Tag Archives: soteriology

Sanctified by Grace – The Triune God

Sanctified by Grace (Eilers and Strobel) is an attempt to do theology in a way that involves more than the comprehension of Christian truth, rather it is an attempt to do theology in a way that helps bring about Christian faithfulness.

In their preface to the book Eilers and Strobel write that the normal Christian life is 9780567383433intimately and inescapably theological and that the work of Christian Dogmatics can and should participate in the sanctification of the Holy Spirit who forms Christians in the likeness of Christ.

Having said that they notice that there is often a divide between doctrine and theology on the one side and spirituality and ministry on the other. In this book they hope to help tear down that false dichotomy. In my own opinion the doctrine that they start with fits this theme very well. If there is a doctrine that many Christians see as useless, though true, is the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus inviting Fred Sanders to write a chapter on this topic which gives itself over so easily to this false divide is a great move.

In this chapter Sanders sets our spiritual growth in the middle of a Trinitarian truth, specifically Trinitarian adoption. He argues that believers are adopted into the life between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The eternal begetting of the son stands behind the temporal mission of the Son to save humanity. The Spiration of the Spirit stands behind the Spirit’s work in uniting us to the Father and Son. Thus, the Christian life itself can only be understood in light of the Trinity.

For me the highlight of this chapter included his discussion of how eternal processions give rise to temporal missions. The relationship between these two is often tricky and convoluted. Most theologians intuitively know there is a link, but that link is hard to pin down. Sanders does a good job of explaining the connection without being dogmatic about the “link” between the two.

Another highlight was his discussion of adoption. Sanders does a fine job navigating between the view that our sonship is merely metaphorical and the opposite view that we become totally immersed in the life of God (erasing the creator/creature distinction). Rather by advocating a soteriology of Trinitarian adoption, he is able to maintain our intimacy but distinction from God.

Overall Sanders does a great job of showing how the doctrine of the Christian life is shaped by Trinitarian though, specifically the eternal processions of the Triune God. He succeeds in showing that the Christian life is filial by essence.

 

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A Non-Christian Walks Into A Bar…

No its not the beginning of a joke. Its the beginning of a typical interaction. You and your buddies are hanging out having a beer, and your non-Christian friend asks you about this whole “God thing” that you are into. Why do you believe all this stuff? Who is Jesus, and why did this Jesus have to die?

“Why did Jesus have to die?”- How would you respond?

I would probably give an answer that is very relational, because I many non-Christians my age have post-modern sensibilities which lead them to have an averse reaction to any account of the gospel which revolves around breaking rules. I feel as though they would be suspicious of a rules based gospel since moral absolutes, especially from an “ancient” religion, can come across as a power grabbing move.

My Response…

I would say: “The Bible says that God created the world and humans, but don’t get hung up on how that exactly works out. The point is that God is creator, but he isn’t only a creator, he was a good creator. He gave humans the whole earth as a gift, he blessed them, loved them and asked them to cultivate the rest of creation and their relationships to each other. However, something happened and the relationship broke down. Humans decided to betray God, by loving themselves and their desires more that God and each other. By turning from God they took away from God the thing that he deserved, love and worship. But since God loved his creation so much he devised a plan to restore all of creation, especially humans to himself. That is essentially the story of Israel that you get in the OT. The OT story culminates with Jesus who dies on the cross for us. See Jesus was not like us, he never betrayed God, his relationship never broke. Jesus was perfect. Because Jesus honored, loved, and worshiped God even unto death, we can appropriate what he did, so when God sees humans who put their faith in Christ God sees Jesus. Thus we are reconciled to God back into that perfect relationship. Because of that we can now go back cultivating creation and our relationships with one another.”

Baker’s Spring 2014 Academic Catalog

I visited my mom’s house recently and found that I had been sent Baker Academic’s Spring 2014 Catalog. I don’t know how long its been sitting there… days? weeks? years?!?! Either way, there are some upcoming titles that I am pretty excited about! Here they are, I hope you are as excited about them as I am!

Galatians and Christian Theology by Mark Elliott, Scott Hafemann, N.T. Wright, and John Frederick

This is a collection of essays on various interesting topics stemming from Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In this volume some cut-rate scholars address issues related to Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics. You can look forward to reading essays by: N.T. Wright, Bruce McCormack, Beveryly Roberts Gaventa, Richard Hays, Scott R. Swain, Oliver O’Donovan, and John Barclay, among others. It comes out July 2014!

Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict by Chris Keith

This book has been endorsed by a diverse swath of scholars, ranging from Barth Herman to Craig Keener, to Larry Hurtado, to Richard Bauckham. In this is informed by the latest discussion of historical Jesus research, memory, orality, and literarcy within the 1st century. At the heart of the book is how and why Jesus found himself in conflict with the Jewish ruling authorities. Stuff is about to get political! It just came out this April!

From Every Tribe and Nation: A Historian’s Discovery of the Global Christian Story  by Mark Noll

Mark Noll is one of the most distinguished religious historian alive today. On top of that, he is an evangelical. In this book, Noll writes about the shift in Christianity towards the global South and the East. He has written about this before, but what is unique about this book is that he writes how studying this shift has changed and enriched his understanding of Christianity.  It comes out October 2014.

Atonement, Law, and Justice: The Cross in Historical and Cultural Contexts by Adonis Vidu

Out of all the books in this Spring’s catalog, this is the one I am most excited about. Atonement theory is one of my favorite subjects, so when I saw this book was coming out I jumped at the possibility of getting my hands on it a bit early. In this book Vidu offers an in-depth analysis of the legal and political contexts within which the various atonement theories arose. According to Baker Academic, “this is the only book that explores the impact of theories of law and justice on major atonement theories.” Well… if you say so. I think that this book will be a valuable resource as a textbook for graduate level classes on soteriology or atonement theory. This book will be released in August 2014.

Book Review – Paul & Judaism Revisited by Preston Sprinkle

Preston Sprinkle, Paul & Judaism Revisited – A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation, InterVarsity Press, 2013, 249pp.

Paul and Judaism Revisited

With the recent release of N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God we can be sure that a plethora of books on Paul will soon hit the stands, however many of them will probably be overlooked. Luckily Preston Sprinkle’s latest book on Paul was released several months before PFG, therefore it won’t necessarily be read as a response to Wright’s work. It will be able to stand alone on its own merit.

As the title suggests, this is a study of Divine and Human Agency in salvation, however it doesn’t fall along the typical “Calvinist/Arminian” battle lines. Instead Preston draws takes us centuries before that debate and draws us into the Old Testament. Here are the two sides that Preston focuses on:

The Old Testament says that Israel will be restored when it repents (which we will call a Deuteronomic restoration motif), but also that God will instantiate restoration prior to repentance (which we will call a Prophetic restoration motif). [37]

Preston uses these two OT paradigms in order to shed light upon 2nd Temple Judaism (which Christianity finds its place at as well). He uses these two different paradigms in order to accomplish the goal of his book which is to:

Attempt to contribute to the discussion regarding continuity and discontinuity in the soteriological structures of Paul and Judaism; or more precisely, Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls. [28]

In his attempt to discern continuity/discontinuity between Paul and DSS communities, Preston focus on 5 motifs and devotes one chapter to each of them:

  1. Restoration from Curse of the Law
  2. The Spirit and Eschatology
  3. Anthropological Pessimism
  4. Justification
  5. The Role of Works in Judgment

Preston concludes that Paul doesn’t display total continuity with the DSS communities, but neither is there complete continuity. Thus New Perspective Readings of Paul miss the mark and so do the traditional Lutheran readings… Paul is a lot more complicated than we thought. This continuity/discontinuity often falls along Deuteronomic/Prophetic lines, with DSS leaning towards a Deuteronomic paradigm (Like Chronicles and of course Deuteronomy), and Paul leaning towards a Prophetic paradigm (like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah). In the end we see that Paul is situated thoroughly within the Prophetic tradition, in which God unilaterally brings about salvation to his people.

 

Pro’s

  1. A Nuanced Reading of Paul based on Scripture – In my mind, Preston’s use of Dueteronomic/Prophetic paradigms is his greatest move. It gives us a lens through which we can examine Paul without using the anachronistic soteriological language of NPP and Lutheranism. This lens is thoroughly grounded in scripture.
  2. A Balanced Reading of OT Traditions – Preston could have easily pitted the Dueteronomic tradition against the Prophetic tradition (in seminary I had many prof’s who found these traditions incompatible), but he doesn’t. Also he doesn’t try to smooth them out either by harmonizing them (Although I do believe that a harmonizing of these two traditions is possible, it actually happens in Christ himself).
  3. An Interesting Reconstruction of Paul’s Conversion – The Last chapter gives an account of how Paul might have gone from being within the deuteronomic tradition to moving into the prophetic tradition. This transition is entirely plausible within a Jewish framework. Yet this transition would have required a miracle… It would have required him to see that God had unilaterally saved his people, of course he did see this in his encounter with the resurrected Christ.

Con’s

I don’t have too many qualms with this book, or with his argument. I don’t know enough about DSS writings to make an educated argument against Preston’s reading of the texts. On another note, there is one point in his discussion of Galatians where Preston says that “the exile-restoration framework to my mind over reads Paul’s argument” (84). As someone who has found this framework very helpful in interpreting the NT I would have like to have known why he think this….

Conclusion

Preston’s book is significantly cheaper than PFG. It is also significantly shorter than PFG. If you are going to actually read a book on Paul this year (I highly doubt you are going to finish PFG) I recommend that you buy Paul & Judaism Revisited. It’s a great book for anybody who is a fan of NT use of the OT, it is a perfect example of how important understanding the OT is for understanding Paul.  Its also a fairly original approach to Paul which brings a new perspective to Paul and the new perspective (new perspective inception!)….

p.s. If Preston keeps pumping out these books I am going to run out of money….

Why Did God Rescue Humanity?

Why does God save us through Jesus Christ? My theological hero, Jonathan Edwards, has argued that God saves for the sake of his own glory, which is simultaneously what is best for us. John Piper has famously adopted this same line of thought. Yet the idea that God saves us, through Jesus Christ, for the sake of his own glory is not a modern notion, nor is it simply a “reformed” notion; we find traces of this even in the writings of Athanasius:

Truly this great work (salvation and incarnation) supremely befitted the goodness of God. For if a king constructed a house for a city, and it is attacked by bandits because of carelessness of its inhabitants, he in no way abandons it, but avenges and saves it as his own work, having regard not for the carelessness of the inhabitants but for his own honor. All the more, so God Word of the all-good Father did not neglect the race of human beings, created by himself, which was going to corruption, but he blotted out the death which had occurred through the offering of his own body, and correcting their carelessness by his own teaching, restoring every aspect of human beings by his own power.

According to Athanasius God won’t abandon his creation into the hands of death and destruction, and he will certainly not abandon the pinnacle of creation: human beings, to that same fate. To do otherwise would be a blemish upon God’s holiness and honor.

God saves us for the sake of his own honor!

Thanks be to God!

Why Did the Son Become Incarnate?

Why did the Son become incarnate? That is a good question. Several people on the A-Team (Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas and Anselm) have all taken a shot at answering this question. Usually the answer gets tied in to the doctrine of atonement. Here is what Athanasius has to say about that question:

For speaking of the manifestation of the Savior to us it is necessary also to speak of the origin of human beings, in order that you might know that our own cause was the occasion of his descent and that our own transgression evoked the Word’s love for human beings, so that the Lord both came to us and appeared among human beings. For we were the purpose of his embodiment, and for our salvation he so loved human beings as to come and appear in a human body. Thus, then, God created the human being and willed that he should abide in incorruptibility; but when humans despised and overturned the comprehension of God, devising and contriving evil for themselves, as we said in the first work (Against the Gentiles), then they received the previously threatened condemnation of death, and thereafter no longer remained as they had been created, but were corrupted as they had contrived; and, seizing them, death reigned. (De Incarnationae S.4)

So why did the Son become incarnate? Quite simply, the Son became incarnate to save us from the death we had brought upon ourselves.

Thanks be to God!

Responsibility and Atonement (Pt. 1)

It’s Easter Weekend! Its the time of year we Christians celebrate Christ’s atoning work for us on the cross and his ressurection, which we participate in through baptism into Christ. In light of the fact that it is easter weekend I will be blogging on Richard Swinburne’s Responsibility and Atonement this easter weekend. I hope to show that Swinburne’s atonement is full of shortcomings. Today, on Good Friday we start of by looking at his atonement theory.

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Swinburne’s book Responsibility and Atonement is an attempt to articulate a moral philosophy which can be accepted by Christians and non-Christians alike and then articulate the theological consequences of this system. The first seven chapters are done without any reference to theology, and mainly focus on the notion of responsibility. In these chapters he covers concepts like moral goodness, free will, merit, rewards, and punishment. The second part of the book is devoted to the theological consequences of this moral system. Here he covers concepts like morality under God, sin, redemption, heaven, and hell. Although all of these chapters are relevant to Swinburne’s doctrine of atonement the heart of Swinburne’s doctrine is found in chapters five and ten, “Guilty, Atonement, and Forgiveness” and “Redemption” respectively. In this blog series I will articulate Swinburne’s doctrine of atonement, then I will present three shortcomings of his atonement theory.

Since Swinburne’s theology is based off his moral philosophy it will be helpful to begin by examining his understanding of atonement between humans before we examine his theological position. In chapter five Swinburne offers four components for making atonement: repentance, apology, reparation, penance. He begins by saying that guilt is analogous to debt and that it an be removed “either by the action of the wrongdoer (in some way) paying it off; or by the action f the victim (in some way) taking compensation.”[1] However, to make perfect removal of guilt, the wrongdoer must make atonement and the victim must forgive the wrongdoer. Atonement is made when the wrongdoer performs these four components. First, the victim must repent.  He or she must acknowledge his own her wrongdoing and acknowledge the fact that his or her actions were wrong, he or she must also must resolve to amend the wrong. When the wrongdoer does this privately, the wrongdoer makes repentance. When the wrongdoer does it publicly the wrongdoer makes an apology. Both private repentance and public apology are involved in the act of making atonement. Atonement also involves reparation. Reparation involves achieving the restoration of the status quo (there are certain cases when it is impossible to restore the status quo but an attempt must be made.) Reparation will cost the wrongdoer something, and only the person wronged can decide of the reparation is adequate. One can think of reparation as compensation to the person wronged. Finally penance is involved. Penance is a token of sorrow  in which the wrongdoer does something which costs him something. By making penance the wrongdoer makes his apology “serious.” Penance goes above and beyond what is involved in making reparation. These four things, apology, repentance, reparation, penance constitute the work of atonement. However guilt is only removed when the work of atonement is made and the victim forgives the wrongdoer. Swinburne makes it clear that he believes that mere forgiveness cannot remove guilt, atonement and forgiveness must go together for guilt to be removed.

In the next blog post I will articulate another important aspect of his atonement theory…

 

Responsibility and Atonement


[1] Swinburne 81