Monday, July 31, 2006
Stephen Westerholm’s “Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics” is probably the best book to get acquainted not only with the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP), but to also brush up on the Old Perspective on Paul or the “Lutheran” position (Westerholm defines “Lutheran” as the basic traditional/reformed positions). The book is divided into two major selections, with the first part being a survey of some of the important “players” in Pauline theology, such as the historic “Lutheran” scholars (Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Wesley), the modern “Lutheran” scholars (Cranfield, Schreiner, Thielman), and some proponents of the NPP (Sanders, Dunn, and Wright). This selection alone is worth the price of the book, as I can’t think of any other resource that gives such a broad overview of all the “key” scholars in the debate.
The second selection, Westerholm gives a reasonable and strong exegetical defense for his “Lutheran/traditional/reformed” position by examining key words and phases in the debate such as examining Paul usage of “righteousness” (dikaiosness) and “law”, and by analyzing Paul’s thoughts on “justification by faith” in each of his epistles. If anyone wishes to seriously engage in the Pauline debate and I would highly recommend this book.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Campolo thinks Christians should broaden the social issue to more than the abortion issue, and Moore thinks the abortion issue is the ultimate issue. Interesting stuff.
Sunday, July 23, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
The New Paul Perspective (NPP) is a theological framework which suggest for a new understanding of Pauline theology in which 2nd Temple Judaism is viewed primarily as a religion of "grace" rather than one of "legalism". Therefore, Paul's critique of the Pharisees was not primarily one of legalism (trying to earn salvation by works), but one due to nationalistic boasting which required Gentiles to convert to Judaism (proselyte) in order to be identified as God's people.
The three most prominent NPP proponents are E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright. I personally have not studied first-hand any of Sander's and Dunn's works (even though I have read critiques of their works), but I have read quite a few of Wright's articles and books, including "The New Testament and the People of God" and "The Climax of the Covenant".
With that being said, I will try to examine the New Paul Perspective with a focus on Wright's work by addressing the following questions:
1. What are the NPP proponents trying to emphasize and say?
2. What are the major criticisms of the NPP, especially Wright, and are they valid?
3. How should the church respond to the NPP, namely Wright?
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Is heaven boring?*
"Life in heaven sounds downright boring, if some descriptions are to be believed. In my boyhood, psalms were sung very slowly in church, and I thought heaven was like that—a place where one sat on hard benches all day long and sang Dutch Psalms. I was not enthralled. Huck Finn thought heaven was a place where a person would "go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and forever." This future life is often seen as an eternal existence without bodies. Also, it is thought of as "above," somewhere off in space, far removed from this earth—an escape, in fact."
Heaven is a tempory existence*
"Are we then to spend eternity in space, disembodied spirits who flit from cloud to cloud, plucking golden harps in an endless day off? We can agree with the element of truth in these teachings: Paul tells us that when he dies he will go to be with Christ (Phil. 1:23), who has now been taken up into heaven (Acts 1:11). And he also says that this state is "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). But, and here is the critical point, this will be a temporary existence—one where we shall eagerly await the resurrection of the body to take place on the last day, at Jesus' second coming.
Ressurection is forever*
"Resurrected bodies are not intended just to float in space, or to flit from cloud to cloud. They call for a new earth on which to live and to work, glorifying God. The doctrine of the resurrection of the body, in fact, makes no sense whatever apart from the doctrine of the new earth."
Renewed and Purified, not Annihilated*
"Hoekema quoting Edward Thurneysen writes, "The world into which we shall enter in the Parousia (2nd coming) of Jesus Christ is therefore not another world; it is this world, this heaven, this earth; both, however, passed away and renewed. It is these forests, these fields, these cities, these streets, these people, that will be the scene of redemption. At present they are battlefields, full of the strife and sorrow of the not-yet-accomplished consummation; then they will be fields of victory, fields of harvest, where out of seed that was sown with tears the everlasting sheaves will be reaped and brought home" (Zwischen den Zeiten, 1931, p. 209)."
Restoration, not the Destruction of "WORK" in the New Heaven and Earth*
"In the resurrection we shall retain our individuality, but in a heightened way. This means that we shall not only still possess the gifts God gave us, but that our potential for exercising these gifts will then be realized to the full—as it never was in this life. Using the analogy between the talents of a child and the fully developed gifts of an adult, Abraham Kuyper suggests that in the life to come we will retain the seeds of our present gifts, but God will then give to what is developed from those seeds a new form that will be in harmony with the everlasting glory of his kingdom (Gemeene Gracie, I, 461)."
"In the beginning man was given the so-called cultural mandate—the command to rule over the earth and to develop a God-glorifying culture. Because of man's fall into sin, that cultural mandate has never been carried out in the way God intended. Only on the new earth will it be perfectly and sinlessly fulfilled. Only then shall we be able to rule the earth properly."
Better Rembrants, Better Raphaels, Better MICHAEL JORDANS???*
"The possibilities that now rise before us boggle the mind. Will there be "better Beethoven" on the new earth, as one author has suggested? Shall we then see better Rembrandts, better Raphaels, better Constables? Shall we read better poetry, better drama, and better prose?"
"Will scientists continue to advance in technological achievement, will geologists continue to dig out the treasures of the earth, and will architects continue to build imposing and attractive structures? Will there be exciting new adventures in space travel? Shall we perhaps be able to explore new Perelandras? We do not know. But we do know that human dominion over nature will then be perfect. Our culture will glorify God in ways that surpass our most fantastic dreams."
Developing and Building the Kingdom, NOW*
This all means a lot for us now. If there is continuity as well as discontinuity between this earth and the new earth, we must work hard to develop our gifts and talents, and to come as close as we can to producing, in the strength of the Spirit, a Christian culture today. Through our kingdom service, the building materials for the new earth are now being gathered. Bibles are being translated, peoples are being evangelized, believers are being renewed, and cultures are being transformed. Only eternity will reveal the full significance of what has been done for Christ here on earth.
*These summary points are mine, and do not appear in the original article.
The full article can be found here:
Saturday, July 08, 2006
For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- 10that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16Only let us hold true to what we have attained. - Phil. 3:8-16
Knowing and embracing Christ is everything for Paul, so much so, that everything is considered "rubbish" compared to his relationship with him (Phil 3:8). Even though Paul is presently united with Christ, he understands that this relationship is not at its consummated and final state. So what is the futuristic (eschatological) state that Paul longs for? Is it being with Christ in a spiritual heavenly realm (Phil.1:21)? Or is it something else?
Paul's ultimate goal isn't just to be with Christ in the present or in heaven when he dies, but "for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (v.14), that is, to "attain the resurrection from the dead, which will happen when Christ comes back to fully establish his kingdom on a physical new earth and heaven (1 Corinthians 15).
Even though Paul knows that Christ will come back, he doesn't sit back and just “chill”, but he strives and presses forward to obtain “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3:12-14). Just like Paul, we should also strive to obtain the "resurrection from the dead", so that we can fully enjoy Christ's presence. But how should we strive to obtain this prize?
How Should We Strive To Obtain the Prize?
First, we should know that God in his sovereign love in Christ is the one who provides the ultimate power in our striving and promises to one day complete it.
6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:6)
12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil 2:12-13)
20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself (Phil 3:20)
Second, we should strive for in humility and love for others
3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:3)
Third, we should hold fast to God's word
16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Phil.2:16)
Fourth, we should be partners for the gospel, the message that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior of the universe
3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:3-6)
2I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. 3Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Phil 5:2-3)
Fifth, we should pray, especially when anxious
6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6-7)