Friday, August 29, 2008

Craig Blomberg's New Blog





Craig Blomberg, one of my favorite NT scholars, has decided to create his own blog, called New Testament Musings . I am pumped!!!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Recommendation: The Moral Vision of the New Testament




Richard Hay’s The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction of New Testament Ethics is an outstanding and thought-provoking book on New Testament (NT) ethics. Hay’s book consists of four parts reflecting the four heuristic task of pursuing NT ethics:


1) The Descriptive Task - the act of extricating the message of each individual writings of the Bible. Hays executes this task by briefly going over most of the individual books of the NT, noting each of the authors main points and concerns.

2) The Synthetic Task - the act of seeking to integrate the individual writings of the NT. In this section, Hays provides us 3 guidelines in how we should pursue our synthesis of each individual NT text: a) confront the full range of canonical witness b) let the tension stand and c) attend to the literary genre of the texts (pg . 189 – 191). Hays also provides us with three images, which he believes to be central to the biblical story, that will help guide our reflections on NT ethics: a) community b) cross and c) new creation. (pg 196 -200)

3) The Hermeneutical Task - the act of relating what we find in the synthetic task to our particular situation. For this part, Hays examines the concept of authority as it relates to scripture, tradition, reason, and experience (pg. 208-209). Then Hays investigates the hermeneutical strategies in pursuing ethics by five interpreters: Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza which allows us to see how different people use scripture, tradition, reason and experience in grounding their ethical imperatives.

4) The Pragmatic Task – the act of living out what the Bible’s commands. In this final section, Hays uses his 4 task model of pursuing ethics by seeking to understand the ethical norm for violence in defense of justice (pg 317 – 343), divorce (pg 347- 374), homosexuality (pg 379 – 400), Anti-Judaism and ethic conflicts (pg 407 – 438) and abortion (pg. 444-457)


I found Richard Hay’s book to be very helpful as it allows me to see the difficulties of using the Bible as normative source for ethics but yet it also provides a well reasoned model on how to get past them. I also enjoyed Hay's Christ-like tone throughout his book as it relates to his model and when he addresses hot topics like divorce, abortion, and homosexuality.



(Doug Moo's has a good critically review of Dr. Hay's book)


Book Recommendation: A New Vision for Israel



In Scot McKnight’s book, A New Vision for Israel: the Teaching of Jesus in National Context, he seeks to articulate an understanding of Jesus by integrating him the in context of the redemption of Israel. McKnight sees Jesus as an eschatological prophet, whose mission was to warn Israel of the impending judgment of God (70.A.D.) which would usher in God’s final judgment and consummate his kingdom (pg.12). From this idea, McKnight builds and refines his understanding of Jesus through three major themes: a) the God of Jesus (Ch. 2), b) the kingdom of God (present aspect – Ch. 3 and future aspect Ch.4) and c) the ethics of God (Ch. 5 and 6).


I really enjoyed this book. It’s written clearly and builds a great exegetical case for understanding Jesus and his mission to Israel which I believe is the key in realizing who Jesus was in the gospels.

McKnight on 70AD and God's Consummated Kingdom

One of the most difficult passages in the Bible for me to understand is Mark 13 and it's parallels: Matthew 24:1-51 and Luke 21:5-36. Some interpreters see this passage as Jesus foretelling the destruction of the temple (70 A.D.) and the final judgment which would usher in God's final kingdom in the near future that is within one generation (Mark 13:30), while other see Jesus as only predicting the temple's destruction as imminent and not God's final judgment/kingdom and yet others see Jesus only talking about fall of the temple, saying nothing about God's final judgment/kingdom.

Albert Schweitzer is probably the best known promoter of seeing Jesus predicting the nearness of both the temple's destruction and God's final judgment/kingdom, thus when God's final kingdom did not come about, he was wrong.

Scot Mcknight has a similar view to Schweitzer but challenges the notion that Jesus was in error based on his understanding of biblical prophets and how prophecy normally works. He writes:


"In his vision of human history, Jesus saw no further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in all its glory. That history took another course does not at all mean that Jesus was in error; rather, like the Hebrew prophets before him, he saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly. This perspective was typical of Jewish prophecy from of old; the next event was seen as the end event, but that next event resulted in a series of unfolding events. Prophecy carried with it an innate poetic ambiguity. It might be that Jesus made a distinction between the climatic events pertaining to the nation and to Jerusalem, on the one hand, and to the final events of history, on the other; that is, that Jesus distinguished the events of A.D. 70 from the final events (judgment, kingdom, etc.) This would be very difficult to prove and need not be proved, since Jesus' method was so typical of Jewish prophecy:the next event, an event that God had enabled a prophet to see, would take shape as the last event that would wrap up God's plan for history". - pg 12, A New Vision For Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context


Very interesting stuff. I need to think about this more.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don Garlington is Asking, What's It All About?

Don Garlington is asking, "What's it all about" when a group of people articulate similar views on 1) the relationship between faith to obedience (Rom. 1:5) and 2) the necessity of works during the final judgment (Rom. 2:13) but some get attacked because of these views but others don't.

Garlington states:

"I ask again, What's it all about? If the likes of Bucer, Schreiner, Candeay, Seifrid, Dunn, Wright, Bird, Mounce, Shepherd, and others of us, are in essential accord as to Rom 1:5; 2:13 (and other texts), then why does there continue to be internecine warfare among believers of the same stripe? Or, more pointedly, why is there a persistent double standard imposed on those who are more alike than different?"

Through my reading of things on Paul and justification,I have asked the same question. But it appears to me that the major reason why some people get attacked and other don't is because one group affirms the Westminster Confession view of Christ's imputation with it's underlying notion of the "covenant of works" (Scheriner, Seifrid, and Bird), while others don't (Wright, Garlington and Shepherd) [1]


[1] I am not sure about Candeay's, Bucer's, Mounce's, or Dunn's views on imputation.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Book Recommendation: Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era




One of the main problems I have in understanding the New Testament is that I don't know the historical context for these writings very well. So, I was happy to read James S. Jeffers' The Greco-Roman World of the New Testament Era: Exploring the Back of Early Christianity. Jeffers' book is an easy read that covers a variety of topics in the NT era such as: citizenship, slavery, views of life and death, and religion.

I found this book to be extremely helpful and I would recommend this to anyone, who is like me not too familiar, with the NT era.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Jesus and Restoration of Israel

About a year ago, I started to focus my reading on the gospels (currently, I am reading Bock's Luke Commentary) and the historical Jesus instead of Pauline stuff, especially as it relates to justification and New Paul Perceptive. And so far, I found that the key in unlocking the gospels is the understanding of Jesus' mission and relationship with Israel[1].

Here's a good quote from Scot Mcknight describing Jesus connection with Israel:

"It follows, then that Jesus cannot be understood if the described exclusively, ore even primarily , in the category of a spiritual master, or as one who was primarily concerned with the inner religious life and its disciplines for the individual. First and foremost, Jesus was a Jew whose vision of the proper religious life centered on the restoration of the Jewish nation and on the fulfillment of the covenants that God had made with the nation. The most important context in which modern interpreters should situate Jesus is that of ancient Jewish national disaster. Jesus' hope was not so much the "Church" as the restoration of the twelve tribes (cf. Matt.8:11-12;10:23;and19:28), the fulfillment of the promises of Moses to national Israel, and the hope of God's kingdom (focused on and through Israel) on earth. Thus, when Jesus sent out the Twelve (cf. Matt. 9:35-11:1), the "disciples were not evangelistic preachers sent out to save individual souls for some unearthly paradise. They were couriers proclaiming a national emergency and conducting a referendum on a question of national survival." [2]

[1] For a great lecture on understanding Jesus, check out Rikki Watt's talk dated "January 14, 2001)


[2] Mcknight, A New Vision for Israel: The Teaching of Jesus in National Context, see pp. 10-11

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Photo Update

Things has been busy over the last few months, so I've been behind with pictures.....

Hmmm....where do I start?

February: Valentine's Day 2008 (ha..ha..okay, I'm way behind...)



March: Dan's cousin comes to visit from Taiwan, Dan's birthday


April: Trip to Dominican Republic.....Click on photo link for more pictures!

Click to view my photos

May, June, and July....more photos to come!!!!!.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book Recommendation: Salvation Belongs to Our God



In the past couple of years, Christopher Wright has quickly become one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was real excited to read his new book, Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story. The book did not disappoint.


In Wright’s new book, he seeks to give a biblical perspective on salvation, using the biblical passage Rev. 7:10 (Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb) as a template.


Here are some things I loved about this book.


  1. The holistic view of salvation by surveying the OT and NT (ch. 1) and recognizing that the Bible makes priorities within salvation. For an example, Wright notes that “being saved from the wrath of God matters a lot more in the end than being saved from illness or injustice (pg. 17- 18).

  1. The emphasis that salvation belongs only to God and that he is the ultimate source of it (ch. 2)

  1. An understanding that blessings includes creational (material) relational (both with God and humans), covenantal, ethical (makes demands), multinational and Christological properties (Ch. 3)

  1. The story of salvation is found deeply embedded in the story of God's covenant with Israel and with the climax of the narrative being found in Christ’s new covenant (pg 88 -93)

  1. I found Wright to be extremely sensitive and wise on how he deals with tough issues like salvation in other religions (pg. 109 – 110), assurance of salvation (pg. 129 -135) and the consequences of those who never hear the gospel (pg. 157 – 171)

  1. Wright gives a great overview of understanding how Christ’s cross and resurrection accomplishes salvation (pg 182 -193).

  1. The book also includes questions after each chapter, so that it could be easily used in a small group.

If John Murray’s book, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, is the classic book on salvation from an ordo salutis (order of salvation) perspective (I believe it is) than I think Christopher Wright’s book should be the standard for a chronological survey of the OT and NT perspective on salvation for years to come. GET THIS BOOK!!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Reconciling James and Paul": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 3

So how does James' thought on justification by faith and works (v.24) relate to Paul's thought on justification by faith (Rom. 4 and Gal. 2)? I think James' thought can be harmonizes with Paul's, but I also think it's important to note that James' main point is to stress that good works is important for salvation and not to give a dissertation on how faith, works, and justification (salvation) are related.

Differences in Paul and James


I think the best way to harmonies Paul and James is to note the following differences:


1. Paul and James appears to have different definitions of faith.

Robert Stein notes that "the faith of James's opponent involves merely intellectual assent to propositions such as "God is one." It is a belief that certain propositions are true. Paul's use of the words "faith" and "believe" involves faith in God and his Son. It is not merely propositional, although that element is present. It is also relational! Faith for Paul involves a relationship of grace and love toward God that results in a transformed life" [1]


2. In Romans and Gal, Paul's tension is between faith and "works of the law" (Mosaic law) and not "good works" in general.


Richard Bauckham writes " When Paul refers to "works of the law" (a phrase not used by James) it is with special, though not exclusive, reference to boundary markers, such circumcision and food laws, which symbolized Jewish exclusivity. James, on the other hand, is entirely oblivious to the question of Gentile believers in Christ, and the works he has in mind are acts of neighborly love." [2]


3. Paul seems to have a more realized understanding of justification while James has a more futuristic (eschatological) one. [3]


Conclusion


With these points in mind, I believe James is stressing the importance of the final judgment in accordance with works (Romans 2:), while Paul is stressing the importance of initial or realized justification by faith alone over and against those who are obedient to the Mosaic law [4]


[1] pg 6 of "Saved by Faith [Alone]" in Paul "Not Saved faith Alone" in James by Robert Stein.


[2] pg 1488 of Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible.


[3] See Gathercole on pg 234 in "Justification in Perspective" (McCormack), M. Seifrid on pg 182 in "Christ, our Righteousness", and pg 13 and 14 of R. Stein's article mentioned above.


[4] Even though James states a person is "justified by works" and not "will be justified by works". I think James is using proleptic language (bringing in the future verdict into present) to stress the importance of having good works in the present because the final verdict is in accordance with it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

James' Main Point: Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 2

1. Faith without good works can't save someone because it's "dead" (v14-17).


2. Faith without good works is useless and absurd because the demons have faith that mentally asserts in God's monotheistic existence which produces nothing but fear (v. 18-20)


3. Abraham is cited as an example of being justified by works (v.21) in his offering of Isaac (Gen.22) and his faith was somehow completed by this work (v.22) thus confirming God's declaration of Abraham as righteous by faith in Gen. 15:6 (v.23).


4. James summarizes that a person is declared right by God because of works and faith (v.24)


5. Rahab is cited as an example as a person justified by works (v.25)


6. James concludes with a metaphor that compares a body apart from the spirit and faith without works, starting that both of these things are dead (v.26).

Conclusion- I believe that the main point of James 2:14-26 is to stress the importance of good works to Christians over and against the idea that a mental assertion of God's monotheistic existence is enough to get one saved.

Debate on the Topic of Divorce: Instone-Brewer vs Piper

Last October (I know this is "old" news, but my small group was discussing divorce yesterday), David Instone-Brewer and John Piper had a very informative debate on divorce. Instone-Brewer defends a position which would allow divorce for 1) adultery 2) persistent emotional and physical neglect and 3) abandonment and abuse. [1] Piper responds with a position that only allows for divorce in the case of "fornication during betrothal" [2].


Later, Andreas Köstenberger weighs-in and offers a position that would allow divorce for 1) adultery and 2) non-believer's abandonment of a believer. [3] In another blog post, Köstenberger answers questions in regards to his position, which is definitely worth reading [4]


Divorce is a tough topic and I sympathize with all the position mentioned above, but I think Köstenberger probably has the best interpretation as it relates to the plain biblical texts on divorce, but I am very intrigued by Instone-Brewer use of extra-biblical sources to hash out the meaning of Jesus and Paul.


[1] See Instone-Brewer's CT article, "What God Has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce?" and his short response to Piper's critique.


[2] See Piper's article, critiquing Instone-Brewer, entitled "Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce: A Response to Instone-Brewer's Article In Christianity Today".


[3] See Köstenberger's blog entry, "Clarfying the NT on Divorce"


[4] See Köstenberger;s blog entry, "Q&A on Divorce and Remarriage". *A MUST READ!!!!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Eternal or Physical Salvation": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 1

"14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?"


Eternal or Physical Salvation?


It's clear from James 2:14 that good works are necessary in faith for salvation? But how is James defining salvation here? Does he mean eternal or physical salvation?


2 Reasons for the Meaning of Eternal Salvation



I think he could mean both, but with more of an emphasis on eternal salvation. I think James 5:13-20 clearly focuses on physical salvation (healing from physical illness) but I also believe eternal salvation is also in view because of the following 2 reasons:


1) The "Crown of Life" reference found in James 1:12 is used in Revelation 2:9-11 as referring to eternal salvation (It's interesting that John uses this phrase in the context of a call for Christians to persevere in suffering and poverty, which is similar to James' context).


9"'I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.' -Rev. 2:9-11


2) There are a bunch of verses that suggest the need for good works (sanctification) in order to receive eternal life (Rom. 2:6-11, Gal 5:16-24, John 5:29, Mathew 25:31-46, 2 and Peter 3:11-13)



Conclusion


I believe that James is stating that good works are usually necessary for eternal and physical salvation [1].


[1] In regards to physical salvation, I do believe James realize that physical death can occur despite a Christian, who lives righteously (cf.James 5:6) so that one's holiness doesn't guarantee a person's good health.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I am a Basketball Genius:Celtics in 6






On June 6,2008, Pat Mcconn emailed me this:


"would you say celtics chances are better or worse than 20%?"


I responded with this:


"i think you will be surprised with boston's defense. even though their offense have been shaky, their defense will always be there and you can't really measure/feel that until you see them play a particular team. how many people thought the pistons were going to win?

Boston in 6...PERIOD"

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses




Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitness is a fascinating book, which argues that the best way to read the Gospels as history is to see them as eyewitness testimony.

In order to establish this point, Bauckham seeks to argue against the popular scholarly belief that the Gospels, as we now have them, was a product of a long process of anonymous transmission by the early church communities, which usually results in the notion of ditching the original testimonies of Jesus and replacing them with their own views of Jesus. Instead of this, Bauckham seeks to ground the writing of Gospels with the testimonies of eyewitnesses therefore bringing it more closely to the form in which the eyewitnesses told their stories about Jesus.

I thought this was a great book and I am sure I will be referring to it for years to come.

Monday, June 02, 2008

TULIP - The Calvinist Rabbit

A month ago our friends let us "rabbit-sit" their bunny, TULIP.

Here's TULIP with his buddy, Bear-Bear, after discussing "Unconditional Election" (Bear-Bear is an Arminian).


Here's TULIP running upstairs to read John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption is Fully Discussed

Here's me giving TULIP a carrot after she explains "Limited Atonement" to me.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Remembering "Common Grace"

Sometimes, I think we evangelicals stress the biblical idea that "all people are sinners" (Romans 3:10) so much that we forget that unregenerate (non-Christians) can do good (in the sense below) and please God. I think we need to be reminded of the Reformed doctrine of "common grace".

Below are two quotes from Louis Berkhor, stressing the fact that 1) Unregenerates can do good and 2) God does show favor to them.

"Reformed theologians generally maintain that the unregenerate can perform natural good, civil good, and outwardly religious good. They call attention to the fact, however, that, while such works of the unregenerate are good from a material point of view, as works which God commanded, they cannot be called good from a formal point of view, since they do not spring from the right motive and do not aim at the right purpose. The Bible repeatedly speaks of works of the unregenerate as good and right, II Kings 10:29, 30; 12:2 (comp. II Chron. 24:17-25); 14:3,14-16,20,27 (comp. II Chron. 25:2); Luke 6:33; ROM 2:14,15."


"Another objection to the doctrine of common grace is that it presupposes a certain favorable disposition in God even to reprobate sinners, while we have no right to assume such a disposition in God....Evidently the elect can not be regarded as always and exclusively the objects of God´s love. And if they who are the objects of God´s redeeming love can also in some sense of the word be regarded as the objects of His wrath, why should it be impossible that they who are the objects of His wrath should also in some sense share His divine favor? A father who is also a judge may loathe the son that is brought before him as a criminal, and feel constrained to visit his judicial wrath upon him, but may yet pity him and show him acts of kindness while he is under condemnation. Why should this be impossible in God? General Washington hated the traitor that was brought before him and condemned him to death, but at the same time showed him compassion by serving him with the dainties from his own table. Cannot God have compassion even on the condemned sinner, and bestow favors upon him? The answer need not be uncertain, since the Bible clearly teaches that He showers untold blessings upon all men and also clearly indicates that these are the expression of a favorable disposition in God, which falls short, however, of the positive volition to pardon their sin, to lift their sentence, and to grant them salvation. The following passages clearly point to such a favorable disposition: Prov. 1:24; Isa. 1:18; Ezek. 18:23,32; 33:11; Matt. 5:43-45; 23:37; Mark 10:21; Luke 6:35: ROM 2:4; I Tim. 2:4. If such passages do not testify to a favorable disposition in God, it would seem that language has lost its meaning, and that God´s revelation is not dependable on this subject."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Book Recommendation: The Rise of Christianity



Rodney Stark's The Rise of Christianity is a fascinating book that seeks to answer the rapid growth of Christianity through social science.

In general, Stark believes that the rapid growth in Christianity was due to the early Christians establishing and building a strong, loving, and beneficial community in a chaotic and deprived context.

Stark writes:

"...let me suggest here that Christianity revitalized life in Greco-Roman cities by providing new norms new kinds of social relationships able to cope with many urgent urban problems. To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with orphans and widows, Christianity provided a new expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity. And to cities faced epidemics, fires and earthquakes, Christianity offered effective nursing services (pg. 161)".


One of interesting things from this book was Stark's comparison of how the early Christians and pagans dealt with the devastating epidemics (plagues) by which the Christians were willing to loose their lives for their loves one but the pagans weren't. Stark quotes Dionysius, who describes these events (pg.82-83):


"Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transfered their death to themselves and died in their stead"



"The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape."



It's important to note that Starks also confirms these general differences from non-Christian sources (Julian and Thucydides) (pg. 83-85).

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book Recommendation: Meet the Rabbis



A while back, Amazon.com recommended that I read Brad Young’s book, Meet the Rabbis: Rabbinic Thought and the Teaching of Jesus, and because I didn’t know anything about the rabbis I decided to save it to my Wishlist. A month ago, I finally bought it and I just finished it on vacation to Punta Cana.

The book is structured into 3 main parts:

  1. Introduction to Rabbinic Thought
  2. Introduction to Rabbinic Literature
  3. Introduction to the Rabbis

And here’s a quick list of things that I found interesting and helpful:

  1. That it’s important to understand the rabbis in order to better understand Jesus- (Young parallels rabbinic thought to Jesus' to illuminate some of his thoughts)
  2. A good reminder that not all Pharisees are legalistic hypocrites (pg. 7-8)
  3. The role of the Sanhedrin and the importance of Torah after 70 C.E. (Ch. 4)
  4. The many parallels between Rabbinic and New Testament (Ch.5)
  5. The relationship between the Mishnah ,the Talmud (Jerusalem and Babylonian), and Midrash (Tannaitic and Amoraic)
  6. An overview of the major rabbinic leaders (Ch.11)

I recommend this book to anyone, who wants to gain a better understand of the rabbis. Also, for a better review check-out Dr. Craig Blomberg’s review.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I Guess I Won't Be Using These.......This SUCKS

Book Recommendation: Keller's The Reason of God




Tim Keller’s book The Reason of God:Belief in an Age of Skepticism is one of the finest apologetic Christian books I have ever read. The book is structured into two parts. In the first part (The Leap of Doubt), Keller goes through several topics that challenged the reasonableness for the Christian faith:

1) There Can’t Be Just One True Religion (Chapter 1)

2) How Could a Good God Allow Suffering (Chapter 2)

3) Christianity Is a Straitjacket (Chapter 3)

4) The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice (Chapter 4)

5) How Can A Loving God Send People to Hell (Chapter 5)

6) Science Has Disproved Christianity (Chapter 6)

7) You Can’t Take the Bible Literally (Chapter 7).


Then in the 2nd part of the book (The Reasons for Faith), Keller gives positive reasons for Christianity such as the problem of sin (Ch. 10) and the reality of the resurrection (Ch.13).


I really appreciate this book for its clarity and faithfulness in addressing tough questions and in presenting the gospel, while giving a sense of deep humility. This is definitely now my go to book for apologetics.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 18, 2008

NBA PLAYOFFS - 1st Round Picks


Lakers over Nuggets in 5
Boston over Hawks in 4
Rockets over Jazz in 7 (this pick is made with my heart)
Jazz over Rockets in 5 (with my head)
Cavs over Wiz in 6
Mavs over Hornets in 5
Magic over Raptors in 6
Suns over Spurs in 7
Pistons over 76er in 4

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr. Craig A. Evans at HBU on April 17th to 18th 2008





I just found out that Dr. Craig Evans, a very respected NT scholar will be speaking at HBU on April 17 to the 18.The title of his presentation will be 'Fabricating Jesus- How Today's Society Distorts the Gospel', which appears to be based on his most recent book.
Here's the schedule.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Suffering Son of Man

In Mark 8:31, Jesus astonishes his disciples by telling them that he as the Son of Man (Messiah) must suffer and die yet rise three days later.

31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. - Mark 8:31


This concept of linking the Son of Man (Daniel 7) with suffering and death (Isaiah 53) was astonishing unique. Rikki Watts writes:

"On the other hand, although the suffering element of Isa. 53 was widely ascribed, sometimes vicariously to Moses (Mekilta, b. Sotah) and possibly to an eschatological figure (Testament of Benjamin), this did not extend to either Daniel's son of man or the Messiah, who evoked instead glory and vindication. Jesus' predicating his messianic Son of Man identity with Isa. 53's suffering was apparently utterly unexpected, as was the consequent notion that Israel's peace would come through his bearing, even to death, the Deuteronomic wounds and sickness of idolatrous Israel's exilic judgment." [1]


So let us take this weekend to marvel at our Lord and Savior, who took upon the curse of Israel and thus the world's.

[1] pg 182 from Commentary on the NT Use of the OT edited by Carson and Beale

Friday, March 14, 2008

Witherington on The New Perspective on Paul

Ben Witherington has posted on his blog an article, entitled "The New Perspective on Paul and the Law" from his forthcoming book on NT Theology and Ethics, called The Indelible Image. I found his article pretty informative on his view of justification and the final judgment by which he sees moral apostasy as having a negative affect on someone's final salvation. Witherington writes:

"This is why the stringent warnings we noted about those Christians who could be excluded from the Dominion of God at the end for persisting in a certain course of disobedience such that they could be characterized as adulterers, thieves and the like, must be taken absolutely seriously. Final salvation, while it cannot be said to be caused by works of any Law in Paul’s thinking, can indeed be negatively affected in the end by persisting in sin such that a moral apostasy (or some other sort of apostasy) is committed, according to several key Pauline texts. All of this helps us to understand the ethical seriousness of Paul’s moral remarks and why he so often offers up such strong imperatives to his converts."

But I was perplexed in reading Witherington's understanding of Sander's, Dunn's, and Wright's view of the New Paul Perspective (NPP), especially as it relates to Judaism. Witherington seems to think that the proponents of NPP don't believe that Judaism required people to be obedient for salvation, but they just had to be in God's covenant in order to saved. He writes:

" In short, there are severe problems with the analysis of Paul in the New Perspective, whether we are thinking of the analysis of Sanders, Dunn, or even Wright. Paul believed that works and obedience in Judaism indeed affected righteousness, life, and salvation, the question is whether he carried such a belief forward into his Christian faith. If the old caricature of Judaism as a graceless and legalistic religion is certainly false, the New Perspective does not seem to have adequately represented the way Paul contrasts what is true in Christ and what he believed was true under the Mosaic Law."

I don't think this is correct. I believe NPP proponents have tried to maintain the balance of grace and obedience in their notion of "covenantal nomism". Dunn states:

"It is important to note...that Sanders did not characterize Judaism solely as a "covenantal" religion. The key phrase he chose was the double emphasis, "covenantal nomism". And Sanders made clear that the second emphasis was not to be neglected. The Torah/law was given to Israel to be obeyed, an integral part of the covenant relationship, and that obedience was necessary if Israel's covenant status was to be maintained. Even if obedience did not earn God's grace as such, was not a means to "get into" the covenant, obedience was necessary to maintain one's position in the covenant, to "stay in" the covenant. So defined, Deuteronomy can be seen as the most fundamental statement of Israel's "covenantal nomism". Given the traditional emphasis on Judaism's "nomism" it hardly surprising that Sanders should have placed greater emphasis on the "covenantal" element in the twin emphasis. But in his central summary statements he clearly recognized that both emphases were integral to Judaism's self understanding" [1]

HT (Denny Burk)


[1] Quote taken from Don Garlington's article "The New Perspective on Paul: An Appraisal Two Decades on". This is a must read article if you want a nuanced understanding of the NPP.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Doug Moo: Fresh Thoughts on Justifcation in Paul and James




A couple weeks ago, Doug Moo gave a lecture at Denver Seminary on justification entitled "Fresh Thoughts on Justification in Paul and James" by which he tries to deal with the tension between justification by faith and final judgment according to works.

I found it interesting to hear Moo's changing view of justification, having an "already and not yet" aspect by which the "not yet" includes a direct judgment based on our faith. This moves Moo away from the traditional reformed-view (i.e. John Piper) by which our works or faith are only evidences that we are truly in Christ rather then having any direct connection in God's judgment. On the other hand, Moo's changing view moves him closer to people like Mark Seifrid or Simon Gathercole, who see a direct relationship to human subjectivity (faith or good works) and God's judgment with the differences being that Moo doesn't believe that we are evaluated based on our works but only through our faith.

I also found it interesting to hear a seasoned Pauline scholar say that he is still refining his thoughts justification.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Rockets Play Day 2008 Part 2

Mission: "Getting High Fives"

1. Me and Landry - Mission Accomplished


video

2. Me and Novak - Mission Failed


video
3. Ben and Landry - Mission Accomplished




video
4. Ben and Tmac - Mission Accomplished



video

Ben and I are so COOL!!!!!!!!!!!

Rockets Play Day 2008 Part 1

Rocket's Play Day 2008 consisted of:

1) Me on the Rocket's court





2)Ben shooting some 3s


video

3) nachos



4) Me and Shane




5) Getting Landry's autograph


video

Friday, February 29, 2008

R.T. France: "Inerrancy and New Testament Exegesis"


I just found a very helpful article entitled "Inerrancy and New Testament Exegesis" by R.T. France which deals with how evangelicals, who hold to inerrancy, can still produce helpful exegesis for biblical studies.

France concludes with this helpful comment:

"To return, then, to our original question:does the evangelicals commitment to a high view of Scripture, which entails inerrancy, automatically exclude him from the use of the critical methods which are the rules of the game of academic biblical study? In fact just the opposite is the case: he has, if anything, a stronger incentive than any one else to work hard and critically at his exegesis, for he believes that what is interpreting is the word of God, and therefore should spare no pains in discovering what it really means. If anyone is obliged to pracitse the most rigorous grammatico-historical exegesis, without taking short cuts or fudging the issue, it is the evangelical. His doctrinal position obliges him to do the very thing the pundits demand, to study the text of Scripture critically in the light of all available knowledge relevant to it. He can, and should, have a real positive contribution to make to responsible exegesis, what is what academic biblical study is, or should be, all about."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Life is Over

Reports: Yao done for season with stress fracture in left foot

Saturday, February 23, 2008

God's OT Commandments: "Not Too Difficult"

"God's commandments is not too difficult, nor is it beyond your reach. The law is not among those things that the humble person does not bother with (Ps.131:1) or that even the wise find beyond their understanding (Prov. 30:18). It is not, therefore, impossibly idealistic, impracticable, unachievable. We have noticed eariler the balance achieved between ideal standards and eartly realities. The idea that God deliberately made the law so exacting that no body would ever be able to live by it belongs to a distorted theology that tries unnecessarily to gild the gospel by denigrating the law. The frequent claims by various psalmists to have lived according to God's law are neither exaggerated nor exceptional. They arise from the natural assumption that ordinary people can indeed live in a way that is broadly pleasing to God and faithful to God's law, and that they can do so as matter of joy and delight. This is neither self-righteousness nor a claim to sinless perfection, for the same psalmists are equally quick to confess their sin and failings, fully realizing that only the grace that could forgive and cleanse them would live wise enable them to live again in covenant obedience. Obedience to the law in the OT, as has been stressed repeatedly, was not the means of achieving salvation but the response to a salvation that was already experienced"

-pg 290 of Christopher Wright's commentary on Deuteronomy

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Friday, February 15, 2008

Christmas in Canada

We spent the Holidays visting relatives in Canada this year (Chen tradition). It was Dan's first time in Canada, seeing snow, skiing, ice skating, etc. Check out more photos on our Kodak Gallery:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Hope J. Kidd Goes to Dallas


Do you remember when the spurs were wanting to get jason kidd and get rid of tony parker? but the spurs kept parker and went on to win 2 more championships (2004-05, and 2006-07) with parker playing a huge role in each ot them. the mavs' situation reminds me of this, but i think they are going to do the opposite and get rid of their young and quick point guard, which will be bad because now the Mavs won't have anyone to guard the quick pgs in the west- tony parker, nash, williams, paul, and of course RAFER. as a rocket fan, I am hoping that this trade happens

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Garlington Reviews Piper's Book

Don Garlington has written a review of John Piper's book The Future of Justification: Response to N.T. Wright. Garlington concludes his review with this:



"In sum, Piper’s response to Tom Wright is worth reading for those interested in the seemingly never ending debate over justification. On the couple of issues noted above, I should think that Piper has the better of the argument. But for the most part, he has failed to demonstrate that Wright is wrong. The claim that the latter’s paradigm for justification “leaves many ordinary folk not with the rewarding ‘ah-ha’ experience of illumination, but with a paralyzing sense of perplexity” (24) is simply too subjective to be a useful criterion. In a nutshell, this book is mostly a defense of traditional doctrines, with a minimum of persuasive exegesis and a heavy reliance on confessionalism.

As a pastor, it is understandable that Piper has a pastoral concern. But is Wright’s theology of justification so dire that it is apt to result in Piper’s “double tragedy?” I think not, especially given Piper’s concessions as indicated above. In my estimation, Wright is the one who has “delivered the goods” when it comes to penetrating exegesis and, dare one say, fresh insight into the letters of Paul. It is also understandable that Piper would want to allay the “confusion” he senses on the part of his church members. However, I must say that such “laypersons” would have to be theologically literate indeed to tackle this book, not least its microscopic footnotes. Otherwise, the confusion is liable to remain!

As much as anything, this book is flawed by its near phobia of anything that smacks of newness and freshness, which, for Piper, must be suspect by definition. This is why we are exhorted to be suspicious of “our love of novelty” and eager to test biblical interpretations by “the wisdom of the centuries” (38). Agreed, but surely “the wisdom of the centuries” includes our own century. Wright is precisely correct: we are “to think new thoughts arising of the text and to dare to try them out in word and deed” (quoted on 37, italics added). Dr. Piper would do well to remember Matthew 13:52: “And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old’.” I would say the appropriate response to matters “new” and “fresh” is not skepticism but the Beroean spirit of searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11). "

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Craig Evan on the Importance of Cognate Literatures

In Craig Evan’s book, Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies: A Guide to the Background Literature, he expresses the value of being familiar with canonical cognate literatures (OT Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Early Church Fathers, and etc.) because they help clarify the following exegetical concerns [1].


1. The meaning of words.
2. Syntax
3. The meaning of concepts
4. History
5. Historical, social, and religious context
6. Exegetical context – that the noncanonical writing quite often shed light on the interpretation of the OT passage quoted or alluded in the NT.
7. Hermeneutical context – helps us understand how biblical literature was interpreted and what role it played in the life of the Jewish and Christian communities of faith.

[1] pg 3-5

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Marshall on "The Kingdom of God"

Jesus' establishment of the Kingdom of God involved in the creation of a new group of people.

"We must next ask what Jesus envisaged as the result of the establishment of the Kingdom of God (KG). The traditional hope was, as we have seen, for the setting up of a new kingdom in the presence of God at the end of the age in a cosmic setting; it would be composed of people who loved and served God and who lived together in righteousness and peace under the rule of God and his agent the Messiah. The Jews believed that they themselves would compose this people. The KG is thus a corporate entity and consists of people. Hence the mission of Jesus involved the creation of a people who would be the objects of God's rule and who would receive benefits of his rule. Since Jesus warned the people of Israel that as a nation they were in danger of being rejected by God, he must have envisaged the creation of a new people, incorporating elements of the old people but also open more widely and constituted by a new allegiance to himself as disciples and taught them that they must obey his words. The conclusion is irresistible that response to the message of the KG was identical with acceptance of Jesus as Master.


The new Israel is constituted by its allegiance to the Messiah." Kingdom of God expands through God's agents (the church)

"For we have seen that God acted in Jesus to establish his rule and that the concepts of the Messiah/Son of man and the KG are indivisibly joined together. But in the Messiah or Son of man is the leader of a group who are not only subject to God as King but also act in unison to spread the KG. The idea that the KG expands of its own accord independently of the action of God's agents is thoroughly false. Jesus called the Twelve and Seventy(-two) to share in his work, and he told them to preach that the KG had drawn near and to perform the signs of its presence. The KG extends as it is proclaimed and as the signs of its presence are performed. If Jesus came to bring the KG, we must be conclude that his followers were commissioned by him to carry out the same task. It must be questioned, therefore whether Taylor is right in saying that 'laboring for the coming of the Kingdom' is not the teaching of Jesus himself. On the contrary, this is precisely what he called his followers to do. To proclaim the Kingship of God is to preach the KG, for it opens up to people the possibility of responding to the message by acknowledging God as their king".


The Church should be concerned with evangelism and discipleship


"The Church consists of people who acknowledge God as king and who are committed to proclaiming his kingship and witnessing to his realty in their own lives as individuals and as a community. Put in other words, this means that a primary task of the Church is evangelism carried out in the power of the Spirit. But such proclamation is not simply aimed at conversion of individuals. The Church must also spell out the nature of obedience to God both spiritually and morally, just as Jesus did. The proclamation of the KG will include the declaration of God's condemnation of what is evil and hypocritical in the lives of people both as individuals and as members of communal bodies in business and government. To say this obviously raises questions about the extent to which protest in the name of God should be carried out I action as well as in words, but there is no room here to take up the point. We must be guide by the example of Jesus, who forbade his followers to use violence, but who did things, like associating with tax collectors and sinners, that outraged his opponents and made them even plot to kill him".

- The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament by I.Howard Marshall

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Smitten


Dan and I watched Juno this past week. We're smitten- Watch it, and you will be too!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jesus the Resurrected Messiah


In N.T. Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, he notes that the Messiah was generally supposed to do three things [1]:


  1. Win the decisive victory over the pagans
  2. Rebuild or cleanse the Temple
  3. In some way or other to bring true, god-given justice and peace to the whole world


Why did the early Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah when he seemed to have failed his mission?


Wright notes that the early Christians believed Jesus was the Messiah because he rose from the dead.


“To this question, of course, the early Christians reply with one voice: we believe that Jesus was and is the Messiah because he was raised bodily from the dead. Nothing else will do. And to this the historian has to say: yes, this belief would produce this result. If the early Christians believed that Israel’s god had raised Jesus from the dead, they would believe that he had been vindicated as Messiah despite his shameful death. “ [2]


But what about the Messiah’s mission of accomplishing the 3 things mentioned above? Did the early Christians abandon the Jewish model of the Messiah? Wright notes that the early Christians didn’t dump the existing Jewish model but allowed this belief to be transformed in four ways [3]


  1. It lost its ethnic specificity: the Messiah did not belong only to the Jews
  2. The ‘messianic battle’ changed its character: the Messiah would not fight a military campaign, but would confront evil itself
  3. The rebuilt Temple would not be a bricks-and-mortar construction in Jerusalem, but the community of Jesus’ followers.
  4. The justice, peace, and salvation which the Messiah would bring to the world would not be a Jewish version of the imperial dream of Rome, but would be God’s dikaiosune, God’s eirene, God’s soteria, poured out upon the world through the renewal of the whole creation.


[1] pg 557

[2] pg 563

[3] pg 562-563