Showing posts from January, 2019

Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Peter Stuhlmacher) -- A Review

BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. By Peter Stuhlmacher. Translated by Daniel P. Bailey. Foreword by G. K. Beale. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2018. Xxxiv + 935 pages.
I will make a confession up front: I did not read this book cover to cover, word for word. I read parts of the book and skimmed in others. As this volume was submitted by the publisher to an award effort I chair, I wanted  to get a sense of this massive study of New Testament Theology (over 1000 pages all told). Although it didn't receive the award, it is a worthy submission. 
                It is, in many ways, comprehensive, thought it does give precedence (at least in my reading) to Paul. It also represents a German/European perspective on the task of biblical theology. As the author notes in his preface to this English edition, he wrote the book some twenty years ago, and that it “reflects the prevailing discussion in Germany at the time” (p. xix). As you read through you will find the …

Forks in the Road – A Reflection on Schism in Detroit

The religious tradition of which I am part was founded on the vision of pursuing the unity of Christians. Thomas Campbell spoke of the divisions among Christians that marked the American frontier as a “horrid evil.” He called it “anti-christian, as it destroys the visible unity of the body of Christ; as if were divided against himself, excluding and excommunicating a part of himself.” Campbell goes on to call it anti-scriptural and anti-natural. Despite that vision of unity, the movement that emerged on the frontier and linked to the ministries of Thomas Campbell, as well as that of his son Alexander, and Barton Stone, has managed to divide several times. It seems we can’t agree on the basis of unity.
My thoughts on this issue spring from a series of conversations that have taken place on a list-serve discussion group (yes email discussion groups still exist). The participants mostly come from the branch of the Stone-Campbell Movement known as the Churches of Christ, along with a heal…

Prophetic Callings - Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 4C (Jeremiah 1)

Jeremiah 1:4-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

The prophet Jeremiah was born into the priestly caste. That he would a priest was a given. On the other hand, nothing about his birth suggested God would call him to be a prophet. Y…

God Can't (Thomas Jay Oord) --- A Review

GOD CAN’T: How to Believe in God and Love After Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils. By Thomas Jay Oord. Nampa, ID: SacraSage Press, 2019. 202 pages.

The theological word “theodicy” covers one of humanity’s great questions, that having to do with God’s nature and the presence of evil in the world. It speaks to questions of divine power and authority as well as the goodness of God. To put it simply, if we claim, as Christians normally do, that God is love (as revealed in Scripture) and that God is powerful (omnipotent?), then why do we see evil world? Can we affirm both premises as true? Either God is not all powerful or God is not loving. For certainly a loving God would prevent, preventable evil. Attempts have been made down through the ages to hold both God’s omnipotence and God’s love together, but does it work in the face of the ongoing presence of evil? You might suggest that God permits evil to exist? But why? You can appeal to freedom of the will but is that a sufficient answer? Mos…

Taking Care of the Body -- A Sermon for Epiphany 3C (1 Corinthians 12)

1 Corinthians 12:12-31

When Paul wrote the letter we know as 1 Corinthians, he addressed a congregation in distress. They were divided into factions and were involved in all kinds of bad behavior. Paul planted this congregation and loved it, like a parent loves a child. Like a parent, he had high hopes for his children. But, when he moved on from Corinth, things didn’t go as planned, and he was forced to intervene.  You might say that he was acting as a Regional Minister. 
Last Sunday we heard Paul reveal that each member of the church was given “manifestations of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). This revelation leads to Paul’s definition of the church as the “Body of Christ.”  In using the image of the body to describe the Christian community, Paul drew on an analogy that went back centuries in the Greco-Roman world. But, he put a new spin on the image, turning it on its head. Instead of using it to support social hierarchies, with some on the top and others at the bottom…

The Universal Christ (Richard Rohr) -- A Review

THE UNIVERSAL CHRIST: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope for, and Believe. By Richard Rohr. New York: Convergent Books, 2019. 260 pages.

Can we and should we separate Jesus of Nazareth from the Christ? That is, should we think of the Christ as a kind of principle that incarnated in Jesus, but is not limited to Jesus? If we do this, might we find a deeper and more fulfilling vision of reality? Might we embrace the idea of the “Christ Mystery, the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything since the beginning of time as we know it”? (pp. 1-2). That is the idea that underlies Richard Rohr’s latest book (to be released, I believe, in March) titled The Universal Christ. It is this idea that includes but is not limited to Jesus that Rohr believes can alter our understandings of God and reality. I expect that his vision of God and reality will be attractive to many. While that may be true, it is also likely that the way he lays out this vision will pr…

What happened Saturday in Washington on the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial?

As the nation prepared to observe the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend, while a partial government shutdown over a border wall, other news caught our attention. This had to do with a set of encounters as separate marches and protests collided on or near the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. You may have seen or heard of a viral video that appeared to show a young man clad in MAGA clothing, with what appears to be a smirk on his face, standing in the face of a Native American man singing and drumming. Many jumped on this sight and proclaimed the young man to be a racist and that he was being disrespectful. Thus, this young white male was deemed a poster child of white supremacy. It didn’t help that he represented a Catholic school and he and his fellow students were attending an anti-abortion march. All of this—the Trump gear, the anti-abortion purpose for the visit, and attendant visuals cast the high school students in a bad light. As more information came out, the story g…

Celebrating the Word of the Lord - Lectionary Reflection for Epiphany 3C (Nehemiah 8)

Nehemiah 8:1-10 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) 8 1 all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel. Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law. The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above…

Anxious to Talk About It (Carolyn Helsel) - A Review

ANXIOUS TO TALK ABOUT IT: Helping White Christians Talk Faithfully about Racism. By Carolyn B. Helsel. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2018. 127 pages.

If you are white, like me, you will not have experienced racism in quite the same way as a person of color. In other words, you will never have profiled by police because of your race or have been followed in store due to your race. You won’t have stories to tell about family who were placed in internment camps. I could go on, but you get the point. When the #BlackLivesMatter movement erupted after a series of incidents where black men and women were killed by white police officers, along with acquittal of George Zimmerman, many white folks suggested that a better term would be #AllLivesMatter. Although it’s true that all lives matter, arguing that point misses the larger point, which is that while all lives do matter, it would appear that in many cases that hasn’t always included black lives. That call for an #AllLivesMatter movement also r…