Archive for the ‘Theological interpretation’ Category

Romans 13 and Nonconformity: The Christian Community’s Obligation to Oppose Inhumane Laws and Practices

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

[This is the text of a Facebook post from June 14, 2018.]

Thanks to Attorney General Jeff Sessions (explicitly) and Sarah Sanders (implicitly), Romans 13 (actually, only 13:1-7—and this point is important; see below) is in the news. This part of Paul’s letter to Roman Christians is being cited as justification for calling those who take the Bible as a moral guide to support and follow all U.S. immigration laws, policies, and practices. This text is especially being cited in support of separating parents and children at the U.S. border.

It would take a lot of space to fully critique their argument. But here, in a nutshell (ten short points), is why what is happening at the border is not only instinctively morally repelling, but also a misreading of Romans 13:

1. Various aspects of the meaning of Romans 13:1-7 are debated, but its main original intent was to say to the Roman Christians, “Pay your taxes” (Romans 13:7). The text is not a call to blind obedience to all authorities and laws.

2. Whatever Romans 13:1-7 means, it can only mean what it means in light of its context. That is, it cannot be ripped from its context in the letter to the Romans. But this is what Sessions and Sanders have done.

3. Whatever Romans 13:1-7 means, it cannot be understood in a way that contradicts its context.

4. The immediate context of Romans 13:1-7 is the entirety of Romans 12 and 13. In Romans 12 and 13, Paul sets out basic guidelines for the Christian communities in Rome, and for us.

5. Those guidelines begin with a call for *nonconformity to this age,* a radical transformation of attitudes and practices that is appropriate to those who have benefited from God’s mercy in Christ. This spirit of nonconformity and transformation is the prerequisite for knowing and doing God’s will. And it is the fundamental framework for everything that follows. See Romans 12:1-2.

6. After a discussion of various gifts in the body of Christ, Paul calls on the Christian community to practice a radical, genuine form of love that corresponds to the love they have received from God in Christ. This includes hating what is evil and practicing the good; showing hospitality to strangers; loving enemies; weeping with those who weep; associating with the lowly; blessing persecutors; not repaying evil for evil; practicing peace toward all; not seeking vengeance for harm done; and overcoming evil with good. See Romans 12:9-21. The call to this lifestyle is what immediately precedes Romans 13:1-7.

7. Immediately after Romans 13:1-7 is “the rest of the story”: what Romans 13 says as a whole. Here we find another radical call to neighbor-love and a call to avoid the works of darkness by putting on Christ. See Romans 13:8-14.

8. This context for Romans 13:1-7 means that the Christian community must not follow any authority or law that calls them to violate these basic Christian principles. Rather than being a blanket call to obedience, Romans 13:1-7—when read in context—actually supports Christian opposition to many laws and practices.

9. Sessions and Sanders have missed the point of “Romans 13.” If the practices and laws they are defending manifest the opposite of the basic Christian ethic described in Romans 12-13, it is the duty of Christians to oppose those inhumane practices and laws that they are justifying, in part, by their misuse of Scripture.

10. Christians must also be prepared to try to offer humane alternatives to the practices and laws they oppose.

“Reading John Missionally” Lectures Online

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

My Fuller Theological Seminary Payton Lectures on “Reading John Missionally” from April 6-7 are now available in audio format at the Fuller web site.

Participation in God’s Mission at Northeastern Seminary

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

I will be at Northeastern Seminary in Chili, NY (Rochester) for their theology conference on Participation in God’s Mission this Friday and Saturday. If you are in the area, come by for the Friday night free lecture. The Saturday event has a fee, but there is a keynote from me and then some 40 choices for academic papers.

Friday evening’s 7:30 lecture is entitled “Paul, the Mission of God, and the Contemporary Church.”

SBL Suggestions for Atlanta 2015

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Following are the 2015 sessions of the SBL and AAR groups of which I am in one way or another a part, either on the steering committee, as a participant this year, or as the father of a participant (Mark is delivering a paper). If you go to everything listed here, you will have very little free time–and you will have to bilocate! (Of course I am not listing all the great SBL sessions!) My own direct involvement is chairing a session on C.S. Lewis and the Bible and responding to a panel review of my book Becoming the Gospel.


S21-148 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Saturday 11/21/2015

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom B (Level 2) – Hilton

Theme: Theological Interpretation of Daniel in the MT and LXX
All papers will be read in their entirety.


Thomas Holsinger-Friesen, Spring Arbor University, Presiding (5 min)
Richard S. Briggs, University of Durham
The Eclipse of Daniel’s Narrative: The Limits of Historical Knowledge in the Theological Reading of Daniel (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Tim Meadowcroft, Laidlaw College
“One Like a Son of Man” in the Court of the Foreign King (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Break (5 min)
Bogdan G. Bucur, Duquesne University
Christological and Trinitarian Exegesis of Daniel 7 in Early Christianity (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Jennie Grillo, Duke University
Reading Resurrection in the Additions to Daniel (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Discussion (20 min)


P21-123 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Saturday 11/21/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Courtland (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Biblical Formation of the Congregation for Missional Witness
This session of the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics includes papers on the theology and practice of biblical formation in the faith community: that is, the role of the Bible and its interpretation in the process of forming “Scripture-shaped communities” (Richard Hays) for mission in the world, in concrete contexts.


James C. Miller, Asbury Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Mark Glanville, Trinity College – Bristol
Radical Gratitude and the Mission of God: Nourishing Celebration and Inclusivism in Local Congregations in light of the Festival Calendar (Deut 16:1-17) (25 min)
Boaz Johnson, North Park University
Missional Theology and Congregation Formation in the Torah (25 min)
Michael Barram, Saint Mary’s College of California
To Serve God and Not Mammon: Reading Matthew 6 as Missionally Located Formation for Economic Discipleship (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Mark Labberton, Fuller Theological Seminary, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (40 min)


S21-249 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Saturday 11/21/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Trinity in/and the Bible
All papers will be read in their entirety.


Brent Laytham, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
Murray Rae, University of Otago
Biblical Foundations of a Trinitarian Hermeneutic (20 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Mark S. Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Wish Fulfillment or Real Presence? The Old Testament’s Trinity (20 min)
Andrea D. Saner, Eastern Mennonite University
Trinitarian Judgments in/and the Book of Exodus (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Matthew Bates, Quincy University
Christology of Divine Identity? Septuagintal Dialogues in the New Testament as Trinitarian Critique (20 min)
Wesley Hill, Trinity School for Ministry
Paul and the Narratable Divine Identity (20 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)



S22-147/A22-121 Theological Interpretation of Scripture
Sunday 11/22/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: A704 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Bonhoeffer as Theological Interpreter
This session is co-sponsored with the Bonhoeffer: Theology and Social Analysis Group (AAR). Papers will be read in their entirety. This session investigates aspects of Bonhoeffer as a theological interpreter of Christian scripture. Papers explore Bonhoeffer’s own exegetical practice and its application in particular cases, examine the role of exegesis in the construction of Bonhoeffer’s own distinctive theological positions, and consider Bonhoeffer’s understanding of scripture and its consequences for contemporary debates about theological exegesis.


Myk Habets, Carey Baptist College, Presiding (5 min)
R. Walter Moberly, University of Durham
Bonhoeffer’s “Creation and Fall” Revisited (25 min)
Tyler Atkinson, Bethany College (KS)
Bonhoeffer, Qoheleth, and the “Natural Joy of Bodily Life” (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Break (5 min)
Chris Dodson, University of Aberdeen
“The Person Who Receives Blessing . . . Must Also Suffer Much”: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wilhelm Herrmann, and a Hermeneutic of Suffering (25 min)
Derek W. Taylor, Duke University
Nonreligious and yet Theological: Bonhoeffer’s Interpretation in a World Come of Age (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Discussion (20 min)


S22-211 Christian Theology and the Bible
Sunday 11/22/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: International 5 (International Level) – Marriott

Theme: Special Session on C.S. Lewis and the Bible
This session concentrates upon the relationship between biblical scholarship and the figure of C. S. Lewis. Lewis himself was a specialist in medieval and Renaissance English literature, yet he was well known even before his death (on the same day as John F. Kennedy) as an apologist for Christianity, an author of semi-popular theological studies, and a writer of fiction informed by the Bible. His work on the Bible and academic biblical scholarship appears mainly in essays and letters, in passing throughout his fiction and monographs, and in biblical imagery and allusions in various works. Of particular interest is his use of polyvalence and narrative to explore debated or complex questions, his reactionary dismissal of quests for the historical Jesus and much of the historical-critical method, and his integration of biblical themes with symbols and concepts from various diverse contexts. Lewis is a writer whose continuing impact upon various readerships is undeniable, though he is less celebrated among biblical scholars and theologians than among those outside these guilds. Investigation into how he both confirms and challenges the assumptions of standard biblical scholarship provides a helpful bridge between biblical scholars and the broader constituency that continues to appreciate his work.


Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding
Leslie Baynes, Missouri State University
Lewis vs. Bultmann: Myth as Fact or Fiction? (30 min)
Patrick Gray, Rhodes College
C.S. Lewis and the Historical Jesus in the Screwtape Letters (30 min)
Myk Habets, Carey Baptist College
Mere Christianity for Mere Gods: C.S. Lewis and Theosis (30 min)
Edith M. Humphrey, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
Checking the Demon and Saying What’s to Be Said (30 min)
Kevin Vanhoozer, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (15 min)


S22-235 Pauline Soteriology
Sunday 11/22/2015
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: A602 (Atrium Level) – Marriott

Theme: Paul, Poverty, and the Powers


Richard Hays, Duke University, Presiding
Bruce W. Longenecker, Baylor University
Malignant Forces, Perpetual Poverty, and the Body of Christ: Theologizing toward an Eschatological Reality (30 min)
Robert Moses, High Point University
Paul, Poverty, and the Powers: The Body of Christ as Response (30 min)
Break (10 min)
A. Grieb, Virginia Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)
Luke Bretherton, Duke University, Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (50 min)


P22-318 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Sunday 11/22/2015
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review Panel Discussion of Michael J. Gorman’s book, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015)
As a leading voice among Pauline scholars, Michael J. Gorman has written a number of significant books and articles on Paul’s theology in recent years, including Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Theology of the Cross (2001) and Inhabiting the Cruciform God (2009). His most recent contribution, Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission (Eerdmans, 2015), extends and develops some of the themes highlighted initially in earlier works, and places particular emphasis on mission as an interpretive rubric for the Pauline epistles—an outgrowth, in part, of his work with the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics. In the introduction to Becoming the Gospel, Gorman calls his “affiliation with the Forum” “one of the most important professional developments for me in recent years,” noting that “learning to read Paul missionally—not merely as the quintessential ‘missionary’ but as a formator of missional communities—has been an exhilarating experience” (p. 10). Specifically, Gorman argues that “theosis—Spirit-enabled transformative participation in the life and character of God revealed in the crucified and resurrected Messiah Jesus—is the starting point of mission and is, in fact, its proper theological framework” (p. 4). Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating panel discussion—including responses by a fellow Pauline scholar, a congregational pastor, a missiologist, and a theologian—followed by an open-ended conversation about the missiological dimensions of Paul’s theology as illuminated in Gorman’s work.


Sylvia Keesmaat, Trinity College, University of Toronto, Presiding (5 min)
Michael J. Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
J. Ross Wagner, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Eunice McGarrahan, First Presbyterian Church, Colorado Springs, Panelist (15 min)
Break (5 min)
George Hunsberger, Western Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
John Franke, Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven, Panelist (15 min)
Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Panelist (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)


A22-329 Wesleyan Studies Group

Theme: Wesleyan Culture and the Public Square since the Mid-Twentieth Century

Edgardo Colon-Emeric, Duke University, Presiding

Sunday 11/22/2015 – 5:00 PM-6:30 PM

Hilton-Grand Salon E (Level 2)

This session will focus on late twentieth and early twenty-first century leaders whose lives in the public square have been explicitly influenced by Wesleyan perspectives. Papers will draw direct connections between the person’s work in the public square and the influence of Methodism.


Dion Forster, Stellenbosch University

Nelson Mandela and the Methodist Church of South Africa: An African Christian Humanist Approach to Social Holiness

Mark Gorman, Centre United Methodist Church, Forest Hill, MD

The “Iconic” Methodist: George W. Bush and the State of Contemporary United Methodism

Natalya Cherry, Southern Methodist University

Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., Called by King “The Greatest Teacher of Nonviolence in America”


Rebekah Miles, Southern Methodist University



S23-133 Pauline Soteriology
Monday, 11/23/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Marquis A-B (Marquis Level) – Marriott

Theme: Review of John Barclay, Paul and the Gift (Eerdmans 2015)


Alexandra Brown, Washington and Lee University, Presiding
Joel Marcus, Duke University, Panelist (20 min)
Margaret Mitchell, University of Chicago, Panelist (20 min)
Miroslav Volf, Yale University, Panelist (20 min)
Break (10 min)
John Barclay, University of Durham, Respondent (40 min)
Discussion (40 min)


P23-118 GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics
Monday, 11/23/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: University (Atlanta Conference Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Biblical Formation of the Congregation for Missional Witness
This session of the GOCN Forum on Missional Hermeneutics includes papers on the theology and practice of biblical formation in the faith community: that is, the role of the Bible and its interpretation in the process of forming “Scripture-shaped communities” (Richard Hays) for mission in the world, in concrete contexts.


Darrell Guder, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding (5 min)
Laura R. Levens, Baptist Seminary of Kentucky
Many Voices, Many Contexts, One Faith: Engaging the Breadth of Scripture to Form Discerning, Missional Congregations (25 min)
Luke Ben Tallon, LeTourneau University and Aaron Kuecker, LeTourneau University
A Liturgy of Ascent and a Life of Ascent: Conforming Congregations to Christian Scripture (25 min)
Derek W. Taylor, Duke University
Forming Faithful Readers: Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Missional Hermeneutic (25 min)
Break (5 min)
Benjamin T. Conner, Western Theological Seminary, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (40 min)


S23-314 Christian Theology and the Bible
Monday 11/23/2015
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Hanover E (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: Spiritual Interpretation of Scripture
This panel will consider the relationship between spirituality and the Bible. Each panelist will respond briefly to the question, “What are the hallmarks of the spiritual interpretation of Scripture?” There will be time for discussion among the panelists as well as substantial time for Q&A and discussion between the panelists and those attending the session.


Pieter De Villiers, University of the Free State, Presiding (15 min)
Gordon McConville, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Bo Karen Lee, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min)
Andrew Lincoln, University of Gloucestershire, Panelist (15 min)
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Panelist (15 min)
Discussion (75 min)



S24-112 Christian Theology and the Bible
Tuesday 11/24/2015
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Hanover F (Exhibit Level) – Hyatt

Theme: The Anagogical Interpretation of Scripture
This session will focus on the anagogical interpretation of Scripture; it is the fourth and final session in our series exploring the traditional four senses of Scripture (literal, allegorical, tropological, anagogical). In brief, anagogical sense of Scripture is the exegesis of Scripture in relation to eschatological hope and the life to come. Each of the invited panelists will respond to the following questions: respond to the following questions: “What is the role of the anagogical sense of Scripture in the figure or area that you study? And, why is the anagogical sense a significant and important way to read Scripture?”

Arthur M. Sutherland, Loyola University Maryland, Presiding
Hans Boersma, Regent College
Purity, Perfection, and Beatific Vision: The Upward Journey to Christ in Gregory of Nyssa (30 min)
Kevin L. Hughes, Villanova University
Ecclesia contemplativa: On the Relationship between the Mystical and Eschatological in St. Bonaventure’s Anagogia (30 min)
Eboni Marshall Turman, Duke University
Black. Life. Matter. Toward A Black Feminist/Womanist Eschatology (30 min)
Francesca Murphy, University of Notre Dame
The Bible and the Analogical Imagination (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Ecclesia and Ethics Conference–May 18 and 25

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

If you are interested in the life of the church, the moral life, and theological scholarship in service of both, consider participating in the international online Webinar Ecclesia and Ethics, May 18 and 25. Go to You can also see online interviews with some of the speakers, including yours truly and Tom Wright.

Ecclesia and Ethics Conference Update

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

It’s just under two months until the international biblical studies and theology conference on the church and ethics. There are great video interviews with some of the main speakers at the ecclesiaethics web site, with videos or other interview formats with Tom Wright, Shane Claiborne, and others, including one with yours truly.

Inaugural Lecture PLUS a Seminar on Paul Nov. 8-9

Saturday, October 27th, 2012

Nov. 8: Raymond E. Brown Inaugural Lecture and

Nov. 9: A Morning with the Apostle Paul (and Friends)

If you are anywhere near Baltimore, you are cordially invited!!

On Thursday, November 8 I will deliver my inaugural lecture as the first holder of the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary & University. The topic will be “The Death of the Messiah: Theology, Spirituality, Politics.” A book sale and signing will precede the lecture at 7 p.m., and a period of dialogue will follow. This event, which is also this year’s Dunning Lecture, is free and open to the public.
Click for lecture information.

On the morning after the lecture, the conversation will continue as other biblical scholars and theologians (Richard Hays, Kathy Grieb, Fr. Tom Stegman, and Brent Laytham) will join me for “A Morning with the Apostle Paul (and Friends),” a discussion of some of the themes from my work on Paul and their significance both for understanding Paul and for the life and mission of the church today. Advance registration for this seminar is required, and space is limited.
Click for seminar details and registration form.

A New Essay in a New Book on Revelation

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

In September 2010 I was part of an international symposium on the book of Revelation held at Duke University. The papers from that very stimulating event are about to be published (July 15) in a volume from Baylor University Press entitled Revelation and the Politics of Apocalyptic Interpretation, edited by Richard B. Hays and Stefan Alkier.

The table of contents follows:

1 What Has the Spirit Been Saying? Theological and Hermeneutical Reflections on the Reception/Impact History of the Book of Revelation (me)

2 Models for Intertextual Interpretation of Revelation (Steve Moyise)

3 The Reception of Daniel 7 in the Revelation of John (Thomas Hieke)

4 Faithful Witness, Alpha and Omega: The Identity of Jesus in the Apocalypse of John (Richard Hays)

5 God, Israel, and Ecclesia in the Apocalypse (Joseph Mangina)

6 Revelation and Christian Hope: Political Implications of the Revelation to John (N. T. Wright)

7 Witness or Warrior? How the Book of Revelation Can Help Christians Live Their Political Lives (Stefan Alkier)

8 The Apocalypse in the Framework of the Canon (Tobias Nicklas)

9 Reading What Is Written in the Book of Life: Theological Interpretation of the Book of Revelation Today (Marianne Meye Thompson)

The book blurbs follow:

“For many Revelation has effectively been decanonized—mostly little read and even less understood. This fine collection ventures into intertextual, canonical, theological, and political readings of the book that advance theological reflection on the significance of Revelation for today.”

—Joel B. Green, Professor of New Testament Interpretation & Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary

“A splendid collection. This volume will help both the seasoned and the skittish interpret Revelation within its canonical context, and thereby move the academy and the church within hearing distance of apocalyptic texts in the gospels and epistles.”

—Eugene Boring, I. Wylie Briscoe Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University

If you are interested in Revelation, you will want to get this book, along (I would suggest) with Reading Revelation Responsibly (a bit lighter reading!).

Interpreting the Psalms at SBL

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

SBL members who are interested in theological interpretation of the psalms–the Theological Interpretation of Scripture seminar of SBL will have an open session on theological interpretation of the psalms at the November meeting in Chicago. It’s not too late to submit a proposal. Visit us at the SBL web site. (The deadline is March 1.) Questions? Email me!

Justification Lectures tomorrow and Saturday

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

I will be the G. Arthur Keough Lecturer in the Department of Religion at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, MD, on Friday and Saturday, March 18-19. The topic is “Reimagining Justification According to St. Paul”:

7 p.m. Friday: “The End of Justification as We Know It”
respondent: Fr. Frank Matera, Catholic University

10 a.m. Saturday: “Justification as Resurrection from the Dead”

3:30. p.m. Saturday: “Justification and Justice”
respondent: Dr. Stephen Fowl, Loyola University

If you are in or near D.C., come on out!