Back to Scotland

August 15th, 2013

It has been a long time since I have posted! In May I was at the International meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature at St. Andrews University in Scotland to be on a the panel with Markus Bockmuehl and Martin de Boer responding to Tom Wright’s soon-to-be-released magnum opus, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I intend to post parts of that review here. However, at the moment I am completing a paper for yet another conference at St. Andrews, the British New Testament Society’s annual conference. It will take place August 29-31. The title of the paper is “The Lord of Peace: Christ our Peace in Pauline Theology.” The paper will be part of the Paul Seminar, which is on Pauline Christology this year, with additional papers by N. T. Wright, John Barclay, and Peter Oakes–followed by a panel conversation. So it should be fun. I will also post some excerpts from that paper here. This paper grows out of my recent research on peace in Paul for a new book, scheduled to be published by Eerdmans next year: Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission. Here is the abstract of the paper:

Despite ongoing contemporary efforts by such NT scholars as Willard Swartley in the U.S., Pieter de Villiers in South Africa, and William Campbell in the U.K., the claim that peace is central to Pauline theology (including Christology) and ethics has not been universally acknowledged, as evidenced in even some of the most recent and most comprehensive treatments of Paul. This paper will review a portion of the evidence in Paul for Jesus as both (1) the crucified and resurrected Messiah who inaugurated God’s promised eschatological peace and (2) the present Lord who continues to form each ekkl?sia into a peaceful, peacemaking community. In each role, Jesus is both the source and the shape of God’s shalom. While this evidence demonstrates the centrality of peace and peacemaking to Pauline Christology, it also shows that Paul does not think of Christ as peacemaker in isolation, but only in conjunction with God the Father and the Spirit, on the one hand, and in union with the ekkl?sia, on the other.

Ecclesia and Ethics Conference–May 18 and 25

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 ecclesiaethics.com. You can also see online interviews with some of the speakers, including yours truly and Tom Wright.

Colossians by Nijay Gupta is in Print

April 21st, 2013

The excellent new commentary on Colossians by my good friend Nijay Gupta is now in print. A sample may be found here, and the book may be ordered here. As I said some time ago about the book:

From this perceptive commentary’s very first sentence, Nijay Gupta—a significant newer voice in Pauline studies—takes us into the heart of Colossians as few recent interpreters have done. Readers will be inspired by his passion, enlightened by his balanced scholarship, and enriched by his profound theological engagement with the text. This well-written and truly enjoyable volume is a superb addition to an excellent, user-friendly series. It will stimulate students, pastors, theologians, and scholars for many years to come.

Two Poems for Easter 2013

March 30th, 2013

Death Be Not Proud

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not soe,
For, those, whom thou think’st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill mee.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

John Donne (1572-1631)
Donne died on March 31, 1631


Seven Stanzas at Easter
Make no mistake: if he rose at all
It was as His body;
If the cell’s dissolution did not reverse, the molecule reknit,
The amino acids rekindle,
The Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
Each soft spring recurrent;
It was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the
Eleven apostles;
It was as His flesh; ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes
The same valved heart
That-pierced-died, withered, paused, and then regathered
Out of enduring Might
New strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,
Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded
Credulity of earlier ages:
Let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
Not a stone in a story,
But the vast rock of materiality that in the slow grinding of
Time will eclipse for each of us
The wide light of day.

And if we have an angel at the tomb,
Make it a real angel,
Weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair, opaque in
The dawn light, robed in real linen
Spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
For our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
Lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are embarrassed
By the miracle,
And crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike (1932-2009)

Good Friday Reflections 2013

March 29th, 2013

Following is my annual set of brief statements about Good Friday, with some additions for this year:

What makes Good Friday “good”? Or, what is the meaning of Good Friday?

The first thing to say is that it is good only in light of Easter. Given the reality of Easter, it is good because it reveals the depth of God’s love and communicates that love to us in order to liberate us from Sin and Death and to give us life in abundance and life eternal.

Volumes have been written on this, including some by yours truly. Here are just a few reflections summarizing some of what I have written elsewhere at greater length:

1. The main purpose of Jesus’ death was to create the people of the new covenant, who would be empowered by the Spirit of God to resemble Jesus himself: faithful to God and loving toward their neighbors and enemies.

2. The cross is not only the source but also the shape of our salvation. This is the essential meaning of “cruciformity”–daily likeness to the self-giving, life-giving divine love manifested on the cross.

3. The cross reveals the love, power, wisdom, and justice of God, and it does so, paradoxically but powerfully, in weakness.

4. The cross is not only the signature of the Risen One (so Kaesemann), but also of the Holy One of Israel; that is, the cross is not only a christophany but ultimately a theophany–the ultimate divine self-revelation.

5. Thus cruciformity is ultimately theoformity; Christlikeness is Godlikeness; through participation in the cross of Christ, we are transformed most fully into the image of God. This is sometimes called theosis or deification.

6. The fact that Jesus died as the Jewish Messiah on a Roman cross means that his death contains within it a political theology and spirituality.

7. When the cross is used for anything that contradicts its character as divine love, power, wisdom, and justice displayed in weakness, it is being used blasphemously.

Finally: When I survey the wondrous cross, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.

Ecclesia and Ethics Conference Update

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.

N.T. Wright’s “Big Book” on Paul

March 12th, 2013

As many people know, the long-awaited “big book” is about finished. I have had the privilege of reading much of it over the last 10 months. It is well worth the wait is all I will say at the moment. And that it will be out this year. In fact, I will be on a review panel of it at the International SBL meeting in July–at St. Andrews, of course.

The principal volume will be the fourth part of “Christian Origins and the Question of God.” It is now so long that it will be published in two physical books with continuous pagination and one index (at the end of vol. 2). The title? Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

Related titles that will appear with it:

1. Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul 1978-2012: essays in journals, books of collected essays, etc. (not officially part of COQG)

2. Paul and His Recent Interpreters: the shortest of the three volumes and originally conceived of as a chapter in the big book.

Stay tuned for further details. In the meantime, here’s the Logos ad for the electronic version.

Nijay Gupta: Double Congratulations

March 12th, 2013

Congrats times two to my good friend Nijay Gupta. He has accepted a tenure-track offer to teach at Northeastern Seminary in Rochester, New York, and he has completed the manuscript of his commentary on Colossians, which will be out quite soon from Smith & Helwys. Way to go, Nijay!

Here is my blurb for the commentary:

From this perceptive commentary’s very first sentence, Nijay Gupta—a significant newer voice in Pauline studies—takes us into the heart of Colossians as few recent interpreters have done. Readers will be inspired by his passion, enlightened by his balanced scholarship, and enriched by his profound theological engagement with the text. This well-written and truly enjoyable volume is a superb addition to an excellent, user-friendly series. It will stimulate students, pastors, theologians, and scholars for many years to come.

Moon Rising

February 7th, 2013

This amazing video of the moon rising over New Zealand (sent via FB by friends at St Johns College, Nottingham, England) reminds me of Psalm 8–who are we that God is mindful of us?? (I wish I could get my WordPress to allow me to post the photo.)

International Ecclesia (Church) and Ethics Conference/Webinar

January 21st, 2013

Announcing an international Ecclesia (Church) and Ethics Conference/Webinar with NT Wright, Stanley Hauerwas, Shane Claiborne, yours truly, and others: May 18 and 25. Get more info now!

This unique conference costs only $10 in the form of a donation to a charity!

General  Information

Ecclesia and Ethics: An Eco-friendly and Economically-feasible Online Biblical Studies and Theology Conference is an academic and ecclesial conference taking place on Saturday May 18th and Saturday May 25th 2013 in real-time via the high-tech Webinar site http://www.gotomeeting.com. No software will need to be purchased by presenters or attendees, and Webinar access is provided entirely for free due to a generous Capod Innovation Grant through the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Participants and attendees will be able to sign on, present, and listen to or watch presentations from anywhere in the world with reliable internet and a computer. Registration for the conference consists of a $10/£7 (minimum) donation to one of our Recommended Charities. We invite participants to give according to their means above the $10/£7 to one or more of our charities if they feel led and are able.

Main papers will be presented by our Main Speakers: N.T. Wright, Michael Gorman, Dennis Hollinger, Shane Claiborne, Stanley Hauerwas, Brian Rosner, Mariam Kamell, and Nijay Gupta. Additionally, we will have five Multiple Paper sessions throughout the conference, via five Virtual Rooms which will feature papers from a total of 20-25 selected papers. Interested parties are invited to submit an abstract to ecclesiaethics@gmail.com for consideration from January 2013-March 2013.

All conference presenters (both Main Paper and Multiple Paper session presenters) will be allotted a 40 minute time slot with an additional 10 minutes designated for Q+A (50 minutes total). All presentations will be recorded as videos and available for viewing by registered conference attendees with a provided password through T&T Clark’s website. T&T Clark will also be publishing selected proceedings from the conference as a book.


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