May 15, 2008

New book by Eugene Peterson

Amazon now has up on its site the listing for the fourth book in his series on spiritual theology that was inaugurated by Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. I've loved the first two books in the series, and am looking forward to reading the third (it's on my wish list; and my birthday is coming up, you know, so if you want to get me a gift . . .)

May 14, 2008

Michael Bird sermon on the church

Michael Bird points out on his blog links to a sermon he preached this past weekend for Pentecost: part 1, part 2. In it he looks at the Spirit and the mission of the church. I espeically liked the discussion of the church as a people of Spirit, Word and Sacrament, where he discusses the need for all three and the distortion of focusing too much on just one (it's near the beginning of "part 2").

May 13, 2008

An Evangelical Manifesto round-up

There seems to be no shortage of discussion about the Evangelical Manifesto published last week. I have put down a few thoughts, and I have also come across a number of others who have commented on it as well. I will attempt to gather at least some of them here, because I think they facilitate a great discussion about the term "evangelical" and also about the loose movement to which it may somehow apply.

The announcement of the manifesto by Religion News Service in CT.

James K. A. Smith at Generous Orthodoxy has a critical appraisal in two posts: post 1, post 2

John Stackhouse has a relatively appreciative appraisal.

Darrell Bock, one of the charter signatories, has some responses to the ongoing discussion.

Os Guiness comments in an article for CT, discussing the need for civility in public discourse.

As I stumble across more, I'll try to update them here.

J. D. G. Dunn's next big book

Eerdmans has on its site James Dunn's next book in the Christianity in the Making series, following on his Jesus Remembered. They don't have much info up there, but they do announce October 29, 2008, as the expected ship date. Dunn is a prolific evangelical scholar, and his books are always a great deposit of learning, even if I don't always agree completely with him. But I wait expectantly for this one. (HT: Michael Bird)

May 12, 2008

Israe's salvation in Romans 9-11

My blog far to infrequently takes up texts of the Bible directly, so a great post by Michael Bird over at Euangelion gives a good occasion. In this post, Bird looks at the "mystery" with regard to Israel's salvation in Romans 11, contending that Paul's vision that all Israel will be saved is placed within a robust remnant theology that he has developed in chs 9-11, and that is a prominent feature of the OT/Hebrew Bible. His reflections are worthy of some consideration, as this is certainly an interesting text, coming as it does at the climax of one of Paul's great theological expositions. Especially as it is sometimes taken to mean something like "all Isarelites will be saved," and is even taken so far as to occasionally be interpreted to imply that this will be outside of salvation in Christ, something that seems to fly in the face of Paul's whole argument in Romans.

Some interesting movies

My wife and I have been enjoying our Netflix membership. It means we get to actually watch some of those movies that get on your "watch them someday" list. And it also means that when I see a preview or read an article about a movie, I can go and drop it in my cue, instead of writing it on a scrap of paper I'll soon loose. So anyway, over the course of the last week we watched three great movies I highly recommend, and none of them are quite what you expect.

The first was "Juno." This movie has gotten a lot of press, and not just because it takes place in Minnesota. It is a great little movie: great characters, interesting plot, sublime humor. I loved it. It turned out to be a great character study about life, both life in high school and new life. As someone who is pro-life, I love seeing a movie where a high schooler makes a brave decision to keep her baby. But politics aside, it is still a spectacular movie about love and its loss, and hope for the future in the face of it. Watch this one.

The second movie was "Supersize Me." Everyone in America should have to watch this one. We are becoming an obese people, and fast food is a big culprit. Though I think the biggest revelation for me was what the filmmaker found when he investigated some school lunch programs: kids brought up on McDonalds expect that kind of food at school, and when given the choice, will eat fries for lunch every day. Ouch! And the movie is really well made.

The third is "Lars and the Real Girl" (HT to Nick Norelli; I never would have watched this one if he hadn't mentioned it). And yes, it's about a man who has a relationship with a sex doll. But if you get past that extremely strange premise, it's a really great movie. It's not an American Pie type of humor, and it's really not crude at all. Instead it turns out to be a great study in relationships and caring. Don't miss this one either.

May 09, 2008

Evangelical Manifesto

An Evangelical Manifesto has recently been released. And I'm sure there will be much discussion about its content over the next days all over the blogosphere. And rightly so. The document, written by a committee of prominent "Evangelicals," seeks to define who they are as evangelicals and the to set out a vision for evangelical engagement with the world.

Many others are likewise responding to the document. See, for instance, Darrel Bock.

On first reading, the document seems to be one with which I enthusiastically agree. It begins by defining what evangelicalism is, reclaiming the title as a desire to be biblically, historically Christian. They are careful to define the distinctives of "evangelicalism" but are equally careful to emphasize the commonalities with Christians across time and space, dual emphases that are absolutely essential to our Christian identity.

They then lay out a vision for evangelical social engagement, a vision for what it means to actually live as an evangelical. Amongst the current ills of much current evangelical practice, they point to replacing "meeting real needs with meeting felt needs." What a great and incisive critique of a detached gospel (it smacks of Dallas Willard's influence). In short, they disect the distance between much evangelical rhetoric and much evangelical living. It is a great call to reformation.

The document then moves to something that has been growing closer and closer to my own heart: moving beyond single-issue politics to a broader and fuller vision of how God would have us act in the world. Beside the traditional evangelical concerns, there are so many issues that demand our immediate attention: "the global giants of conflict, racism, corruption, poverty, pandemic diseases, illiteracy, ignorance, and spiritual emptiness." Along with this, I've found myself noticing more and more noticing the too-easy equation of "evangelical" (or, often, even Christian!) with Republican.

In the end, the document is a well-reasoned and faithful call to a faith that is neither "privatized nor politicized." I hope it can be an occasion for evangelical reflection and reformation, and hope it can guide the continuing transformation of evangelicalism in America and beyond.

May 03, 2008

The Doctrine of Scripture at Westminster

Those of you who read Biblioblogs have probably followed the saga unfolding at Westminster Theological Seminary over the past year regarding Peter Enns, prof of Biblical Studies, and his book, Inspiration and Incarnation. In that engaging and thoughtful book, Enns tackles head on "problems" in the Scriptures that are often glossed over in formulating our doctrines. In short, he looks at the phenomenon of Scripture (that is, what Scripture actually is and says and does) to see what it has to contribute to a doctrine of Scripture. This is opposed, or maybe better, in addtion, to focusing on the "self-witness" of Scripture, that is, what Scriptures specifically says it is. This discussion has led to the dismissal of Professor Enns from Westminster, after the decision that he has gone outside the bounds of the Westminster Confession. Many learned people on all sides of the discussion have commented at great length. I recommend, among others, the round-up by Michael Bird of Euangelion, and the comments by Ben Meyer of Faith and Theology, though many others have commented as well. Especially interesting is also the fact that Westminster has now released the theological documents surrounding the dismissal, which shed some interesting light on the split within the faculty. The Hermenutics Faculty Committe precis is especially interesting.

I myself have been wrestling with how to forumlate the doctrine of Scripture in light both of what Scripture says and what Scripture is, and I personally really enjoyed Enns' honest approach to the phenomenon of Scripture, taking him at his word that it was an investigation into these matters with an eye to how they may contribute to a doctrine of Scripture, and not a full-blown doctrinal statement. And while I don't necessarily completely agree with how he has used the incarnational anaolgy, nor necessarily agree with all of his points, I thought his book was well done and much needed study into these matters.

I'm saddened by the tone much of this discussion has taken, and hope it can open up some fruitful dialogue on what it means to be confessional but also Biblical, on what it means to be evangelical without closing off continued study and learning. I think this controversy simply extends one that has been going on in evangelicalism for a long time, in organizations such as the Evangelical Theological Society and elsewhere. I have profound respect for many of the traditional formulations of the doctrine of Scripture, but also hope our investigations can continue.