surely not over the content of this chapter. Either he rubbed it in someone's face or the people he was dealing with are psycho. The kind of person who would have a problem to the fairly well agreed things he talks about in the chapter are not worthy of the name evangelical--they would be fundamentalists.

I did notice one hint where he may do therapy. He mentions a story where he came into conflict with someone over the "Train up a child" verse because he showed his son Saving Private Ryan when he was 12. He comes out the hero, of course. I'm not saying he was wrong, but it's what I call doing your therapy as a scholar.

I'm sure I've done my share, and I apologize to anyone who's had to listen.

3. Why did he write this book? I found myself wondering why a person would write a book like this one other than to try to fix the people around you or to do therapy over your past. I really don't know whether that is truly the case. Like I said, I could understand his frustration if the people around him actually have a problem with some of the things he mentions.

But, as a scholar talking to laypeople, the most effective tactic is not a frontal assault (not that I think this book is anything like an assault--I find it relatively mild in tone). It is important to realize that when it comes to areas like religion and politics, despite the rhetoric of truth, we are not dealing with a situation where reason and evidence predominate. Great care has to be taken to convince others that you are truly speaking from a standpoint of faith, not simply as someone who thinks they know the truth. Positions that seem ridiculous from the standpoint of a scholar have to be taken seriously because others take them seriously and have a good deal of their identity invested in those ideas.

I will say that I didn't pick up on any "in your face" tone except a very small one in the example I mentioned above about showing his son a movie. Even there he says "in my opinion" (75). I only thought that I might tread just a little more softly to bring everyone along with me. Lead my audience to my conclusion by asking questions I hope they will answer my way, rather than state baldly as a claim, "to respect the diversity of the Old Testament is to respect it the way God has given it to us" (80), where the way God has given it to us is the way Enns is arguing. Similarly, "Qoheleth clearly has no notion of the afterlife such as Christians take for granted" (79) might come off as a little distasteful to some readers.

Again, to scholars, comments like these may not seem to have any attitude or edge attached. This may be business as usual stuff. But these comments may sound arrogant to a layperson who has never thought of these issues and thus for whom Enns may seem to be a little too sure of himself about something I've always heard the opposite for the last 50 years.

Come to think of it, I had a family member say something like this to me some twenty years ago. I don't remember the issue, but it was something that wasn't really that controversial in evangelical circles. But the response was, "If that's true, why haven't I ever heard of it growing up in the church for 60 years." This is, I think, Enns' audience in part, and this audience requires great care in how and whether you approach certain issues.

The Content
Let me just list the kinds of diversity he mentions (put in my own words):

1. Proverbs are not exceptionless absolutes. There is not, for example, a single view of wealth but several different angles. You have to decide when to apply which one because they all don't apply every time.

2. Ecclesiastes doesn't seem to think wisdom and knowledge are always beneficial. Proverbs is much more consistently favorable toward wisdom.

3. Job's comforters tell him things we might easily read in Deuteronomy or Psalms, but they were wrong to apply those ideas in the case of Job, again showing that the statements of these books are to be applied with thought for the situation involved.

4. Chronicles may represent a later author already working at reconciling tensions within earlier material. For example, is the Passover to be eaten with the family (Exod. 12:2-4) or only in Jerusalem (Deut. 16:5-6). Page 84 gives a number of tendencies in the way Chronicles edits previous material in Samuel and Kings.

5. Even the 10 commandments have a slightly different material between Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

6. He mentions tensions between the Levitical material of the OT and the prophetic material on the importance of sacrifice. "There is no flat teaching of sacrifice in the Old Testament" (94).

7. He mentions tensions on the inclusion of foreigners within Israel. In some places, for example, Moabites are forbidden (Deut. 23:3) and then there is Ruth, the Moabitess.

8. He mentions tension on the existence of other gods. Some parts of the OT speak of God as the only God (Isaiah 45) while other passages treat the other gods as real but illegitimate.

9. He discusses the fact that the Old Testament at least portrays God as being affected by us and of learning new information. I can see that this would be a sore spot for some. He does not take an open theism position. Actually I thought this section was very carefully worded as to his position, although I can see it angering those for whom open theism is the Devil.

Open theism is a conservative "heresy," a "heresy light," I would say. Open theists believe that God does not access His omniscience in His interaction with humanity because, if He did, we could not have free will. I don't buy it, but I respect those who hold this view, and they are often Old Testament scholars or evangelical philosophers.

What is so ironic to me is that, as Enns indicates, God is indeed portrayed in the OT as changing His mind and truly being impacted by human interaction. I take this language metaphorically as far as God is concerned, God doing a dance with us although He knows where it is all headed.

Enns does not espouse open theism, but he thinks it is important to recognize that this is in fact how God presents Himself in the OT: "for the Old Testament to speak of God changing his mind means that this is his choice for how he wants us to know him" (106). Do our words really affect God, Enns asks, "That is for God to know, not us" (107).

This would seem a reasonable consideration, although I understand how it might really irk some fundamentalist Calvinists for whom free will is anathema and absolute predestination and irresistable grace are the name of the game. Enns has chosen to listen to the Old Testament and leave open the question of the Westiminster Confession as unknowable. His detractors are sure of the Westminister Confession and willing to reinterpret the OT accordingly while saying that they are only following the Bible alone. :-)

He concludes that "there is no superficial unity to the Bible" (108) and "for God to reveal himself means that he accommodates himself" (109). And on page 110 is a statement that must really have irked some at Westminster, "As Christians we must remember that we believe not only that the Bible is the word of God, but that Christ himself is the word." Those words, so obvious to most Christians today who have no therapy to do on this subject, were fighting words in the middle twentieth century, when they would have immediately won you the label of "neo-orthodox" or "Barthian."

I wonder still if he jumps a gap here to his conclusion. It is not that his conclusion is bad. It's just that I'm not sure he has made it clear exactly what "unity" means to him, given what he has been arguing.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday Sources: Tobit 4

I mentioned some key texts from Tobit some time back, but didn't actually quote them. I thought I would quote from Tobit 4 today for an example of some good old Jewish piety in the third century BC.

Tobit to Tobias:

"Those who act in accordance with truth will prosper in all their activities. To all those who practice righteousness give alms from your possessions, and do not let your eye begrudge the gift when you make it. Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor, and the face of God will not be turned away from you. If you have many possessions, make your gift from them in proportion; if few, do not be afraid to give according to the little you have. So you will be laying up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity. For almsgiving delivers from death and keeps you from going into the darkness. Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.

"Beware, my son, of every kind of sexual immorality. First of all, marry a woman from among the descendants of your ancestors; do not marry a foreign woman, who is not of your father's tribe; for we are the descendants of the prophets. Remember, my son, that Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, our ancestors of old, all took wives from among their kindred...

"What you hate, do not do to anyone. Do not drink wine to excess or let drunkenness go with you on your way. Give some of your food to the hungry, and some of your clothing to the naked. Give all your surplus as alms, and do not let your eye begrudge your giving of alms. Place your bread on the grave of the righteous, but give none to sinners" (4:6-12, 15-17 NRSV, with minor modifications)."

Comment on Wesley by Contemporary

I forgot to mention in my review yesterday a quote I had either forgotten or never heard by Bishop Butler about John Wesley that Dunn gives in a footnote. Dunn has a number of little tidbits like this in his first few chapters, revealing the breadth of his knowledge:

"Sir, the pretending to extraordinary revelations and gifts of the Holy Spirit is a horrid thing, a very horrid thing."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Review: Dunn's Jesus Remembered 1

From now until Easter, I plan on Fridays to work through James D. G. Dunn's Jesus Remembered, the first of three planned volumes in a series entitled Christianity in the Making. The second volume, Beginning From Jerusalem, is due out anytime. I hope to work through tht volume on Fridays throughout the summer. If you want to read through Jesus Remembered along with me, I will be trying to cover around 60 pages a week (I'm already a week behind, surprise).

Chapter 1: Christianity in the Making (1-7)
Dunn justifies a series on Christian Origins such as he has planned. He notes that it hasn't been done for some time, with the exception of Tom Wright's slowly moving series. I gave up waiting in the early 90's for new volumes of his series. Back then I was salivating in anticipation of his historical Jesus volume. Now we're waiting for Paul.

But I've long since given up salivating. You just get too dehydrated waiting. They're nice little presents when they finally come out, years after you wanted them too. But then again, I'm not as much of a groupee as I was when The New Testament and the People of God first came out.

It would be fun to read through these series with a group of classes, like I did Hermeneutical Spiral and Is Their a Meaning in this Text. Those days of delicious overloads are gone at IWU, I hate to say. But writers like Wright or Dunn are worthy of whole semesters. Of course if someone wants to set me up on a nice salary to blog continuously through series like these for the next ten years, I'm available. :-) Then again, I seem to be doing it already for free. No wonder I drive a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan with a heater that hardly works!

Anyway, Dunn suggests three reasons at the beginning of the third millennium to work on such a series: 1) the crisis in interpretive method that has taken place, occasioned by postmodernism, 2) fresh interactions with disciplines like sociology, and 3) the glut of texts the twentieth century has dug up, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls and Nag Hammadi.

The three great questions for students of Christianity's beginnings are 1) What was it about Jesus that explains the impact he had on his disciples and why he was crucified? 2) Why did the movement that followed him branch out beyond first century Judaism and in fact become unacceptable to rabbinic Judaism? 3) Was the predominantly Gentile second century Christianity stand in real continuity with its first century version?

Chapter 2: Introduction (11-16)
In this brief introduction, Dunn mentions three dimensions to discussion of the historical Jesus: faith, history, and hermeneneutics. "[T]he principal concern for the present historical study will be what might be called the hermeneutical dialogue between faith and history" (13).

Chapter 3: The (Re-)Awakening of Historical Awareness (17-24)
I was a little uneasy about this chapter. I wondered whether our typical sense of the Middle Ages as having little sense of history is really accurate. Petrarch in the 1300's is credited with the beginning of a revival of interest in the study of antiquity. The rise of textual criticism is seen as an early product.

So we have "the first hermeneutical principle which emerged from the Renaissance's 'revival of learning': historical texts have to be read first and foremost as historical texts" (19). Thus we see the rise of historical philology (the study of the meaning of words in the original language) and textual criticism (determining how the original text read).

"[N]o self-respecting student of the NT will be without a copy of the Bauer lexicon, as an earlier generation had relied on Grimm-Thayer" (20). :-)

From Renaissance he looks at the Reformation briefly. I had a little trouble getting into this chapter. Maybe it's me. In this section he speaks of the primacy on the plain meaning of Scripture and the literal sense that the Reformation emphasized.

Finally he mentions a recapturing of the humanity of Jesus in the perceptions of this period, well typified in the suffering of Jesus in some of the art of the period, such as the Isenheim altarpiece.

Chapter 4: The Flight from Dogma (25-65)
In the final chapter for today, Dunn gives a brief history of the quest for the historical Jesus from its beginnings in the Enlightenment to the present. I'm not sure why I've had such trouble getting in the mood for this chapter. There is some good stuff in it.

He starts with the rise of "scientific history" and the rise of the historical-critical method. The earliest historians thought that they could actually, objectively state "how things really were." Everybody today would acknowledge that the selection of events in itself perspectivizes the telling of history and that no historian is objective.

So Dunn notes four questionabl assumptions: that historical facts are objects to be uncovered, that the historian can be entirely impartial, that reason is a sufficient measure of what is true and false, and that the world operates like a machine.

The rest of the chapter proceeds through the usual suspects:

1. Spinoza, Reimarus, and Strauss with the exit of miracles and revelation. Reimarus says that the disciples give us the gospels, so we do not have a straightforward Jesus. Strauss considers the gospels to have mythical elements as unhistorical representations of ideas.

2. The liberal Jesus of Schleiermacher, Renan, Harnack etc. lets the influence of Romanticism in the door, with a focus on religious feeling, Jesus as the perfect human embodiment of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of humanity. Kant brings in Jesus as the supreme example of human morality.

3. F. C. Baur removes John from discussion. For him John is strictly a theological rather than a historical presentation. It differs too much for him from the Synoptics.

4. The Synoptic question removes Matthew and Luke from discussion as Mark and Q become the historical substratum beneath them.

5. Albert Schweitzer ends the liberal quest. Jesus was not some mirror of Western polite society at the beginning of the twentieth century. Jesus preached the end of the world. "He comes to us as a stranger" to our ways.

6. Martin Kähler re-introduced the question of faith into the equation. We have no access to this historical Jesus. We have only the gospels. Similarly Wrede points out that even Mark is a document of faith whose presentation of Jesus is not straightforward history. Bultmann is in the next chapter but would go here in a straightforward historical presentation.

...

7. The 70's saw the rise of the application of sociology to the study of Jesus, here we have names like Gerd Thiessen, John Gager, and especially Richard Horsley.

8. Finally Dunn mentions the "neo-liberal" Jesus. The work of people like Robert Funk and the Jesus Seminar, Dominic Crossan, Helmut Koester, and Marcus Borg. Using non-canonical sources like Thomas, Gospel of Peter, and their specially constructed versions of Q, these scholars have managed to reconstruct a Jesus who, like the Jesuses of the late 1800's, is a very attractive mirror of polite society at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Calvin Quote for the Day

"... it appears that if men were taught only by nature, they would hold to nothing certain or solid or clear-cut, but would be so tied to confused principles as to worship an unknown god."

In this Calvin anticipates Barth. I think there is significant merit to this quote.

Instructional Videos: Observing Texts in Detail

I hope we will able to record this material professionally as resources for IWU's MDIV (cross your fingers, seminary). But for now, I've used IWU's Adobe Connect resources to create these four vidcast reviews for an assignment I have all my undergraduate Bible classes do.

1. What is a Detailed Observation?

2. Observing Key Words and Grammatical Features

3. Observing Train of Thought and Literary Features

4. Writing Up the Assignment

2 Thessalonians as Christian Scripture

The following is meant as my attempt to show what I am picturing as "thick" Christian interpretation of the Bible read as Christian Scripture. Obviously I am thinking out loud here and welcome feedback and critique.

I
Reading 2 Thessalonians as Christian Scripture is to read it with the eyes of Christian faith, the faith that understands Christ as the Word of God par excellence and that sees the unfolding of the particulars of words of God in the church's ongoing reading of the Bible throughout the centuries. 2 Thessalonians does not have any "classic" passages in the sense of passages that played key roles in Christian debates and that came to embody Christian faith on a particular topic. In that sense, Christian history does not push us toward consensus interpretations of passages in 2 Thessalonians.

Nevertheless, 2 Thessalonians does deal with central Christian issues. 2 Thessalonians 1 speaks of the righteous judgment of God and how He will repay evildoers with eternal destruction at the return of Christ. Chapter 2 discusses the kinds of events that will take place in the time just before the Lord's return. Chapter 3 deals not least with believers who do not work when they could and yet expect to be supported by the Christian community.

We find Christian consensus on some of these issues and not on others. Thus it is the consensus of Christendom that the Lord Jesus Christ will return again one day from heaven. This faith has found its way into the Apostle's and Nicene creed. At the same time, Christians have never come to consensus on the events surrounding the parousia. There is thus no "Christian" view on how to take references to the "man of lawlessness" here. 2 Thessalonians has some very unique material on the matter of Christ's return, and it would be dangerous to base fundamental theology on a single passage when the church of the ages has not.

The books of the Bible as a whole do not present us with a clear picture of the "end times," and this includes the nature of "eternal destruction." Nevertheless, it is the consensus of the church that eternal destruction will take place in hell, a place of eternal torment. The most Christian way to read 1:9 is in reference to hell as the destiny of the wicked, even though Paul himself never uses the word and may not have had this originally in view.

It is the consensus of the church that Christians must help the poor and those in need. However, I cannot think of any consensus type statement on what to do with those who could provide for themselves or could contribute to the community but choose not to. We suspect, in general, however, that Christians have generally followed the idea that those who could work but do not, do not merit participation in the work of the rest of the Christian community.

II.
When we move below the consensus of the church to points of debate or varying emphases in Christian history, we do find passages in 2 Thessalonians that have featured as key passages for certain Christian groups. Similarly, we can find "reforming debates" on some of the issues of Christian consensus that could conceivably emerge in the future as corrections to the trajectory of common Christendom.

Certainly we must mention dispensationalism as a significant movement within modern Christendom. It does not have much claim to the original meaning of Scripture below, nor does it have the weight of history behind it. But it claims a significant number of believers in the United States for the last two centuries.

Dispensationalists read 2 Thessalonians 2 in relation to an Antichrist who will appear in the days either right before or right after the "rapture" of 1 Thessalonians 4. They see 2:4 as an allusion to a coming rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple in the nation of Israel reestablished in 1948. These interpretations are far from a consensus within Christian history and they are dubious even from an original meaning perspective. But they are movements to be watched to see whether they will gain or diminish strength in the church over time.

The Puritan work ethic was expressed by way of 3:11: "He who will not work, shall not eat." Some American Christians again have taken this verse into the realm of national politics as a sentiment against any sort of welfare. Nevertheless, both the weight of Christian history and of the biblical record is toward caring for those in need.

The question of God's vengeance has occasionally given various Christians pause. The New Testament seems to emphasize God's mercy over His justice (e.g., James 2:13). The thrust of the New Testament would not seem to take an "eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" attitude toward sinners. Thus the question rises. If human sin, no matter how great, is a finite amount, then how can God be just to requite it with an infinite punishment in hell?

The Calvinist answer is that failure to acknowledge God as God is an infinite sin and thus that the punishment is just. Similarly, God is seen as exacting the precise just punishment of all sinners--or at least of those who are saved--from Christ. Others, like C. S. Lewis, have suggested that a person might very well decide to serve God in hell, no matter how unlikely. Seventh Day Adventists have opted to believe in the annihilation of the wicked.

Nevertheless, the consensus of Christendom remains belief in eternal destruction in hell for the wicked. The question of those who have never heard, on the other hand, remains open for debate. Does God judge them according to the light they have (perhaps the majority opinion in Christian history) or are they simply lost the same as those who consciously reject Christ?

II
The original meaning of 2 Thessalonians involves some issues on which there is no scholarly consensus. For example, 2 Thessalonians does not give the impression of recent acquaintance that 1 Thessalonians does. It seems to reflect a stable relationship between Paul and the Thessalonians. At the same time, its teaching about the man of lawlessness is otherwise unknown in Paul's writings. A sizeable minority of New Testament scholars would consider it pseudonymous, although the majority--especially the overwhelming majority of evangelical scholars (if not the unanimous verdict)--see Paul as the author.

It is not clear whether such issues have any significance at all for reading 2 Thessalonians as Christian Scripture. In any case, we cannot speak of any scholarly consensus on the issue, so it would be hazardous to base anything on such a determination one way or the other. 2 Thessalonians 2:4 does seem to have the standing temple of Jerusalem in view, which raises some questions for the dispensationalist reading of 2 Thessalonians.

The question of "eternal destruction" is unclear in Paul's writings. He never mentions hell and is unclear about the fate of any dead other than the dead in Christ. Indeed, one could read Romans 6:7 to imply death as a sufficient punishment for sin. This is not, however, the consensus reading of New Testament scholars nor is it the Christian reading of the passage. So while these considerations might be a basis for future reformation, they are not in play within the church.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who is Ken Schenck?

I've been suffering from whiplash on this blog these last six months because I have occasional visitors from so many different directions. My guess is that I have about three types of visitors who really like about a third of what goes on here. I would also guess that they just as vehemently hate the other two thirds!

So here is the "key" to reading posts here and following my comments. I could actually code my posts so you know what posts to skip and which to read. Who am I?

1. An orthodox Christian
I affirm the classic creeds of Christendom. That has implications because of #3 below. I went through a major faith crisis at the end of my seminary days because of #3. In the end, it was postmodern developments that enabled me to put my orthodox Humpty Dumpty head back together again.

That means that my orthodox cooking will look strange to just about everyone. It will look way too Catholic for most Protestants because I have concluded that to have integrity, orthodox faith requires a trajectory oriented sense of revelation rather than a backward looking one. Protestantism is backward looking in its very foundations--it says revelation is something we find by peeling back time rather than looking where God is headed.

But it is not Catholic either because I accept the reforming function of backward looking.

2. A Wesleyan evangelical
I teach at a Wesleyan evangelical confessional college and am ordained a minister in The Wesleyan Church. There is no such thing as unperspectivized truth, and it is completely appropriate for me to relate truth to the community to which I belong. Obviously I would not belong to this community if I did not fundamentally agree with its identity. At the same time, any thinking person will always have "lover's quarrels" with their communities.

So some posts will seem very peculiar or even downright annoying to those of you from other traditions. I don't mean to be persnickitty, but some posts are "in house."

3. New Testament scholar
One of the residuals of my faith crisis is that I get really irritated when people "cook the books" or skew the evidence, especially historical evidence, to jive with their theological conclusions. Because I have adopted a trajectory approach to revelation, I am able to let the evidence lie where it lies without worrying about whether it connects precisely to Christian faith.

People like Tom Wright and Ben Witherington have applied their great intellect to making the connections as close as possible. I think as a result they sometimes open themselves up to the charge of special pleading. No one is objective, but may I rarely be accused of this.

So this is my "apology" for a blog that must seem very strange from time to time. In short, I refuse to fit into any neat stereotype. No existing label fits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Couple Quotes from Calvin's Institutes Today

"Let Epicurus answer ... I have no concern with that pigsty;

"This shows itself ... in the sacrilegious words of the filthy dog Lucretius..."

Sounds like the tone of some of the more strident descendants of Calvin who have engaged me on this blog. :-)

Some 13 days into the Institutes my impressions of Calvin are

1) He can quote verses (a lot of prooftexting), although as a child of his day, he does not yet fully appreciate how to read in context. The same was of course true of Wesley.

2) He's quite sure he's right. I won't say he's arrogant yet, but I may before it's done. Certainly he knows that everyone who disagrees with him is of Satan.

3) He is depressing. His view of humanity is so dark, so dismal, that it's hard to stomach sometimes. There seems to be almost nothing left of the image of God in humanity for him. I feel like someone who's been studying demonology and has to stop because it's so dark. This is not the tone of Paul (or Luther).

4) Although Calvin is only a single predestinarian, his sense of the total depravity of humanity and the complete determinism by God of any goodness in humanity seems to fit well with the kind of abusiveness he has toward those he believes are not elect. I believe there is a connection. So far he doesn't seem to treat the non-elect with grace or love but seems to me abusive toward them.

5) I have yet to read anything that makes me think Calvin is brilliant. I came into the Institutes believing he was a genius, even if I disagree with him on many things. I still expect I will conclude that way, but thus far I am underwhelmed.

Wesleyan Evangelicalism vs. Reformed Evangelicalism

I would include in the Wesleyan tradition groups such as the following: tradition conscious Methodists and offshoots like Nazarenes, Free Methodists, and the Wesleyan Church, to which I belong. Many Methodists of course have either no sense of the history of their church or no interest in it. By Wesleyan evangelicals, I therefore refer to those in the Methodist tradition who would embrace the four identity markers described by David Bebbington in The Dominance of Evangelicalism, here presented in what I consider to be an appropriately modified form:

A Wesleyan evangelical...
1. ... looks to Christ as the Word of God par excellence, God's consummate revelation and appointed means of reconciliation of the world to Himself. (redemption)

2. ... looks to the Bible as the focal point of hearing God's voice, the fountain of Christian understanding and a sacrament of revelation. (Scripture)

3. ... views every believer as an agent of reconciliation of the world to God and affirms the need for each individual to be reconciled as an individual. (conversion)

4. ... views every believer as an agent of wholeness for all people in all the dimensions of human life. (activism)

The emergence of neo-evangelicalism out of fundamentalism in the late 40's was heavily Reformed in nature. Although some key Wesleyan thinkers jumped on the bandwagon, they were uneasy partners at times. The Wesleyan Theological Society was formed in part because the Evangelical Theological Society did not completely satisfy who we were. Nor did it or has it ever completely embraced Wesleyans as true evangelicals.

To this day, the Reformed tradition has an interesting tendency to view itself as the true church, the completion of the Reformation begun by Luther but finished by Calvin. They see themselves as the true restoration of Christianity to the Bible, with all "false" catholic accretions definitively removed. In my opinion, the Westminster Confession holds more authority in practice for the Reformed than the Nicene creed or, indeed, the Bible itself. Even Calvin in his Institutes sets his theology as an important companion to his commentary. It functions practically as the appropriate lens through which to read Scripture.

In the historical analysis of George Marsden and Mark Noll, both Reformed in tradition, it is no surprise that "fundamentalists" are defined as groups like dispensationalists, revivalists, and charismatics. But ironically, those who actually first used this word were those who combatted modernism (read evolution and higher criticism) intellectually. The true fundamentalists were thus people like J. Gresham Machen and those who founded places like Westminster Theological Seminary to combat the modernism of places like Princeton Theological Seminary at the time.

But strangely, Marsden and Noll restrict the term fundamentalism to those who retreated from the broader debates of the intellegentsia into little Bible colleges and sects where the teachings of their particular groups could continue unscathed from the broader debates of the day. These groups retreated into safe pre-modern enclaves, while the better known conservatives might be better described as anti-modern.

While neo-evangelicalism stood in significant continuity with the Bible thinking of the fundamentalists at first, it moved toward greater balance in the personal dimensions of faith. It affirmed the importance of evangelism and a "personal relationship" with God. It tended to be less reactionary and militant that the first (true) fundamentalists had been. Over time, we can speak of certain clear distinctions between fundamentalists properly so called and evangelicalism.

For example, Jerry Falwell was the consummate fundamentalist of the late twentieth century. But he does not at all fit Noll or Marsden's sense of a fundamentalist. The fundamentalists of the late twentieth century engaged militantly with broader society. Indeed, their militancy is part of fundamentalism's essential flavor.

I want to resist going much further in my analysis of the differences between fundamentalism and evangelicalism at the end of the twentieth century, and the fundamental skew of Marsden and Noll's work. What I want to point out is that there are some general differences in flavor between Wesleyan evangelicalism and Reformed evangelicalism that I believe we in the Wesleyan tradition need to embrace as defining differences.

Noll and others are at least right to suggest that revivalist traditions--and revivalism was a defining feature of the Wesleyan tradition in the late 1800's--largely removed themselves from the modernist debate. Let me again point out his skew by noting that what they removed themselves from was the fundamentalist modernist debate--they were not fundamentalists. His group was.

As we hesitatingly joined the evangelical movement, we thus largely did not bring with us the baggage of that controversy with us. We had by passed it. Reformed evangelicals, on the other hand, like Ockenga, did. To be sure, those individual scholars in the Wesleyan tradition who followed the debate were tainted with the false alternatives of that debate. In my own church, I have in mind people like Stephen Paine or Charles Carter. But as the fundamental identity of the Wesleyan tradition is more revivalist than cognitive, like the Reformed tradition, these sorts of individuals were more tangential to who we were at the time. They had some impact, but not "fundamental" impact.

The Wesleyan tradition has often debated whether it should self-identify as evangelical or not--as Reformed evangelicals have debated whether we belong or not also. It is important to point out that the reasons for our inclusion have more to do with the 3rd and 4th identity markers of evangelicalism than the 1st and 2nd. This is an important point. We joined the evangelicals because we believed in the need for everyone to have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, not because of the fundamentalist substratum with regard to the Bible. Indeed, how many in the Wesleyan tradition have even heard the term "penal substitution."

I imagine we will continue as a tradition to self-identify as evangelicals. What other sociological term would be used. But let us be clear that we do not bring fundamentalist baggage with us to the term inerrant in our approach to Scripture. Let us be clear that we do not wrankle over penal substitution--by the very nature of our tradition we emphasize the mercy side of God's character as more determinative than His justice.

We believe in the importance of personal change and personal appropriation of the gospel. Indeed, we are far more optimistic about God's gracious desire and enablement for a believer to be changed for real and dramatically to do the right thing. And we have of late returned to the early roots of the Wesleyan tradition, a tradition that opposed slavery and helped the poor and needy.

I call on those of us in the Wesleyan tradition to embrace these distinctions, these hallmarks of our identity. We are evangelicals, but we are different in many key respects.

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