5 Itchy Ear Preachers

Michael R. Jones:

Sadly, I know some of each. I have seen way too many of 3 and 4 in my days. Don’t be any of these guys.

Originally posted on Biblical Preaching:

Presenter2Paul urged Timothy to preach the word in his final letter.  One of the reasons he gave was that the time would come when people would not endure sound teaching, but instead would accumulate teachers to suit their own passions.  Itchy ear preachers.  Here are some possible itchy ear preachers:

1. Preacher Myth – this is one Paul referenced, preaching that strays into the realm of speculative mythology.  We have our own versions of this today.  Sensational, conspiratorial, and often offering insight that nobody else can offer.

2. Preacher Fun – this is always going to be attractive to people, the preacher who is just plain fun to listen to.  There is nothing wrong with your humour coming through as you preach, but if that is your defining quality, perhaps something is broken?

3. Preacher Easy – this is the preacher who makes the listener feel like life and Christianity…

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How Greek Was Paul’s Eschatology? Multiple Perspectives in Latest NTS Issue (Gupta)

Michael R. Jones:

Interesting connection to Stoic eschatology.

Originally posted on Crux Sola:

The most recent issue of NTS (61.2) has a summary of the SNTS conversation that took place between George Van Kooten, Oda Wischmeyer, and N.T. Wright on the subject “How Greek Was Paul’s Eschatology?” Van Kooten urges that there are such clear substructural similarities between Paul and Stoic thought and this should affect how we analyze Paul’s eschatology. N.T. Wright is obviously suspicious of such an argument and argues that Paul’s eschatology fits entirely within a Jewish-religious framework transformed through the Christ event. Oda Wischmeyer offers what I think is the most helpful essay regarding this question. Wischmeyer points out that in the Pauline letters, Paul does not explicitly quote Stoics or refer to any philosophy directly. That should warrant caution.

Also, most Greeks tuned in to philosophy did not think in thoroughgoing eschatological terms, she argues; “cosmology” is more central to Greek philosophy than “eschatology,” but the Stoics (in particular)…

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In Which Chris Tilling Writes a Two Part Review of Wright’s ‘Paul and the Faithfulness of God’

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:


Part ONE is here and Part TWO is here.

Tilling writes:

Wright is prone to say this or that verse is “key”, a “bookend” (834-835), a “rhetorical climax”, and such like. But I suggest that this is done rather arbitrarily, and sometimes only when it suits him.


Wright’s regular anti-“apocalyptic reading” invective is one of the least pleasant aspects of PFG, especially given that his criticisms are often misguided.


There are misinterpretations of Barth as well (200, 1388, where he misses Barth’s point about the “subject-matter” and the nature of time, 24 1479, etc.), which leads to the claim that a Barthian position makes “human response … hardly necessary” (953), which is highly misleading.

And a lot more.  It’s a very good critique.  The only fault I find with it is that Tilling is a bit too ready to surrender bluntness to politeness.  But he is British, so I forgive him.

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If Only God Would Send Us A Journalist to Teach Us Theology…

Originally posted on Zwinglius Redivivus:


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Three Foundational Elements Necessary for Any Serious Doctrine of Election

It is a truism that every Christian or system of Christian theology has or must have a doctrine of election. This is because the Bible uses words like “elect,” “election,” “predestine,” and “predestination” so any serious student of the Bible or theology must account for them and explain them in light of the rest of Scripture and biblical/theological thought.

In II.2 of his Church Dogmatics, Karl Barth lists three points every serious doctrine of election must both have and emphasize:

1. Every serious doctrine of election must assert “the grace of God as free” (19).

Barth explains what exactly God’s freedom in this respect means:

(1) God’s decision is independent of and precedes any creaturely decisions.

This should go without saying since “Salvation is of the Lord,” by which we not only mean that salvation comes through the Lord’s work, but is wholly rooted in his character, nature, and choice.

(2) God’s grace “cannot be called forth or constrained by any claim or merit, by any existing or future condition, on the part of the creature.” (19)

Those who hold to a prescient view of foreknowledge in essence base election on the character and work of humanity and so deny God’s free choice in election.

(3) This means that “there is no place for the self-glorying or the self-praise of the creature.”

These two necessarily go together. If my election is God’s free choice then there is no occasion for boasting. If my election is in any way tied to my choice then any claim of humility is false because I do indeed have occasion, not only to glory, but to glory over others who did not make such a choice.

(4) On the part of the creature, there must be a “recognition of utter weakness and unworthiness.”

Helplessness, though viewed in human terms as a weakness, is the very weakness that God elevates over the proud and strong. Our unworthiness is the reason for the Incarnation since our Lord says, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

This means we must understand grace as grace or our grace is no longer grace.

2. Every serious doctrine of election must emphasize the mystery of the God who decrees (20).

Barth: “We were not admitted to the counsel of God as He made His election, nor can we subsequently call Him to give account or to make answer in respect of it.” (20)

Barth says that to peer into this mystery by demanding God give an account of Himself with respect to his “resolve and decree” is to “resist the very being and existence of God Himself.” (20)

At first glance it would seem that Arminianism is the only system guilty of this but the Calvinist also fails to recognize the mystery of God when he or she delves too deeply into the secret things of God just as Calvin himself warned against:

The subject of predestination, which in itself is attended with considerable difficulty is rendered very perplexed and hence perilous by human curiosity, which cannot be restrained from wandering into forbidden paths and climbing to the clouds determined if it can that none of the secret things of God shall remain unexplored. When we see many, some of them in other respects not bad men, everywhere rushing into this audacity and wickedness, it is necessary to remind them of the course of duty in this matter. First, then, when they inquire into predestination, let then remember that they are penetrating into the recesses of the divine wisdom, where he who rushes forward securely and confidently, instead of satisfying his curiosity will enter in inextricable labyrinth. For it is not right that man should with impunity pry into things which the Lord has been pleased to conceal within himself, and scan that sublime eternal wisdom which it is his pleasure that we should not apprehend but adore, that therein also his perfections may appear. Those secrets of his will, which he has seen it meet to manifest, are revealed in his word—revealed in so far as he knew to be conducive to our interest and welfare. (Institutes III.21.1)

To glory in one’s salvation in an arrogant or haughty way also minimizes the mystery of God’s grace because such haughty glorying is tantamount to saying, “Of course God chose me; why would he not?!” and thus not only removes the mystery of grace by positing some definable human basis for one’s election, but also turns grace into something deserved or merited.

3. Every serious doctrine of election must maintain God’s righteousness in the mystery of his freedom. (21)

Citing Romans 9:20 (“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God?”), Barth explains that “[w]e must recognize the sovereignty of God and the inscrutability of His election.” The notion of inscrutability with regard to God’s will is important and reminds us of Calvin’s warning from above about delving into the secret things of God.

But to trust God in this we must be reminded of two other characteristics of God: His wisdom and his righteousness. “God Himself, and in Him wisdom itself and righteousness itself, has communicated Himself to us and given Himself as the answer.”

So God’s electing choice is guided by his own wisdom and righteousness. To take issue with God’s electing choice is to malign to character of God and accuse him of both foolishness and unrighteousness. But in taking issue with God’s electing choice, we are judging these two, foolishness and unrighteousness, by human standards which are irrelevant when applied to God. It is also insulting because it permits God’s wisdom and righteousness to be judged by human standards rather than submitting our own judgments and standards to the wisdom and righteousness of God.


What God does in freedom is in order. And in that it is done in freedom, we can and must perceive and recognize that it is in order without first measuring it by our own conceptions of order and only then recognizing it to be such. It belongs to God that He should teach us what order is. It belongs to us to measure our conceptions of order by His decision, and to learn from Him what order is. In so doing we do not make any sacrificium intellectus [sacrifice of the intellect], but we become and are truly wise: so assuredly is the fear of the Lord the beginning of wisdom. (22)

So if one’s doctrine of election holds God to any human standard of righteousness, justice, or fairness, it is not only deficient, it is insulting to the character of God by placing Him under us rather than over us.

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Stephen Young on Inerrantist “Protective Strategies” (Skinner)

Originally posted on Crux Sola:

A few weeks back I had the privilege of reading two articles by Stephen Young, a very bright Ph.D. candidate in the Religious Studies Department at Brown University. I had intended to blog about them sooner, but running six courses and trying to meet a heap of deadlines seems to have prevented me from getting around to it. (This is why I’ve been virtually absent from this blog for the past month!) I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you had already read the first of these two articles, as there was something of a “buzz” about its publication–at least in my social media circles. The first article is entitled, “Protective Strategies and the Prestige of the ‘Academic': A Religious Studies and Practice Theory Redescription of Evangelical Inerrantist Scholarship,” and just appeared in the most recent fascicle of Biblical Interpretation. Here’s the abstract:

This article examines how Evangelical Christian inerrantist…

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“God With Us” is always true

“God with us” is true when the people is at rest. It is also true when the enemy invades and devastates its land. It is always true, in spite of and in the most irresistible movements of history. It is so because and to the extent that in all these things there is revealed the gracious action of God to His people. No matter who or what is concretely envisaged in these passages, they obviously mean this: Emmanuel is the content of the recognition in which the God of Israel reveals Himself in all His acts and dispositions ; He is the God who does not work and act without His people, but who is with His people as their God and therefore as their hope.

-Karl Barth, CD IV.1 p. 3

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