BA Books & Authors on the Web – March 4, 2016

Cover ArtCraig Bartholomew’s Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics was the Book of the Week at Exegetical Tools.

“Truly a tour de force of the many methodologies, historical precedents, and disciplines that are wrapped up in the process of interpreting the Bible.”

Exegetical Tools also featured two posts on specific aspects of Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics, Craig Bartholomew’s Philosophy of History Drawn from the Old Testament Worldview and Eight Guidelines for a Trinitarian Hermeneutic.

At Pneuma Review, Amos Yong reviewed Apocalypticism in the Bible and Its World by Frederick J. Murphy.

David Wilhite’s The Gospel According to Heretics was reviewed by Nate Claiborne.

Cover ArtThe Gospel Coalition interviewed Bryan Litfin about his book Early Christian Martyr Stories.

“The appetite for these stories was huge. People wanted to learn about their heroes’ adventures, and they wanted to feel close to those heroes and even seek their aid.”

RJS, at Jesus Creed, completed a series on J. Richard Middleton’s A New Heaven and a New Earth.

Norman Wirzba, author of From Nature to Creation, was interviewed at Christian Humanist Profiles.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – December 18, 2015

Cover ArtOur congratulations to Craig Keener, whose four volume Acts: An Exegetical Commentary won a Christianity Today 2016 Book Award in the Biblical Studies category. Craig spent many years bringing this set to completion, and it is gratifying to see that effort acknowledged.

Keener is a scholar with gifts that come along once every century, and here we see them employed in full force. Words like encyclopedic, magisterial, and epic come to mind when you examine 4,000 carefully argued pages on every aspect of the Book of Acts. Nothing like this has ever been done—and it’s doubtful that anything like it will be done for a long time. Keener has a grasp of the ancient world like few scholars anywhere, but he also has a heart for the church and its mission

Also, congrats to Alistair Stewart and R. W. L. Moberly, whose The Original Bishops and Old Testament Theology appeared on the Jesus Creed Books of the Year list.

At Euangelion, Michael Bird recommended Gospel of Glory by Richard Bauckham.

The Pastor as Public TheologianCover Art, by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, won in the Ministry category of the TGC Editors’ Picks: Top Books of 2015.

“This book was a key factor this past year in renewing an important (and ongoing) conversation about the nature of the pastoral office. Vanhoozer and Strachan seek to restore the vision of the Reformers and their Puritan ancestors of the pastorate as an office primarily defined by theology. The pastor must not see himself fundamentally as a counselor or motivator, but as a man called to mediate the transcendent truth of God to the people of God so they might live all of life to the glory of God.”

Scott Sunquist’s The Unexpected Christian Century was reviewed by Robert Cornwall.

Aaron at AJ Cerda reviewed David Wilhite’s The Gospel According to Heretics.

 

BA Books & Authors on the Web – December 4, 2015

Cover ArtJustin Taylor, at Between Two Worlds, introduced Scott Sunquist’s The Unexpected Christian Century.

“The third great transformation took place in the twentieth century, a great reversal . . . .

It was certainly a reversal in that the majority of Christians—or the global center—moved from the North Atlantic to the Southern Hemisphere and Asia.

But it was also a reversal in that Christianity moved from being centered in Christian nations to being centered in non-Christian nations. Christendom, that remarkable condition of churches supporting states and states supporting Christianity, died. The idea of Christian privilege in society was all but killed. And yet the religion seemed stronger than ever at the end of the twentieth century.”

At Western Seminary’s Transformed blog, Tim Harmon reviewed Mapping Modern Theology, edited by Kelly Kapic and Bruce McCormack.

Andrew Spencer, at Ethics and Culture, reviewed David Wilhite’s The Gospel according to Heretics.

Cover ArtThe Pastor as Public Theologian, by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan, was reviewed at Books at a Glance.

“This is a volume that should be read by seminary faculty and administrators and used to shape their curriculum. It should find its way into the hands of many students at seminaries and Bible colleges…Finally, it should be read by pastors as a call to do the hard work of thinking theologically in order to equip the saints for the good works prepared in advance for them by God.”

Brian LePort recommended Dale Allison’s Constructing Jesus.

Thomas Schreiner summarized Magnifying God in Christ for Books at a Glance.

 

And the winners are…?

Cover ArtCongrats to Dustin T, Brian R, and Spencer C, who each won a copy of The Gospel according to Heretics, by David Wilhite.

You will each be contacted to arrange shipment.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 30, 2015

Cover ArtAt Syndicate Theology you can read reflections on Jesus against the Scribal Elite from Dagmar Winter, Tobias Hägerland, Christopher Skinner, and Jason Lamoreaux, along with responses from Chris Keith.

“Chris Keith’s book, Jesus against the Scribal Elite, defends the claim that two factors are intimately related, namely a) Jesus’ status as an illiterate teacher and b) his conflict with scribal authorities. This is to say that conflict arose between Jesus and the scribal elite because of “how various groups within Second Temple Judaism would have perceived Jesus, a scribal-illiterate carpenter, upon his occasionally occupying the position of a scribal-literate authority” (155).”

Simon Gathercole’s Defending Substitution was reviewed by D. A. Carson at Reformation 21.

At Ponderings on a Faith Journey, Robert Cornwall reviewed From Nature to Creation by Norman Wirzba.

David Wilhite’s The Gospel according to Heretics was reviewed at Tabletalk Theology and recommended by Erik Raymond at The Gospel Coalition.

The Christian Humanist interviewed Kevin Vanhoozer about The Pastor as Public Theologian.

 

Beyond the Book – Defining Heresy (and Orthodoxy)

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month David Wilhite discusses the development of orthodox Christology in light of early heretical movements.

***Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book The Gospel according to Heretics. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.***

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From a historian’s vantage point it is obvious that orthodoxy was not a pre-packaged set of doctrines. This is not news, but it needs to be clarified. J.N.D. Kelly describes Christianity on the eve of the Council of Chalcedon (451) in ways that could probably be applied to many other contexts, “The Church at this epoch was feeling its way towards a balanced Christology.”

Many Christians would wish to exchange Kelly’s “feeling its way” language, which sounds too much like unguided groping in the dark, for a more pious description: the Spirit leads the church into all truth (John 14:17). Nevertheless, whether one sees this as a quest or a guided tour, the attempt to express Truth doctrinally, it must be admitted, was the practice of a pilgrim church, a people of “the Way” (Acts 24:14). The doctrinal formulations never were clearly articulated in a primal creed, catechism, or Summa by Jesus or his original followers. Instead, orthodoxy as doctrinal proposition is a response to heresy.

Cover ArtEven ancient writers admitted to this way of thinking about orthodoxy. In a mock dialogue between an “Orthodox” (dyophysite) and a heretic, Theodoret has the protagonist back the antagonist into a corner, so that the heretic has to change his preferred terminology. When the Orthodox protagonist outs the heretic for the semantic flip-flop, we hear the following admission from the heretic: “The struggle with our adversaries forces me to do this.” The Orthodox, it turns out, agrees and does the same: “What you say is true, for it is what we say, or rather what everyone says who has preserved the apostolic rule intact” (Eranistes 2). In other words, theological terms, statements, and doctrines develop over time and in response to other terms, statements and doctrines.

While this book is focused on “heretics,” the nagging question throughout is what is the definition and criterion for orthodoxy. Several things need to be said about this (see both the intro and the conclusion), but for now we can note that Christian orthodoxy, in terms of doctrine, is something that emerges in response to its structural other, heresy.

While such a notion will be controversial in some circles, I would like to table the debate for one moment in order to identify one surprising effect of studying heresy. In presenting heretics from the first eight centuries of Christianity in this book, I frequently had to offer the rationale of the heretics’ opponents, the orthodox. Therefore, this book ended up explaining many classical Christian doctrines that are often misunderstood, if not maligned, today, such as the pre-existence of Christ, the incarnation, the Chalcedonian Definition, and the divine attributes (immutability, impassibility, etc.).

While the audience is not asked to agree with either the heretics or their opponents, both sides are presented on their own terms so as to provide a more informed understanding of their theological developments. Augustine would say it more strongly: “The rejection of heretics brings into relief what your Church holds and what sound doctrine maintains” (Confessions 7.19.25).

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David E. Wilhite (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is the author of Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian’s Context and Identities and coauthor of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed. He is the coeditor of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul in the Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate series.

Beyond the Book – Later “Heresies” and Schisms

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month David Wilhite discusses the development of orthodox Christology in light of early heretical movements.

**Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book The Gospel according to Heretics. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.**

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Whereas the first five chapters of my book are devoted to early Christological heresies, the last few chapters continue to explore “heresies” (now an unacceptable label) that survive to this day.

Some of the early heretical groups, such as the Marcionites, Ebionites, and Gnostics (all of which are problematic categories), call into question the nature of early Christianity itself. Just how diverse was it? Can any of these groups claim a legitimate line to the original Jesus community? Etc., etc.

Cover ArtThen, there are groups like the modalists and the “Arians” (more problematic categories), which had largely moved past some of these foundational questions, and instead raised questions about how the various Christian teachings fit together. Is there more than one God? Is Jesus the one God in the flesh? Etc., etc.

All of these are treated as Christological controversies in the early Christian sources, but then, after these questions are largely settled, new Christological debates emerge.

When we turn to Apollinaris, who himself was responding to Arius, we mark a turning point in theological history. Apollinaris (allegedly) taught that the Word of God came in the flesh, but was not fully human. Christ had no human soul, or at least no rational mind (depending on the source), but instead he was merely God tabernacled in human flesh (cf. John 1:14).

Apollinaris marks a turning point because his is the last major heresy treated in this book eventually abandoned by all as untenable. Even the later Alexandrian tradition which wished to stress the oneness and the divinity of Christ in the flesh would reject Apollinarianism because it makes Jesus’ human experience a farce.

The alternatives to Apollinarianism, however, have their own problems, or at least they will prove less than persuasive. What we will see, therefore, is that none of the post-Apollinarian options can claim absolute victory. The Nestorian option (chapter seven) will be denounced by the Christian empire, but the so-called Nestorian church, the Church of the East – as it calls itself, will thrive for generations even until the present.

The Monophysite option (chapter eight) will likewise continue in sectors outside of Byzantine control, such as Egypt’s Coptic Church that is still active today. The Chalcedonian option, known to Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians simply as orthodoxy (see conclusion) will claim a clear majority, but it cannot claim to be unrivaled nor to be the only truly Christian option.

What to make of all this is beyond the scope of this book, since my primary aim has been a historical investigation. Nevertheless, these historical schisms raise questions for our present situation, especially at a time when these Oriental Orthodox communities are coming into our western Christian conscience more and more due to the political upheaval in the Middle East. Any present dialogue will need to be well informed by the history, and it is a history rooted in the Christological debates themselves. In my conclusions, therefore, I offer some possible ways to think of “heresy” and schism in terms of historical theology.

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David E. Wilhite (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is the author of Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian’s Context and Identities and coauthor of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed. He is the coeditor of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul in the Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate series.

BA Books & Authors on the Web – October 16, 2015

Cover ArtDaniel Block, author of For the Glory of God, was interviewed at Books at a Glance. You can read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

“The pragmatism of the ‘worship industry’ concerns me. Since our understanding of worship is restricted largely to what we do in church as a community, we devote our energies to making our worship that is attractive especially to the unbelievers and the marginal Christians.

We forget that an audience with God calls for a counter-cultural liturgical vocabulary. In Deuteronomy 12 Moses declares that the forms of true worship may not derive either from our own imaginations (v. 8) or the environment in which we live (vv. 29–31). The object of worship alone (i.e., God) determines the nature and forms of true worship.”

An upcoming Syndicate Symposium will interact with Chris Keith’s Jesus against the Scribal Elite, and Chris Skinner will be one of the participants.

Youth Ministry in the 21st Century, edited by Chap Clark, was reviewed at Panorama of a Book Saint.

Publishers Weekly reviewed The Gospel according to Heretics, by David Wilhite.

“This book is ideal for a scholar seeking to study church history, or an educated layperson wanting to know more about church councils, Gnostics, and modern day Muslims.”

At Reformation 21, Robert Yarbrough reviewed Richard Bauckham’s Gospel of Glory.

James K. A. Smith’s Who’s Afraid of Relativism? was reviewed at Just and Sinner.

 

Beyond the Book – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month David Wilhite discusses the development of orthodox Christology in light of early heretical movements.

*Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book The Gospel according to Heretics. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter here.*

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Is Christianity a heretical sect that broke from Judaism? Or, did the religion of Israel effectively end with the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, resulting in two sister religions? Questions about the parting of the ways have proved to be some of the most difficult in the field of early Christian studies. Two heresies in particular bring this question to the forefront: the Marcionites and the Ebionites.

Marcion (allegedly) denounced the God of the Old Testament; thereby rejecting the Jewish scriptures, and sharply dividing Christianity from Judaism. Marcion’s teachings, therefore, represent a form of supersessionism. Marcion’s opponents, however, accept that Jesus is Yahweh incarnate who fulfills the Law both physically and spiritually, so that Yahweh’s word in the Old Testament must be embraced as well (e.g. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho).

Cover ArtGod’s people were to offer clean hands and a pure heart; the circumcision was always to be understood as indicating a circumcision of the heart; the whole nation of Israel itself was to be a kingdom of priests, for not all Israel according to the flesh is truly Israel. The key in all of these interpretations is to listen to the Word of God, whether he spoke to the prophets of old or in the flesh.

No supersessionist reading is permissible in light of the belief that there is but one God whose fullness is revealed in Christ. Marcion’s allowance for the Creator to be “superseded” by a second god, Christ, results in a radical departure from what the majority of Christians had known in their faith and practice. In this light, Christology and Christianity as a religion were understood very differently by most early Christians: Christianity is not merely a sect within Judaism, although it was so according to a sociological model; it is an affirmation of the God of Judaism, now said to be known in Christ. That at least is the response to Marcion. What about the Ebionites?

The Ebionites (allegedly) taught that Jesus was a godly prophet. God in a sense adopted Jesus as a son. After Jesus was crucified, God raised him, carried him to heaven, and seated him in the seat of honor. But Jesus was not God. Ironically, even though the Ebionites differed drastically from Marcion by adhering to the Old Testament, they still made the same mistake as Marcion by saying that Jesus was not the Creator-God. Marcion thought the Creator was evil, but that Jesus was a different God. The Ebionites believed the Creator was good, but that Jesus was merely a man.

The Ebionites’ opponents rejected this adoptionistic Christology (real or rumored), along with its implications about the religion of Israel. For the wider Christian movement – even though it consisted mostly of “gentiles,” Jesus fulfills the Law (Matt. 5:17) because he is “more than” a mere prophet or earthly king (Matt. 12:41-42). The LORD himself promised to save us in person (e.g. Isaiah 49:7-26), and Jesus saves because Jesus is LORD (Phil. 2:11).

One last point that can only be mentioned here: a parallel set of questions will arise in the sixth century with the emergence of Islam. How did the earliest Christians and Muslims understand each other in terms of their religion? That is a question that is addressed in the tenth chapter of this work, and the answers given by Christians at that time were far different than the way most Christians think of Muslims today.

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David E. Wilhite (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is the author of Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian’s Context and Identities and coauthor of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed. He is the coeditor of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul in the Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate series.

Beyond the Book – The Gospel and Heresy

BeyondTheBookBA

Today we are pleased to share the latest post in our weekly series, Beyond the Book. This month David Wilhite discusses the development of orthodox Christology in light of early heretical movements.

Also, as part of this series we are giving away three copies of his book The Gospel according to Heretics. The winners will be announced at the end of the month, and you can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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The “Gospel according to…” theme stems back to the earliest collections of Gospel texts. The fact that there were four canonical Gospels, and the fact that readers had to understand that any one “Gospel” had to be clarified as “according to” someone in particular, bothered some ancient Christians.

Around 170 a Christian writer named Tatian called into to question the validity of having multiple Gospels – after all, could not God have given one authorized version? – and in order to solve the problem Tatian created a sort of “Super-Gospel” (called the Diatesseron) which harmonized all four. To be sure, Tatian was not the first or only Christian to see the Gospels as texts that could be reworked, but for now let us acknowledge that, unlike Tatian, most early Christians saw no problem with the “according to” aspect of “the Gospel.” For the majority of Christian tradition, any retelling or recording of “The Gospel” will always be a version “according to” someone. Jesus apparently set up what we call evangelism (notice the borrowed Greek word for “Gospel,” euangelion; i.e. “Gospelization”) so that the Good News would be dispersed in this “according to” strategy (see Acts 1:8). The Gospel would always be according to various witnesses.

Cover ArtThe four canonical Gospels were not the only ones, and beyond Gospel texts there were numerous expressions of the Good News of Jesus Christ, such as oral proclamation, letters, and apocalyptic literature.

But what about the so-called heretics, who may or may not have written a Gospel text, but who nevertheless always had their own particular understanding of the Gospel? My book is an attempt to hear what the heretics preached about Jesus.

 What if the “orthodox” version of the story has misled us? What if people like Arius were misrepresented and maligned? What if the Gnostics were not wolf-like philosophers in sheep’s clothing, but well intended disciples who utilized a different conceptual and imaginative approach to their theology? I could go on and on with such What-ifs.

These questions are not simply intellectual gymnastics, much less are they conspiracy theories in the making. The best historical studies of the last century have found evidence to suggest that our understanding of the “heretics” is so one sided as to need revising. This book is an attempt to take this scholarly reassessment seriously. Such reassessment has been done extensively for each individual heresy, but a study of the various unorthodox alternatives that shaped traditional Christian thinking offers those who wish to understand their own orthodoxy a more complete picture.

If our orthodoxy was forged in the fires of heretical debate, then we had better understand what these heresies taught. On the other hand, some heresies offered untenable versions of the Gospels. Exactly what was their heresy and why was it untenable is something that I try to unpack fully in the body of this study.

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David E. Wilhite (PhD, University of St. Andrews) is associate professor of theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University. He is the author of Tertullian the African: An Anthropological Reading of Tertullian’s Context and Identities and coauthor of The Church: A Guide for the Perplexed. He is the coeditor of Tertullian and Paul and The Apostolic Fathers and Paul in the Pauline and Patristic Scholars in Debate series.