The – Not So Tempting – Temptations of St. Anthony

No one in the entirety of Europe from the years 1200-1750 had any idea what temptation, or torsos, were.

I just came across this hilarious piece of religious-art history. You NEED to look at the whole thing, but here are a few highlights…

Just to get this out of the way, I am aware that the general vibe of most paintings of the Temptation of St. Anthony is like, DECADENT HORROR to denote the ultimate BAD END of temptations; all the horned pig-ferrets are more like a representation of “the wages of sin is DEATH” than like, an actual medieval desire to hang out with pig-ferrets. THAT SAID, literally everyone who has ever painted the Temptation of St. Anthony has actually no idea what temptation looks like.

Let us begin….

“Kiss me, Fuzzy Lobster Devil.” This is the worst temptation of them ALL. It’s just evil Care Bears and a furry crawdad? No one is tempted by this, not even the most committed of perverts.

This looks more like the island Pinocchio’s friends all get turned into donkeys on? Mr. Shellface playing the recorder, some weird Italian guy trying to read over his shoulder? WHAT ABOUT THIS SAYS TEMPTATION TO YOU? Everyone looks pinched and crowded and uncomfortable. The expression on St. Anthony’s face is “leave me alone with my books, you crab-falcon-beasts,” not “hmm, this might be worth abandoning eternal salvation for.”

YOU’RE JUST POKING HIM NOW

This one comes close on first glance but is UTTERLY HOPELESS. There are two naked babes, yes, but they’re hiding behind him and they’re joined for some reason by a tiny helmeted scuba diver. There’s half a donkey by his feet and someone else is running away with like…a book that has feet? Someone he’s trapped in a too-small coffin? And St. Anthony isn’t looking at any of them. You cannot tempt someone who straight up ignoring you!

You can read the rest of the hilarious commentary with some fascinating paintings here.

You can be a complementarian but..

You can be a complementarian but, you can’t get there through the doctrine of the trinity.

That’s the conclusion those who hold to complementarianism but want to be theologically and intellectually honest (as well as in line with the historic teachings of the church) should come to after reading Steve Holmes’ (Prof. at St. Andrews) recent review of Crossway’s book edited by Bruce A. Ware and John B. Starke, One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life.

I recently picked up a new book arguing in more detail than I have seen before the thesis that the doctrine of the Trinity, specifically the Father-Son relationship, gives warrant for what tends to get called a ‘complementarian’ understanding of gender relations – the idea that there is something inherent in human nature and intended by God in male authority and female submission. The book is: Bruce A. Ware and John B. Starke (eds), One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

I did not expect to agree with the various authors: not only have I taken a fairly straightforward stand against ‘complementarianism’, I have argued even more forcefully that analogies from the triune relations to human interpersonal relations are always poor; a set of essays using the latter form of argument to defend the former conclusion is, well, not something I would have written a commendation for, even if they had been foolish enough to ask me… That said, reading books with which you disagree is much more important than reading books with which you agree; if they are well-argued and adequately researched, they sharpen you and force you to refine your thoughts; sometimes they even contribute to a change of mind, and, as I often tell students, the only way to prove you have a mind is to change it occasionally…

* * *

It is an edited volume; inevitably the essays vary in quality. The worst are genuinely bad. Unfortunately, the nadir is the opening essay, by Wayne Grudem, which in part lists a series of fairly central points in classical Trinitarian dogma (most egregiously, inseparable operations), and then claims each must be wrong by gesturing towards a few unexamined proof-texts. Now, of course, I accept the theoretical possibility of challenging the ecumenically-received doctrine on the basis of serious and careful exegesis; I am Baptist, evangelical, and Reformed, and hold to sola scriptura tenaciously. That said, ‘serious and careful exegesis’ involves rather more than quoting an English translation of a verse and asserting its meaning is obvious; further, I have the view, perhaps old-fashioned, that one ought to understand the faith before trying to overthrow it.

Although I disagree with Holmes regarding his conclusions about complementarianism in general (and it should be noted that I hold to a different sort of complementarianism than most), I completely agree with Holmes conclusion regarding this project – that you can’t get to complementarianism through the doctrine of the Trinity. Holmes says that you might be able to get to it some other way – he waves at Ephesians 5 – though he thinks that ultimately doesn’t stand. Either way, Holmes is right – this type of Trinitarian argument should be avoided.

You can read the whole review on Steve’s blog.

The Latin American Church

It is fairly common for Americans to believe that the West is the major exporter of new ideas and trends around the world. For instance, Mark Noll believes that “understanding American patterns provides insight for what has been happening elsewhere in the world.”[1] Although he does not believe this is due to direct causation, he does believe it is a correlative effect. However, this way of thinking ignores that what has mostly been a one-way street of ideas, missionaries, and movements coming to Latin America is actually a stream which flows both ways.[2] Because of this we must understand how Latin American emigration is changing the shape of Christianity in the United States.

According to Philip Jenkins “by 2050 Latinos will make up about a quarter of the national population,” with the vast majority of these Latinos coming from a Christian background.[3] Currently in the United States there are 37.5 million Latinos (not including undocumented immigrants and Puerto Ricans).[4] If we begin to study immigration trends we see that immigration to the U.S. has been predominantly Christian[5] with many of these immigrants coming from the “new centers of faith”: Africa and Latin America[6]. These immigrants are impacting how American Christians understand their faith. For instance we might look at the American Catholic Church which is currently importing priests from Latin America and Spain due to shortages in priests.[7] This has led to the Virgin Mary, which was seldom seen in the North American Catholic church up until the 1980’s, to be venerated throughout the United States.[8] If we look at the Protestant church we see the difference Latinos have made as well. In many places throughout the U.S. it was fairly common to see abandoned American churches, however now those churches have been put to use again by Latino Christians who have moved into the area. In addition to this many American churches are seeing church growth due to growth in their Hispanic congregations.[9]

If Christianity from Latin America is becoming influential in the United States we need to understand the major theological themes that the Latin American church is dealing with at home. These two issues are 1-poverty and oppression and 2-charismatic Christianity.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

[1] Mark A. Noll, The New Shape of World Christianity (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 189.

[2] Odina E. González and Justo González, Christianity in Latin America (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 302.

[3] Philip Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 284.

[4] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304.

[5] Jenkins, God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis, 284.

[6] Jehu Hanciles, “God’s Mission through Migration: African Initiatives in Globalizing Mission,” in Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, ed James Krabill, Walter Sawatsky, and Charles Van Engen (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2006), 59.

[7] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 305.

[8] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 304-5.

[9] González and González, Christianity in Latin America, 307.

What is the Relationship between the Church and the Academy?

The issue is of considerable contemporary relevance. A very large number of colleges and universities in the United States were founded by denominations of the Christian church. Some of the most famous — Harvard, Yale, Princeton — retain selected elements of this foundation — an architecturally distinguished college chapel, for instance, or prayers at graduation ceremonies. But to all intents and purposes, these great schools have long since relinquished their Christian connection, and would not want to try to revive it in an academic world that prides itself on its multiculturalism. And the same observation could be made about hundreds more.

At the same time, this separation of church and academy is not universal. There are still a great many colleges that continue to profess their Christian allegiance. There are even new Christian colleges being established. Such institutions, however, whether newly formed or long established, tend to be regarded with suspicion by the secular academy. How can religious affiliation be compatible with academic integrity? Must it not put limits on the intellectual freedom essential to the life of the mind? It is not so very long, some will say, since the Pope suspended professors who taught contrary to the official doctrine of the Catholic church. Is this not inevitable, and no different from a far more famous case when the Inquisition sought to silence Galileo in 1632?

On the other side, of course, avowedly Christian colleges see a need to combat the corrosive effects of the secular academy, which is marked by a failure to engage in debate and discussion about some of the most fundamental human choices. Under the protestation of “neutrality,” such choices are declared to be a matter of personal “values” rather than the objectively ascertainable facts with which academic inquiry is concerned.

-Gordon Graham (HT: EerdWord)

The Journal of Analyitic Theology (Vol. 3)

Just a few weeks ago, the third volume of the Journal of Analytic Theology was released…

We are very pleased to bring you the third volume of the Journal of Analytic Theology. As with the previous issues, this volume continues to engage in three tasks core to the development of analytic theology (not in any particular order). First, there is the task of bringing analytic thinking—clarity of definition and argumentative rigor as much as the subject matter allows—to matters of theology with ever more “thick” content and historical interaction, yet with an eye to the ever-expanding circle of theological understanding. This issue does this well in a number of contributions. Senior editor Oliver Crisp’s annual Analytic Theology Lecture “Is Ransom Enough” and Josh Thurow’s “Communal Substitutionary Atonement” (which originated as a Logos conference presentation at Notre Dame) do this excellently with respect the doctrine of the atonement. This objective is also met in a set of three essays on free will by Kittle, Mullins, and Byerly. These three essays are exercises in holding philosophical reflection on Scripture accountable to Tradition (Kittle and Mullins) and to not giving it a pass on the hard issues (Byerly). A third set of essays achieve this objective with respect to epistemology. Brandon Dahm’s “The Certainty of Faith: A Problem for Christian Fallibilisits” investigates the traditional notion of religious certitude, especially to be found in Newman, and more modern fallibilisms. Finally, few issues in epistemology have proved more intractable than the Gettier Problem, yet Ian Church urges us to see in it some possible lessons and new directions for religious epistemology. – Trent Dougherty and Kevin Diller

Here are a few articles that caught my eye:

So go ahead take a look at the journal and feel free to download your favorite articles – they are all free!

Preaching to Non-Believers

Trevin Wax on Preaching to Non-Believers….

There is one thing Stanley and Keller agree on: preachers ought to be mindful of the unbelievers in their congregation.

Different Reasons for the Same Practice

Stanley and Keller may be worlds apart in terms of their theological vision for ministry, but they both maintain that a preacher should consider the unsaved, unchurched people in attendance.

This doesn’t mean we can’t find differences even in this area. For example, Stanley uses the terminology of “churched” and “unchurched” (which makes sense in the South), whereas Keller’s context leads him to terms like “believers” and “non-believers.”

Likewise, Stanley and Keller engage in similar practices from different vantage points. Stanley’s purpose for the weekend service is to create an atmosphere unchurched people love to attend. Keller believes evangelism and edification go together because believers and unbelievers alike need the gospel. He writes:

“Don’t just preach to your congregation for spiritual growth, assuming that everyone in attendance is a Christian; and don’t just preach the gospel evangelistically, thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. Evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.”

Whether you are closer to Stanley’s paradigm for ministry or Keller’s, you can benefit from a few suggestions for how to engage the lost people listening to you preach.

You can read the rest of the blog here.

However, if you don’t like links – here are the main points:

1. Acknowledge and welcome the non-believers in attendance.

2. Assume the non-believers in attendance need help in approaching the Bible. 

3. Challenge non-believers to engage the Bible by acknowledging the oddity of Christian belief and practice.

4. Use cultural commonalities to point out worldview inconsistencies.

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