Rolfing Unshelved

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Preaching Christ in the Old Testament: A Look Forward to the Upcoming Table Talk with Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy

On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.

I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!

This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.

As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,

The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.

You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.

On the one hand, there are hermeneutical questions.

For example, many are concerned about preserving the original authorial intent of the text in its immediate literary and historical context. You may share my experience of sitting in classes with professors, typically Old Testament professors, who express such concerns. One question for preaching Christ from Old Testament texts then is, how do I connect the apparent authorial intent of this text to Christ (or, maybe better: preach Christ from this text) and still preserve faithfulness to its authorial intent, that is, without engaging in what might be called “Christo-eisegesis”?

Sometimes this particular question is posed in terms of an “either/or” issue. “Either you can preach the original intent or you can preach Christ. But, if you preach Christ, then you are necessarily not preaching the original meaning.” But are preaching Christ and preaching the authorial intent mutually exclusive or necessarily incompatible, or might that original meaning be organically related to Christ? Is not the latter the very claim of thoughtful advocacy of preaching Christ from the Old Testament, an advocacy based on a presupposition of the unity and Christocentric nature of scripture itself?

And with that latter point, what do we mean when we speak of ‘meaning’? Is it appropriate to make a distinction between two dimensions of meaning–original meaning and meaning unveiled through Christological connections?

These are some of the sorts of hermeneutical questions with which we need to wrestle if we are to think well about this matter.

But we can go on. It’s one thing to say we can preach Christ from the Old Testament, i.e., that it’s legitimate to do so and doing so does not necessarily violate scripture’s intention and meaning. But it’s another thing to actually do that sort of preaching.

The question at hand here may be, for example, “How does this text relate to Christ?” And this may be where Biblical theology enters the discussion as at least one possible avenue for answering that question. How does the Bible hold together? And where does this particular text fit into that larger redemptive-historical unity?

Second, I want to bring up the “why” question–why preach Christ from the Old Testament? What’s the point, the motivation, the driving assumption behind such preaching methodology? Is preaching Christ merely an alternative approach to preaching, one as equally as valid as others? Or do we have an obligation as Christian preachers to preach all of scripture in light of Christ?

One might argue that there is nothing wrong about preaching the Old Testament simply in terms of its original meaning, in terms of its immediate grammatical, historical, and literary context without consideration of its relationship to the broader Christian canon and Christ in particular. I mean, God purposed that original meaning. Thus, we may have a sense of wanting to guard ourselves from somehow implicating that this original meaning is deficient if preached solely on its own terms. But, at the same time, we may worry, “Can this sort of preaching be described as ‘Christian’?” In other words, what is distinctively Christian about it in such a case?

I’ve heard some claim that the Old Testament is inherently Christian. Thus, we don’t need to somehow Christianize it. The text does not need to be “baptized.” Preaching the original meaning is Christian preaching. To argue otherwise is to claim, by implication, that the text is deficient, somehow less than Christian.

But, to come at things from another angle, would this sort of preaching disclose the full significance of this text in light of the full witness of scripture and especially in terms of its relationship to Christ? Is that is what we mean by a distinctively Christian form of preaching, one the considers those broader theological connections?

How we answer these sorts of questions will likely effect the importance (or imperative) we place on preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

Along with these “why” questions are the often uninvestigated “what” questions. For example, when we say, “preaching Christ?” what do we mean by “Christ”? Is the goal to simply show the unity of scripture, i.e., how everything relates to Jesus? Or (and?) by “Christ” do we mean the Gospel, in which case “preaching Christ” is a synonym for “Gospel-centered preaching”?

We would do well to examine the nature of our particular contrual of “preaching Christ” before we enter discussions about what it would look like to do that from the Old Testament.

In other words, I’m trying to point out that many times when people advocate preaching Christ from the Old Testament, there are often (stated or unstated) assumptions about what this sort of preaching is and why it should be pursued. And, I think, in order to sort out our disagreements over these matters, we would do well to disclose those conceptions and their motivations and ask if they are legitimate. In short, let’s go to the source of the debate.

Finally, I want to revisit the “how” question I introduced above. As I said, it’s one thing to say we can (or ought) to preach Christ from the Old Testament, but it’s another thing to actually do it, and do it well. We must move beyond theory to methodology and practice if any of this discussion will affect our pulpits.

It’s worth asking a range of homiletical questions. For example, how do I convey these connections to Christ effectively? Winsomely? When do I preach Christ in the sermon? Do I tag it onto the end as a neat ‘bonus feature,’ or does the reality of Christ somehow pervade my entire message? How do I preach the original meaning of the text and preach Christ within my time restraints (presuming we have those)? These are a few of the sort of homiletical questions I think we want to ask as we approach the matter of preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

I hope you have found these thoughts stimulating and informative. I look forward to meeting with you at the Table Talk and continuing the discussion!

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Working on a Theology or Biblical Studies Paper? Be Sure to Use Journals!

To their detriment, many students writing academic papers fail to consult scholarly journals.  Journals are valuable to research for a number of reasons.  (1) Journals generally contain very focused, specialized studies on a particular topic or issue, and at times may delve more deeply into a specific issue than a book covering the same subject area. (2) Through articles and book reviews, journals provide a window into current research in a particular field.  It is important to remember that good academic writing is not solely conversant with older sources of information (though older sources can still prove helpful), but demonstrates awareness of recent developments and avenues of inquiry. (3) They preserve the history of thought, or a record of trends, in a given discipline.  By searching a particular topic in a database (such as ATLA or JSTOR), and paying attention to titles and publication dates, one can often trace historically the conversation about a particular topic.  Many times, journals will publish articles with titles such as “Recent Trends in the Study of Old Testament Wisdom Literature,” or “Recent Research in New Testament Textual Criticism.”

Rolfing Library has a sizeable collection of theological journals.  Some of the more commonly used journals for biblical studies and theology include: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Journal of Biblical Literature, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, International Journal of Systematic Theology, Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Pro Ecclesia, Revue Biblique, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, and Tyndale Bulletin.  Additionally, Trinity Journal is published every fall and spring by Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Accessing information in journals can be done in various ways.  One of the most productive ways is to use a database such as ATLA, which is a database of published works pertaining to the theological disciplines, though other databases will occasionally prove useful.  Searching ATLA for articles on a particular subject (click here for a helpful tutorial on using ATLA) will often present a list of entries, including the name, volume, year and page numbers of the journal in which they are published.  Many times (but not always!), these entries will have full text pdf files attached that you can download to your computer for free.  In cases where there is no full text file, you will need to search for the journal title (not the article title) in TrinCat to see if a hard copy is available in the library.  Rolfing Library’s journals are located, in alphabetical order, on the shelves on either side of the stairwell, directly behind the main desk.  Articles in journals that we do not own may be acquired through ILLiad, depending on availability.

Unfortunately, journals cannot be checked out of the library.  However, you may make photocopies of articles in the library.  Photocopies are $0.07 per page for TIU students.  You may also use one of our book scanners to make an electronic copy free of charge.

If you have questions about theological journals, using ATLA or locating articles, don’t hesitate to ask for help at the Reference Desk.

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Graham Cole on Christianity and Contemporary Sexualities: A Table Talk Prelude

On Wednesday, October 21st at noon, our very own Dr. Graham Cole will be facilitating a Table Talk discussion on homosexuality and the Bible and Christianity.

On Tuesday Cole delivered a “Dean’s Hour” lecture entitled “Following Christ in a LGBTIQQAAP’s World.” In many ways, this talk served as an introduction to the conversation that will continue at the Table Talk on October 21st.

In this post I’d like to relay some of the key points of this recent talk as a way to stimulate your thinking and prepare you for further conversation at our Table Talk.

First, Dr. Cole addressed the context in which we engage these matters.

(A) For many of us, these matters are extremely personal. Either we experience same-sex attraction ourselves or we know others–friends, family members–who do. We cannot engage this issue as a purely theoretical one.

(B) Furthermore, we engage this issue in a drastically changing culture, a culture of which the fast-past political changes are symptomatic. We live in a world in which these matters are cast as civil rights issues and opposition to them is addressed with a shaming rhetoric and ostracizing actions.

(C) And, finally, whereas in past times we may have engaged homosexuality and lesbianism, now we are aware of other identifiers and expressions of sexuality (and gender) such as the transgendered, bisexual, asexual, pansexual, etc.

(D) We are living in an ever-changing world. And this ever-changing world brings us to thinking about recent government decisions such as Obergefell. We are now also living in an ever-changing legal world where concerns arise over losing tax-exempt status and preserving religious liberty. But the political climate is such that even individuals such as queers opposed to marriage equality are silenced.

How does all of this effect the church? Cole supports Russell Moore’s statement that such changes in our culture may be “bad for America, but it’s good for the church.” These changes will likely result in the demise of ‘folk evangelicalism,’ in which ‘cultural Christianity’ thrives, and the rise of a church that is clearly distinguished from its society. That is a good thing, as bad as it may be for our society.

Cole noted that recent Supreme Court decisions raise questions regarding religious liberty. For many in our culture, religious liberty is shrunk down to worship. Noteworthy is the failure to consider religious practice, i.e., living Christianity outside of the home and church walls such as in the public square, as under the cover of religious liberty. Cole stated provocatively, Christians are essentially forced to practice atheism in the public square.

Cole argued that our Bibliology–our view of the Bible–ultimately must flow out of Christology, specifically how Christ viewed scripture. Scripture is the authority for what we ought to believe. And when we look at the key Biblical texts on same-sex sexual behavior, a rather consistently negative picture emerges. “There’s not a positive text of scripture on this subject,” Cole said.

However, as evangelicals, although we are often quick to stress the negative strands of scripture on these topics, we too often fail to emphasize the positive and beautiful strands of Biblical teaching on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Taking Christ seriously, we must take this testimony of scripture seriously as well.

But we must do more than merely hold to scripture with conviction. We must act wisely as we engage the church and society.

In our overly sexualized culture, “sex has replaced the soul”; and many things that are not inherently sexual are often times tied up with a sexual identity and orientation. As Christians, we need to practice discernment in order to sort out these cultural associations and clustered-attachments.

“God is not as interested in our happiness as in our holiness,” Cole stated, loosely citing C.S. Lewis. If we are going to be a people that “holds the line” on these issues, we need to become a community in which such convictions make sense, a community that strives after holiness no matter what the issue.

But, not only are we to be holy, we are to be loving. We are not out to offend. We are not to go out of our way to offend. Yet, at the end of the day, we can’t control whether or not people take offense. People will take offense. And following Christ in this world may mean facing shaming rhetoric. But, as much as we are able, we ought to be characterized by “convictional civility.”

In summary, Cole argued that the central issue at stake in the Christian relation to these controversial matters is loyalty. It all boils down to loyalty. Bearing the name “Christian” is a statement of our fundamental, primary loyalty–loyalty to Christ. If we believe in Christ, if we follow Christ, and if we come to grips with his view on scripture and scripture’s take on this topic, we will remain convictional on these matters. And being convictional, and facing all that means in our society (e.g., marginalization, shaming rhetoric, etc.), we would do well to re-read and give more attention to those parts of scripture that speak of the normal place of the Christian in society–marginalized, persecuted, etc.

As Cole closed he said, “Friends, the Dean’s Hour is over; but Table Talk is coming.” Certainly it is!

I hope you benefited from this summary of the key points from Dr. Cole’s lecture. And I hope you are able to attend our Table Talk Wednesday, October 21st at noon.

* This Dean’s Hour was video recorded. So if you are interested, you should be able to track that video down eventually.

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A Review of The Pastor as Public Theologian

Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015. 221 pages. $19.99.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan have set forth their vision for pastoral ministry in The Pastor as Public Theologian.  Vanhoozer and Strachan are no strangers to the Trinity community: Vanhoozer is Research Professor of Systematic Theology at TEDS, and Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, received his PhD from TEDS in 2011.  The book also features contributions, inserted between the four main chapters, from several evangelical pastors, endorsing  the importance of theological engagement in ministry.  The book’s purpose is to encourage pastors to embrace the role of “public theologian,” that is, the role of guiding their congregations (people)  to “understand the world in which they live and, what is more important, how to follow Christ in everyday, as well as extraordinary, situations” (23).

The book’s first chapter, authored by Strachan, examines the role of the pastor through a biblical-theological lens.  He contends that the fundamental functions of pastoral ministry have their roots in the Old Testament.  Prophets spoke God’s truth, priests drew the people near to God and the king mediated God’s wisdom to the people; all of these activities, according to Strachan, are paradigmatic for pastoral ministry, as described in the New Testament.

Strachan’s second chapter sets forth the historical-theological roots of pastoral ministry, describing how the pastorate was viewed from the patristic period, all the way through the rise of neo-evangelicalism.  Noting some exceptions in the medieval period and in 19th and 20th century American revivalism, Strachan shows that the importance of a sharp mind and robust theological understanding to the pastorate has, in general,  tremendous support in Christian tradition.

Chapter 3, from the pen of Vanhoozer, lays out a vision for the theological work of the pastor.  “Pastors are called not to practice academic theology but to minister theological understanding, helping people to interpret the Scriptures, their cultures, and their own lives in relation to God’s great work of redemption summed up in Christ” (112).  Drawing on syntactical metaphors, Vanhoozer notes that there are both indicative and imperative “moods” to the pastor’s theological work: teaching people the Gospel (what God has accomplished through Christ: the indicative) and urging them to walk in accordance with it (the imperative).

In Chapter 4, Vanhoozer turns his attention to pastoral practices, showing how the pastor participates in “God’s mission” (139).  Though he appeals to various NT texts (see esp. Eph 2:18-22),  perhaps his most intriguing contribution is where he turns to the OT, describing  Ezra as a “quintessential public theologian,” who, through teaching  Scripture, works for “the restoration of a holy people” (147).   Vanhoozer concludes the chapter by showing how all pastoral functions  are oriented around the reality of “what is in Christ” (152).  The pastor’s roles of evangelist, liturgist and apologist involve teaching and  responding to this reality, to which the Church was founded to bear witness.

The book’s conclusion is a list of fifty-five theses from Vanhoozer, demonstrating the need for pastor-theologians.  The theses are thus intended to reinforce the books’ main points.

I enjoyed several features of the book, not the least of which is the very holistic angle from which it approaches pastoral ministry.  In an age where many evangelicals have a bifurcated understanding of the Christian life, Vanhoozer and Strachan propose a sort of pastoral ministry that guides people to view their identity “in Christ” as having bearing on their whole lives.  Moreover, the book challenges the “real ministry is all cut and paste” mindset that devalues the life of the mind, and theological competence, in ministry, and that has characterized the way many view the pastorate today.  The book reminds us that the ultimate reality for the Church is what is “in Christ”; thus, there is nothing more “real” that a pastor can do than shepherding a congregation toward a right understanding of God and their place in his redemptive mission.

I do wish the book had given some focused exegetical attention to 1 Tim 3:1-13, which specifically lays out the virtues and role of the pastor. Doing so certainly would have enhanced the book’s already cogent argument, as this is a foundational NT text for understanding what God himself requires of a pastor.  1 Tim 3:2 strongly alludes to the necessity of being able to teach for pastoral ministry, perhaps even more straightforwardly than does Eph 4:11, which is discussed in the book.  Moreover, the virtues required of a pastor, set forth in 1 Timothy 3, may be the greatest demonstration that one has truly grasped Christian orthodoxy, and that this person is capable of leading others to grasp the same.

Nonetheless, this book conveys powerfully a vision for pastoral ministry that must be heard by the Christian community. Drawing from the resources of Scripture and Christian tradition, Vanhoozer and Strachan help their readers rediscover what makes shepherding God’s people “a noble work” (1 Tim 3:1; HCSB).  While I feel its message should be digested by clergy and laity alike, I especially recommend the book to pastors, other church leaders and all aspiring ministers.

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What’s Up with This Old Desk? “Uncle John’s” (John Stott) Connections to Trinity


The library recently received several items from John Stott’s personal study: his desk, bookshelf, and chair. These items are currently being displayed adjacent to the John and Susan Woodbridge Reading Room in Rolfing Library.

A bunch of us seminary students were geeking out (see here and here). It’s pretty neat. I mean, we just received a crate from England containing a bunch of John Stott’s personal belongings! Michael Cromartie once said, “If evangelicals elected popes, they would have chosen Stott.” Well, if that’s true, than I guess that means that if evangelicals had relics, this desk would be one of them!

But maybe you’re wondering, why? Why did we receive these materials? What’s so special about Trinity? How did we manage to make a successful bid to receive these things?

I was not previously aware of this; but apparently John Stott had some significant connections with Trinity, some connections that made Trinity a natural place to display these items.

So, in order to learn more about these connections and share them with you, I visited our very own Dr. Greg Scharf, a student, mentoree, and friend of Stott, who he (among others) affectionately refers to as “uncle John.”


John Stott offered Bible expositions six times at InterVarsity’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. During this time many Trinity students had contact with Stott and his preaching.

In addition, Stott frequently visited Trinity, preaching numerous times in chapel.

And for one term, the Fall semester of 1972, Stott even taught preaching courses at TEDS.

A claim to fame–TEDS was the first American school to award Stott with an honorary Doctor of Divinity (DD) degree (1971). And because Dr. Stott did his undergraduate studies at Trinity College of Cambridge University, Scharf noted that Stott would jokingly refer to his educational experience as “Trinity” from first to last.

In 1974, Stott founded what became the Langham Partnership International (formerly known in the U.S. as John Stott Ministries) which seeks “to see churches in the Majority World equipped for mission and growing to maturity in Christ through the ministry of pastors and leaders who believe, teach and live by the Word of God.” Among other things, this organization grants scholarships for Majority World students to receive theological education. Many such students have attended TEDS, furthering Stott’s ties with the institution.

Dr. Scharf himself is a significant connecting point between Stott and Trinity. When Stott came and taught preaching courses in ’72, Scharf was actually one of his students. Later Scharf would accept an internship under Stott at All Souls and even join the church staff for two years. During this time, Scharf was mentored by Stott. And finally, Scharf was on the board of the Langham Partnership for a time and has written for their publishing house.

Thus, when Dr. Scharf made a bid, Stott’s connections with Trinity as well as Dr. Scharf in particular made Trinity a natural recipient for these items from Stott’s study.

A great thanks to Dr. Scharf for helping me with this project, entertaining my inquiries, fact checking my article, and being willing to answer any questions I had.

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The New Perspective on Paul: We’re Down with NPP

NewPerspectivesPaulComing up next week, Dr. Constantine Campbell will be leading this month’s Table Talk on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Now, if you study theology at Trinity or have come anywhere near Dr. Carson, you’re probably already pretty familiar with this school of thought. However, for those of you who may like an introduction (or a refresher), I’ll do my best in this blog post to get you up to speed with the major concepts. Now, let me state right off the bat, this is going to be an extremely quick and dirty analysis. As anyone who’s studied the issue can attest, it’s a gnarly one to try and wrap your head around — for two main reasons. First, it proposes a fundamentally different understanding of Christian faith and practice than the one most Protestants have espoused for half a millennium. Second, not even its three main proponents (E.P. Sanders, J.D.G. Dunn, and N.T. Wright — what is it with theologians and abbreviated first names?) totally agree with each other on how these ideas play out. But I get ahead of myself.

In order to understand this “New Perspective” on Paul’s theology, we first have to know what “Old Perspective” is being critiqued. And so, in good Protestant fashion, we turn to Martin Luther. In the early 16th century, “Uncle Marty” (as I like to call him) was battling the Spirit-crushing legalism of the late medieval Roman Catholic church — so that’s what he saw when he encountered Paul’s description of the Jewish “law” in the opening chapters of Romans. And for the most part, ensuing generations of Protestants have followed in his footsteps: pre-Jesus Judaism was largely understood to have been a legally-oriented system, in which salvation was based on an individual’s ability to follow the terms of the agreement God made with Abraham and his descendants.

Starting in the last quarter of the 20th century, however, the ocean liner (granted, some may consider it the Titanic) of Protestant scholarship on Paul began to change course. In 1977, E.P. Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism, in which he argued that the Judaism that Paul knew was actually a religion founded on grace. In the book, he coined the term covenantal nomism to describe how Jewish law worked: according to Sanders, it’s “the view that one’s place in God’s plan is established on the basis of the covenant and that the covenant requires as the proper response of man his obedience to its commandments, while providing means of atonement for transgression…. Obedience maintains one’s position in the covenant, but it does not earn God’s grace as such…. Righteousness in Judaism is a term which implies the maintenance of status among the group of the elect” (p. 75ff). In other words, according to covenantal nomism, people’s acceptance into God’s covenant is entirely God’s call — but staying within the covenant is theirs. Keeping the law is about covenant faithfulness, not legalism; it’s about responding to the grace and glory of God and demonstrating God’s grace and glory to the world. However, according to James D.G. Dunn, another of the leading NPP scholars (and, incidentally, the one who came up with the term “New Perspective on Paul”), what Jews had done between the times of Father Abraham and Apostle Paul was to take these “covenantal boundary markers” and turn them into “nationalistic boundary markers” that differentiated and excluded non-Jews (i.e., Gentiles) from sharing in God’s promises. Thus, Sanders asserts that what Paul was really arguing against when he railed at the “works of the law” in writings like Romans were those Jewish cultural/religious practices (like circumcision or food prohibitions) that served to keep the rest of the world at arm’s length, and not the Jewish legal system itself.

Enter N.T. Wright onto the scene. Of the three big names in NPP, he’s the widest read (especially among evangelicals), and has taken Sanders’ and Dunn’s work in new — and different — directions. Key to Wright’s take on the NPP is a revised understanding of the concept of justification. Rather than putting it at the center of Paul’s thought, as most Protestants have done, Wright views justification a result of covenant relationship with God. In other words, for Wright (and, Wright would argue, for Paul) justification isn’t what gets believers into salvation — it’s simply a marker of membership in the covenant community, within which salvation is found.

Probably one of Wright’s best-known arguments about justification centers on a phrase that has had theologians scratching their respective heads for nigh on 2,000 years: the righteousness of God. Now, if you’ve ever studied grammar, or if you’re a word nut like me, you’ll know that this is an example of the genitive case — a piling of one noun on top of another that can have a variety of meanings. (For example: “a can of Coke” means something different than “a friend of mine,” and they’re both different from “the group of students.”) The problem is, Paul didn’t give the Roman church a handy footnote to tell them which meaning he intended when he used this particular word construction — so today we’re more or less left guessing. From Luther until the NPPers got started, the predominant view has been that this “righteousness” referred to a characteristic of God that becomes ours (theologians use the word imputed) when we become believers. However, Wright argues that God’s “righteousness” and our “righteousness” are two different things, and can be understood best in a courtroom context. Wright asserts that God’s righteousness is measured by His proper judgments, our righteousness comes from the fact that we’re declared not guilty — and the only way those two can be reconciled is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

OK. At this point, you now know just enough about NPP to be dangerous. I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I haven’t even gone near the various critiques of the movement. (I’ll try to cobble together another post later on this week addressing those issues, if I have enough time.) But if you’re fired up, or confused, or curious –or just a fan of Dr. Campbell –I encourage you to bring your lunch and join us next Monday at noon for what promises to be a rousing discussion!

*(Bonus points if you got the joke in the title. Yes, I’m a geek, and I’m proud of it.)

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Book Displays: February 2015

Paul and the New Perspective

Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology – Todd D. Still and Bruce W. Longenecker

The Apostle Paul is a prominent figure in the New Testament. The story of his missionary journeys takes up about half of the book of Acts, and his epistles make up about half of the books of the New Testament. The prominence of Paul’s epistles in the New Testament inevitably means that no student of the New Testament can avoid Paul for long. Unfortunately, Paul is not always easy to navigate through. Many of his epistles are long and contain deep and complex theology that is not always so clear to the reader, especially one reading them nearly 2000 years after he wrote them. There is often Thinking through Paulmuch confusion for students about what Paul was trying to say, and often, upon only a cursory study of Paul, the student does not have a thorough understanding of Paul and his theology.

Mastering the breadth and depth of Paul and his theology can be a daunting proposition for anyone studying the Pauline epistles. That is why Todd Still and Bruce Longenecker have undertaken the task of writing Thinking through Paul : A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology. Still and Longenecker contend that “if … we approach the study of Paul with the goal of acquiring only a superficial familiarity with the basic features of his life and writings, the process is unlikely to be exciting, challenging, or life-changing” (10).

The book is divided into three parts. The first part reviews the life and ministry of Paul, the second part gleans a better understanding of Paul by evaluating each of his 13 epistles, and the last part evaluates Paul’s theology from different aspects. These three parts make it easier for the student to better understand how Paul “ticked,” helping not only to better know who Paul was as a person, but also to better understand the basis for Paul’s theology. This book is is an invaluable resource for students of the New Testament, not just as a classroom textbook, but also as a text for self-study. Still and Longenecker explain that “you will have the textbook that we would have wanted available to us in earlier days — that is, a practical and user-friendly guide to Paul’s life, letters, and theological discourse” (12). If you are looking for a clear, readable book about the life, epistles, and theology of Paul, this book is perfect.

Other Titles:

Paul’s Witness to Formative Early Christian Instruction
Christ Absent and Present : A Study in Pauline Christology
Grace and Agency in Paul and Second Temple Judaism : Interpreting the Transformation of the Heart
Paul and the Vocation of Israel : How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans
Paul in Acts and Paul in his Letters
Ancient Perspectives on Paul
Philippi : How Christianity Began in Europe : The Epistle to the Philippians and the Excavations at Philippi
Outlaw Justice : The Messianic Politics of Paul
Paul and the Miraculous : A Historical Reconstruction
The Death of Jesus : Some Reflections on Jesus-Traditions and Paul
Paul and Judaism Revisited : A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation

Presidents’ Day

The True Mary Todd Lincoln : A Biography – Betty Boles Ellison

Every year on Presidents’ Day, we are reminded of the great men that have led our country over the years. But what about the great women who stood beside them every step of the way? There is possibly none more well-known — at least in Illinois — than Mary Todd LinTrue Mary Todd Lincolncoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln. Most probably remember her for her abrasive personality and her stint in an insane asylum near the end of her life. But is there more to Mary Todd Lincoln than is often credited to her?

Betty Boles Ellison thinks there is. She has set out to give Mary Todd Lincoln a fair appraisal, evaluating Mary not just on her unpleasant qualities, but on her praiseworthy qualities as well. Ellison sets out to challenge the common misconceptions about Mary’s “extravagant” spending, her supposedly excessive purchases to refurbish the Executive Mansion, and her mental health and well-being. Ellison has exonerated Mary from many of the unfair and derisive accusations that have been leveled against her. This book paints a clearer and more accurate picture of Mary as the “sassy, politically savvy, sophisticated, sarcastic, intelligent, temperamental, sensitive, attractive” woman that she was (5). With its superb research and excellent argumentation, The True Mary Todd Lincoln is an invaluable contribution to the history of the Lincoln family. It is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the history of America’s Presidents and the incredible wives who stood by them and supported them.

Other Titles:

The Gamble : Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election
Change They Can’t Believe In : The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America
Morning in America : How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980’s
Presidents and the Dissolution of the Union : Leadership Style from Polk to Lincoln
Conservative Internationalism : Armed Diplomacy under Jefferson, Polk, Truman, and Reagan
John Tyler, the Accidental President
Creatures of Politics : Media, Message, and the American Presidency
Who Are the Criminals? : The Politics of Crime Policy from the Age of Roosevelt to the Age of Reagan
Barack Obama’s Post-American Foreign Policy : The Limits of Engagement
Not Even Past : Barack Obama and the Burden of Race
Watergate : A Brief History with Documents
The Politics of Presidential Appointments : Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance
Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State : Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

Liberation and Black Theologies

Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction – edited by Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas and Anthony B. Pinn

Any student of the Bible and theology has at least heard of liberation theology, but for many of them there is confusion about exactly what liberation theology is and how it affects Christianity. One of the things that makes liberation theology so difficult to completely grasp is that there are many theologies that fit under the rubric of liberation theology. What began as a response to the poverty, mistreatment, and marginalization throughout Latin America has grown to include those around the world who find themselves in a similar albeit unique situation of their own. The book often refers to these theologies as “contextual” theologiesLiberation Theologies in the US because of the unique social context from which these theologies arose.

Many of these contextual theologies have either taken root in or migrated to the united States. Liberation Theologies in the United States : An Introduction provides a thorough description of the various forms of liberation theology found within the United States – some of them well-known, others more obscure. For instances, black, gay and lesbian, and feminist theologies are somewhat familiar, yet Asian-American, native feminist, and Latina theologies are not as well known. It is important for the students to strive to understand and to interact with these theologies, especially those who intend to pastor a church. A pastor should be prepared to answer questions and engage in discussion about these theological ideas, explaining liberation theology and how it relates to traditional theology. If you are a bit unsure of what liberation theology is all about and you are interested in educating yourself, this is good place to start.

Other Titles:

The Divided Mind of the Black Church : Theology, Piety, and Public Witness
Esotericism in African American Religious Experience : There is a Mystery…
Indigenous Black Theology : Toward an African-Centered Theology of the African American Religious Experience
The Forgotten Prophet : Bishop Henry McNeal Turner and the African American Prophetic Tradition
The Commercial Church : Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America
African American Religious Experiences : A Case Study of Twentieth-Century Trends and Practices
Representations of Homosexuality : Black Liberation Theology and Cultural Criticism
Experiencing the Truth : Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church
The Poor in Liberation Theology : Pathway to God or Ideological Construct?
The Reemergence of Liberation Theologies : Models for the Twenty-First Century
Urban God Talk : Constructing a Hip-Hop Spirituality
The Black Church and Hip-Hop Culture : Toward Bridging the Generational Divide
Heart and Head : Black Theology : Past, Present, and Future

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