Theology: April 2006 Archives

It's somewhat unusual to see a complementarian arguing for women deacons, but see Andreas Köstenberger's arguments here. I'm earnestly awaiting his commentary on the pastoral epistles. Two of the most important academic commentaries on those books are by complementarians (George W. Knight in the NIGTC and William Mounce in the WBC), but the best introductory level commentaries have largely been by egalitarians who seem to me to take positions at odds with the text (e.g. Gordon Fee's NIBC, Philip Towner's IVPNTC, the forthcoming Cornerstone by Linda Belleville; I must admit that what I read from Walter Liefeld's NIVAC does justice to the complementarian position and doesn't push egalitarianism very strongly). John Stott (BST) and Kent Hughes and Brian Chapell (PTW) are the exceptions, but they aren't primarily scholars but pastors, and these works are more sermonic/homiletic than commentary. Köstenberger is really on the forefront of the scholarly debate, and I think he's done some of the best work on the issue.

Mainstream theological scholarship has in recent years been moving away from orthodoxy on the atonement, in particular away from forensic or legal views of the atonement. The idea that God is wrathful and holds out a just punishment over all those whose sins aren't atoned for has become the whipping boy of many a theologian. The preference now is to emphasize peace with God, new life in Christ, or the example of humility and service of Jesus on the cross, as long as there's none of this sense of legal guilt and responsibility for sin that Jesus somehow takes care of on the cross.

Evangelicals have tended to react to this by ignoring some of the other aspects of the atonement. Peace with God and new life in Christ are generally thought of as results of being a Christian, but it's not the first thing emphasized by many evangelicals regarding the purpose of the cross. Jesus taking the penalty for our sins is usually the primary message, and the polemic against those who deny this usually leaves out the real variety in the scriptures' language of the atonement. What did Jesus die for? I wouldn't deny that it's to satisfy God's justice. I wouldn't deny that it's to bear a penalty that I owe. It's also buying me back as a ransom, which isn't the same image as paying someone's debt, and that in turn isn't the same image as taking someone's death penalty. But not one of these images fully captures the sense in the scriptures that the cross was to give us new life, overflowing life, of a quality not found outside Christ. Not one of them fully captures the shalom or peace that comes from my being in Christ and from Christ being in me. This isn't just gettinng along, as 'peace' in English suggests. It's wholeness and health. I'm whole and healthy in Christ. It's already true in one sense and is being worked out over time in another sense, and the New Testament authors speak in both ways. But there's one element of all this that I think deserves special attention.

God of the Gaps

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Joe Carter delineates several interpretations of "God of the gaps" and sorts through which one are legitimate interpretations of ID claims, which ones are theologically tolerable for Christian theists, and which ones are scientifically acceptable. It turns out to be more complicated than people usually take it to be. I have nothing to add. This is the kind of post I like to write myself.

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