Archive for the ‘Salvation’ Category

Revelation as the Key to a Missional Hermeneutic

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I ended my lectures on Revelation at Duke this past term, in both my own class on the book and in Susan Eastman’s NT Intro, where I was a guest lecturer, with the following paragraph:

Revelation concludes the canon; it completes God’s story. It is the last book of the Christian Bible. Perhaps it would not be too bold to suggest that if the church of Jesus Christ is to be faithful to its vocation in the 21st century, the book of Revelation—especially its vision of the slaughtered, victorious, and coming Lamb—needs to become more central to our worship, our spirituality, our practices. Perhaps, in a profound way, the last book of the Bible needs to become the church’s first book.

What would it mean if Revelation were taken as the first book of Christian mission, as the key to a missional hermeneutic? As a working proposal, I think this makes a lot of sense. After all, as I suggest above, the book of Revelation is the telos of the Christian Bible, and it contains the telos of the divine story. In that sense, it is analogous in a way to Christ himself, who is the telos of the Law, according to Paul (Rom 10:4). In both cases, we should take telos to mean “end” in the sense of both conclusion and, more importantly, goal.

If Revelation reveals the goal of the divine, biblical narrative and thus the goal of human existence (salvation), then what we see at the end of the end–that is, in Rev 21:1-22:5 (and related texts)–gives us both a picture of the telos and the contours of Christian mission: bearing witness in the present to the future, the telos.

Revelation 7, one of my favorite NT texts, briefly depicts the

“great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ”

This perpetual multicultural liturgy embodies the universal salvation brought in Christ: the reconciliation (one loud voice) of the peoples of the earth to one another and to their creator and redeemer.

In Rev 21:1-22:5 we find additional images of this salvation: the presence of God the absence of suffering and evil; the lush urban garden with beautiful walls and streets, and trees that have perpetual fruit and leaves for the healing of the nations.

What does it mean to bear witness, in advance, now, to this telos, this salvation? That is, it seems to me, the first, burning missional question that we must face. The answer will by necessity be both “vertical” and “horizontal.” That is, it will involve human-to-God and human-to-human relationships. And it will, I suggest, mean witnessing to the physicality and the beauty of the new creation, which has already begun (2 Cor 5).

Douglas Campbell on Justification

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Duke professor Douglas Campbell’s much-anticipated new book on Paul’s soteriology, and justification in particular, will soon be out. The title is The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul. This HUGE volume (almost 1400 pages!) will be a controversial book, to put it mildly. In substance, Campbell’s overall reading of Paul is very similar to mine, especially as articulated in Inhabiting the Cruciform God, though we do not agree on some major issues and arrive at our conclusions differently and separately.

Here is my blurb for his new book:

Douglas Campbell’s continuation of the quest for Paul’s gospel is a bold exercise in deconstruction and reconstruction. One may disagree with parts of his analysis, or take a somewhat different route to the same destination, but there is no doubt in my mind about his overall thesis: for Paul, justification is liberative, participatory, transformative, Trinitarian, and communal. This is a truly theological and ecumenical work with which all serious students of Paul must now come to terms.

The price is phenomenally low ($60) for the length, and Amazon’s discount is currently 37%.

Campbell uses the word “theosis” at least twice in this book. He also has an argument for nonviolence grounded in Paul. Both of these are of course near and dear to my heart.

Returning to a missional hermeneutic next week.

Some Fundamental Features of Salvation in the NT (1)

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Advent is the season of preparation for our salvation. With that in mind, I begin today a short series on salvation in the New Testament. The first two posts will be seven theses that serve as prolegomena to a series of  propositions on the actual substance of  salvation in the New Testament. These theses will be more full developed in my forthcoming article on salvation in volume 5 of the New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible.

   1. Salvation in the NT is thoroughly Christocentric. The NT knows of salvation only in and through Jesus Christ. The Johannine statement  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) is not an exceptional and narrow perspective within the NT. Rather, it encapsulates the entire NT’s view of salvation.
   2. Because NT salvation is Christocentric, it is constituted by the narrative of Christ from incarnation and ministry to death and resurrection to parousia. Each part of this narrative has a function in salvation, and different NT texts focus on different parts of the story. But the NT’s most distinctive internal dynamic of salvation is that of death and resurrection, both Christ’s and ours.
   3. At the same time, salvation in the NT is thoroughly theocentric. For the NT writers it is the God of Israel, the one true God, who saves in and through Jesus Christ.
   4. NT soteriology is therefore biblical, meaning that the NT writers see salvation in Jesus Christ as a continuation of God’s activity in and for Israel as recounted in the Scriptures as a whole and especially as promised in the prophets. Throughout the NT, salvation is depicted both explicitly and implicitly as new creation, new humanity, new exodus, new covenant, and the like. This newness suggests both continuity and discontinuity with God’s past dealings with Israel.
   5. NT soteriology is, therefore, a narrative soteriology. Not only is it constituted by the story of Christ, but the story of Christ is part of a larger narrative from creation to Israel to Christ to church to new creation.

(Theses six and seven will follow.)