Friday, January 31, 2014

Worthen: The Canterbury Trail (7)

Chapter 7 of Molly Worthen's, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism

Reviews of previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 (Birth of Neo-Evangelicalism)
Chapter 2 (Evangelicals on the Edges)
Chapter 3 (The Strivings of Christianity Today)
Chapter 4 (Mennonites and Nazarenes in the 50s)
Chapter 5 (The Drive to Accreditation)
Chapter 6 (The Church Growth Movement)

Now chapter 7, "Renewing the Church Universal."

I'll try to be brief. The chapter starts with a little on Vatican 2, which brought extensive reforms to the Roman Catholic Church. The most important was the acknowledgement that the rest of us Christians are not going to hell. We are "separated brothers." The mass could now be said in English. Exaggerations of papal authority were pealed back. This is what was said about the Bible: Scripture teaches "solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation" (150). Sounds good to me!

There is a little mention of the rise of the megachurch, with the Crystal Cathedral and Willow Creek mentioned, the application of modern business principles to church.

The chapter mentions the surprising attraction of Anglicanism, Catholicism, and the Orthodox church beginning in the 60s and 70s, what Robert Webber called the "Canterbury Trail." Some were drawn to catholic spirituality (e.g., Richard Foster's, Celebration of Discipline). Some liked the historical groundedness of liturgical worship.

Protestantism and evangelicalism seemed to have a certain "rudderlessness." Worthen mentions conversions in this period. Robert Webber became Anglican. Thomas Howard, brother of Elisabeth Elliott, became Catholic having been a Wheaton grad and Gordon professor.

Even today, we see a steady trickle of students who are attracted to Anglicanism and the Orthodox church. One reason, I think, is that once you begin to read the books of the Bible on their own terms, you begin to realize how large a role tradition plays in how we put the Bible together. Conservative evangelicalism pretends that it is just following the Bible alone, but it is simply a strongly asserted (and enforced) tradition of how to interpret and glue the Bible together. When students realize this fact, they often look for a way of organizing Scripture that has more historical depth.

The final section is perhaps the first time since the Introduction that I really see the thesis of the book developing. This section is about the "evangelical" response to the ecumenical movement. The first Lausanne conference seems to capture the picture well. They produce a statement alright, but underneath are all sorts of contradictory currents.

For example, you have a Peter Wagner of Fuller arguing that the conference's emphasis on social justice was a mistake. You had resistance to the way people like Billy Graham were reaching out to broader Christianity. "Church growth types" had one emphasis. The charismatics had another. There was an "undercurrent of recalcitrance" (169).

Worthen sums it up in this way: "they did not solve the underlying problem" (171). This, for her, is the conflict between a particular way of reading the Bible and the modern forces of human reason and modern pluralism.

Afternote: Any group can have a coherent identity if everyone is on the same page. It doesn't matter if that page makes any sense or not (cf. the Mormons). When you're in such a group, you can be deceived into thinking you have some divine right behind your position because everyone around you seems to agree. The problem is if the group starts to run over people who don't agree.

The kind of movement I would like to see develop is a "Consensus Movement." This would be Christians who affirm the basic "law of love" and "rule of faith." Within that framework, individual Christian groups are free to have their own emphases and can just agree to disagree. The common Chrisitanity of the first five centuries provides the most stable fixed point for Christian belief, and the "law of love" has Jesus and the New Testament's clear endorsement for Christian ethics.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An evil spirit from the Lord (1 Sam. 19:9)

David is playing the lyre, when the LORD sends an evil spirit on Saul. Saul picks up a spear and chucks it at David, trying to pin him to the wall. (1 Samuel 19:9)

I don't know about you, but this verse used to puzzle me. Doesn't God like David? Hasn't God already chosen David as king? Hasn't God already rejected Saul? And probably most crucial--I didn't think God sent evil spirits on people!  Doesn't James 1:13 say that God doesn't tempt people to do evil?

A similar instance is 2 Samuel 24:1, where God incites David to take a census that he later judges Israel severely for. You might be shocked to know that when 1 Chronicles 21 tells this story, it says that it was Satan who did it!!! "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel."

I call these difficult verses, "naughty verses." They mess with our paradigms. We might wisely set them aside as "unclear verses" and stick to the big picture of Scripture.

But there is a better explanation, even if it should require us to modify our understanding of how Scripture works a little. It notes that 1 Chronicles was written perhaps a couple centuries after 2 Samuel, after the exile, after the idea of the Satan entered into the worldview of Israel.

You'll notice, for example, that Genesis does not yet know that the serpent is Satan. This was an insight that would not come until as late as the century before Christ! No Jewish literature we have makes this connection until a book called The Life of Adam and Eve in the first century BC.

So if Chronicles had told this story of Saul and David, it would have certainly said, "Satan sent an evil spirit on Saul... and Saul tried to pin David with a spear." Indeed, the book of Jubilees, written about 150BC, says that it was Satan who told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

Naughty verses of this sort take our hermeneutic, our way of reading the Bible to the next level. This particular one drives us away from a pre-modern reading of difficult verses like these (one that has no historical sense of the words but reads them as timeless truths ripped from the times and places when they were written). It drives us to a better sense of these verses in history.

So we have to be very, very careful not to read Exodus 4:11 on its own: "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"  The New Testament suggests that there are other spiritual forces in play in the universe. Again, this is why we need a whole Bible theology and not base our theology on individual verses. Individual verses come at moments in time, moments whose context we may not fully know or understand.

The Bible has within its pages a flow of revelation. The New Testament has a more complete and more precise understanding on many issues than the Old. This requires a bit of a paradigm shift. Rather than see every verse of the Bible saying the same thing from God to me, the words of the Bible ripped from their contexts and put in a timeless bubble, I have to get a better sense of the big picture. I am pushed away from a fundamentalist, verse level hermeneutic, to a whole Bible hermeneutic, like most Christians had before the 1800s.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How inspiration worked...

Okay, sorry that this will not be mind boggling.  However, I've always appreciated G. B. Caird's dictum to move from the clear to the unclear, and I think there's a little clarity in this thought.

It really came home to me in the last few weeks that Paul did not know he was writing Scripture. He knew he had the Spirit. He wrote with authority. But he had no idea we would package his letters with the Jewish Scriptures and be reading them in our "synagogues" 2000 years later.

What's the evidence? 1 Corinthians 7. So a problem arises at Corinth. Paul is at Ephesus, a skip across the sea. They send him a letter with questions, one of which has to do with sex (7:1). In part of his response, Paul addresses the question of divorce in the congregation.

What is interesting is the distinction he makes between what the Lord has to say on the topic and what he has to say. So in 7:10 he refers to what Jesus (probably what he means by "Lord") said on the subject. He seems to imply that this instruction has greater authority than what he has to say in 7:12. Even though much of the chapter is his advice, he indicates that he believes what he is saying is also from the Spirit (7:40).

Basically, it's clear here that Paul did not know he was writing Scripture. He was writing a letter. He did not go into a trance and wake up with the papyrus all filled out in front of him. Indeed, he probably used a "secretary" to help compose his letters (cf. Rom. 16:22).

God knew Paul was writing Scripture. Paul believed he had the Spirit guiding his thoughts. He wrote with authority. But I think he would be surprised to know he and Moses would be bound together as Scripture within a few centuries.

This means that the personalities, writing style, and thought categories of at least some biblical authors were part of the mix in inspiration. In some mystical way, the books of the Bible are both the words of God and the words of human authors. The minds of the biblical authors were fully engaged.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Trends in Scholarship...

I've been intrigued by some "trends" in biblical scholarship. So has Mark Goodacre turned the tide on the existence of Q?  Or is it just that there is a lot of blogger buzz about the Farrer hypothesis with some of the most popular bloggers (including him) publicly questioning this over a century old consensus? The current standing of the blog poll says the consensus stands, so far. (You know that if it stands in blog land, it also still stands about the elite scholars who wouldn't stoop to blog or vote in a blog poll on the internet. Hey, what's a blog?).

Is there an "emerging consensus" that there was an early "high" Christology or is it just that those with this reconstruction are the ones getting the most publicity in blogging and publishing? I don't know if there was ever a guild consensus on this one. Maybe there was. I wasn't in the mix in the 70s and 80s to say whether Dunn and others were a consensus or just a trend.

I have other questions. Is "liberal" scholarship in decline? Or is it just that demand for conservative scholarship is much higher, so that it is what is being published (e.g., N. T. Wright)? Or is it that the missionary drive of more "conservative" scholarship translates into more blogging? (I'm not sure Goodacre would describe his thinking as conservative, of course)

In the end, it especially highlights Thomas Kuhn. There are social and personal dimensions to scholarship. It's not just a matter of the facts.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Thoughts on the future of education...

I had some time to think more about the future of college education this weekend. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts.

1. First, it seems strange, but I think some college professors can begin to think of their job as some sort of divine right, like a king. My job, they might think, is to school the masses. My task is to correct the faulty thinking of the pleb. My God-like task is to bring truth to the fallen mind. I am superior to the student in every way and, like a prison jailer, am justified to show these criminals how wicked they are.

I hope you have not encountered any egregious examples of the above (especially at any Wesleyan college) but, rest assured, they are out there. Nevertheless, I think some professors--without even realizing it--can find themselves behaving as if students are privileged to study with them. Even in ministerial training, seminary professors can behave as if their primary charge is to correct the paltry thinking of future ministers.

I'm thinking of the seminary professor at an unnamed school who (illegally, I think) required students to give him 20 dollars if they slipped up and used a masculine pronoun for God. That student transferred out the next semester to another seminary that is near and dear my heart (whose name I won't mention ;-).

2. Now there are students who will pay to be abused like the above. It becomes a rite of passage, like going through basic training. And of course, then when they graduate they may feel as if they now have the right to berate everyone else for how stupid they are.

I would hope, of course, that a college professor does know more about the subject they are teaching than the student. Otherwise, they certainly shouldn't be the professor. And there are many students who are interested in truth for truth sake. There are students who go somewhere to study with a particular brilliant mind. There will hopefully always be research universities that push the boundaries of knowledge. And I hope most colleges and universities will have a clear place for this minority of students--the ones I love the most.

3. But the previous paragraph is a minority report. Much more fundamentally, education is a business. Colleges are selling something, and students are buying something. Suffice it to say, a company that sells the opportunity to be berated by someone is not a good business model. A company that primarily sells getting to watch a brilliant person write to someone else (that is, to publish rather than to teach) is not a good business model. There are colleges who are selling prestige and that is as valid as the market for it.

But in the vast majority of cases, colleges are meant to sell a concretely better future for the student. Sure, they also sell four years of campus fun, like a four year youth camp. This is the product most students are buying. But parents are buying a better future for their children. They are buying the potential for a better job.

Most are not buying a better person. That is to say, they are not paying money primarily to improve the virtue or brilliance of their children. They are buying a future job. In many cases today, especially in Christian circles, they hope they are actually buying indoctrination, quite the opposite of what many professors are selling.

4. So education is a business, and the consumer is buying knowledge and skills that will help them get a job that will help them have a better life. What does this say in terms of who colleges should hire? It implies that, in the overwhelming majority of cases, colleges and universities should be hiring people who are good teachers, not good researchers. And, unfortunately, it is not just that they need to be good teachers but the consumer needs to perceive them to be such--the students need to feel like they are getting a good product.

Again, there are always those who are interested in truth for truth's sake. And a professor needs to have something to give. The knowledge needs to be there. But the primary task has to be teaching.

5. Now it is true that there is often a divide between what is popular and what is true. This is a challenge. The parent and student want to move toward knowledge that will lead toward success. I hate to say it, but knowledge can actually make a person less successful. Consider the following train of thought:
  • If the majority world thinks a certain way that is false.
  • And a student becomes educated to think in a way that is true.
  • The student may become less marketable in the majority world.
It is deeply ironic that education can actually make a person less marketable. Many institutions in fact exist in part to insulate children from certain ideas in play, sometimes those held by the majority of experts. From the standpoint of the student, even, there can be parts of a curriculum in relation to which they do not see the relevance or usefulness. I'm thinking especially of the liberal arts here.

In a business, it is more important that the consumer think the product is desirable than for it to actually be desirable. Accordingly, it does not matter that we know the liberal arts are useful. Colleges have to package them in a way that they feel useful or pleasurable.

This calls for great care in curriculum planning. In marketing, colleges and universities must emphasize the things that the consumer thinks are most desirable. Yet it is legitimate for experts in various fields to present new options and new ways of thinking. If those ways of thinking ring true, then some students of their own free will will choose them. It is very important in such cases that professors help students know how to hold unpopular ideas in a positive and influential way.

6. Finally, the liberal arts need to be sold for their instrumental value. Many of us believe they are valid in their own right. Good literature doesn't have to do anything but give pleasure to the reader. But in the business context of education, we have to show things like the following (and arrange those courses accordingly):
  • Philosophy makes students better thinkers, which makes them better employees. 
  • History helps students think in terms of causes and effects, which helps them deal with people and anticipate where certain decisions will lead.
  • Writing is so important in so many jobs. Many employers would love an employee who could write.
  • Literature enriches our bed-side manner. It makes us more than robots but people with feelings.
  • Psychology and sociology can help us get along with others, a key skill for an employee.
  • Math and science not only help us be better thinkers, but there are often certain kinds of skills in a job that require some sort of math skill.
  • Theology and Bible courses help Christians know the kinds of values that a person should have in life. Not only are these of eternal value but what employer would not want employees that have integrity?
7. To summarize, the successful college of the future will 1) create a campus environment that is full of pleasure and all the enjoyment we all associate with our college years--AND BE SAFE.  It will 2) primarily have good teachers (rather than just researchers) and not only good teachers but teachers that students perceive to be good teachers and enjoy (dare I say good entertainers should be part of this mix).

3) It will be very careful when the majority of experts think differently than the majority of the populace or its market. It must not force ideas on students but it should try to be salt and light, not confrontational. It should help students know how to hold unpopular positions in a hostile environment. 4) It should emphasize the usefulness and benefit of things like the liberal arts, not treat them as ends in themselves.

8. Of course I've had other thoughts before about the question of costs and competition. I have suggested that a BS could be a shorter version of a richer BA. I supported Keith Drury's sense that the competitive general education portions of college curricula may increasingly be online.

So there you have some more thoughts on the future of education in the US...

Friday, January 24, 2014

What I think of Socrates...

I'm delighted to be at 12Stone Church this weekend. They just have a spectacularly blessed ministry down here. You can even watch an online 12Stone service 24 hours a day.

Dr. Steven Lennox and I drove down here today and had a great time with the OT and NT with the 12Stone Biblical Studies program. Last weekend, Bud Bence, Chris Bounds, and Dave Ward were down here doing church history, theology, and the book of Ephesians.

Last night was also my weekly philosophy class at IWU, and since there wasn't a lot of discussion on the R v. W post, I thought I would move the blog along. :-)
Socrates is often portrayed by teachers as this great hero of thought, the "first martyr" of philosophy. I imagine anyone who would take a guess would imagine I would follow suit. "O great Socrates! O foolish Athens!"  Look at the way he was portrayed in Barefoot in Athens.

I actually picture Socrates as a jerk and an idiot, a true trouble maker. Here's a guy who spends most of his time going around annoying important people. One of his drinking buddies goes to the temple at Delphi and asks if he's the wisest person in the world. The oracle says yes.

So Socrates uses it as an excuse to make the most important people in Athens look like idiots. Yeah, that's smart.  In Plato's dialogues, Socrates' arguments seem rife to me with the fallacy of equivocation. He takes the words of the person he's interrogating and then changes the meaning of the words in his responses. You can't do this sort of thing for long and not find yourself on the wrong end of power.

Then there is Socrates' idea that if you get your thinking right, your life will follow suit. It sure would be nice if these two were in sync, but he has it the wrong way around. Humans more often come up with thinking that will fit with their sense of living. We come up with ideologies that fit our hearts. There are plenty of people who believe the right things but choose not to live accordingly.

Finally, of course, Socrates was an idiot when it came to his trial and death. When convicted, a person could propose a counter-penalty to what his or her opponents proposed. But Socrates, after he was convicted of corrupting the youth and not believing in the gods, didn't counter-propose a fine or something reasonable. The Athenians might have gone for that. Instead, he proposed that they pay him to keep doing what he was just convicted of. Of course they're not going to vote for that.

Even while awaiting his death, there were offers of escape. The King of Sparta would have put him up and treated him royally. Instead, he drank the poison himself on principle. He had been found guilty.

So, basically, there is little of Socrates I like. Yes, the Socratic method makes for good teaching. But Socrates himself was annoying. Yes, there is great wisdom in realizing how much you do not know, but I suspect Socrates too much enjoyed showing important people this fact.

Admire him? Only a little. Mostly, I suspect he was a jerk.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Roe v. Wade 41 years later

I'm buried this morning and don't have time to develop a post. Yesterday was the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Please keep any discussion civil--I won't have time today to interact much but here are some questions you might discuss:
  • What assumptions are involved in the positions Christians take on this issue on both sides? Are they good assumptions?
  • What Scriptures are used in this discussion on both sides?  How good is the exegesis?
  • What tactics are most effective in reaching the long term goals on this issue?  How effective is prohibition? How effective is addressing the causes?
  • What are the political implications for whom you support with your vote? Does this issue trump all others when you come to the polls? Why should it or why not?
  • To what extent might experiential and anecdotal inputs (e.g., Heaven is for Real) have an impact on our thinking, maybe even over the Bible itself? Are there dangers here?
  • Are we consistent in our positions? What would it mean to be pro-life in a thoroughgoing way?
  • What exactly did Roe v. Wade say? To what extent are Christian positions on abortion positions that involve religious assumptions? To what extent can they be argued in secular categories?
I don't have time to participate much in any discussion today. Please don't eat each other alive in your thoughts. Angry responses are often a sign of insecurity in your own position...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wright: Finishing chapter 1

Well, here's the rest of chapter 1 of N. T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God, finished reading it about three weeks ago. :-(


Chapter 1
1. The Basics of Philemon
2.i-iii. Philemon and Christian Worldview
iv. History, Exegesis, "Application"
v. Sources

vi.Worldview, Theology, History
In this section, Wright finishes setting up his analytical system. He has already reminded his reader of the components of worldview he uses: story, praxis, symbols, and basic questions. He has also set up a quasi-matrix for analyzing Paul: history, exegesis, theology, and "application." Now he tries to connect the two.

In a person or community, there are basic beliefs (theology) that flow out of a person's worldview. These basic beliefs provide a person or community's basic aims (history). As a natural consequence of such basic beliefs, there are consequent beliefs (theology) that are a natural by-product and play out in more detail. These are more negotiable and lead to our more specific intentions in life (history).

Then to complete the loop back to earlier in the chapter, basic beliefs/consequent beliefs/theology all relate to the worship dimension of a community. Aims/intentions/history then relate to the culture of a community.

Finally, Wright brings in the complication that no interpreter is objective. There is a gap between us and the text. We have our own worldviews, worship, and culture that get in the way of seeing the text. We tend to infect our reading of Paul with what we are looking for or from him.

How complicated! The real world is complicated, but I can't imagine that this Rorschach has any staying power. Wright is brilliant. He has tried hard to upgrade his initial idealist software with numerous real world plug-ins, but the result is clunky.

Wright's fundamental personality and bias remains very rational, despite the way he has tried to take on board all the correctives and insights of philosophers, sociologists, and anthropologists. His account of worldview is light years ahead of van Til but for all Wright's distancing from these arch-presuppositionalists and antihistorians, he is still their child. He still assumes that real life aims and intentions flow from underlying beliefs.

So he has all the elements, but he remains a structuralist in his thinking. He sees the underlying pattern as more primary than the world from which he abstracts it. Rather, human thought is epiphenomenon, a mechanism for living in the world. Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs gives a more accurate picture of what stands behind human aims and intentions. Behind our lives are more fundamentally drives, not ideas.

Our ideas are collections and clumpings of family resemblances, not deductive masterpieces. Our identity-giving stories are more often short vignettes than large metanarratives. Human thought is much more atomistic and a front for more basic urges than anything like tidy systems.

vii. Philemon as Allegory
Wright ends the chapter with a fun allegory, which of course is not the meaning of Philemon but we are delighted at this intentional sensus plenior. Philemon represents theological orthodoxy. Onesimus is the Enlightenment project of historiography. Some historical approaches have left the Paul of faith behind. Meanwhile, some (John Piper) do not want the Paul of history to come back.

Paul himself knows that he must unite his whole self. He must send history back to theology. A unified Paul--both of faith and history--can be recovered. Such is Wright's aim.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Worthen: The Church Growth Movement (7)

Chapter 6 of Molly Worthen's, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism

Reviews of previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 (Birth of Neo-Evangelicalism)
Chapter 2 (Evangelicals on the Edges)
Chapter 3 (The Strivings of Christianity Today)
Chapter 4 (Mennonites and Nazarenes in the 50s)
Chapter 5 (The Drive to Accreditation)

Now chapter 6, "Missions Beyond the West"...

Around the turn of the millennium, Robert Webber wrote a helpful book called The Younger Evangelicals. Much more broadly than Worthen, he depicted the first two phases of evangelicalism in the twentieth century as 1) traditional evangelicals and 2) pragmatic evangelicals.

Even this far into Worthen, we can see that Webber's picture was somewhat simplified. By traditional evangelicals, Webber referred to the leaders of the neo-evangelical movement. But even then there were older style evangelicals around, like Nazarenes, who didn't fit C. F. H. Henry's mould.

With this chapter, we get to the pragmatic evangelicals and the church growth movement. For Worthen, this is another strand in the complex puzzle. My colleague Bob Whitesel knows the CGM intimately, and the father of my colleague Charles Arn is actually mentioned in this chapter. If they happen to look at this post, I hope they will register any disagreements or reflections.

1. colonialism
The mid-twentieth century saw an increased sensitivity to the imperialism of the West. Missionaries found increased resistance to their evangelistic endeavors. "Missionaries struggled with their reputations as agents of the white man's oppression" (125). For centuries the West had exploited its colonies and treated indigenous peoples as inferior or even dirt. Newly empowered, colonies were re-evaluating missionaries and their methods.

So the Soviets used the West's previous exploitation to try to bring colonies to their side. Islam used the Western nature of Christianity to draw converts. These dynamics had an impact on reflective missionaries like Donald McGavran, Eugene Nida, Charles Kraft, and Peter Wagner. For Kraft and Nida, it drove them to become sophisticated in their understanding of culture. For McGavran, it drove him to use analytics and social-scientific research to determine the best ways to grow a church. For Wagner, it led to a rediscovery of spiritual gifts and spiritual warfare.

2. science of mission
If Billy Graham had used a frontal assault for evangelism, these mission minded practitioners called for research before storming the castle. The blunt evangelistic approach called for an individual decision, even going door to door passing out tracts. McGavran had enough missionary experience to know that families are more often the key to conversion in a world context.

But in the US, this observation led to a controversial approach that has seemed deeply problematic in more recent times. Like clings to like. McGavran advocated conversion in "homogeneous units," and advocated a data-driven approach to doing it. The unintended consequence was to create a lot of large middle to upper-class white churches. "The Church Growth movement, with its assumption that Christians prefer to attend church with people like themselves, may have slowed the pace of integration in many evangelical congregations--an ironic twist on its spirit of cultural accommodation" (140).

3. understanding culture
It is interesting that Charles Kraft and Eugene Nida were sometimes viewed negatively by other evangelicals and fundamentalists. I personally view them as brilliant and opposition to them largely a matter of ignorance. When Wesley Seminary first started, I pushed for Kraft's book Christianity in Culture to provide the lens through which our students would process culture and be able to distinguish the timeless from the transitory. Nida's Customs and Culture similarly helped missionaries see how relative practices and ways of thinking are to culture.

Those lacking serious interaction with other cultures of course lambasted them as relativists. Even people like John Howard Yoder saw these anthropologists as fudging on core doctrines and practices in the name of conversion. Should the church really turn a blind eye to polygamy?

On a popular level, the CGM tended to downplay matters like theology in the name of getting people in the church. The seeker-sensitive service pushed doctrinal distinctives into the background and emphasized an entry-level type approach. Elite theologians and fundamentalists alike thus tended to scoff at what they saw as either a shallow movement or a corrupting influence.

4. the color line
Mission work tended to push churches back home toward embracing the civil rights movement. "Missionaries complained loudest that segregation cost souls abroad" (136). Yet at home, "magnanimous feelings on converting the 'noble savage' thousands of miles away did not always temper their reactions to African-American children bound for their neighborhood's newly integrated school" (137). Some churches softened. On the other side, Bob Jones still wouldn't accept black students in 1970.

5. charismatic movement
One of the most distinctive elements of the 60s and 70s in evangelicalism is the rise of the charismatic movement. If the CGM was very rational and quasi-scientific, individuals like John Wimber and Peter Wagner wanted to reclaim the spiritual gifts of the early church. Tongues were sweeping every church, including churches like the Episcopals and the Anglicans. Meanwhile, the Jesus People were "getting high on Jesus."

This was the time when Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlman were on the rise. Classic dispensationalism was revised in the light of current events. Israel's restoration as a nation in 1948 became part of a newly issued Scofield Bible. Miracles were extended beyond the apostolic age.

6. conclusion
As usual, I'm not exactly sure what to take away from this chapter. It of course reminds us that it is hard to get a good perspective on what is going on when it is happening. If you think back to the positions different people took at these junctures, there were obviously cultural elements to what they thought. It perhaps behooves us not to take ourselves or our ideas too seriously. May we never look back and be embarrassed because we made a big deal out of something that ultimately really doesn't matter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The woes of trying to write scholarship...

If you read my blog much, you may think I find it easy to write. It would be more accurate to say that I find it easy to blog. The barest hope that there might be someone out there reading motivates me. How do I crank out so many books, someone asks. It's because blogging 500 words is like having a conversation before breakfast.

I have a friend who just can't get his dissertation done, but he is quite a verbal person. I've suggested over and over that he record himself talking in the car and then write it up or maybe even email me as a motivation.

Scholarly writing is a different bird. It can take hours to craft a sentence. It can take days to finish a footnote. You end up sitting for an hour combing through a book that you don't end up using. It's hard enough to write books like that when you teach 4 courses each semester. But it's easier to get a camel through the eye of a needle than for an administrator to write a scholarly book.

And let me be clear that I've only written one truly scholarly book. Most people have no idea what a real scholar looks like.

So sue me for moaning and groaning. Another frustrating feature of scholarly writing for me is that I often finish a chapter--or an article--and realize all I have really done is figured out the content of what I want to say. If I really want the material to have impact, I'll have to rewrite the entire chapter all over again in a different arrangement.

So I've written 10,000 words of a chapter introducing the "new perspective on Christian Judaism." But it's completely predictable--Sanders, Dunn, Wright, Hays...  I'm looking at it and feeling completely average, even below average. Surely I can come up with a better way to present this worn out path.

I just wanted to vent. I may end up going with it. In the meantime, I'm going for a run...

Thanks for listening... or not :-)

Happy Galatians 3:28 Day!

I've decided not to post what I had written for today. Better to give the Scriptures in it, and I'll let the Holy Spirit fill in the details:

1. "But since faith has arrived, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ, have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. There is not, "male and female." For you all are one, in Christ Jesus. And if you are of Christ, then you are seed of Abraham, heirs according to promise." (Gal. 3)

2. On Christian resistance to "political correctness":
"When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith." (Matt. 8:10)

3. On Pharisees and talking up certain issues to avoid talking about ones you have a problem with:
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matt. 23:27-28)

4. On the "separate but equal" approach to women:
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy." (Acts 2:17-18)

5. On assumptions that the rich deserve what they have and can do whatever they want with it:
"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it." (1 Cor. 10:26; Psalm 24:1) "If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?" (1 John 3:17) "

And "someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder... a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone." (Jas. 2:18-19, 24) "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them." (Jas. 4:17)

6. Finally, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!" (Matt. 7:23)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Greatest Common Denominator: Atonement

This series is sketching out what the "greatest common denominators" of Scripture might be on topics of theology. Previous posts were:
The fallen world

What is the greatest common denominator of Scripture on the subject of atonement? Here are some thoughts.

1. God's love
The ultimate basis for all reconciliation between God and humanity is God's love. It is God's love that put atonement into action. In God's sovereignty, we must consider the manner of atonement God's choice. There can be no rules on God saying, "He had to do it this way." God freely chose to offer Jesus/himself as a sacrifice as the instrument. He could have done it by divine fiat because he is God and can create something out of nothing. That's just not what his choice was.

"God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). See also John 3:16.

2. The cross
The New Testament and the earliest preaching of the church saw the cross as the means of our reconciliation to God. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).  "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2).

What did the cross do?

a. It absorbed the curse we had because of our sinfulness. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole" (Gal. 3:13).  Jesus absorbed our curse in that we were cursed. "God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor. 5:21).

You can see where someone would think this is substitution, Christ taking our place. But in church history, substitution wandered way beyond anything the NT pictured. If we think of us being defiled and Jesus absorbing our defilement, we will be closer to what the NT was thinking.

b. It satisfied the order of the universe. "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). See also Romans 3:25.

I doubt seriously that any of us really understand how sacrifice worked in the minds of the biblical authors. It's roots in human history stretched back long before any book of the Bible was written. The biblical authors might have come closer to explaining that we do with our rationalizations. To use the words of C. S. Lewis, there was a "deep magic" to sacrifice.

We can talk about satisfying the wrath of God (Rom. 1:18), but this is just a picture, an anthropomorphism. God doesn't throw tantrums literally. We've come to talk in terms of justice, and that probably starts to get at it. But it's really something much deeper, something to do with the order of the universe. Sacrifice somehow satisfies the intrinsic order of things and performs a deep magic.

c. Jesus defeated death. If you look at Heb. 2:14, Jesus defeated Satan, who held the power of death. 1 Corinthians 15 also talks about Jesus defeating death. Again, the Bible doesn't really explain how this works.

3. It is worth noting that most of the references above come from Paul. Matthew, Mark, and Luke really don't have a lot to say about the meaning of Jesus' death, nor does Acts. John has a few more images. This general silence is worth noting, because it suggests that it is legitimate for some Christian traditions to emphasize atonement theory more than others. If some churches emphasize the cross, it is legitimate for other churches to emphasize the moral example of Jesus' life (like Luke) or resurrection power (like Acts).

The OT itself has strands that emphasize sacrifices (Leviticus) and strands that proclaim social justice far more important to God than sacrifice (Isaiah 1, Micah 6, Jeremiah 7). In the same way, "crucicentrism" must be balanced with concerns like social justice and the imitation of Christ.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

KJV Part 2

Here's the rest of that section of the lecture after the first bit:
The King James Version of 1611 was based on the so-called “Textus Receptus,” of an editor named Stephanus, dated to 1550. “Textus Receptus” means “received text.” The Greek, in other words, the Greek text for the New Testament that had come to be accepted or received as the text of the New Testament. This text ultimately came from a Roman Catholic by the name of Erasmus, in the days before the Reformation. And Erasmus, of course, remained Roman Catholic after the Protestant Reformation. He was a humanist who argued against Martin Luther. Although he was friends with Martin Luther, he argued against Martin Luther when Luther began to protest and withdraw.

And so it is somewhat ironic in the sense that those who are most strongly in favor of the King James are also usually very anti-Catholic. And so it is interesting that the fountainhead of the Greek text behind the King James Version was somebody who opposed the Protestant Reformation. It’s true he was, you know he was more of a liberal than a dyed-in-the-wool Roman Catholic or papist, so to speak.

But more about the King James. Erasmus, in the late 1400s, only had about 12 Greek manuscripts from which to assemble the New Testament, the Greek New Testament from. The oldest copies he had were from the 900s. And, again, it is sometimes hard to realize that the manuscripts that modern scholars now use to reconstruct the original text, how it's worded, are over 700 years older than what Erasmus had.

I know when I first read the NIV, for example, I was a little annoyed by, for example, Mark 16. You come across a note that says something like, "The oldest and most reliable manuscripts don't have these verses." That's a little annoying, especially if you've grown up reading Mark 16:9-20.

But you have to realize that the manuscripts on which the NIV is based are, you know, 700, 800, 900 years older. So it defies our common sense. To us, the King James seems old and the NIV seems new. But in terms of the manuscripts (a manuscript is a handwritten copy—this is pre-printing press, in other words)… in terms of the manuscripts, the NIV tradition is about 1000 years older than the manuscripts behind the King James. So even though the King James is old and the NIV is new, in terms of the copies of the New Testament they're based on, the NIV is much older.

So what modern scholars would say is not that the NIV took words out. That's what you hear sometimes. But in fact, the King James reflects words that were added in over time. Again, you have to make up your decision on these things. Erasmus – I like Erasmus – Erasmus was an entrepreneur. You've probably heard of the Gutenberg Bible, but the Gutenberg Bible was in Latin. There was not at that time, in the late 1400s, there was no Greek, printing press version of the New Testament.

And there were some scholars in Spain, who were working on a very scholarly, parallel Bible, including the Greek New Testament. But Erasmus and a friend just thought that they could beat them, that they could be the first. I like this. I like this about Erasmus. It reminds me of Wesley Seminary and Indiana Wesleyan University. Erasmus began to scramble to put a copy together [of the Greek New Testament]. And he did, in fact, win. But, again, it's important to realize that he only had about 12, about a dozen manuscripts. He used six especially.

But the oldest one was from the 900s. He didn't actually use that one as much as the ones that were later medieval. We now have manuscripts from the 200s, the 300s, the 400s. We have two nearly complete copies of the New Testament from the early 300s. They're called 1) Codex ¬(a codex is a book) Sinaiticus, which was discovered in the East around Mt. Sinai, and 2) Codex Vaticanus, which was discovered in the Vatican. Both of these were discovered in the 1800s.

There were some – if you like Indiana Jones – Indiana Jones type stories of manuscripts. There was a guy named Tischendorf who went around finding these things in the 1800s. Again, those who oppose modern translations sometimes villanize Codes Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. But it's important to realize that since then, since that point in the 1800s, we've discovered older manuscripts than them. And so you know you can't malign Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and undermine modern translations anymore because we discovered older ones.

And guess what. The older ones pretty much agree with Sinaiticus and Vaticanus. So, again, you get all kinds of coping mechanisms with these new realities. You get individuals maligning the character of B. F. Westcott and Fenton Hort, two individuals who put together the method that I'm presenting, the method of how scholars go about deciding how the original text read. But just because you assassinate the character of Westcott and Hort, or assassinate the reliability of Sinaiticus and Vaticanus, it doesn't work.

It doesn't work because these two, Westcott and Hort, really only systematized the science of textual criticism. The ideas that Westcott and Hort put in their famous book on the science of textual criticism, the message that they set down, they didn't come up with. The principles had been recognized by scholars of this area for well over a century before them. Also since then and the manuscripts that they used, we have found older manuscripts that basically agree. You're welcome to disagree. I certainly could be wrong.

But from a standpoint of objectivity, I do not see how anybody whose primary interest is in the truth, rather than reinforcing something that's an idea you're comfortable with, I do not see how anybody, who's approaching the evidence objectively, can conclude that the King James tradition is more likely to be the original tradition.

I didn't always think that way. I started off resistant to modern translations. It was only after finally admitting to myself that the evidence was against me, that I eventually changed my mind. Everyone has to take their own path. So, there will certainly be blind spots for generations. You'll have to think through the issues yourself and make your own decision.

Now, Erasmus, being such an entrepreneur, at times he translated back to Greek from Latin. So he did not have a complete copy of Revelation when he did his initial translation. And so, Revelation 22:14, I think, says something in the King James about the works of the righteous, whereas other versions say something about washing robes.

There are Greek manuscripts that have something about washing robes. I can't remember which is which. I think that "the works" is the King James and the robes are modern translations. There are Greek manuscripts that have both readings. Whether or not Erasmus would have gone with "works," or whether, whether he would have gone with, with "robes" if he'd had a complete copy of Revelation, I don't know. However, it is worth mentioning that, after his first printed Greek edition came out, he did eventually secure an actual copy of Revelation.

His initial version had some Greek readings that weren't in any manuscripts because he just freely translated back from Latin, which is kind of interesting. But this verse in Revelation 22 probably remains the way it is because of that situation, because the Latin version he used had "works."

But I really do admire Erasmus. He got the job done. People like Erasmus get the job done, while the more pedantic scholars ( and there's a place for pedantic scholars; I'm not saying they’re useless). But the more pedantic scholars have a tendency not to get things done.

Now Catholic politics may have gotten in 1 John 5:7. 1 John 5:7 is the most explicitly Trinitarian verse in the whole New Testament. The problem is, it doesn’t appear in any Greek manuscripts before about 1500 when Erasmus himself was compiling the Greek New Testament. It does appear in the margins of a few older manuscripts but in a later hand, as I understand the situation.

And, of course, this verse, this most Trinitarian verse in the whole New Testament, is never mentioned in the entirety of the Trinitarian debates of the early centuries. Now, to me, that means there's just not any chance at all that this is original. There's no chance, because in the Trinitarian debates of the 300s they would have mentioned the most Trinitarian verse in the Bible. There is clearly nothing wrong with the verse. That's another important thing to say. When we're asking how the original text read, what was its original wording, we're not asking which reading has the best theology.

The King James has great theology. In fact, maybe we should use it for its theology. We just shouldn't use it if our goal is to have the most original text. This is an interesting thing to ponder, that the King James might be a better theological text, from a Christian standpoint, regardless of the fact that it is not likely to be the most original text. That's something you might want to think about.

But the story goes that Erasmus was not going to put this Trinitarian verse in his Greek New Testament – in fact, I don't think it was in his first edition. But he was pressured by the Roman Catholic Bishop or a person of some authority to put it in. After all, it's a great verse on the Trinity.

And so Erasmus, so the story goes, claimed that he would put it in if they could show him one Greek manuscript that had it in it. And in his journal he notes that the ink was still wet when they presented him with one. Now, again, there's nothing wrong with 1 John 1:7. The question is strictly whether it was in the first copy of 1 John. And that does not at all seem likely...
The lecture goes on to talk about internal and external evidence, as well as the Majority Text option.

The Greek text of the King James Version 1

I'm cleaning up a transcription of a video lecture for a class. It is on the text of the Bible. I thought I'd post some of my comments in it on the King James Bible.
Let me talk for a second about the King James Version, because in some circles, the King James Version remains the version. Now in most churches, this is a debate of 40-50 years ago. Well, more like 30 or 40 years ago.

Most churches don't have an issue with what versions you use. Most churches would say, "Use whatever version in which you think you hear God's voice most clearly." Well, I don't know whether most would say that, but I would say most healthy churches have that view. Use the version of the Bible through which you hear God's voice the most. And if that's the King James, the New King James, that's great. If it's something else, that's great. You do hear people who are against The Message or against the TNIV. You do find a lot of that kind of version warfare out there.

And, and, some of that has to do with the philosophy of translation more than it has to do with the question of the text. Translation is a different subject. How do you translate? Do you translate very “woodenly,” or do you translate very freely. That's a different issue and one that will be covered elsewhere. This particular vidcast is about how the original text read. What were the words that were there and what were the words that weren't there? Of the variations among manuscripts, how did the original read?

And here, we basically only have two alternatives. There are two alternatives. To start off with, I'm going to call the old alternative the “King James alternative.” This is the textual tradition that has the ending of Mark, for example, Mark 16:9-20. This is the longer version. It has more verses, more words. Not a whole lot more. I mean, like I said, 90-plus percent the same.

You do have this one textual tradition that I'm going to call right now the King James tradition. And then the other one is everything else. That is, all the modern, pretty much all modern versions of the Bible. Basically you only have two choices when it comes to this question of how you think the original manuscripts of the Bible read.

And, and once you've made your decision as to which you buy into, then you're once again pretty clear about what the original text read, depending on which choice you make. If you go with the King James tradition, then you're pretty sure you know pretty much what the text read. If you go with the majority of modern translations, then you pretty much know what you think the original text read. But I want to, in this vidcast, explain what the issues are in making that choice.

The King James Version came out in 1611. If you were listening to this vidcast in 2011, that was the 400th anniversary of the King James Version. Of course, the King James Version that you would typically buy in a Christian bookstore is not the 1611 version. It was updated over the 150 years or so afterthe first King James came out. It was edited as many as five times. Not all of those were massive revisions, but now the King James Version that you would buy in a bookstore today is not the 1611 version.

So we want to make it very clear that the King James Version was never intended to be set in stone for all eternity. Now, over the first 200 years of its existence, there was an understanding that language changes, that things need to be updated. And so there are those who insist, "No, we must use the original King James Version in English. And we cannot even use the New King James Version." There are individuals who would say even the New King James Version shouldn't be used. That whole view reflects, just be honest, a, a pretty significant ignorance of how language functions.

Language changes. I mean the word, "Google," didn't exist in the English language 15 years ago, if you're listening to this in 2011. Language changes. Meanings change. Language doesn't mean the same thing. There are things in the King James Version that its readers probably think they understand, but don't, because the word doesn't mean the same thing. Now, when the King James Version says, "Let your conversation be known," it's not talking about speaking, like I'm doing now. The word “conversation” in 1789, or whenever the last King James revision was done, meant manner of conduct.

And so it's very easy to suppose that there are many King James Version users who think they understand what that verse means, when they don't even understand the English, because the English has changed meaning. Language has to be updated for it to be understood. And, eventually, of course, language changes to where you can't even understand the way people spoke before. Shakespearean English is very difficult for me to understand without some notes to explain. If you've ever read Beowulf, Beowulf is in English, but man, it's not an English that I speak.

Language changes. This the nature of things. And so it has to be updated if people are going to understand it. Either that or, eventually, you'll have to take a language class just to be able to understand the King James Version. We're at that now in terms of the everyday person on the street. They're not going to understand the King James for what it meant originally. So let’s just get that out of the way there.

But the King James Version was not the first English version by any means. In fact, it was a compromise translation between the Geneva Bible, which was actually the Bible of the Puritans, the Bible that was most popular among the English at the time, at least the English Puritans. And then there was the Bishops' Bible. The Bishops' Bible was resented by the Puritans because it had notes [they didn’t like]. Both of these Bibles had notes as I recall. The Geneva Bible had notes that were perceived to be against the king, anti-monarchist notes. The Bishops' Bible had notes that were perceived not to take the biblical text with enough authority.

And so King James, who was himself, probably not a particularly liked man, of course he didn't translate it. He just commissioned it. But King James commissioned this compromise translation. And it didn't catch on immediately. In fact, if I remember correctly, the Puritans who first came to America in the 1600s brought the Geneva Bible, not the King James Bible so much to America. But the King James Version did catch on and did become the primary English version...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some Basic Thinking Fallacies

I'm teaching an intro philosophy class this semester for undergrads on Thursday nights. The first night we covered some logical fallacies. I thought after last week's class that there are some really basic ones I would especially like an educated person to know:

1. Jumping to Conclusions
Wait till you have the facts well in hand before you draw conclusions.

2. Ad Hominem Fallacy
Attacking the person making an argument doesn't disprove the argument.

3. Straw Man Argument
When you don't attack their real argument but a flimsy version of their real argument

4. Circular Reasoning/Begging the Question
When you assume what you are arguing for as part of your argument

5. False Alternative
Sometimes there are more options than a simple either-or.

6. Wishful Thinking
Something isn't true just because you want it to be true.

I'm having them do some tweeting for the full participation points. If you want to follow or interact with #180cphilosophy on Twitter roughly from 6:30-8:30ish, you're welcome.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Worthen: The Drive to Accreditation (6)

On to chapter 5 of Molly Worthen's, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American EvangelicalismMan, I wish I were a faster reader. Or maybe I shouldn't try to read too many things at once?

Reviews of previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 (Birth of Neo-Evangelicalism)
Chapter 2 (Evangelicals on the Edges)
Chapter 3 (The Strivings of Christianity Today)
Chapter 4 (Mennonites and Nazarenes in the 50s)

Now chapter 5, "The Marks of Campus Conversion."  This chapter gives another angle on the collection of social groups and forces we might call fundamentalist and evangelical in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. It's the evangelism and education angle.

If you look at some of the great revivalists of the late 1800s, the great evangelist D. L. Moody founded Moody Bible Institute (Chicago Bible Institute) in 1886. Pastor William Bell Riley started Northwestern in St. Paul in 1902. The first Dean of Biola was a revivalist (R. A. Torrey) in 1912. The radio evangelist Charles Fuller helped found Fuller Theological Seminary in 1947. Bible colleges had a way of being founded by evangelists, it seems, as places to train more evangelists and missionaries. These evangelists also had the people skills to attract the students that made such institutes and colleges financially viable.

As much as we may hate the stereotypical divide between the thinker and the doer, history has often played into the stereotype. So Fuller's goals and the goals of his Machen-trained elite faculty pulled against each other from time to time. In 1962, Sam Sutherland, president of Biola, was a "Bible Institute man" who may not have been interested in theologians like C. F. H. Henry or in engaging the public forum. Sutherland was not interested in academic prestige but training people to be evangelists.

But he needed students too. In the first part of the twentieth century, the institutes and Bible colleges of fundamentalism weren't interested in things like accreditation. Self-described professionals invented clubs that conferred on each other status, or so it seemed. Academic acknowledgement seekers like Wheaton were the outliers initially. "Early Bible college leaders were unimpressed by a self-policing, credentialed elite. They exalted the common sense of the layman whose faith was unmuddled by the mystifications of so-called experts" (102). So what else is new.

The fundamentalists had their own accrediting system of sorts. They invited each other to come speak at each other's campuses. They gave each other (unaccredited) honorary degrees.

Then came the GI Bill after World War 2. Expectations for standard of living increased--standards that couldn't be met as a typical pastor or missionary. As is almost always the case, money was the decider. And although the leaders of the Bible colleges and institutes bemoaned the fact that the church was losing its spirituality, they began to pursue accreditation and broaden into liberal arts colleges. Although they believed their students were becoming materialistic, they knew well enough that they needed students to survive.

They applied for secular accreditation so that students could receive aid from the federal government. They started offering more than just ministry and missionary majors.

But before that, a collection of Bible colleges set up their own accreditation organization, what is now called the Association for Biblical Higher Education. It would eventually drink from the same well of academic standards of the age. For example, it would turn down Columbia Bible College for accreditation renewal in the 1960s because of low standards, irregular grading, and not teaching much beyond Christian beliefs.

As much as they might disdain academia in general, Bible institutes also longed for outside recognition. They valued professors with PhDs. There were ways to get PhDs without being infected by secular research institutions, particularly if you worked on them while you were teaching at the Bible institute.

Academic freedom was a problem, as was the increase of students in the late 60s who were thinking outside the box. Sutherland, president of Biola, would try to defend Biola to donors as being 80% Republican and would first gently try to encourage students not to write articles opposing the Vietnam War or in favor of Bobby Kennedy.

Wheaton in particular seems to have pushed the limits of student freedom of expression. Worthen ends the chapter arguing more or less that every generation thinks the next is spiritually losing it and becoming more liberal. Every older generation, as young people grow up, clamors for revival to get back to the good old days, when we were a Christian nation and everyone was spiritual.

Rather, in her opinion, "the history of Christianity... is one long story of the mutual accommodation between sacred tradition and new cultural contexts, needs, and threats" (122). It is not secularization but the continual "reenchantment of earthly life" in the light of an ever changing world.

The chapter ends with the fascination of evangelicals and fundamentalists with C. S. Lewis. Even Bob Jones, puzzled by his pipe and liquor, had to conclude he was a Christian. C. S. Lewis was the patron saint of intellect for evangelicals, proof positive that you could be smart and be a believer. Colleges like Wheaton and Westmont treated his artifacts like medieval relics, and Taylor University reconstructed his favorite pub in the basement of its library--minus the alcohol of course.

Lewis proved that you could have an imagination and love the arts and still be a Christian, unlike A. W. Tozer, who suggested that fiction had nothing to do with Christianity. Similarly, Clyde Kilby of Wheaton could puzzle at the propositionalism of his long acquaintance C. F. H. Henry, "How can the Psalms be propositional?" he posed in disagreement with his ever rational, fellow alumnus.

The chapter also mentions Wheaton professor, Arthur Holmes, whose short, classic work, The Idea of a Christian College, remains to my mind an excellent model of the integration of faith with learning. He suggests levels of integration, ranging from the attitude of the professor to the element of ethics in applying a discipline to to foundations to worldview. It was Holmes who popularized the truism, "All truth is God's truth."

To my mind, Holmes was a giant when it comes to what it means to be a Christian liberal arts college, at least in terms of the principles. Obviously the person who knows the trick on how a liberal arts oriented college can thrive in the current climate will also be mentioned in the history of education. We are in a time of transformation in education not unlike that facilitated by the GI Bill, IMO.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tom Wright and the New Perspective

Filling in gaps in my Hebrews book...
... N. T. Wright substantially agrees with Dunn on the question of works of Law. Even before Dunn began to popularize the phrase, "new perspective," Wright had written that Israel's problem, according to Paul, was not legalism or an attempt to become righteous by doing good works. Rather, Paul saw Israel as guilty of "national righteousness," "the belief that fleshly Jewish descent guarantees membership of God's true covenant people." [1] Dunn agreed. [2]

We see this sentiment play out especially in Paul's letter to the Romans. Dunn writes, "The 'boasting' of the 'Jew' in Rom. 2:17-23 is certainly to be understood as a boasting in covenant privilege over against the less-favored, or rather passed-over Gentiles" [3] Dunn assents to what Brendon Byrne has written similarly of Romans 10:3. In this verse, Israel is said to have attempted to establish its own righteousness. Byrne writes, "'their own righteousness' ... can only mean the righteousness of Israel as holy people separate from the sinful rest of humankind." [4]

Wright and Dunn thus shift the sense of boasting in Romans from a sense of boasting in individual righteousness, because of an individual's good works, to a boasting in one's race, one's Jewishness, over and against non-Jews. Similarly, the works in question are not just any good works but especially those works of the Jewish Law that most differentiated Jew from Gentile in matters like circumcision, food laws, and Sabbath observance. The so called "new perspective" thus pulled the trajectory of Pauline scholarship out of the clouds of a generalized and universizalized Paul, the Paul of Augustine and the Reformation, and back down to the concrete earth that was the real world that Paul was navigating as he conducted the Gentile mission...

[1] "The Paul of History and the Apostle of Faith," (1978), in Pauline Perspectives, 6.

[2] E.g., "The New Perspective on Paul," (1983), in The New Perspective on Paul, 114-15.

[3] New Perspective, 9.

[4] "The Problem of Nomos and the Relationship with Judaism in Romans," CBQ 62 (2000): 294-309, esp. 302, quoted in Dunn, New Perspective, 11 n.40.

Monday, January 13, 2014

James - The Living Church 1

The final book in my "Life Lessons from..." series is The Church Moving Forward, which covers Hebrews through Revelation. So far in the series is:
So this manuscript is due July 1. May as well start today...
For many, the book of James is their favorite book in the Bible. It is a book of wisdom, the Proverbs of the New Testament. It provides us with numerous tidbits of wisdom for everyday living that jump across the pages of history from the first century to today.

From its opening verses, we see a worldwide movement under pressure. "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (Jas. 1:2). James addresses "the twelve tribes, scattered among the nations" (1:1). [1] The implication is that believers are facing trials all throughout the world. [2]

Although James addresses the twelve tribes (of Israel), he is probably thinking that Gentile believers have already been incorporated into the people of God. After all, there is nothing distinctively Jewish in the book of James. [3] It is hard to find any truths in James that are tied down by the world of first century Jerusalem or uniquely Jewish issues.

We should also not think that the Romans had some world-wide policy against Christians. Christians weren't nearly that significant to them at this point. The trials to which James points, interestingly, do not come from the government or "the Jews." It is true that James himself met his death at the hands of the high priest of Jerusalem, sometime around the year AD62. [4] But there is no clear reference to the Sanhedrin or the Jerusalem establishment in this letter. [5]

No, the trials of James come from within, or at least close. It is the wealthy who are the persecutors, probably patrons within synagogues and churches. [6] "Is it not the the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?" (2:6-7).

In response, James makes it clear who the true Patron of every believer is, "Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (1:16-17)...

[1] James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and Jude are sometimes called the "General Letters," "General Epistles," or even the "Catholic Epistles" because they do not address a specific audience. The earliest meaning of the word "catholic" was "universal."

[2]Some have suggested that the book of James is more a collection of James’ wisdom than a unified letter, in which case it would not necessarily picture a single, worldwide situation.

[3] Interestingly, Paul's letters deal more with distinctively Jewish issues than James does. We tend to miss this fact because we often function with an already universalized version of the early church.

[4] Mentioned in the Jewish historian Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews 20.199-203.

[5] Indeed, the very language of the letter, Greek, points away from the Aramaic-speaking world of Jerusalem.

[6] Although versions usually translate James 2:2 with a word like "meeting" (NIV, CEB) or "assembly" (NRSV, ESV), the Greek word is actually synagōgē.  These are not bad translations, but it is worth pointing out the actual word.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Mennonites, Nazarenes, and Neo-Evangelicals in the 50s (5)

Continuing to unclog my blogging backlog, here are some thoughts on chapter 4 of Molly Worthen's, Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism. Reviews of previous chapters include:

Chapter 1 (Birth of Neo-Evangelicalism)
Chapter 2 (Evangelicals on the Edges)
Chapter 3 (The Strivings of Christianity Today)

Now chapter 4, "Reform and Its Discontents."

This chapter finishes the first section of the book, "Knights Inerrant."My take-away from this chapter is that "evangelicals" like Mennonites and Nazarenes didn't fit neatly with Reformed "neo-evangelicals" like Henry and friends.

John Howard Yoder features as the prominent Mennonite reaction to neo-evangelicalism in this chapter. Yoder apparently was no moral model. In fact, his life seems to have been an anti-type of his theology. He is best known for his advocacy of non-violence, yet he was an abusive personality. The fact that his thinking was the opposite of his life suggests there may be something redeemable in it.

His words to C. F. H. Henry are worth quoting:

"Your ultimate criteria are your idea of reason... in theology the chances are great that they will get in the way of Christ as the only source of knowledge" (75).

Worthen concludes, "Yoder had hit on the crux of the divide between Reformed evangelicals and many other evangelical traditions." For Mennonites, "discipleship more than dogma, was the the primary way to follow Christ" (76).

The neo-evangelical and a fundamentalist worldview, according to Worthen, were making great strides in churches like those of the Mennonites and the Nazarenes. I have noted to myself that is it incredibly easy to make a pre-modern into a fundamentalist, and I fear it of my own time. You take someone who knows little of reading the Bible in context and sprinkle historical scholarship on them in a threatening way.

So I picture it being in the 50s. Scholars like Harold Bender in the Mennonite tradition and H. Orton Wiley in the Nazarenes walked these careful political lines. The Mennonites strove to make sure that their belief in pacifism did not get displaced in the middle of crises like Vietnam. They strove to strengthen their own institutions so that their ministers did not become allured of mainline institutions. They strove to maintain the importance of experience in the Christian life. The neo-evangelicals largely ignored them.

The Wesleyan Theological Society was founded as a Wesleyan version of ETS and was very neo-evangelical in its founding. Interestingly, Nazarenes did not feel very welcome at first. In the words of one Nazarene theology professor in 1967, "A 'Wesleyan' society should make Holiness its main point and not get involved in this fundamentalistic shibboleth of inerrancy" (92). Things have changed dramatically since then as WTS underwent a broadening something like Fuller did.

If the Mennonites strove not to lose distinctives like pacifism, Nazarenes fought to maintain elements like social justice amid outside influences. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop clarified the nature of holiness in terms of love and, in my opinion, provided important language to translate the doctrine of holiness into terms that would speak to a new generation.

By contrast, Reformed fundamentalism threatened to sever the link between personal piety and social justice, as it still does today. William Greathouse led a "back to Wesley" movement to try to get Nazarenes back in touch with their theological roots. These efforts would spill over into thinkers in the Free Methodist and Wesleyan Methodist church as well.

Restorationist and Pentecostals are briefly mentioned. Influenced by Reformed presuppositionalism but remaining on the periphery. Influenced by worldview language but on the periphery. Treating Scripture as a compilation of ideas and objective facts was the neo-evangelical way. There was a great fusion of elements in each tradition going on in the mid-twentieth century.

Another element in the midst (and I'm not really sure what makes this chapter hold together) is the fact that a lot of budding young scholars in this time period ran off to Europe to do their doctoral work. Yoder went to Basel to study with Barth. Paul Jewett at Fuller ran off to study with Emil Brunner at Zurich. George Ladd and Dan Fuller went to Basel. "Evangelicals who spent time at Basel and other European universities usually did not convert to more liberal forms of the faith, but they sometimes revised their views of biblical inerrancy and eschatology" (80).

It is interesting that this same phenomenon was taking place in England when I did my doctorate in the 90s. British universities neither had the biases against conservatives that a lot of American universities did, yet they were not as biased against liberals as a lot of American evangelical institutions were. In short, there was a freedom to British universities in the 90s to have faith and yet explore ideas freely as well.

My sense is that the era of conservatives running to Europe for education has slowed down significantly. Part of it is the fact that the market for experts in biblical studies, theology, and church history has dried up. I think there are also more and more accessible doctoral programs here in the US. The British universities of the 90s were doing very well with part-time doctorates, with the allure of going to Europe. But American institutions are catching on or dying.

I think I'll leave the chapter with that. It was a chapter full of emotion for me. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to study with some truly great minds and to think through ideas with anyone who was interested. I used to say I would "teach" (or at least banter together) for free if I had some other means of supporting my family.

Yet people don't pay for what some teacher wants to say, even if the teacher thinks they need to hear it. People pay to hear what they want to hear. Institutions that forget this fundamental dynamic die, IMO.

Two of my devotionals on Jesus out

I was excited to receive two of my devotionals on Jesus in the mail today!  The first is on the Parables of Jesus:

The second is on the Passion of Jesus:

As an excerpt, here's one of the paragraphs from the first week of Parables

"Good soil yields good fruit. It is tempting in our current climate to interpret this growth as getting more and more people to come to our churches. Certainly the New Testament at times models this sort of numerical growth. At other times, faithfulness only brings opposition and suffering. In the end, the kind of fruit that Jesus is most interested in has more to do with the fruit of righteousness. It is a fruit that does no wrong to others (see Matt. 3:8) and helps those who are in need (see Matt. 25:31-46). It is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). When we yield this kind of fruit in our lives, others are drawn to Christ (Matt. 5:16)."

These devotionals are in a new format, 6 x 4, I would say, almost pocket sized. My wife Angie saw how nicely sized they were and exclaimed, "I might actually read that one." :-)

Grudem 15e: The Gap Theory

The previous summary/evaluation was here.

d. The Gap Theory
Grudem rejects secular evolution, theistic evolution, and in this brief section he rejects the so called "gap theory." The gap theory is the idea that there is a gap of millions of years between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. So God creates the heavens and earth. Then in verse 2 the earth is without form and void, with darkness.

The gap theory thus pictures two creations, as it were. The fossil record that seems to support evolution would come before Genesis 1:1. Then perhaps Satan's rebellion would take place, leaving the earth without form and void afterwards. Then perhaps 10,000 to 20,000 years ago, God would reorder the world in 6 days. The theory notes that the words for formless and void are used of the land after God's judgment in passages like Isaiah 34:11 and Jeremiah 4:23.

Grudem does not find this argument persuasive. First, he argues that God has not yet created light in Genesis 1:2. The world is still in darkness. Second, he points to what is called the overload fallacy. Just because the Hebrew words for "formless" and "void" in other contexts relate to God's judgment doesn't mean that they always refer to God's judgment.

He provides additional arguments. No other verse indicates this theory. Next, Genesis 1:31 says everything God had made was very good. But in the gap theory, Satan and all manner of demons would be around. Genesis 2:1 seems to imply that the creation of the heavens was part of the six days of creation. Exodus 20:11 seems to say that God created everything in six days.

Finally, God's first creation would seem both incomplete and a failure. God would not have finished with humanity, and the plants and animals before would not have fulfilled God's original purpose, leading to their destruction. But Grudem thinks that this contradicts a God who always accomplishes his purposes.

This discussion is a fascinating snapshot of American church history. When the theory of evolution was gaining currency in the late 1800s, conservative Christians did not immediately reject it. Conservative scholars like B. B. Warfield at least considered it, and although Charles Spurgeon would eventually reject it, he seems to have been more open to it initially.

Throughout the early 20th century, the gap theory was not uncommon in some circles, including among some teachers in my own denomination. Since they largely did not interpret the Bible in context anyway, the gap theory provided a way for them to account for the Fall of Satan while providing space for an older earth. Then in the 1970s, individuals like Henry Morris mounted a strong fundamentalist offensive against evolution, and the gap theory was also a target. The mission to stamp it out among conservative Christians seems to have been quite successful.

On the one hand, Grudem is surely correct that Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 know nothing of the Fall of Satan or an orderly creation that is then destroyed or judged by God. Indeed, Genesis and the Pentateuch in general know nothing of Satan (Genesis does not seem to know yet that the serpent is Satan). None of the Historical Books except 2 Chronicles knows anything of the Satan. Satan appears only three times in the Old Testament--in 2 Chronicles, in Job, and in Zechariah.

Grudem correctly observes that no text in the Old Testament knows anything about such a first and second creation. He correctly reads Genesis 1:31 and 2:1 as the end of a single creation process. We can ignore his strange hyper-Calvinist compulsion to think that God has to finish things in one shot.

Yet, as we have argued, he does not correctly sense the nature of Genesis 1 as something more poetic than exactly literal, as something more in dialog with other creation stories than with anything scientific. Accordingly, as we have also argued, he does not see the most natural translation and reading of Genesis 1:1-2. When God comes to create the world, it is already there as a formless and chaotic, watery mess. In other words, Grudem does not read Genesis literally either, only a little more literally than those who used to believe in the gap theory.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Sources for the Study of Paul 4

I'm a bit clogged up because I haven't had much time to post this last week.  So let me start by nearing the end of chapter 1 of N. T. Wright's Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I actually finished reading the chapter a couple weeks ago. Thus far,


Chapter 1
1. The Basics of Philemon
2.i-iii. Philemon and Christian Worldview
iv. History, Exegesis, "Application"

v. Sources
In this section, Wright addresses the question of the sources he will use to construct an understanding of Paul's theology and worldview. The main issue here is the fact that, for the better part of the last century, a large number of Pauline scholars have questioned whether Paul wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians. Similarly, a strong majority have concluded it not likely at all that Paul wrote 1, 2 Timothy and Titus.

Wright argues that the consensus in several of these cases should be re-examined. He argues, for example, that ideological reasons stand behind the consensus in relation to several of these letters. He lays the blame first at the feet of the nineteenth century interpreter F. C. Baur. Baur famously categorized the New Testament in terms of a Hegelian thesis-antithesis-synthesis, with Jewish Christianity as the thesis, Pauline Christianity as the antithesis, and "Catholic" Christianity as the synthesis. Accordingly, any Pauline letters that seemed "catholic" were considered as non-Pauline.

In particular, Wright thinks some of the difficulty with regard to Colossians and Ephesians, in his view, is because they "seem to have a much stronger and higher view of the church" (57). They "did not appear to teach 'justification by faith.'" They "fly in the face of the liberal protestant paradigm" (57-58). He seems a little puzzled that the "new perspective" on Paul, which challenges the liberal Protestant paradigm, has not challenged it at this point.

So he suggests another ideological "prejudice" he suspects may be in the way now--the household codes. So he suggests that egalitarianism may now stand in the way of what he considers a fairer consideration of Ephesians and Colossians. Whatever the cause, it has become such a dogma, in his view, that younger scholars are not allowed to question it. He mentions with favor Clifford Geertz's comment that "it is almost more of a problem to get exhausted ideas out of the scholarly literature than it is to get productive ones in" (59).

So he says, "let us put the chess pieces back on the board from time to time and restart the game" (60). He does not find arguments from stylistic difference convincing. He finds the stylistic differences between 1 and 2 Corinthians more striking than between Galatians/Romans and Ephesians/Colossians. In the end, he proceeds with the assumption that Colossians is certainly Pauline and Ephesians is highly likely to be Paul.

He also considers it highly likely that 2 Thessalonians is Pauline. The "prejudice" he identifies against it is the older prejudice against Paul being an apocalyptic thinker. But since now it is even trendy to think of Paul as an apocalyptic and political thinker, it would be ironic to rule 2 Thessalonians out of consideration, he says. Nevertheless, "as a concession to troubled consciences" (61), he will still try to let the "normal seven letters" bear most of the weight (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon).

Wright seems careful not to say explicitly that 1 Timothy and Titus are not from Paul's hand, but he implies that he thinks so. At the end of all this rethinking, 1 Timothy and Titus remain in "a different category" for him. He does not consider 2 Timothy as doubtful. "My own opinion is that if the only 'Pastoral' letter we had was what we presently call 2 Timothy, the 'problem of the Pastorals' might not have occured" (61).

Finally, he addresses Acts as a source for Paul. Once again, he finds a liberal prejudice underlying the unpopularity of using Acts as a source for the historical Paul. The Gospels and Acts were seen as a coping strategy with the failure of Christ's return to take place. He thinks Acts has been dated later and later for these sorts of theological and ideological reasons. Luke is seen as an architect of a road toward early Catholicism, a la Baur.

"None of this means, of course, that Acts can be used naively as it stands as a historical source" (63). But he believes it is less in conflict with Paul's own writings than is sometimes supposed. He even suggests that we should no longer just assume that Acts 15 and Galatians 2 refer to the same event. Basically, he wants to open the doors on any consensus that may exist and look at Paul's writings freshly, with no presumptions unexamined.

Wright is clearly trying to redress what he sees as an unsubstantiated bias among Pauline experts in relation to which books Paul wrote in the New Testament and which books might be "pseudonymous," written under Paul's name a few decades after his death. We must applaud his plea that each generation of scholars, indeed each student, be willing to examine long-held consensuses like these.

I think of what Mark Goodacre has said in relation to the existence of Q--while most scholars may believe in Q, few have done the hard work to come to that conclusion on their own. They more or less assume the existence of Q because it has been a consensus for so long. (By the way, Goodacre hasn't convinced me yet that he is right, even though I agree with the need to re-examine the consensus.)

Wright's words in this section have been greeted with great delight among evangelicals, who have more or less always rejected the arguments for pseudonymity anyway. Indeed, it is practically forbidden in most evangelical circles even to question the literal Pauline authorship of any of his books in the New Testament. To do so is usually seen as tantamount to calling these books forgeries and their authors liars (I reject that this is the only alternative position, as does Wright).

We thus see prejudice on both ends of the spectrum. On the one end are the scholars who won't let you study with them if you actually think Paul might have written the Pastoral Epistles. On the other end are those who will kick you out of their fellowship if you even entertain the idea that Paul might not have. Wright stands in the middle between these two extremes. He only thinks 1 Timothy and Titus were written as a literary device under Paul's name (and he does not see this as an obstacle to considering them Scripture). The rest he more or less accepts as coming from Paul's hand, with the possible exception of 2 Timothy.

The reaction to Wright's thoughts here is predictable. Evangelicals, who have never accepted pseudonymity at all on principle, will greet his thoughts here as vindication. "Told you so." Meanwhile, it is doubtful that Wright's arguments here will convince any scholars who already accept the old consensus. I privilege the Pauline authorship of all these books in my teaching, but like Wright would love to see a climate where the question is about the evidence rather than the politics.

It is doubtful that I can be objective, but let me try my best to evaluate Wright's push back on the century-long majority positions. Since he does not reject the consensus on 1 Timothy and Titus, I will not address them.

Let me say that I have long agreed with Jerome Murphy-O'Connor and now Wright on the topic of 2 Timothy. It is far less "problematic" than 1 Timothy or Titus. The only reason I personally can think to doubt whether Paul wrote 2 Timothy is chapter 4, which seems to see Christ's return as some time in the future. This represents a shift from 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17, where Paul seems to expect the Lord to return much more imminently. For this reason, Murphy-O'Connor suggested 2 Timothy might have been built out of a final letter of Paul, with some supplementing by someone else.

Wright's questions on the extent to which style can be used to make such determinations have been made for some time. E. Randolph Richards suggested that the common use of a secretary when composing a letter especially makes questions of style more difficult to use against authorship. Whether this is simply telling a certain audience what it wants to hear or giving a substantive corrective remains to be seen.

I think of what James Dunn wrote in relation to Paul's authorship of Colossians. Dunn was clearly quite willing to believe that Colossians came directly from Paul's hand but in the end suggested that perhaps the hand of Timothy, who is also mentioned as an author, was more directly responsible. In this scenario, perhaps Paul drafted a basic outline and agreed with what Timothy composed, but would have largely left the writing itself to Timothy. Such a proposal is speculative, of course, but it underlines Dunn's ultimate inability to reconcile differences in "manner and mode of expression," in light of "the relative constancy of Paul's style elsewhere" (35). Whether Wright or Dunn is correct on this one, I feel Dunn's pain.

Wright is surely correct that young scholars often accept the consensus of previous generations without enough of a critical eye. There is surely some truth that fumes of earlier consensuses live on by their own momentum. I seriously doubt, however, that F. C. Baur or his fumes continue to have any role to play whatsoever in the current lay of the scholarly land. Wright has more evidence at hand that the egalitarianism of someone like Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza might want to distance Paul from the household codes of the Prison Epistles. Then again, I doubt she would have any problem critiquing Paul himself.

Is an anti-apocalyptic bias at work against 2 Thessalonians--or maybe an anti-dispensational bias? Maybe so with some scholars. As I see it, what is difficult about 2 Thessalonians is 1) how difficult it is to place in Paul's timeline and 2) the fact that it is just so different from anything we hear Paul say elsewhere. It is just an enigma all the way around. Perhaps Wright has some silver bullets here, and I look forward to hearing them.

I smiled when I read Wright's statements about Ephesians. Regardless of Paul's authorship, it is not surprising that Wright would not so much feel the pain of those who think Ephesians is more generic than Paul's other letters. That is to say, in my opinion, Wright's interpretations of Paul are already a more theologized and abstract version of the real Paul, so it is no surprise that he would not seem to notice that Ephesians is less concrete than Paul's other letters. Edgar Goodspeed once speculated whether Ephesians might have been created as a cover letter for Paul's letters once the church started collecting them and binding them together. He wondered if it was created to present a synopsis of Paul's theology.

Obviously such ideas are unprovable. They are purely speculative. Goodspeed's speculation merely testifies to the general, rather than concrete, nature of Ephesians.  The words "at Ephesus" were not likely part of the original letter, leaving some to suggest Paul wrote it as a circular letter to a whole region, rather than to a specific church in Asia. Quite unusually for Paul, the only actual, concrete name mentioned in the whole letter is Tychicus.

A careful eye will observe numerous minor shifts in Ephesians from Paul's earlier letters (e.g., saved by grace rather than justified by faith). That does not mean Paul didn't write it. But if we truly want to listen to Paul, we won't sweep them under the rug either.

The point is not to say that Wright is wrong about Ephesians. It is to say that far more is going on with the consensus than some ideological fume carried over from F. C. Baur. Wright will not change anyone's mind by what he has written here, only inspire those who already agree with him.

Similar responses could be made with regard to Wright's treatment of Acts. There are no doubt some "liberals" who would want to distance Acts from the actual events, to distance it from history. Yet there is just as much bias on the other end, pushing it to be as early as possible. In the middle are at least a few scholars who are really trying their best simply to follow the evidence to its most likely conclusion.

Yet surely his basic position is correct. We should neither assume that Acts is fiction or be naive about its precise historicity. Let the evidence go where the evidence goes.