Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gospel to the Poor (6)

The previous post in this series was on Luther Lee and others.

With chapter 9 we are getting close to the end. I frankly don't know how common it is for churches to have food pantries for those who might wander by looking for food, but I certainly grew up with it in the Wesleyan Church. Despite often being very conservative on issues like governmental welfare, the Wesleyan pastors I grew up with saw it as important to have these sorts of things available at the parsonage for the needy.

Now mind you, there were also the stories of abuse. The person who called yesterday and was given yesterday. Then calls again today forgetting where they were in the phone book. There is an old Latin expression though that exposes yet another common fallacy of logic like the various fallacies associated with labelism that I mentioned last week: "Abuse is no excuse." If last week I mentioned the fallacy of jumping to conclusions (hasty generalization), presuming everyone is a certain way because some are a certain way (fallacy of composition, sometimes called prejudice :-), this is the fallacy of diversion, of changing the subject.

The question of whether we should try to help the poor is one question. The question of whether some will abuse our attempts is a different question. And the question of how to help them is yet another. The answer to the first question is so well established biblically that it is beyond reasonable doubt. The answers to the second and third are where practical complications come in. But it is the fallacy of diversion to think they in any way undermine the fundamental Christian concern for what has long been called "social justice." The term is not so important--to focus on the term is again a diversion, a changing of the subject. I suspect, however, it would be rather inappropriate to abandon the term just because of some passing comments by the uninformed on television. He and that hype will pass. Social justice goes back to Deuteronomy, Jesus, Christianity throughout the centuries...

... and evangelicalism in the 1800s, as Dayton discusses in his chapter 9. It is not to be confused with the social gospel, which was a form of liberal Christianity in the early 1900s that rejected personal salvation, miracles, and historic Christianity but retained the Christian emphasis on helping those in need. This is an important point. Those who promoted the social gospel lost their historic faith and were only left with a general concern for humanity. But the faulty thinking that has often gone on here absolutely boggles my mind.

Their concern for the poor and for humanity was not some evil aim that cropped up because they were liberal. Rather, this was all that was left of their Christianity after they had lost their faith in the historic tenets of the faith! Like I said, I am dumbfounded with the way many Christian groups came to dismiss concern for the poor because "the liberals" were concerned for the poor. Death by association. If the people who don't believe Jesus was God are concerned for the poor, then it must be wrong to be concerned for the poor. Heaven help us!

This of course is not our Wesleyan heritage, to drive a wedge between personal salvation and social justice. Abolitionist drives after the Civil War were channeled into a fight against prostitution and alchohol. But the flavor of these quests were not of sticking it to the sinner--not at all. The flavor was to rescue girls who were part of the "white slave trade" and to pull the drunkard out of his stupor.

This is, by the way, an interesting difference between the fight against homosexuality today and the fights of the 1800s. There is a potentially significant difference between the fight against abortion and the fight against homosexuality, for example. Many think of the "fight against sin" in terms of speaking against. But the evangelical social activists of the 1800s were "speaking for" in their speaking against. They were speaking for the slave, for the prostitute, for the drunkard or at least his family. The abortion movement fits this pattern--speaking for the unborn. The flavor of the homosexuality fight seems different. It does not tend to speak for anyone as it speaks against. It seems a distinction worth some reflection.

The Free Methodist Church, a sister denomination I hope we will one day merge with (and with whom we once came very close to merging with, if not for a parliamentary maneuver by a general superintendent), was founded both in favor of the freedom of the slave and against the practice of the day of renting pews. The effect of renting pews was to give the wealthy the best seats and to sequester those without resources to certain pews that by their very nature said, "I'm a nobody." Prior to the Civil War there were also special pews for African-Americans whose name I won't mention here.

Free Methodists again withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church over this issue. By the way, it is pretty clear from these chapters why groups like mine often have not thought much of the Methodist Church, and it wasn't originally because they were "liberal." In fact, their siding with slavery and with burgeoning capitalists looks rather conservative from the standpoint of debates today. It was later that some Methodists would go theologically liberal, after we revivalists left their fold. We can all rise above our history, of course, and as I've said, am not anti-Methodist today.

B. T. Roberts saw following Jesus' example in relation to the poor as an essential sign of a true church. "It may be that there cannot be a church without a bishop... There can be none without a gospel, and a gospel for the poor." "They are not called up. The great are called down." The Christian and Missionary Alliance also started when A. B. Simpson's efforts were rejected by his Presbyterian Church in New York. His new movement had a special call to the "neglected classes both at home and abroad."

The Church of the Nazarene again had similar founding, another denomination I hope we might one day also merge with. Phineas Bresee wrote, "We can get along without rich people, but not without preaching the gospel to the poor." During this period rescue missions like the Pacific Garden Mission were formed. The Salvation Army came to America from England, a church in the holiness tradition so dedicated to the impoverished that most people don't even know it is a church in the Wesleyan tradition.

Again, we can debate how it is best done. But this is who Wesleyans are, this is who Christian are, take it or leave it. God is not elected.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Luther Lee and Antoinette Brown (5)

For previous posts in this book review series, click here.

If you are Wesleyan and ever interview for a teaching job at Indiana Wesleyan, there is a question you are sure to get from Bud Bence or one of his surrogates: "Do you have a lover's quarrel with the Wesleyan Church?" He is basically asking what you would change about the Wesleyan Church if you could blink and instantly change anything. It's a tricky question because you want to convey the idea that you are a critical thinker but you don't want to convey that you don't belong in the Wesleyan Church!

I am a lifelong Wesleyan for these 43 years of my pilgrimage thus far. Obviously I did not choose to become Wesleyan. I was born into it. Who knows what I would choose if I became a Christian out of the blue today. Probably not Wesleyan, simply because it is an extremely small denomination (around 1700 churches in North America, many more overseas). If I were in England, I would almost certainly be Anglican. In America I have never experienced the crazy side of the United Methodist Church and would feel very much at home in most of the congregations I've visited in the past.

But as I reflect on Dayton's 7th and 8th chapter, I am reminded of how significant some of the origins of my denomination are, particularly on its Wesleyan Methodist side (I actually come from the "Pilgrim" side). Indeed, it was not the Methodist Episcopal Church (the UM church of the time) that stood up against slavery or for women to be ministers. The Methodist hierarchy of the time refused to take a stand and cow-towed to powerful slavery owners in the South (voted down 120-14 affirming elements of their Discipline on slavery that traced back to John Wesley himself). The UM church didn't ordain women until the 1950s when it became more convenient and respectable in terms of the broader culture.

Rather, it was people like Orange Scott and Luther Lee, founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, who were willing to stand up for what was right and not play along. Luther Lee would later show that he was not a schismatic by returning to the Methodist Episcopal Church after the Civil War. But they had started something and it continued. The women's rights movement started in 1848 in Seneca Falls at a meeting held in a Wesleyan Methodist Church. The first woman's ordination was in 1853 and was preached by Luther Lee, one of the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Church.

If you visit Southern Wesleyan University, you can still see the bullet holes of the church Adam Crooks planted in Alamance County, North Carolina in 1847, Freedom's Hill church. There he preached abolition in the south until he was forced to leave to escape harm. At least one Wesleyan minister was lynched in those days leading up to the war.

I talk about history with my youngest children on the way to school on Mondays, and I was sharing some of this history yesterday morning. As we got out of the car, I thought to myself, "Wow. For such a small denomination, we sure have some huge things in our past to be really proud of!"

All the holiness denominations of the late 1800s ordained women and promoted the equal rights of women to vote. There is a tendency for those in the Wesleyan tradition to reach back to respectable Wesley once they begin to study. But he is really more our grandfather than father. Like it or not Phoebe Palmer is more our immediate parent, a lay Methodist evangelist of the mid-1800s.

Luther Lee's sermon at the ordination of Antoinette Brown was superb and I have uploaded a PDF of it here. It is interesting to see how much my booklet on Women in Ministry is similar in argument (you can get this booklet at cost from the Wesleyan Church, Department of Education and the Ministry, or I can get you one). B. T. Roberts, founder of the Free Methodist Church, wrote a book on it. Catherine Booth was co-founder of the Salvation Army, a completely egalitarian organization.

Somewhat more surprising is to realize that key founders of what become Gordon-Conwell and Trinity Evangelical were supporters of women in ministry. The Baptist A. J. Gordon argued for the right of women to speak at missionary conventions based on the "your daughters will prophesy" prediction in Acts 2 and also from Galatians 3:28. Frederick Franson, founder of the Evangelical Alliance Mission that would flow into the Evangelical Free Church, the denomination of Trinity Evangelical, defended the right of women to preach.

The word feminism is a dirty word in my circles, and there is a real drive to draw distinctions between this feminism of the 1800s and the secular feminism of the 1950s and after. I personally don't see the difference in the word feminism but in the word secular. Maybe I'm missing something about the feminist part of the more recent movement, but I suspect the main problem with it is the secular part.

It seems to me that the values of the civil rights movement--truly to give African-Americans all the same rights and opportunities as the dominant ethnicities--are fully Christian. Yet my own denomination, ironically founded because of abolitionism, pretty much said nothing during that era, like the Methodist Episcopal Church of 150 years ago.

Our number of women ministers actually declined from the 50s on. At one time, as many as 40 percent of Pilgrim Holiness Church preachers were women in some segments of the church. It was as much as 20 percent of Nazarene ministers at another point. When Dayton wrote in the 70s, it was something like 6 percent in the Nazarene Church.

In some of these things to our shame it looks like in these last decades God has had to use the world to move things toward kingdom values and the church has largely stood idle, even opposing God's will. Today, though, I am proud to belong to a denomination that fully affirms that God calls women to preach the gospel and that fully supports that African-Americans can ride anywhere on a bus and drink from the same water fountain I can.

We are glad for individuals to sit peacefully in the Washington Mall listen to someone of another skin dream about "on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood." Why did anyone equivocate about those things back then, again? Why do some of my friends and family still sneer at the name of Martin Luther King Jr.?

And, yes, since it is biblical, you will find the words "social justice" on our denominational website. If you have a problem with that, you have a problem with the Bible.

What a wonderful heritage I have as a Wesleyan! Wesleyans, accept no substitutes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lewis Tappan Quotes (4)

To sneak back

Arthur and Lewis Tappan were business men of the 1800s who helped subsidize a good bit of abolitionism, Finney, etc. Here are some quotes from Don Dayton's chapter on the two men.

Lewis Tappan: Children should be raised sensitive to the issue of race so that as adults they, with African-Americans, would "be able to meet at the polls, sit on juries, attend political meetings, practice at the bar, unite in processions, and mingle with their fellow-men in the various walks of life, on equal terms, as the religion of Jesus, and the laws of the land require." Sad that it took the civil rights movement over a hundred years later to get us anywhere close to this vision. I continue to attribute a good deal of the degree of anger toward Obama to the fact that he is black.

In 1863, near the end of his life, Tappan joked that while some claimed blacks were superior to whites in intelligence and strength, he wasn't so sure. Just maybe "a white man was just as good as a black man, if he behaved himself." Tappan ended with this poem:

"Judge not of virtue by the name, Or think to read it on the skin; Honor in white nad black the same--the stamp of glory is within."

The Infamous Middle Shuffle...

I was reminiscing about one of my seminary exegesis professors this past week with someone and then again today was reminded of an assignment he always had his exegesis classes do. I went to Asbury, and so there was of course a primacy among most professors on coming up with Wesleyan-Arminian interpretations. I doubt anyone who has looked at this blog for very long will doubt that I am an advocate for Wesleyan-Arminian theology, but the Bible simply says what it says, and we just have to deal with it.

This professor always had his beginning exegesis classes do an interpretation of Acts 13:48, which says something like, "As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." Well of course this sounds Calvinist. There was an underground rumor that if you suggested the verb in the sentence was in what is called the "middle" voice, you would get an A on the assignment. The translation would then become, "As many as had appointed themselves to eternal life, believed."

Don't get me wrong. I loved this professor. But in more than one respect, this story illustrates much that is wrong with biblical interpetation. First of all, any professor who basically requires you to parrot back what they want to hear in order to get a good grade is a bad teacher. We all know there are both liberal and conservative teachers who are the same way on this score. Tell them what they want to hear and you'll get an A. Disagree with them and watch out. That's bad teaching.

But this professor's infamous "middle shuffle" illustrates a more important point. Exegesis is not about the possible but about the probable. The goal of interpretation is not to find a possible way to support convenient conclusions for my tribe. The goal is to let the text say what it says.

There is no evidence whatsoever for the middle voice in this verse. The rule I teach in Greek is that you should always assume forms like this one are passive if they make sense. If they don't make sense, then you might explore a middle. Acts 13:48 makes perfect sense grammatically and contextually as a passive, "had been appointed." It is a "naughty verse" for my theology. But I'll just have to deal with it (and I can) and accept the most likely meaning of the text.

P.S. Here I am of course talking about original meaning interpretation, exegesis. I have gone on record as supporting the coherency of theological interpretation as a legitimate form of Christian reader-response which is perhaps even more important than original meaning interpretation.

Congress and the American Situation

This piece from Newsweek is deeply troubling to me: http://www.newsweek.com/id/235560

Every American--and every member of Congress--needs to stop, take a deep breath, and hit the reset button on their thinking. If we are not willing to reconsider our positions in the light of evidence and openness to other perspectives, we will drive ourselves into the ground or into violent conflict.

I have never felt so strongly as I have these last months that philosophy needs to stand at the heart of intellectual education: the rules of logical thinking and a true understanding of competing points of view on politics, economics, ethics, religion, science, how knowledge takes place, what a human person is, and so forth. I don't mean shoving one position down students' throats but a real attempt at objective presentation of pros and cons for all positions. Postmodernism as it has trickled down to the common person has been used to legitimize tribalism of all sorts, and only a return to a chastened modernism and sense of objectivity will give us an intellectual path out of our hobbled thinking.

True love of our neighbor and enemy would of course be the stronger cure for who we are and give us the fullest education.

Labelism

I have a suggestion for a new word for the dictionary:

labelism: The tendency to skew diverse particular ideas, events, people, and so forth by grouping them under overly generalized labels in the service of argument.

Examples:
  • Those who favor women in ministry are liberals because radical feminists push for equal rights and pay for women.
  • True conservatives are opposed to gun control because gun control is generally pushed by Democrats.
  • Allowing the government to manage some area of its citizens' life shows that we are becoming socialist like China.
  • Taxing us to support the health care of the elderly shows that we are becoming communist like the Soviet Union.
  • Making decisions that are unpopular shows that President Obama is a Fascist like Hitler.
  • You can't believe in the idea that Mark was a source for Matthew and Luke because that is an idea that comes from higher criticism.
  • The students at Oberlin were transcendentalists like Emerson who didn't believe in a personal God because they put a high emphasis on religious feeling like the Romantics.
All these statements are logically fallacious, even though they are the stuff of common rhetoric. They take diverse realia and oversimplify them because the human mind has difficulty processing complexity.

Logical fallacies involved: 1) hasty generalization, where differences between one observation and a general conclusion are ignored in the midst of argument; 2) fallacy of composition, where a whole is assumed to have certain characteristics because some parts have certain characteristics; and 3) fallacy of division, where all parts of something are assumed to all have certain characteristics because of some characteristic of the whole.

Explanation: The human mind is generally unable to process large amounts of particular facts without grouping them together into schemata, as Piaget called them. In deductive reasoning, where all the data can be accounted for and where all the data is usually of a simple nature, universal groupings can be fully coherent.

In inductive thinking, however, which is the nature of our lives in the world, all the data can rarely be accounted for, and the data is almost never a simple nature. People, events, and various other particular data are extremely complex and interwoven together. Simple ideas thus can hardly represent them without skew of some kind.

Beware of generalizations bearing fallacies! The Devil is in the details.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Frederick Douglass quote

This runaway slave had this to say, "Beat and cuff your slave... Give him a bad master, and he aspires to a good master; give him a good master, and he wishes to become his own master."

Oberlin and Civil Disobedience (3)

Just read chapter 5 of Donald Dayton's Discovering and Evangelical Heritage. If you want to follow the crumbs back, the previous one is here.

I had a number of thoughts about the incident of chapter 5, one in which an escaped slave being hid on the Oberlin campus was seized by some southerners who had come looking for him. A crowd of Oberliners met up with them in nearby Wellington and retrieved him, then sent him north to Canada. The Democrats who held sway in Cleveland were going to have their way with these Oberliners as violating the Fugitive Slave Law, but the Republicans of Oberlin cleverly set the trial for the southerners for kidnapping at the same time. In the end the compromise was that both charges were dropped.

I am struck by a number of things. First, the Oberliners used "higher law" arguments for civil disobedience. This is always a tricky thing, as I think we now know and many knew then. Although I support the civil disobedience of the Oberliners, recourse to "higher laws" is always iffy because everyone has a different sense of what that higher law is. For example, those who are threatening Democratic congressmen right now might easily say they are following a higher law, as might someone who shoots abortion doctors or sets homosexuals on fire. If you truly believe something like the Oberliners did, you must simply be willing to face the consequences of civil disobedience because you disagree with the law.

Probably the most striking thing is how much the values of the Republicans and Democrats have reversed in the last century and a half. The Republicans used to be the ones advocating civil rights and the power of the federal government over the states. Now these are values of the Democratic party. In that sense, I am an old Republican.

I have not studied the issue thoroughly, but it seems to me that somehow, seemingly without much reflection, the issue of abortion has inadvertantly pushed conservative Christians toward a states rights orientation. I suppose since a large portion of conservative Christians are southerners, it is natural that many conservative Christians would take this position anyway. But it is fascinating to me how others have absorbed this point of view that really has nothing to do with conservative Christianity and is actually antithetical to the original orientation of Republicans.

States' rights issues, for example, are involved in Roe vs. Wade. Its repeal will only send the issue back to the states. In itself, its repeal will not stop a single abortion. What I think we would prefer is a federal ban on abortion. But would the Supreme Court justices Republican presidents have sent up support such a federal law any more than Roe vs. Wade?!

Republican Advice...

Adam Thada mentioned in a comment that David Wright had linked to this article. I finally read it and liked a good deal of it too. Here is the better part of it:

____________
1) One of the worst things about the Democrats' plan is the method of financing: an increase in tax on high-income earners. At first that tax bites only a very small number, but the new taxes will surely be applied to larger and larger portions of the American population over time.

Republicans champion lower taxes and faster economic growth. We need to start thinking now about how to get rid of these new taxes on work, saving and investment -- if necessary by finding other sources of revenue, including carbon taxes.

2) We should quit defending employment-based health care. The leading Republican spokesman in the House on these issues, Rep. Paul Ryan, repeatedly complained during floor debate that the Obama plan would "dump" people out of employer-provided care into the exchanges. He said that as if it were a bad thing.

Yet free-market economists from Milton Friedman onward have identified employer-provided care as the original sin of American health care. Employers choose different policies for employees than those employees would choose for themselves. The cost is concealed.

Wages are depressed without employees understanding why. The day when every employee in America gets his or her insurance through an exchange will be a good day for market economics. It's true that the exchanges are subsidized. So is employer-provided care, to the tune of almost $200 billion a year.

3) We should call for reducing regulation of the policies sold inside the health care exchanges. The Democrats' plans require every policy sold within the exchanges to meet certain strict conditions.

American workers will lose the option of buying more basic but cheaper plans. It will be as if the only cable packages available were those that include all the premium channels. No bargains in that case. Republicans should press for more scope for insurers to cut prices if they think they can offer an attractive product that way.

4) The Democratic plan requires businesses with payrolls more than $500,000 to buy health insurance for their workers or face fines of $2,000 per worker. Could there be a worse time to heap this new mandate on smaller employers? Health insurance comes out of employee wages, plain and simple. Employers who do not offer health insurance must compete for labor against those who do -- and presumably pay equivalent wages for equivalent work.

Uninsured employees have now through the exchanges been provided an easy and even subsidized way to buy their own coverage. There is no justification for the small-business fine: Republicans should press for repeal.

That platform is ambitious enough -- but also workable, enactable and likely to appeal to voters. After 18 months of overheated rhetoric, it's time at last for Republicans to get real.

I've been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes, it mobilizes supporters -- but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead.

Now the overheated talk is about to get worse. Over the past 48 hours, I've heard conservatives compare the House bill to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 -- a decisive step on the path to the Civil War. Conservatives have whipped themselves into spasms of outrage and despair that block all strategic thinking.

Or almost all. The vitriolic talking heads on conservative talk radio and shock TV have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination.

When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say -- but what is equally true -- is that he also wants Republicans to fail.

If Republicans succeed -- if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office -- Rush's listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less and hear fewer ads for Sleep Number beds.

So today's defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it's mission accomplished.

For the cause they purport to represent, however, the "Waterloo" threatened by GOP Sen. Jim DeMint last year regarding Obama and health care has finally arrived all right: Only it turns out to be our own.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Evangelical Heritage 2

I've read chapters 2-4 since last I posted. Chapter 2 was on Finney. Chapter three on someone named Theodore Weld. Chapter four on the "Lane rebellion" and the founding of Oberlin College.

Don Dayton's main point in chapter 2 is that social reform was a principal element of Charles Finney's ministry, sometimes excised from sources about him. He even encouraged women to pray in the presence of other men.

Theodore Weld was a vocal opponent of slavery and advocate for immediate abolition. He lived, ate, worshipped with freedmen from the south. Dayton makes a strong case that Weld demonstrates that abolitionists were not all long distance friends of the slaves. Weld truly lived out his belief that these freedmen were entirely equal to him. He was also refused to take over his wife's property upon marriage because he considered her an equal.

Probably most striking to me was the story of the founding of Oberlin College. I feel quite confident that, if the 43 year old Ken Schenck who is typing this post were transplanted to 1834 and didn't know much of what came after, he would be a moderate abolitionist rather than some of these radical individuals.

Oberlin vowed to "strive continually... while living, provide for the widows, orphans, and famlies of the sick and needy." Blacks were admitted to Oberlin right alongside whites from the college's inception (the first college ever to do this). They were opposed to the relocation of Indians. Many of them were pacifists, some even vegetarians as a physical discipline. Antoinette Brown, the first ordained woman in America (ordained in a Wesleyan Methodist church), was not allowed to take classes officially but did so unofficially.

Let no one call un-Wesleyan anyone who advocates social activism along these lines--toward civil rights, toward equal rights for women, toward the empowerment of the stranger in our midst. Perhaps we might argue the wisdom of the tactics some of these individuals took at the time. But it goes without saying that the founders of the Wesleyan Methodist Church were not particularly considered "conservative" in their day, and we should share their values.

Pre-History 2

Here's the rest of the pre-history of the seminary:

http://wesleyanseminary.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/pre-seminary-history-part-2/

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Brogan and de Tocqueville quotes...

Two quotes that stood out to me today:

"The men of the eighteenth century came to expect, and inexorably to demand, more than the seventeenth-century ordering of their world could possibly provide." (Hugh Brogan)

"The system that a revolution destroys is almost always better than that which immediately preceeded it, and experience teaches that the most dangerous moment for a bad government is usually that in which it begins to reform." (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Pre-History of Wesley Seminary@IWU 1

The seminary board met for dinner last night and Russ Gunsalus, Keith Drury and I shared some of the pre-history of the seminary. I posted the first installment on my seminary blog: http://wesleyanseminary.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/pre-history-of-wesley-seminary/

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Sermon: "Do not let Sin reign"

I gave this sermon in chapel a week ago as part of the Cox Deeper Life Series:

"Do not let Sin reign"

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Historic Health Care Bill passes

I know that feelings run high on this one. Indeed, there will be challenges ahead of various kinds. Republicans in the Senate will try to stop the fixes. There will be legal challenges made, and we know that the make-up of the Supreme Court leans "conservative." Frankly, might a Republican Congress and President completely reverse it in three years?

In any case, I wanted the historical marker here. If you can do it civilly, what is your prediction for the days to come--specifically (generic ranting isn't what I'm looking for)? Do you agree with the independent budget office that it will reduce the deficit over 100 billion dollars in ten years and a trillion in 20? Does it foretell a huge defeat for the Democratic party in the Fall and next presidential election? Will there be riots? Will the insured forget about it if there is no real change to their insurance? Will those who have to get insurance ultimately be glad to have it? Will it lead to the greatest fracture between the states and the government since the Civil War? Will someone try to assassinate certain lead Democrats? Will history look back at this decision as a crucial moment in the decline of the United States as a superpower, or will history wonder why anyone ever argued against it?

Again, civilly, specifically, what do you think the concrete consequences will be? If I remember, I might check back in a year to reflect on what things look like then.

Chariots found in the Red Sea!?

In the space of about a week, I've had two students reference chariots, horse hooves, and human remains found in the Red Sea. The source is apparently this website and someone called Ron Wyatt, who I guess died in 1999. For a debunking piece on Wyatt, see here.

Here's the deal. There's a reason why some people are called scholars and others aren't. There are conservative archaeological resources, Biblical Archaeology Review, for example. If it hasn't made it there, it probably isn't legit.

This is the problem with the internet and with email chains. It's not just this sort of stuff with the Bible. It's stuff about Obama's Christmas tree and how he was really born in Kenya. It's everyone from Al Gore to John Kerry to Obama misquoting John 3:16 as John 16:3. It's the Iraqis sneaking WMD into Syria just before the invasion.

It's we Christians making God look stupid by being gullible! You should question anything of this sort that has not appeared in a peer reviewed journal or on a mainstream newscast. In the words of Jack Handy, "Sometimes I think the experts actually are experts."

Evangelical Heritage 1

I feel compelled to follow through with a book idea I've suggested before, "A Great Time for the Wesleyan Tradition." After Easter, I plan to start writing it on the seminary Dean's blog bit by bit.
The lead off chapter is, "What is a Wesleyan?" and I am reading Donald Dayton's Discovering an Evangelical Heritage this week as research. Today I read his 1988 Preface, the Prologue, and the first chapter.
Dayton is a feisty soul. The eccentricities of mortals should make us smile, not offend us--unless of course they are dangerous. I do not find Wallis and Campolo dangerous, nor my friends and relatives that are extremely conservative (like the conservative friend I ran into at lunch who suggested a Marion high schooler could beat Obama in the next election).
So Dayton is a typical intellectual, even a typical genius. If you met him you would agree. I think those who know him (which is not me) would agree that he is sometimes an offensive person and is not particularly gifted when it comes to social skills. But he is brilliant and has very much of value to say. I chuckle when such individuals bite--it's just harmless eccentricity.
All that is to say that I thoroughly enjoyed his 1988 Preface, remembering that the first edition was with Harper & Row in 1976. His dissatisfaction with Harper & Row comes through loud and clear as he moved to Hendrickson for the second edition. Delectable Dayton.
There are some great quotes: "[M]ost historical writing is implicitly a form of advocacy" (x). "Personal experience and cultural questions can open up true insights into Christian experience and the scriptures as well as obscure them" (x). "[M]ost books arise out of the author's personal history" (1).
His central point appears in the new Preface: "'[E]vangelicalism' is better understood as a specific wing of the nineteenth-century revivalist tradition that took shape before the emergence of fundamentalism and along different lines..." (xii). He thus disagrees with Marsden's sense of the purer race of evangelicals that is suspiciously Reformed and respectable. "[I]t's an interesting comment on evangelical historiography and on those who do the writing that such things as the ministry of women apparently really only begin to happen when they happen in the circles of those cultural elites who write most about such things!" (xi).
The Prologue tells of Dayton's experience at an evangelical college in the 1960s (Houghton, I think). Again, fun for those of us with similar background--peculiar to the mainstream. "[T]he contrast between the pettiness of the issues that troubled us and the magnitude of the issues that were being dealt with in society is frightening... prohibitions against drinking, smoking, dancing, card-playing, and theater-going. Our lives were largely bound up in testing the limits of these prohibitions" (2).
"We tended to be apolitical, but when political instincts did surface, they were conservative... Our great fear was communism, and we found signs of it everywhere" :-) He catalogs Christianity Today's embarrassing positions on social issues during the decade, what John Oliver later called "A Failure of Evangelical Conscience." He tells of his departure from his Wesleyan Methodist Church heritage (although he never names it) only in grad school to discover something about it he had never even known. Mind you, Don is the son of Wesleyan Methodist evangelical pillar, Asbury Seminary, Wesley Biblical patriarch Wilbur T. Dayton--extremely well connected!
"Though never helped to understand its history in college or in church life, I discovered much to my surprise that the denomination [The Wesleyan Methodist Church] was a product of the closest parallel to the civil rights movement in American history--the abolitionist protest against slavery in the pre-Civil War period" (4).
Chapter 1 then deals with the founder of Wheaton College, which was of course founded by Wesleyan Methodists in 1848 as Illinois Institute. The Wesleyans could not sustain it financially, however, so Congregationalists took over. Dayton's point in this chapter is to question the kind of evangelicalism Billy Graham represented in a comment on the Vietnam War in 1973: "God has called me to be a New Testament evangelist, not an Old Testament prophet! While some may interpret an evangelist to be primarily a social reformer or political activist, I do not! An evangelist is a proclaimer of the message of God's love and grace in Jesus Christ and of the necessity of repentance and faith" (8).
Dayton shows quite easily that the first president of Wheaton, Jonathan Blanchard, would have had no part in Graham's position. Blanchard was a fiery abolitionist. Now, mind you, I'm not sure of the prudence of Blanchard. His debate partner, N. L. Rice, at least as Dayton describes him, seemed wiser.
But Dayton makes his point. Activism was in the blood of the nineteenth century "evangelicals." I myself am ambivalent toward the label today. But Dayton will make a case that revivalism is where the heart of evangelicalism was in the 1800s.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2 Timothy 3:16, Allegory, and 1 Corinthians 9

I was reflecting briefly on 2 Timothy 3:16 today--"All Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for instruction..." A comment of a student in an online class sparked the way Paul uses Deuteronomy 25:4 in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10. In what way does Paul find Deuteronomy 25:4 profitable in this way?

The answer at least seems quite illuminating! He finds Deuteronomy profitable for instruction by reading it allegorically while at least questioning its literal sense: "it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever plows should plow in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop" (NRSV).

In other words, 2 Timothy 3:16 does not indicate how Scripture is profitable for instruction, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Presumably it could function in this way on more than one level, literal or allegorical. Paul seems to find Deuteronomy 25:4 profitable almost entirely in an allegorical sense, while little in its literal sense.

This is a striking finding to me!

Friday, March 19, 2010

What I think of Jim Wallis...

Glenn Beck has some researchers getting him ready to lambast Jim Wallis sometime in the near future. I do not wish to contribute to the publicity that moment will generate for him both among supporters and opposers ("All publicity is good publicity"). So I thought I would share my personal feelings about Jim Wallis before the firestorm erupts again.

First, I think of Jim Wallis much the way I think of Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne. These are people who I feel take certain biblical teachings to an extreme. For example, I am not sure that--just because Jesus told one rich man that he should go and sell all that he had and give to the poor--we all must do the same today. I don't think Jesus would tell everyone that today and, in fact, Paul never tells any of his congregations to do that. Perhaps I am just making excuses for myself, but I think the application of these biblical passages is more complex than "God said it; I believe it; that settles it for me."

On the other hand, they are taking very literally a very significant portion of Scripture. My complaint is not that they are not following the Bible--I don't know how I would even argue that. Not only is the New Testament almost entirely negative toward money but it is often vehemently negative: "You cannot serve God and money," "The love of money is the root of all evil," "Woe to you rich for you have already received your reward." Frankly, I can't think of any Scriptures that say things like, "Always make economic decisions that are in your best interest and don't worry about the economic interests of others."

In other words, I think things are more complex than these guys make them out to be, yet their values are very Christ-like. I think I can argue that you can be a Christian and be wealthy today. I think I can defend this position, although I am not completely certain. But to be honest I can argue much more easily for John Wesley's position:

1) "Earn all you can"... We're ok there.
2) "Save all you can"... Here he didn't mean put it in a bank. He meant always buy the least expensive brand. Don't by the expensive car but the economical one.
3) "Give all you can"... Meaning he would not have approved of buying a yacht or a mansion. That's money you could give away.

Individuals like Jim Wallis are a little edgy, maybe a little impractical. I may disagree with their tactics, what they think we should do. But I will not criticize their values on the issue of poverty, since they are clearly biblical through and through.

I am thus a capitalist because I recognize sinful human nature, not because I am a Christian. The Christian value is to give to others, to consider the needs of others before your own. In this sense, I consider the Jim Wallises of the world to be very Christ-like but wrong about the implications of the current fallen state of the world. Capitalism is simply the system that works best in a fallen world, and a modified capitalism I believe can accomplish Wallis' goals better than what he would advocate.

But we need people like him, apparently. We apparently need these sorts of prophets to shake us from complacency. And they do tend to say shocking things. I don't personally like what I remember of Campolo's personality. He used to cuss in the middle of his talk and then say--you're more upset that I just cussed than you are about people who are starving in the world. Irritating and smug, as I remember. But of course he was right about many in his audiences. Many of them did have just as topsy turvy values as the Pharisees of Matthew 23:23.

Wallis sometimes points out that there are less than ten verses in the Bible about homosexuality but dozens on poverty. The observation does not of course deny that the consistent statements of the Bible in relation to homsexual sex are strongly negative. But he is absolutely correct in his observation. The Bible has vastly much more to say about wealth and the poor than about homosexual sex.

People like him remind us that capitalism is not a Christian value--it is based on acting in your own self-interest while Christianity is oriented around sacrificing for the best interests of others. Ayn Rand even wrote a book capturing this dynamic of capitalism--The Virtue of Selfishness. She argues in this book that it is actually morally wrong to act in the interest of others when it is not in your own self-interest. How twisted our minds have become if we somehow have convinced ourselves that this approach is the Christian one!

But capitalism is the system that works best given a fallen world. It is ironically the best path to human thriving in this world. If we can modify it just enough so that it does not run over the "little man," it can become the basis for an entire society to thrive, as we have to a large extent.

But don't confuse its values for Christian values. I expect to find a number of labels used against Wallis in the near future. I don't expect to find much Scripture.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bence on Zwingli

Thought you might enjoy this vidcast Bud Bence did for the seminary on Zwingli:

http://interactive.ihets.org/p28875624/

Billy Abraham on campus...

We had Billy Abraham on campus at IWU today, speaking on John Wesley and the task of education. Many on the campus also read his new Aldersgate and Athens, particularly those in the honors college.

He's a spunky Irish Methodist who teaches at SMU (Perkins School of Theology). He was also a speaker at the Wesleyan Theological Society this year up against Richard Hays. Little known fact is that he went to Asbury before he did his doctorate at Oxford. Jerry Walls used his philosophy of religion textbook back when I was at Asbury.

I haven't built a label for him yet. He clearly doesn't like Barth. He definitely doesn't like Liberation Theology. He respects Plantinga but is clearly not a follower. He is more philosopher than theologian, I would say.

In any case, my two favorite concepts from him are:

1. Don't do any more dissertations on John Wesley. It's all been done. I agree that the level of Wesleyolatry that sometimes goes on out there is bizarre, IMO.

2. The Nicene Creed should be brought within the canon (by which he means the list of things to read as divinely appointed means of grace).

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Visit to Christianity Today

Wayne Schmidt and I had a nice visit today with the editorial and publishing staff of Christianity Today International. Very nice, creative, and faith-full people. We also managed a quick drive around the Wheaton campus. Very nice indeed.

P.S. "Faith-full" has become my way of describing Christians of orthodox and orthoprax faith (yes, I just made up that word too). I like "faith-full" because it transcends less helpful labels like "conservative" and "liberal."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Instead of Hitting...

Came across this list in my wife's office. Craig and I have pinky sworn to abide by these rules. :-)

Ten Things to Do Instead of Hitting

1. Talk about your feelings with a grown-up you trust.

2. Sit alone.

3. Count to ten slowly.

4. Draw a picture.

5. Jump up and down or exercise.

6. Read a book.

7. Write a story about how you feel.

8. Get a drink of water.

9. Squish clay or play dough.

10. Take a deep breath, hold it for a few seconds, relax, and repeat.

:-)

Monday, March 15, 2010

First Paul volume dedicated to...

Here's an excerpt from the preface to my first Paul volume, Paul: Messenger of Grace:
__________
This book and its sequel mean to present and reflect on the life and ministry of the apostle Paul by bringing the best of current scholarship into dialog with the concerns of Christian life. A good deal has taken place in the study of Paul these last thirty years, and not all of it has made its way from scholars to the pew. Some voices have expressed alarm at “new perspectives” on Paul, although for many of us in the Wesleyan tradition, these new perspectives fit very well with things we have always believed. Indeed, in some respects, those who most object to some of the “new perspectives” on Paul are the same individuals who have generally looked down on the thinking of the Wesleyan tradition.

For example, more than ever before, Pauline scholars recognize the importance of “works” in the Christian life. Perhaps the most decisive figure in the revolution in the study of Paul was E. P. Sanders, who surveyed all of the Jewish literature of Palestine and concluded that Jews kept the Law to “stay in,” not to “get in.” The Jewish emphasis on the Law was in response to God’s grace, not an attempt to “earn” their salvation. This suggestion fits very well with the Wesleyan notion that we are not saved by works, but we must live a godly life through the power of the Spirit to “stay” in the faith.

I am dedicating each book in this series to two scholars who have revolutionized my understanding of Paul. I am dedicating this first volume to Krister Stendahl (1921-2008) and Jimmy Dunn. I never met Krister Stendahl. But his little article, “Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West” did more to transform my understanding of Paul than any other single source. His observations seem so commonsensical, so obvious. Paul was a Jew and would not have seen his faith in Christ as a conversion from one religion to another, from Judaism to Christianity. Although Stendahl was a Lutheran bishop, his explanations of Romans 7 and Philippians 3 are thoroughly Wesleyan. Romans 7 is not Paul’s current experience, nor is Paul leaving behind his sinful failures in Philippians 3 as he presses forward. Rather, Paul had a “robust conscience,” a strong sense of his blamelessness as a believer.

Jimmy Dunn is my Doctor Father, the brilliant mind under which I studied for my doctorate in New Testament. Not only is Professor Dunn a model scholar, a paragon of contextual interpretive method, but he is a Methodist lay preacher. While I was doing my doctoral studies in Durham, England, Professor Dunn wrote commentaries on 1 Corinthians and Colossians, and some of the insights of this current volume on 1 Corinthians come from the weekly New Testament Seminar sessions where he was working through that letter of Paul. For me, his greatest “new perspective” insight has been that “works of Law” in Paul are not so much good works in general, but aspects of the Jewish Law that separated Jew and Gentile. Paul is not anti-works, but he is opposed to Jewish individuals thinking they have an advantage before God in salvation simply because they are circumcised...

Jesus versus the poor...

My Lenten post for next Sunday's lectionary reading is up on the Dean's blog: http://wesleyanseminary.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/jesus-versus-the-poor/.

The comments below relate to the fact that I mistakenly posted this a week early.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Great Sermon concept today

Steve Deneff today at College Wesleyan had a great sermon kernel. As part of a Lenten series called "Cross Culture," he preached today on Mark 9:14-29, the story of the boy convulsed by a demon. The disciples are unable to cast out the demon, and Jesus tells them that this kind only comes out through prayer.

Deneff made it a parable of the city of Marion and places like it. Why can't College Wesleyan and other churches cast the "demons" out of Marion. Then he interrupted the sermon and got us into prayer circles before resuming the sermon.

Sin 3: Sin in the rest of NT

Did a quick run through the rest of hamartano in the NT, namely, in the gospels, Acts, general epistles, and Revelation. The same finding applies. To sin is to do wrong. I didn't find the Jewish Law so much as an explicit standard in these other books. In the gospels, sinning is often "against" someone or something. There are sins against a brother (e.g., Matt. 18:21). There are sins against a father (Luke 15:21), against heaven (Luke 15:21), against the temple and Caesar (Acts 25:8).

The notion of sinning against heaven is interesting. I suppose one might say that all sins are sins against heaven. But it's important to recognize that this is a theological idea I am having right now--the biblical authors might affirm this idea if you asked them, but it is generally not something their texts have in mind in the original contexts. [it is thus overreading the texts to ascribe this as an element of the original meaning of these passages--the overload fallacy]

The vast majority of instances in the rest of the NT where hamartia is used also refer to wrongdoing, wrong that has been done or wrong that might be done. In my quick survey, I did not notice any instance in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts where this was not the basic sense. John, written after Paul and later in the first century, had a couple instances where Sin as a power seemed to be in view (John 8:34; 9:34) and one that seemed to have the sense of guilt (9:41).

Hebrews of course brings in strongly the sense of sin as causing impurity, but this is a consequence of sin, like death, rather than part of the core definition. The word agnoema, "act of ignorance," in my opinion, means more than the OT does in relation to this word. I believe the author refers to sins the audience committed before they came to Christ and were not yet enlightened, similar to the acts of ignorance in Paul's sermon in Acts 17.

James 4:17 speaks of sins of omission, but the same basic sense of wrongdoing is there, as with all the other references in the General Epistles and Revelation. I found four references in all to the sinlessness of Jesus--2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; and 1 John 3:5. 1 John 5:16 also clearly points to different levels of sin.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Polarization of Truth

This incident with social studies textbooks in Texas is symptomatic of the polarization of truth in America right now. The Republicans in Texas have the power to put their perspective in the textbooks, just like the Democrats in Washington may have the power to put at least part of their vision on health care into law.

We are going to destroy ourselves from within if we keep this going. The only solution I can think of is for us to have real debate over these sorts of issues, not one-sided rhetoric. We have to surrender to a notion of truth that is bigger than what we currently think. We have to be willing to change our point of view if we are presented with enough evidence. And if we are not competent to judge the evidence, we must surrender to the consensus of those who truly are experts.

Both liberal and conservative perspectives should dialog together in social studies textbooks.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sin 2: Hamartia in Paul

The previous post looked at the verb hamartano--"to do wrong," "to sin"--in the Pauline corpus. We found that the word had the basic meaning "to do wrong" and could be used generally or to do wrong against someone or something. In every instance where a specific act of sin was in view, it was avoidable. When a standard was in view, the Jewish Law seemed to provide the basic standard of wrongdoing in some way.

There was some ambiguity when it came to the fact that "all have sinned" because of logic--if all sin is avoidable, then how likely is it that no one would ever have successfully avoided all sin? It is here that later Christian theology has connected Paul's dots with theology.

In this post we look at hamartia, "sin," a wrong. The overwhelming instances of the word in Paul are in Romans. The first reference in Paul is likely 1 Thessalonians 2:16 where Paul indicates that the sins of Judean non-believing Jews of influence are approaching a full point where God will judge them. Their "wrongdoing" has almost reached its limit.

1 Corinthians, possibly next, has three verses (4 refs). 15:3 indicates that Christ died to atone for our sins, which Paul assumes all individuals have. 15:17 indicates that not just Jesus' death but his resurrection is also essential for such sins to be cleansed. 15:56 gives us our first reference in the study that speaks of the power behind sin. Paul here says it is the Law, a motif we will follow up on in Romans.

Galatians perhaps next gives us three occurrences. 1:4 again refers to Christ's death as an atonement for sins. 2:17 gives us Galatians' version of the "all have sinned" argument. We Jews also are found to be sinners (hamartolos), just as Gentiles are (hamartolos). Galatians 3:22 confirms once again that the Jewish Law serves in some way as the standard of what wrongdoing is. The Law--that is Scripture--imprisons everyone "under sin." That is to say, the Law demonstrates that everyone has done wrong.

2 Corinthians has two verses (3 refs). Paul could presumably have used the verb in 11:7 but instead says, "Did I do wrong" in relation to the Corinthians by his actions. 5:21 is of course a key verse of Paul's soteriology. Jesus did not "know wrongdoing" but he became "wrongdoing" to demonstrate and effect God's righteousness.

In 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians we have the same pattern we have seen before with the verb "to do wrong." The Jewish Law of Scripture in some way provides a standard when one is mentioned. Concrete acts of wrongdoing are treated as avoidable, although it is assumed that all humans except for Jesus have at some point committed wrongdoing.

Thus we come to Romans. All the uses of hamartia in Romans proceed from the basic sense of "wrongdoing." Blessed is the person whose wrongdoings are covered and that the Lord does not count against them (4:7; cf. 11:27). Wrongdoing entered the world through Adam and the fact that all humans went on to do wrong brought death to everyone (5:12). Should we continue doing wrong after God has forgiven us (6:1). The wages of wrongdoing is death (6:23).

The default standard is once again the Jewish Law of Scripture. Through the Law the audience becomes aware of sin (3:20). The Law tells us what wrongdoing is (7:7). Wrongdoing was in the world before the Law (5:13) but the Law informs us that we are sinners.

But it is in Romans 6-8 where the most concentrated use of the word occurs, indeed, Paul's most distinctive way of using the word. Sin is personified as a power. We saw the idea of Scripture imprisoning all under sin in Galatians 3:22. This idea also appears in 3:9. While these could simply mean that all have sinned, the later chapters of Romans possibly point to being "under sin" as being under the power of sin.

We now hear about being a slave to wrongdoing (5:21; 6:6-7, 10-14, 16-18, 20, 22; 7:5, 8-9, 11, 13-14, 17, 20, 23, 25; 8:2-3, 10). Knowledge of the Law and the commandment even aggravates the power of wrongdoing over us and leads us to do more wrong (5:20; 7:13). However, we are set free from this power when we are buried with Christ in baptism (6:4, 6). The rule of the Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death (8:4).

Paul's theology of sin is thus that we cannot help but violate the Law before we are baptized, but that we are able to keep the Law through the Spirit afterwards. Whatever we might say of the avoidability of wrongdoing before Christ, we not only can but must not do wrong afterwards.

Romans also brings up an element of sin that harkens to Jesus tradition. Romans 14:23 says that whatever a person does that is not done from a heart of faith is wrongdoing. It is thus not enough simply to keep the Law. One must also act from a heart of faith toward God.

The remainder of references fit within Paul's more normal sense of doing wrong. Colossians 1:14 speaks of the forgiveness of our wrongdoing through Christ. Ephesians 2:1 tells of us being dead in our wrongdoing prior to Christ. 1 Timothy 5:22 and 24 again treat wrongdoing as something a person can avoid. 2 Timothy 3:6 speaks of certain women weighed down with acts of wrongdoing.

1 Timothy has a slightly different sense of law--it is largely stripped of its Jewish particulars (1:9). To be a sinner in 1 Timothy is thus to violate this general understanding of law (1:15).

Summary
We are thus now in a position to summarize Paul's sense of sin. Basically, we can speak of two distinct "language games" with two slightly different sets of rules. The first is arguably the more normal use of the word group. Here Paul thinks of concrete doing of wrong. In no instance of concrete wrongdoing does Paul treat such actions as unavoidable. In normal operating mode, Paul assumes that wrongdoing is avoidable and, indeed, Christians must not do wrong.

One can do wrong in relation to others and one can do wrong in general. When Paul points to a standard against which to determine wrongdoing, it is almost always the Jewish Law. What makes Paul's thinking ambiguous is the fact that he can speak of Law in several different ways. The two most prevalent are 1) a kind of moral core and 2) the Law in its Jewish, ethnic particulars. Paul only uses the Law as a standard to define wrongdoing in relation to the first definition.

Absolute perfection is never the standard. In fact, only in Romans 14:23 does Paul move beyond concrete wrongdoing to wrongdoing as intent. Elsewhere "sin" seems to refer always to action.

It is the second "sin language game" that complicates Paul's sense of sin and, indeed, it is from Romans 6-8 that Augustinian Christianity has drawn some of the signature understandings of Western Christianity (e.g., original sin, sinful nature, etc.). This is the idea of sin as a power, the universal wrongdoing of humanity, and the inability not to do wrongdoing prior to the Spirit. Yet even here is no sense of an expectation of absolute perfection as God's standard. It is simply affirmed that all humans have done wrong at some point in their lives.

Sin in the gospels and Acts tomorrow...

Sin 1: Hamartano in Paul

I'm doing a word study this weekend on variants of the harmart- root:
  • hamartia - "sin"
  • hamartema - "sin"
  • hamartolos - "sinner"
  • hamartano - "to sin"
This post is the verb, hamartano, in the Pauline corpus. I am asking three questions:
1) What is the definition of sin?
2) What is the standard of sin (absolute, intention, etc.)? and
3) What is the basis of sin (what causes it)?

Hamartano appears 20 times in the Pauline corpus. The basic sense is "to do wrong," but one can do wrong in general (with either an implicit or explicit standard) or one can do wrong in relation to someone or something.

In 1 Corinthians, we find both senses. In 1 Corinthians 6:18 you do wrong toward your own body by sexual immorality. In 8:12, you do wrong toward your brothers and toward Christ by causing others to stumble. Intention is clearly an element in the action that leads to "wronging" your body, your brother, or Christ. At the same time, one may not have intended to do wrong toward these individuals. In that sense "sinning against" in these instances may or may not be intentional.

The wrongdoing, however, gives no sense of a standard of absolute perfection. This is "doing wrong against" in a fairly concrete, avoidable, and normal sense. In every case the sin is avoidable (note that one of the two instances of the word hamartema appears also in 6:18 and has the basic sense of "a wrong that has been done"; the other instance Romans 3:25, is similar).

The second group of "sinning" instances in 1 Corinthians are more general. A person who marries does not "do wrong," does not sin (7:28, 36). A standard is assumed here, although it is not concretely mentioned. Again, the act being examined is a fairly intentional, normal one, but the question of wrongdoing is not judged in terms of intent. And again, there is no sense of a standard of absolute perfection. Not sinning is quite possible.

The final reference in 1 Corinthians is 15:34, where Paul tells the Corinthians to stop sinning, to stop doing wrong. Clearly he believes this standard to be attainable. All the instances of sinning in 1 Corinthians, therefore, assume that it is possible not to sin, not to do wrong to Paul's satisfaction, not to do wrong against others.

By far most of the references to sinning as a verb are in Romans, as are most of Paul's references to sin. While we want to hold off on most of the references to the noun hamartia until the next post, some appear in the same context of the verb in Romans.

The first use of the verb is in Romans 2:12: "All who do wrong without law will also perish without law. But as many did wrong with the Law will be judged by way of the Law." This is a helpful verse, because it implies that the Jewish Law provides the criteria by which wrongdoing can be assessed in some way. In general, Jews thought it possible to keep the Law up to God's expectation. Paul himself calls his lawkeeping "blameless" before believing on Christ (Phil. 3:6). We will have to see, however, whether Paul holds to this normal standard of wrongdoing elsewhere.

We learn little of what the standard of doing wrong is from Romans 3:23 or 5:12. Certainly the wrongdoing of Adam in 5:12 was an intentional, avoidable act of wrongdoing. 5:14 may very well imply that those from Adam to Moses did wrong like Adam even though they did not have a clear command they knew they were violating. In this sense, their sin might not have been conscious violation. This, however, does not mean the standard was unattainable. These individuals simply did wrong perhaps without knowing it. Similar dynamics apply to 5:16.

Romans 6:15 assumes the same standard for wrongdoing--the Law in some way. But the assumption is that a person can in fact avoid doing wrong in this way.

We thus can summarize the use of the verb "to sin" in 1 Corinthians and Romans as having two basic senses. By far the dominant use is to do wrong, with the default standard being the Jewish Law in some way. A second use is to do wrong against someone or something. Whenever Paul talks about concrete acts of wrongdoing, these acts are always avoidable. That is to say, we find no sense that Paul's concrete standard is unattainable. The assumption is rather than one might very well not "do wrong" in these ways.

It is when Paul generalizes and makes overarching theological statements that we run into questions. Paul's concrete, individual mentions of sinning always seem to assume sin is avoidable. Yet all have sinned, and all those sinned from Adam to Moses. If sin were really avoidable, how could this be the case? Then we begin to fill in gaps as theologians, moving beyond what Paul actually says. We will pick up this thought in the next post.

The last three uses of the verb in the Pauline corpus are in Ephesians 4:26; 1 Timothy 5:20; and Titus 3:11. Ephesians says not to sin when you are angry. The implication is both that anger in itself is not a sin and that one can avoid doing wrong while being angry. 1 Timothy calls for public rebuking of those who sin, which implies both that sin is avoidable and that Christians are not to be "those who sin." Titus speaks of a particular type of person as one who sins, again, thus distinguishing this one who sins from Christians who do not sin.

In these three instances we again see that concrete acts of sin are treated as avoidable and sinning is not normal for a believer.

N. T. Wright on the rapture...

Came across this piece: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm

I am always struck by how confident Wright is about things he really does not have enough evidence to be so confident about. He berates those who take Paul literally here. But one has to wonder if this is only some deep need on his part to "demythologize" the text at this point.

He is often ingenious. Note these two sentences, "Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah. The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence. " Very clever! Possible! I don't think we have enough evidence in the text to do more than suggest it as a possibility.

Sometimes I think people like Wright are more clever than the biblical authors themselves... :-)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Social Justice?

a) I don't mind whether you call it that.
b) Also, how we implement Christian values is a different question from what those values are.
c) Finally, cultural differences need to be taken into account...

... but just to give some sense of what the Bible actually has to say on this recently and notoriously mentioned topic by a certain television personality:

Leviticus 19:10: "And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God."

Leviticus 25:35: “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you."

Deuteronomy 15:7: “If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother."

Proverbs 21:13: "Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered"

Proverbs 22:16: "Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty."

Proverbs 28:27: "Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse."

Isaiah 1:16-17: "remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause."

Amos 2:6-7: "For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the ... needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth...

Matthew 25:41-43: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink... naked and you did not clothe me..."

Mark 10:21: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor."

Luke 4:18: " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor..."

Luke 6:24-25: "But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry."

Luke 18:24: "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!"

Acts 2:44-45: "And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need."

Galatians 2:8-9: "when James and Cephas and John... perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me... Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

James 1:9-10: "Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away"

James 1:27: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

James 2:15-17: "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

James 4:13-5:5: "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes...

"Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days... You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter."

Never confuse political conservatism with Christian conservatism! They overlap at some points... and at others diverge wildly.

Jack Handy quote

“If you think a weakness can be turned into a strength, I hate to tell you this, but that's another weakness”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Aldous Huxley quote

Enjoyed this quote I came across today:

"If it were not for the intellectual snobs who pay -- in solid cash -- the tribute which philistinism owes to culture, the arts would perish with their starving practitioners. Let us thank heaven for hypocrisy."

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Christian Fathers and Interpretation

One debate point among theological interpreters is the role of the Christian fathers in interpretation. There has been a tsunami of interest in the early fathers as interpreters of Scripture. Here is my position on the issue.

First, the early fathers are very helpful for helping is see the consensus of faith coming together. It is a rather simple observation, but it only clicked with me last week that the strongest reason for us to use the consensus of faith that developed in the first few centuries as the proper vantage point for integrating the varied parts of Scripture is... because that is actually where the integrated Christian view of Scripture actually came from in the first place!

That is to say, the common Christian view of Scripture that most Christians have had throughout history and that evangelicals and theological interpreters in general are trying to justify in their readings of Scripture actually developed in the first five centuries of the Christian era. The fathers (I'm sorry history hasn't left us too much evidence of the mothers from this period) thus give us witness to the development of an integrated view of Scripture and are of great interest. This would be fun to write on--to explore the fathers on the path to an integrated and commonly agreed understanding of the Bible. Someone's probably writing the book as we speak.

The fathers were, however, horrible original meaning interpreters. From Clement of Rome to the Epistle of Barnabas to Irenaeus to Origin to Augustine on, they simply weren't any more wired to read the Bible in its full historical context than anyone one else at the time. The person who uses them as a guide for what the books of the Bible actually meant originally is barking up the wrong tree. Such a practice is simply a retreat into pre-modern interpretation, which is not wrong at all. It just isn't the same as the original meaning.

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Prodigal Son

My Lenten post for this week is now up on the Dean's blog: http://wesleyanseminary.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/the-prodigal-son/

Sorry for those who looked earlier, the Methodist Lectionary I use for some reason skipped from March 7 to March 21! The other one will repost in a week.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Conclusion of Paper

This was the bulk of the conclusion of the paper, which I gave yesterday.
_________
We have aimed to describe what is actually the case in the way Christians use Scripture. It is actually the case that the individual texts of the Bible had particular original meanings in their own contexts that were overwhelmingly a function of the language games of their day. It is actually the case that the unified perspective from which Christians read Scripture developed over time in Christian history. These would seem to be unavoidable realities, even if a good deal of intellectual energy has been devoted to denying them.

If we wish to conceptualize a Christian hermeneutic that is coherent, we thus need to take these things fully into account. I can think of no way to do so other than the general schema I presented in the introduction, namely, 1) to consider the individual texts of the canon as points in a flow of revelation, genuine points of partial revelation in a progressive flow and 2) to consider the consensus of faith that the Holy Spirit unfolded in the Church as the appropriate vantage point from which to read these texts as a unified whole with a unified Christian message. The postmodern attention to the polyvalence of language proves to bolster and indeed justify this hermeneutic.

This approach is not specifically Wesleyan, of course. I am suggesting it is the only way to have a coherent Christian hermeneutic per se, let alone a Wesleyan one. But I close with two ways in which these developments cohere well with the Wesleyan-revivalist tradition. First, pneumatic interpretation is not foreign to us revivalists. The charismatic use of Scripture, long scorned by the well informed, turns out to have the imprimatur of New Testament interpretation itself. Secondly, there is great potential in Vanhoozer’s sense of Scripture as performative, a drama for the people of God to perform. There is great Wesleyan potential in a view of Scripture as a whole that sees its primary purpose as the formation of a holy people, that is, discipleship.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Integrating Scripture

This now an excerpt from part 3 of the paper. Portions of Part 1 and Part 2 can be found at these links.
______________
Where we believe Vanhoozer’s program fails is, again, in his inability to let the new level of holistic Scriptural meaning involve significant changes or developments of meaning from the intended meanings of individual texts. He writes, “Does reading the Bible as Scripture change or develop its meaning? … On my view, to view the Bible as ‘Scripture’ best accords not with the illocutionary but rather with the perlocutionary aspect of communicative action.” In other words, the effect of these texts taken together as a whole involves new impact, but the fundamental meanings and purposes of the words do not particularly change. This is an important point for Vanhoozer, for he does not want the meaning of Scripture to depend on an interpretive community but to have a meaning of its own.

He is not even willing to lend such polyvalence to the Spirit. The Spirit bears witness to the meaning of Scripture. He does not innovate meaning. The Spirit is the one who “leads the community into the single correct interpretation: the literal sense.” “If there is a sensus plenior, then, it is on the level of God’s gathering together the various partial and progressive communicative acts and purposes of the human authors into one ‘great canonical Design’ Vanhoozer uses “literal” here in an interesting way. It is presumably the normal sense and purpose of Scripture as a whole to God.

As impressive as this construction is, it faces numerous serious and fatal challenges. For one, Vanhoozer’s sense of literal turns out to be rather figurative when it comes to any normal sense of the word. The literal sense of something, in normal usage, refers to the most straightforward sense in a particular context. To speak of Christ’s death as a sacrifice is thus a metaphor in terms of the normal sense of the word sacrifice in any of the original contexts of any of the biblical books. Vanhoozer might, on the other hand, consider us to have literal the wrong way around. The most literal sense of the word sacrifice is in relation to Christ’s death and, in that sense, the use of “sacrifice” in relation to an animal killed on a stone altar is the more metaphorical sense of the word.

This is not, of course, the way the meaning of the word sacrifice has been experienced by the mortals who offered them in ancient times. Such a meaning is not a part of any specific text of the Old Testament. Indeed, it is quite possible that only Hebrews in the New Testament has anything like what would become the fully Christian sense of sacrifice that would be the most “literal” sense in Vanhoozer’s schema—and the idea was still probably a live metaphor for its author. In Acts 21, for example, we find Paul offering a sacrifice at the Jerusalem temple in relation to a vow made by certain Jerusalem Christians. The event was apparently appropriate to the author of Acts, who interestingly was himself probably writing after the destruction of the temple.

Yet for early Christians to offer such a sacrifice seems odd and inappropriate from the standpoint of Hebrews. Vanhoozer would presumably consider Hebrews’ point of view to be the appropriate “literal” vantage point from which to integrate the rest of the biblical texts, including “the various partial and progressive communicative acts and purposes of the human authors” somewhere along the way to this understanding. But it is questionable that the author of Leviticus or Ezra would have agreed with Hebrews that the death of a single righteous individual might suffice to atone for all the sins of all time and that their own offerings did not truly take away sins. Indeed, it is not obvious from a historical-cultural perspective that the author of Acts would take this perspective.

This line of thinking points to two very important critiques of the way Vanhoozer formulates the relationship between the canonical meaning of Scripture as a whole and the historical meaning of individual texts. First, it is the nature of the situation that the integration of Scripture as a whole requires a vantage point from outside the individual texts themselves. In their original, contextual meanings, we do have some interaction between the New Testament and Old Testament that might suggest how to integrate them. Even at this level, Vanhoozer’s model of “interpretive virtue” is deconstructed by the actual way the New Testament uses the Old, regularly interpreting it in pneumatic ways that sometimes have little to do with its original meanings.

But we have little explicit interaction between New Testament texts, and the New Testament’s engagement with the Old Testament is not systematic but depends on the individual New Testament books themselves. In short the individual books of the Bible were originally individual books and so do not intrinsically provide us with a definitive fulcrum point from which to integrate the entirety. For example, there is nothing about the texts themselves that would keep us from considering Ezra the fulcrum point, with the New Testament books a horrible case study in deviation from orthodoxy. Indeed, this is something like how an orthodox Jew might integrate these texts together.

It is thus a Christian point of view outside the biblical text that would center the integrated perspective on sacrifice in Hebrews or the integrated perspective on the Old Testament Law in Romans. Vanhoozer might suggest that the integrated perspective comes from God who has an intended “literal” perspective for the whole. This is a perfectly appropriate position. It is just a perspective that does not derive from any of the individual texts in their original settings. It comes from a vantage point outside the texts that is not intrinsic to the texts themselves. It requires us to organize the texts in ways that their authors at times would have disagreed with. Imagine telling the author of Leviticus that none of the sacrifices in his book actually took away sins and that God’s real intent for the book was to point toward the death of a righteous Israelite who would live centuries later and do away with all sacrifices for good!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Theological Micromanagement of Historical Judgments

I've decided not to post the entire second section of my paper (see here for the introduction), but I thought I'd throw out a quote. In this section I am using the Philippian hymn as a case study for how scholars sometimes let appropriate theological beliefs micromanage their interpretations of historical texts, engaging N. T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, and David Yeago.

Here is an excerpt:

"... to let theological preferences count as evidence toward historical judgments in this way raises significant questions about historical method. We cannot explore these issues to any significant degree here. On the one hand, it is clear that our presuppositions are an unavoidable element in historical judgments. Do we believe miracles and resurrections are possible? This presupposition will markedly influence how we reconstruct the history of Jesus and how we interpret the gospels historically.

"But if some element of progressive revelation is acceptable—and this bare claim is not particularly controversial—then it is not clear that we have a firm theological presupposition in play in a situation such as this one. We have a historical inkling based on later developed theology. Such historical inklings may of course prove to be true, but it is not at all clear that they are an appropriate element in serious historical judgments. They are the stuff of coffee talk rather than serious historical scholarship.

"More seriously, they reflect the questionable underlying presumption that common Christian understanding is in some way enhanced the more it correlates closely to historical judgments about earlier historical periods—earlier is better, original is better than revised. This presumption fuels an impulse to let developed theology micromanage historical judgments. Space does not permit a defense here, but it seems more likely that such serious historical judgments are rather more peripheral than essential to common Christian understanding, despite their instrinsic value."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Bridging Lessing's Ditch

The introduction to a paper I'm writing...
_______
Evangelical hermeneutics has hovered between two worlds. The one is the world of faith, and a particular stream of Christian faith at that. Using the four-fold focus of David Bebbington, we can characterize the key elements of evangelicalism as 1) the Bible, 2) the cross, 3) conversion, and 4) activism. [1] Some in the Wesleyan Theological Society have felt more comfortable with the evangelical designation than others. [2] The Wesleyan-revivalist tradition brings slightly different perspectives to these issues, with slightly different parameters than some evangelicals. [3] Nevertheless, it remains emphatically the case that the world of faith features prominently in our approach to Scripture, far more specifically than basic orthodoxy.

The other is the world of (contextual) biblical scholarship. We can generally agree that the rise of historical-critical study of the Bible is, more than anything, the primary counterforce in modern times to Christians reading the Bible as they generally did throughout prior centuries. Twentieth-century evangelical hermeneutics can be read as a coping strategy to deal with this counterforce. One might suggest that the primary goal of evangelical hermeneutics has been the intellectual justification of reading Scripture in relation to the world of faith by engaging--and often deflecting--the world of biblical scholarship. "Theological hermeneutics" has only risen as a term in recent years, but it is arguably what fundamentalists and neo-evangelical scholars have been doing since the early twentieth century, namely, interpreting the Bible in such a way as to mediate between the world of faith and the world of the Bible's historical context.

Gotthold Lessing lived in another world in another day, eighteenth century Germany. His "ugly ditch" is not exactly the same as the tension we have just mentioned. His chasm was between historical data and metaphysical claims like the existence of God. How could contingent truths of history, subject to doubt, prove necessary truths of reason, transcendent and absolute? The particulars of his ditch need not concern us. He lived at a time that wrestled with slightly different issues than we are here.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the problem of theological hermeneutics is an ugly ditch of its own sort. How can we maintain Christian faith in a way that is intrinsically formulated in connection with the Bible without ignoring what seem to be the most compelling findings of contextual biblical research? Much of what takes place in the name of theological interpretation is simply a repackaging of the older evangelical coping mechanism. The difference is the imprimatur of a label justified philosophically in the light of postmodernism and co-opted by non-postmodernists to legitimize what they have always been doing. We might conceptualize this particular evangelical theological hermeneutic as follows:

1. The normal rules of contextual exegesis are followed in relation to specific passages insofar as they lead to conclusions that cohere with the world of evangelical faith.

2. When the rules of contextual exegesis potentially point to original meaning conclusions for specific passages outside the world of evangelical faith, the scholar strategizes to find possible ways to interpret the data within the boundaries.

3. Various theological-hermeneutical mechanisms are used to integrate the varied biblical texts into a theological whole ("Scripture") that is identified with the evangelical world of faith.

The third impetus has given rise to a great multiplicity of approach and is the current focus of theological hermeneutics. How do we get from "this text says" to "the Bible says"? Here we find everything from D. A. Carson's version of progressive revelation [4] to Kevin Vanhoozer's "drama of doctrine" and various uses of a speech-act model [5] to broader canonical approaches like that of Brevard Childs [6] to more postmodern treatments like that of A. K. M. Adam. [7] What makes classification of this spectrum difficult is the unique ways in which individual scholars combine author-, text-, and reader-centered approaches together in combination with models from multiple disciplines. [8]

An underlying thesis of this paper is that, in the end, only two approaches to the biblical text are coherent: 1) a historical-contextual approach and 2) reader-centered approaches that locate meaning (or "experience" of the text) in relation to specific readers and communities of readers. The spectrum of hermeneutical models currently in play are all varied combinations of these two broad categories, however they might self-describe. Despite the "ugly ditch" that often arises between conscientious use of contextual method and traditional faith readings of specific passages, the ditch is crossable. That is to say, these two hermeneutics can be integrated in a coherent way.

In particular, specific "reader-centered" interpretations of Scripture can be combined coherently with diverse, particular, contextual readings of individual passages by way of the notion of progressive revelation. One need only assume that the reader's vantage point represents the current pinnacle of progress. [9] Individual books thus can be interpreted in context and appropriated as authentic points in the flow of revelation. But the most authoritative and determinative reading becomes the holistic, integrating perspective of the person or community interpreting and appropriating the biblical texts taken together as a whole.

Although we believe that these parameters are definitive, they do raise numerous legitimate questions. Are some reader vantage points more appropriate than others? Is there a specifically Christian vantage point from which to read Scripture as a whole? How proximate are the "original" meanings of individual biblical texts to the most appropriate holistic vantage points? To what extent does this paradigm cohere with evangelical fundamentals? To what extent does it cohere with the Wesleyan-revivalist tradition?

In the pages that follow I argue that this paradigm is indeed the only legitimate bridge across the ugly ditch between historical-contextual interpretations of individual biblical books and a holistic Christian perspective on Scripture as a whole. I argue further that the most stable reader vantage point from which to view Scripture as a whole is that of the consensus fidei, the broad consensual understanding of the overall story, ethic, and personal impact of the text as the Holy Spirit has led the church universal to experience it. Within this broad Christian understanding is room for many localized reader vantage points, among which Wesleyan-revivalist readers can fit nicely.

[1] The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005), 21-40.

[2] And certainly some broader evangelicals have been more open to extending the designation to Wesleyans than others. For a defense of Wesleyanism as evangelical, see Donald Dayton, Discovering an Evangelical Heritage (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1976).

[3] I have decided to refer to the typical participants in the Wesleyan Theological Society (WTS) as members of the Wesleyan-revivalist tradition. To call us the Wesleyan-Arminian tradition would be too broad, since it would include many individuals who are Wesleyan but who would not typically be involved in WTS. To call us the Wesleyan-holiness tradition would be accurate but probably would not communicate our current identity as well. The Wesleyan-revivalist tradition seems to capture better our identity as revivalist groups in the Wesleyan tradition that emerged mostly in the late 1800s.

[4] "Unity and Diversity in the New Testament," Scripture and Truth, D. A. Carson and J. D. Woodbridge, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1992).

[5] The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical-Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2005).

[6] His classic treatment was of course Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1979).

[7] E.g., Reading Scripture With the Church (with Stephen Fowl, Francis Watson, and Kevin Vanhoozer), Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006, esp. pp. 17-34, 143-48.

[8] In this classification, I would place non-cognitive oriented approachs in the "reader" category.

[9] Certainly we can suggest that contemporary experience of the text via the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately may stand in much greater continuity.

My Amazon Store