Byron Borger of Hearts and Minds Bookstore in Dallastown, Pennsylvania (the best bookstore anywhere) has written a very insightful, if overly praise-full, summary of my work, highlighting most of my published books. I learned something about myself, and others might too!
1. A modest claim: Whatever we think about the rightness or wrongness of war in general, or of specific wars, and whatever we think about the valor of dying in war, let us not make war holy. War is hell; it is full of sin. People (even war heroes) do horrible things in war and have horrible things done to them. People who have died in war, whether combatants or civilians, whether enemies or friends, should not have had to die. They had a future. They had dreams. They may have been at war against their own better judgment. They had spouses and children and parents who wanted to keep loving them and whom the dead would have wanted to keep loving.
2. A modest suggestion: In my book Reading Revelation Responsibly, I suggest that the church in the U.S. has two liturgical seasons, (1) the Holy Season, from Advent to Easter or Pentecost, and (2) the Civil Season, the time of civil religion, which runs from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving. This is not a good situation. Since this coming Sunday is both Memorial Day in the U.S. and Pentecost in the church around the world, what a church in the U.S. chooses to do and emphasize this Sunday (and between now and Thanksgiving) says a lot about that church. What are its priorities? Is it seeking to be a Spirit-filled church, a Pentecost church, a part of the global church with people from every tribe and ethnicity and nation? Or an American church?—which is actually an oxymoron.
3. A modest proposal: Since U.S. churches seem inevitably to want to remember those who died for a noble cause, can we—especially we Protestants—not pay a little more attention to those who have died for the most noble cause of all, the gospel? Why are we so ignorant of the great Christian saints, the martyrs, who have died down through the ages and are still dying today in various parts of the world? Are “we” (here I mean most Protestants and many post-Protestants) afraid of being too “Catholic”? Perhaps we should rather be afraid of being too “American” and not catholic enough. If American Christians can take American memorializing so seriously, can we not take Christian memorializing even more seriously? Can we not start naming and learning about the church’s martyrs on a regular basis?
Whatever we do or remember this weekend, let us recall that All Saints Day is less than six months away. And in the meantime, there are plenty of days and plenty of saints associated with those days for us to do a lot of remembering.
Eerdmans has posted an interview with me about my new book, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission.
For all who may be interested, you may now order my newest book, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission, from Eerdmans (the publisher), Amazon, or your good theological bookstore, such as Hearts and Minds Books in Dallastown, PA.
The “thesis” of the book is pretty straightforward:
The central claim, found in the title — Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission — is that already in the first Christian century the apostle Paul wanted the communities he addressed not merely to believe the gospel but to become the gospel and thereby to advance the gospel.
I will let Chris Tilling of St. Mellitus College and author of Paul’s Divine Christology say something about the book:
Combining exegesis of Paul’s letters with hermeneutics and missiology, Gorman throws new light on old debates such as those involving the language of God’s righteousness and various participatory themes. . . . Gorman writes in ways that resonate with the missional concerns of the gospel itself.
When asked who should read this book, I have responded “Everyone!” Everyone!
First of all pastors, seminary students, and lay leaders in the churches. This is challenging but readable material. I want to spark conversations in the church. Secondly, biblical scholars, missiologists, theologians, and others who teach in and influence the various fields of study that come together in this book.
OK–we are definitely on. Be careful on side streets and any places that have not completely melted. Pls arrive by 4 or after 4:30 and don’t park in front of the house or adjacent if possible.
The latest so-called scholarship arguing against the existence of Jesus has appeared from a University of Sydney graduate student and part-time lecturer. It started on the University web site and was picked up by the Washington Post, at least it’s online edition. (I’ve not yet seen it in the print version.)
I sent a letter to the editor despite the fact that the Post does not print letters responding to online articles. So here is the text of my letter:
Ralph Lataster’s “Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up” (Dec. 20) is so full of factual error and sloppy argumentation that it is not worthy of publication by a scholar—or by a newspaper—no matter what one thinks about the issue.
First of all, Lataster misrepresents the debate. Discussions about the existence of Jesus are debates among historians, not disagreements among atheists. Furthermore, even if Christians believe in “the Christ of faith” (though this is a problematic term in many ways) and also affirm the existence of the historical Jesus, that does not disqualify academically trained Christians from rightfully participating in the debate about Jesus’ existence. Many historians who are Christians are able to believe, in part, because they are convinced that historical study supports the existence of Jesus.
Second, Lataster misrepresents the text of the New Testament. There are plenty of passages in the gospels that narrate a teaching, healing, law-abiding, and law-breaking first-century Jewish teacher that do not even begin to fit the description of a “fictional Christ of faith”—though there are certainly texts that do portray Jesus as more than such a teacher. Moreover, in considering Paul’s letters, Lataster ignores Paul’s allusions to Jesus’ teaching, as well as Paul’s reliance on oral tradition like that found in the gospels when he describes Jesus’ Last Supper. Furthermore, Lataster mischaracterizes Paul’s apocalyptic language as indicating belief in a “celestial” rather than a human” Jesus. He also conveniently fails to mention Paul’s statement that Jesus was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4).
Third, Lataster misrepresents the nature of oral tradition and of the sources for our gospels, and either he is ignorant of current debate about each of these or else he fails to mention them. Yet he draws conclusions about the existence of Jesus based on such misrepresentation and ignorance (or suppression) of contemporary gospel scholarship.
The word “atrocious” that he applies to biblical scholarship does indeed characterize certain forms of published work. (Let the reader understand.) Another word comes to mind, too—“insulting”—both to people’s intelligence and, this week, to their spiritual and historical sensibilities.
Michael J. Gorman
Raymond Brown Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology
St. Mary’s Seminary & University
Advent text for the day:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the saving justice of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:16-21; NRSV altered).
Four reflections on this passage:
1. There is a unity of purpose from Christ’s incarnation to his ministry to his death and resurrection. These aspects of his work are inseparable from one another.
2. That purpose can be summarized in the words reconciliation, participation, and transformation. These aspects of salvation are inseparable from each other.
3. The reconciled are to be instruments of reconciliation, bringing people to peace with God and with one another. Salvation and mission are inseparable from each other.
4. Every Christian person, community, theology, and ethic needs to make reconciliation a central part of its identity.
The last point is the implicit claim of my latest book (The Death of the Messiah and the Birth of the New Covenant: A [Not So] New Model of the Atonement [Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2014]) and my forthcoming book (Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015]), each of which devotes two chapters to peace and peacemaking.
If anyone is interested, I have a free excerpt of my new book (Introduction and first chapter) to send out. (I would like to post it here but have failed in my attempts.) Send an email to mjg [at] michaeljgorman.net.
Over at Crux Sola, Nijay Gupta and Chris Skinner have kindly conducted and posted an interview with me about the new book. Part 1 is here.
Professors Ben Blackwell of Houston Baptist University, John Goodrich of Moody, and Jason Maston of Highland Theological College have organized a pre-SBL conference on Paul and Apocalyptic at which I will be presenting a paper. If you plan to be in San Diego for SBL, or even if you don’t, think about attending this (taken from Dunelm Road blog):
With all the debates over the last few years at SBL about the nature of Apocalyptic in Paul, we here at Dunelm (John, Jason and Ben) thought we would facilitate a Pauline cage match to let the different schools of thought engage one another directly. So, plan to come to SBL early to catch this Friday afternoon session. You won’t want to miss this line-up. The fruits of this discussion will come out afterwards in a volume with Fortress Press.
Paul and the Apocalyptic Imagination (S21-201)
12:30 PM to 5:30 PM
Room: 300 A (Level 3 (Aqua)) – Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Across various branches of biblical and theological study, there is a renewed interest in ‘apocalyptic’. This development is seen particularly in the study of Paul’s theology, where it is now widely agreed that Paul promotes an ‘apocalyptic theology’. However, there is little agreement on what this means. Scholars from different perspectives have, as a result, continued to talk past each other. This special session provides an opportunity for leading Pauline scholars from different perspectives to engage in discussion about the meaning of Paul as an apocalyptic thinker. Indeed, one of the strengths and aims of this event is that different and opposing views are set next to each other. The session will hopefully bring greater clarity to the ‘apocalyptic’ reading of Paul by providing much needed definition to central terms and interpretive approaches and by highlighting both their strengths and weaknesses.
Jason Maston, Highland Theological College, Welcome (5 min)
M. C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam – VU University Amsterdam
Apocalyptic as Eschatological Activity (25 min)
N.T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Apocalyptic as Heavenly Communication (25 min)
Loren Stuckenbruck, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
Apocalypticism in Second Temple Judaism (25 min)
Philip Ziegler, University of Aberdeen
Apocalypticism in Modern Theology (25 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Break (15 min)
Ben Blackwell, Houston Baptist University, Presiding
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University
The Apocalyptic New Covenant and the Shape of Life in the Spirit (25 min)
Edith Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Apocalypse as Theoria in Paul: A New Perspective on Apocalyptic as Mother of Theology (25 min)
Douglas Campbell, Duke University
Paul’s Apocalyptic Epistemology (25 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Baylor University
Romans 9–11: An Apocalyptic Reading (25 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham
Apocalyptic Investments: 1 Corinthians 7 and Pauline Ethics (25 min)
Discussion (20 min)