What is Distinctive about Christian Analytic Theology?

I’m starting to engage in a project on the value of Analytic Theology for spiritual formation. In light of that I have been reading a lot about Analytic Theology lately (as a meta-subject). Anyway, I came across an interview with Rea and Crisp where Crisp answers the question: What is distinctive about Christian Analytic Theology:

Crisp: I have already said something about what analytic theology is, and I suppose that gives some indication of what makes an analytic approach to theology distinct from much contemporary theology which draws upon more ‘continental’ modes of philosophical thought. So the ‘analytic’ component to analytic theology will be distinctive to the extent that it is appropriating the modes and methods of an analytic approach to the subject matter of theology. It is certainly distinctive for the Christian theologian to be engaged in an analytic project qua theologian, that is, from within the bounds of the Christian tradition, pursued in a faith-seeking-understanding manner, rather than qua philosopher, as someone with an interest in these issues coming at them from the ‘outside-in’, as it were. Someone from another faith tradition might also be an analytic theologian. I do not doubt that one could do analytic theology in Judaism or as a Muslim – and there might be a good case for doing so. But that, it need hardly be said, is a rather different enterprise than Christian analytic theology. I am not responsible to the Jewish or Muslim community. But I am responsible to the Christian community. And, for obvious reasons, that shapes the sort of issues I want to deal with as an analytic theologian.

The Johannine Prologue

Jey Kanagaraj says this about the Johannine prologue and how the gospel is encapsulated within it:

The whole Gospel according to the prologue evolves around one theme: the revelation of the one God in his glory and his encounter with all human beings in the life and mission of Jesus, the pre-existent God-become-flesh, to found and nurture a witnessing new covenant community.

John: New Covenant Commentary (9)

Structured for Mission

The technological revolution, transformed economies, capitalism, globalization, decentralization, individualism, commodification, fragmented communities, fragmented identities, alienation….

At the end of the 20th century these transformations converged creating a radical shift in social culture. (94)

Many churches have tried to respond to these changes with a greater emphasis on programs, structures, and new initiatives. Yet time after time, these things seem to fail. According to Alan Roxburgh, structures aren’t the real issue, it’s the narratives that lie behind the structures that are the real issue. So what churches need is not to restructure (though that may need to happen), but what needs to happen first is that there needs to be a shift in the narratives by which these organizations are working with. We need to understand the stories and narratives that have shaped the changes around us and those that have shaped the structures we currently use. This will take greater use of our imagination and the greater use of experimentation. Without experimenting it will be hard to “discover” the new story lines that need to take place. But most importantly what we need is to follow the Spirit’s leading. Throughout the history of the church, the Spirit has helped to change hearts and reinvigorate imaginations, even when the church seemed to get stuck in a rut.

Part one of this Structured for Mission lays out the changes in society that the church is addressing and lays out a theory of structures and legitimating narratives that shape those structures. In part two, Roxburgh makes a case for the kinds of shifts that need to happen if the church is going to move in health into the future.

I think Roxburgh is on to something important, that may church leaders need to hear: the problems the church is facing cannot be changed by merely tinkering around with our programs and structures, a deeper change is needed. Hopefully many will heed these wise words of Roxburgh.

Paul’s Theology of Preaching

The argument of Paul’s Theology of Preaching can be broken up into two steps:

1)Begin by showing the distinctives of Greco-Roman rhetoric.

2)Show How Paul’s first four chapters in 1 Corinthians is meant to address preaching done in view of Greco-Roman Rhetoric.

The fundamental assumption behind Greco-Roman Rhetoric is that the audience + the speaker’s efforts can yield a fixed Result. The result or the goal in this equation is to convince the audience of a particular position. Classical rhetoric was utilitarian and goal oriented. Paul on the other hand insisted that the equation was not a fixed formula. Unlike the rhetorician Paul did not perceive his goal to be the convincing of an audience. He insisted that creating faith was the role of the Holy Spirit. To usurp the Spirit’s role, was to empty the cross of its saving power.

The first model is what Lifitin calls the natural paradigm, the second model is what he calls the Pauline paradigm. Under the natural paradigm the speaker is a persuader, but under the Pauline paradigm the speaker is a herald.

The Herald does not ask “What must I do/say to achieve a specific result?” Rather the question asks “What is God calling me to be and do?” Success is the goal of the former, whereas faithfulness is the goal of the latter.

This however does not invalidate the herald’s desire to speak with excellence. According to Lifitn there are 5 steps or levels within human persuasion (278): attention, comprehension, yielding, retention, and action. The herald is focused on the first two steps in the process: attention and comprehension. Thus even Paul understood and embraced the need of the herald to adapt in order to gain a hearing and communicate clearly the message he was entrusted with.

There are some practical implications to this Pauline model. The most important is that faithfulness is the primary role of the minister (whether a speaker or not a speaker). Or as Lifitn says about the Pauline model: “It asks not how can I achieve some preset result? But, What is Christ calling me to be and what is he calling me to do?…. The Pauline model is obedience driven.

Liftin presents a long and very detailed argument for his position. He devotes a substantial amount of text to classical rhetorical theories and a large amount of text to the exposition of 1 Corinthians 1-4. At the end he offers some of the practical implications of this study. Overall it is an insightful book, though it might better serve preachers if it were presented in a condensed form. For myself, it wasn’t a groundbreaking idea, though it was a good reminder that my call as a preacher is not to convince anybody but to work hard to communicate clearly and compellingly while letting the Holy Spirit do his work of changing hearts.

Joy in the Journey

I probably would have never picked up Steve Hayner’s Joy in the Journey on my own – but I’m really glad that IVP sent me a copy of it.

Joy in the Journey is a collection of entries from the CaringBridge website, written by Steve (president of Columbia Theological Seminary) and his wife Sharol, as they underwent the journey of losing Steve to cancer. Easter weekend of 2014 Steve was diagnosed with a malignant tumor. His battle with cancer lasted through the end of January of 2014.

Conversations about death and dying are often awkward in our culture. We want to think more positively, or more optimistically. We want to be encouraging. For people of faith there is often the feeling that to talk about death is the opposite of talking about hope, and we want to be people who offer hope. Our awkwardness around the subject of death keeps us from considering our own deaths, or planning our funerals, or even making sure we have written a will. – Steve (94)

The fact that conversations about death and dying are awkward is precisely the reason why you should pick up this book. Its hard to find someone who is very open about their process of passing away, but for someone in ministry like me (or likely you if you are reading this blog) seeing someone make the journey through sickness to death, all the while being faithful to Christ and seeing the hope of Christ even through death is an invaluable resource. Besides the fact that you will be encouraged by Steve and Sharol’s faith throughout it all, there is much to learn from here, especially if you are ministering to people who are sick or terminally ill.

Don’t shy away from this book, even though its about death. We rarely confront death in our culture, we avoid the topic, and this harms our ability to minister to those who are dying. For the sake of your ministry, take the time to read through this book, and see how death impacts a family, before you begin to deal with death in your own ministry.

To sum things up, I leave you with something John Ortberg said to Steve about his journey, it expresses my sentiments about this book so well:

God is shining and speaking so deeply in your words that I don’t know how to express it. Thank you for taking the time and the energy in this journey to all us to be a part of it, and to gain something of the gift of wisdom that is flowing through you with so much power in the midst of physical challenge. I will try to welcome this day. (55)

Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.

Free Calvin e-books – Today Only!

Free Calvin e-books – Today Only.

HT: Jim West

John Calvin was born on this day in 1509. In honor of his birthday, Reformation Trust and Ligonier Ministries are making two John Calvin ebooks available free for 24 hours.

Via. The clock is ticking.

Eschatology and Sanctification

Among other things, Michael Allen writes about eschatology and sanctification in a blog post about is upcoming book New Studies in Dogmatics: Sanctification.

Other things surprised me, however, as I have prepared the volume. I did know that matters of creation and of eschatology would be crucial for defining the nature and purpose of creaturely holiness; biblical theology and redemptive history have been a major facet of Reformed dogmatics since its beginning, evident most obviously in the fostering of covenant theology in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and then in the emphasis upon Pauline eschatology in recent decades. Eschatology and ethics are wed together, and I foresaw that nexus of issues. But I had not appreciated the degree to which a theocentric eschatology marked by attention to the beatific vision would need to shape my account along the way, not just at the conclusion of the book but in a distributed manner throughout. Holiness is for seeing the Lord, after all, and the pure in heart are blessed with that gift above all (so Heb. 12:14; Mt. 5:8).

You can read the rest of his post at Common Places.


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