This year, when I proposed 4 papers for SBL, I was very discouraged that all 4 got rejected. Thus, it is the first time in four years I will not be presenting an academic paper at SBL (though I was invited to present in a Phd-prep workshop). I felt, therefore, that my conference experience was going to be a bit deflated.
Then, I got a nice email from ETS (Evangelical Theological Society) asking me if I would participate in the Pauline Studies seminar as part of a review panel discussing Tom Wright’s book Justification (alongside Mark Seifrid and Michael F Bird). I gladly accepted!
The title of my paper is: “To What End diakaiosyne? The Hermeneutics and Ethics of Justification in the Wright-Piper Debate.” (Friday, 3:20-4:00).
I am not an expert on Pauline soteriology, certainly not of the caliber of Seifrid or Bird, but I want to tackle the discussion from another angle: is dikaiosyne the summit of Pauline theology? Is it an end? Or is it a means to an end?
The question normally revolves around whether righteousness is imputed or declared, whether it is Christ’s own or as a result of Christ. Piper is concerned, along with others, that justification loses its power if it is mixed with a semi-pelagian theology that some detect in Wright’s work which ostensibly puts serious stock in the confirmation of righteousness at final judgment.
I think that, in general, Wright is closer to what Paul is communicating, but I think a better way to work the argument (so as to not appear to be promoting a diminished christology) is to focus on anthropological teleology - what is the goal of justification? My paper will beg for the answer (I hope): is the end not transformation that is detectable in ethical (or virtuous) living? Here, I think, Wright has gotten Romans 2:7-8…well…right!
I will try to argue that Wright could buttress his argument by driving further some important texts on justification such as 1 Corinthians 6:11 and the emphasis on the Spirit and justification (cf. Gal. 5:5).
Finally, at the Wheaton Conference, Kevin Vanhoozer gave a show-stopping performance that brought speech-act theory into the conversation. I think, though I am not sure where I will fit this in, that I will try something similar using Berger and Luckman’s work on the sociology of knowledge. This has a great bearing, not just on justification and ‘soteriology’, but also on ecclesiology (as Wright would applaud), identity, and community ethos (which falls generally under the umbrella of ethics).
I do hope some of you will turn up, as I think this will be a fun discussion. Don’t ask me any really complex questions, though! I may defer and give you the Bird.
See here. There is an interesting article on Philippians 4:2-3 and some useful reviews.
The Body of Christ denotes a radical and global revolution of an earth enslaved since the fall by demonic forces. In it the Exalted One is revealed as its true Lord. The bodily service of his servants in fellowship with every creature is the demonstration and realization of the claim and promise of the One whose resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:25 is interpreted as a worldwide revolutionary and explosive event…bodily penetrating all the breadths, depths, and corners of the world…[The coporeality of the church] is the space in which at last the first commandment in its promise and claim is proclaimed over all the earth (On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene, p. 51).
I was shocked and pleased to see that Barnes & Noble (of all places!) is offering a whopping 32% discount on my BZNW monograph (published in just a few weeks), bringing the price down from $98 to $66.15.
The last post I did on how to revitalize biblioblogdom has been met with divergent attitudes. Some have affirmed what I said, by noting a general decline in the biblioblogging world and agree that we should be a bit more focused and a bit more willing to have deeper conversations.
Others have argued that blogs are meant to be whatever the blogger wants – whatever topics, whatever pace, just whatever. Blogs are not journals, they are not “professional,” they are personal, spontaneous, and fun.
Those who have criticized my comments, though, may be misunderstanding me. I am NOT saying that bibliobloggers should do as I say. Blogs can and should do what satisfies the blogger. What I WAS saying was that, if revitalization in the community is desired, perhaps some of my suggestions might lead to such a renewal.
Think about it this way. Sometimes you read someone’s blog because you just want to get away from serious work. Sometimes you like the insider joking, ribbing, and slandering (in good fun).
However, we have developed a real community of scholarship in some ways (as evidenced in the association with SBL). For those who want to find a community of scholarship and learning, it does get a bit annoying when biblioblogs generate more posts on “randomness” than on something related to Biblical studies.
Some bloggers will say, “Good riddance to readers who have narrow expectations.” OK. Fair enough. To each his own. However, I think at least SOME bloggers need to be consistent enough and focused enough to maintain the infrastructure of the biblioblogging community. Otherwise, why call us an academic community at all. Why have an SBL affiliation?
I will be honest – my blog is generally serious. I am a fairly light-hearted person (just ask my Durham cohort), but I honestly don’t have time to just surf around and “veg” on blogs. I have kids. I have two major research projects. I have four new courses to prepare for next year. I have two conference papers to write. I have two articles to revise. I am moving to the west coast.
So, I might ask, what do we want to accomplish in the biblioblog world? Just good fun? OK. But then it may die sooner than we’d like and we can still meet up at SBL and remember the good ole days. However, I think for it to have roots, some critical mass of bibliobloggers need to be more focused, consistent, and collaborative.
A commenter, my friend Chris Spinks, mentioned that “blogs” were not originally avenues for having deep conversations. I think he is right, but I don’t like the language of “blogging” anyway (its a terrible sounding word to begin with!). Thus, I am pleased to not have the word “blog” in my address title. I like “wordpress” because the idea of “press” gives it more of a publishing flavor. Whether that was intentional on the part of WordPress, I don’t know. But just because others will call my site a “blog,” doesn’t mean I have to play by those rules.
I am sharing what I think will bring longevity to biblioblogdom. Remember, some folks out there don’t have colleagues or kindred spirits in Biblical studies, so they NEED this forum. While some use it for “fun,” for others it is their only academic club. I value that and I want to do some lasting sorts of things, though I try to read some others who take a more light approach (like the once-prolific Chris Tilling).
If others have suggestions, I am open to them. Please know that I am fine with folks being goofy and doing their thing. I am not the blog police. But maybe we can have some blogs and forums (as Rob Barrett has suggested) that foster more consistent and serious conversation.
For some time now (maybe 9 months) I have noticed a serious decline in postings on a number of blogs, many which I used to regularly read. In fact, some bloggers who were the most widely read and most prolific, have just about disappeared…
What is happening?
Here are, I think, problems that have led some bibliobloggers to lose steam
2. Lack of time – but, since most of us are either full-time students or full-time professors, we can all complain about not having time, and yet we all still do it.
3. Writer’s block – I have experienced this before, but I think it is temporary. Inevitably we (as bloggers) are engaging in new discussions, facing new teaching and research problems, and reading new books.
4. Lack of interest on the part of readers – maybe some have felt that there are no readers out there, or just a few. But I believe, if you make it worthwhile, “they will come.” Also, small communities are fine.
Perhaps I can convince any one blogger to push forward, or I can excuse one or two for a serious period of absence for a good reason (like moving across country like I will be doing in a few weeks). But what can we do about the languishing world of the biblioblogs [I recognize that some pockets are thriving, but I must confess that it appears to be losing energy as a whole]?
I don’t mean to be overly critical – I WANT to see revitalization. Here are some of my recommendations.
1. FOCUS – We need bloggers to think about their niche more. General readers, I think, are not looking for everyone to comment generally, but to learn (at least once in a while) from the specialties of each blogger.
2. FRESH FACES [or PAGES] – We need some new blood. I think we have all appreciated the very exciting contributions of new biblioblogger, but well-recognized scholar, Prof. Larry Hurtado.
3. CONSISTENCY – Some good bloggers seem to be hit or miss on actually blogging about the New Testament. Sometimes we see humorous posts about the news or random thoughts. I think (and I know some will disagree with me) that biblioblogs need to be more consistent in content. That doesn’t mean it has to be all serious – blogs are fun precisely because we can be more casual and goofy. However, I get frustrated when I see a feed-reader for biblioblogs and none of the posts are about Biblical studies!
4. TRUE CONVERSATION – It seems that, though we read each others’ blogs and even sometime comment, we don’t always seem to be having meaningful conversations. Can we start to facilitate good interaction somehow and try to learn from one another as (ideally) happens in face-to-face conference-style interaction? Perhaps initiating more bloggers conferences might help, where a group comes together (digitally) at a certain period and commits to blogging on the same issue/problem/subject/text, all drawing from different strengths and with a willingness to respond thoughtfully to others for mutual benefit.
5. ANONYMOUS COMMENTS NEED TO STOP. Enough said.
6. DEEPER RATHER THAN BROADER – Perhaps we may see more productivity if bloggers commit to writing a series of posts on the same topic. This helps generate interest and also lends itself to the blogger reflecting more deeply on the subject.
Disclaimer – some folks are content with making random posts and not taking the blogging world too seriously. Fair enough. However, even though I come to this world for some kind of recreation, I still hope to learn and have meaningful academic discussions as this biblioblogdom continues to exist.
I need some information- what are the top OT/HB monograph series?
So far I have come up with
Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft (Walter de Gruyter), the Forschungen zum Alten Testament I (Mohr Siebeck), and the Society for Old Testament Study Series (Ashgate),
As I work through the lecture notes for a course next year on Christian Scripture, I would like to share some resources that helped me a lot.
1. James Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom – a lot of wisdom from this scholar in a digestible format.
2. Roland Murphy, The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature – a classic in terms of introductions.
3. Tremper Longman, How to Read Proverbs- a very simple and easy guide to Proverbs – excellent for use as a textbook for college students.
For the Prophetical books, there are also numerous excellent books.
1. My favorite has to be Willem VanGemeren’s Interpreting the Prophetic Word – a very readable and exhaustive introduction to prophets and their literature.
2. For an inspirational text, read Walter Brueggemann’s The Prophetic Imagination.
3. If you want to explore the issue of how OT prophecy is dealt with by NT writers, check out the relatively recent Three Views on the NT Use of the OT (Zondervan Counterpoints).
4. Specifically on Isaiah, I would recommend the book Interpreting Isaiah: Issues and Approaches (eds. D. Firth and H.G.M. Williamson). Essays include “Recent issues in the study of Isaiah” (Williamson), “Monotheism and Isaiah” (Nathan MacDonald), “Faith in Isaiah” (Philip Johnston), “The theology of Isaiah” (John Goldingay), “The text of Isaiah at Qumran” (D. Swanson), “Isaiah in the NT” (Rikk Watts), and others.
I am currently reading E. Kaesemann’s On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene (Eerdmans, 2010) which I will be formally reviewing for Scottish Journal of Theology. Here, I will give some personal thoughts.
The book begins with a self-reflection on Kaesemann’s life that he wrote in 1996. His reflection on his own conversion in his youth carries the theological language and passion we expect of this academic giant.
…I came to know that each one’s uniqueness, or in modern parlance, each one’s identity, is experienced only through the Lord or through the demons to which one surrenders. No one belongs to himself or herself. (p. xiii).
Another interesting bit: from early on in his education, he became convinced that “the central theme of the New Testament is the worldwide Lordship of the Crucified” (p. xiv).
Later on in the essay, he offers some thoughts on the discipline of NT ethics, which he thinks is a bit misguided. The NT does not discuss “ethics” as classically defined (and in that sense, Michael Gorman’s emphasis on Paul’s spirituality is similar). Rather, instead of discussing “ethics,” Paul reflects on the effects of justification: “God is the Lord who commands, but he is the One who delivers from Egypt and forbids giving his place to other lords and gods” (p. xvi). Both powerfully and a bit vaguely Kaesemann explains: “It is the concretion of the charis that pardons us” (p. xvi).
One unmistakable aspect of this essay is the emphasis on Kaesemann’s theological, social, and political convictions. A few months back, I published in RBL a review of Magnus Zetterholm’s Approaches to Paul where, among other things, he criticizes those scholars who mix too much theology with good historical inquiry. He points particularly to Kaesemann as one who demonstrates such a flawed hermeneutic.
At what cost, though, do we read the NT and try to disregard theological entailments and presuppositions? Kaesemann’s voice, from the grave now (sadly), speaks quite loudly to Zetterholm in this amazing volume of theological and political/social essays. More than his voice, though, we “hear” Kaesemann’s life of faith and (to use a term Kaesemann doesn’t) cruciformity. Just let this quote from life reflections soak in:
The founding of the Confessing Church at Wuppertal led to political opposition. As early as the fall of 1933, I declared that the Reichbishop was a traitor to the evangelical church. From then on I was hated by the Nazis, later was denounced in the marketplace as a national traitor by the Gauleiter (district leader) in Gesenkirchen, and was recommended to the higher authorities for assignment to a concentration camp. (p. xviii)
We have no real grounds, based on such a life, to ignore what Kaesemann says in the conclusion to this essay:
As a last word and as my bequest, let me call to you in Huguenot style: “Résistez!” Discipleship of the Crucified leads necessarily to resistance to idolatry on every front. This resistance is and must be the most important mark of Christian freedom (xxi).
Certainly Kaesemann was not perfect and made wrong turns in his interpretation once in a while. He was a child of his times and we must acknowledge that. However, I hope my gravestone will read: “Faithful member of the Resistance, true disciple of the Crucified.”