Saturday, December 31, 2011

Daniel Kirk on his new book Jesus Had I Loved, but Paul?

Here is J R Daniel Kirk has to say about his new book, Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?

I haven't read the book and so I cannot comment further. But I think Kirk is on to something here. And Kirk is certainly a bright New Testament scholar. For years I have been thinking that Christians today do not fully understand Paul. I think it is worth checking out this book.

Income inequality in the ancient world and now (Scot McKnight and Tim De Chant)

In his recent blog post Scot McKnight points us to an interesting post by Tim De Chant, which is about income inequality in the Roman Empire in the ancient world. (Click here and here for the two blog posts.) Here are some quotes from the blog post.
"Over the last 30 years, wealth in the United States has been steadily concentrating in the upper economic echelons. Whereas the top 1 percent used to control a little over 30 percent of the wealth, they now control 40 percent."

"In total, Schiedel and Friesen figure the elite orders and other wealthy made up about 1.5 percent of the 70 million inhabitants the empire claimed at its peak. Together, they controlled around 20 percent of the wealth..."

"These numbers paint a picture of two Romes, one of respectable, if not fabulous, wealth and the other of meager wages, enough to survive day-to-day but not enough to prosper. The wealthy were also largely concentrated in the cities."

"Schiedel and Friesen aren’t passing judgement on the ancient Romans, nor are they on modern day Americans. Theirs is an academic study, one used to further scholarship on one of the great ancient civilizations. But buried at the end, they make a point that’s difficult to parse, yet provocative. They point out that the majority of extant Roman ruins resulted from the economic activities of the top 10 percent. “Yet the disproportionate visibility of this ‘fortunate decile’ must not let us forget the vast but—to us—inconspicuous majority that failed even to begin to share in the moderate amount of economic growth associated with large-scale formation in the ancient Mediterranean and its hinterlands.”"

"In other words, what we see as the glory of Rome is really just the rubble of the rich, built on the backs of poor farmers and laborers, traces of whom have all but vanished. It’s as though Rome’s 99 percent never existed. Which makes me wonder, what will future civilizations think of us?"
The gap between the haves and have-nots was huge in the Roman Empire as well as in many countries in the West today. Since the events of the New Testament took place in the Roman Empire, the socioeconomic context of the Empire is important for us as we read the Bible. (See my previous post about the economic profile of the earliest church in the Roman Empire here.) This, in turn, is important for us today as we try to apply the New Testament to our own contexts in the affluent West.

Why "social" justice? (Scot McKnight)

For a long time I have been thinking whether I should include the word "social" when I refer to "justice" in the Bible. In terms of biblical usage, "social justice" is not strictly speaking the language used in the Scripture. But on the other hand when "justice" is mentioned in the Bible, it has much to do with social and communal living.

In his recent blog post Scot McKnight discusses this matter. Here I cite a few things McKnight says.
Tim King is a former student of mine, works with Jim Wallis, and is pointing out something I would affirm. The word “social” has been added to the word “justice” because “social” has been too often neglected. Having said that, though, I would plead with us to learn to use the word “justice” biblically — it refers to being right with God, with self, with others, with the world — so that we don’t have to add “social” (with others, with the world) and so we can cease with our gnostic-like spirituality where it is only “me and God.”
I am ready to concede the point that if we properly define our terms, the “social” in social justice and the “personal” in personal salvation should both be dropped. But, I’m not willing to stop using the modifier “social” when it comes to justice until Christians fully engage the biblical definition of justice.
Someday, justice will be flowing like a river and righteousness like an everflowing stream.
On that day, we won’t be fighting about whether or not it is “social” justice or just plain old justice that is rolling.
I gather that the last two sentences echo Amos' words about justice. I think Scot McKnight has something for us to ponder here.

Click here for McKnight's blog post.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Apocalyptic and Salvation-History in Romans (Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner)

Sorry that this post is going to be a little bit too technical for some. But if you are working on Paul's letters, one thing that you need to constantly reflect on how his theology should be understood from salvation-historical and apocalyptic perspectives. In his recent blog post Michael Bird cited something from Ciampa and Rosner's commentary on 1 Corinthians (though it is about Romans). Something for us to think through...
"The salvation-historical and apocalyptic perspectives are not, for Paul, two irreconcilable outlooks standing in unresolved tension. Instead, the two perspectives converge in Paul’s thought such that he regards the history of the particular nation of Israel as finding its fulfillment, through Jesus Christ, in salvation for the entire world. The convergence of salvation-historical and apocalyptic motifs is nowhere more apparent than in the two ‘bookends’ to Romans 1:1-5 and 16:25-27. The gospel of Jesus Christ, descended from David according to the flesh yet declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, has cosmic significance. This ‘mystery’ was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings (i.e., the historical Scriptures of Israel) has been made know to all the nations, and must be proclaimed to the world and its authorities. It is the eschatological ‘power of God for salvation’ (Rom. 1:16). Paul the  regards himself as a herald who has been commissioned by Jesus to perform this task. Paul has been sent, through a special revelation of God’s Son, to preach to the Gentiles (Gal. 1:11, 16). He is one of two ‘point men’ in God’s eschatological mission, having been entrusted with the gospel to the Gentiles just as Peter was entrusted with the gospel to the Jews (Gal.2:7)."
Click here for Michael Bird's blog post.

The mission of God and participation (Michael Gorman)

In this blog, Michael Gorman has written a post that is really worth reading. It is about Paul's understanding of the mission of God. Here is what he says.

"What is God up to in the world? What is the missio Dei, the mission of God?

For Paul the answer to that question is clear: to bring salvation to the world. The means of that salvation is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Israel’s Messiah, and the world’s true Lord. This is the gospel, the good news. The mode by which that salvation is conveyed to the world is the preaching of this good news both in word and in deed. And the mode by which that salvation is received is described best not merely as belief in the sense of intellectual assent but as participation in the sense of a comprehensive transformation of conviction, character, and communal affiliation. This is what it means to be “in Christ,” Paul’s most fundamental expression for this participatory life that is, in fact, salvation itself…."

"According to Paul, God is on a mission to liberate humanity—and indeed the entire cosmos—from the powers of Sin and Death. The fullness of this liberation is a future reality for which we may, and should, now confidently hope. In the present, however, God is already at work liberating humanity from Sin and Death, through the sin-defeating and life-giving death and resurrection of his Son, as a foretaste of the glorious future that is coming. God is therefore at work creating an international network of multicultural, socio-economically diverse communities (“churches”) that participate in this liberating, transformative reality and power now—even if incompletely and imperfectly. They worship the one true God, confess his Son Jesus as the one true Lord, and live in conformity to the self-giving divine love displayed on the cross by means of the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son."

Click here to read Gorman's full blog post.