- “Nothing But the Blood: The Cruciform Matrix of Justification”- J. R. Daniel Kirk
A short article reexamining the traditional doctrine of justification. Rather than seeing justification including both the active and passive obedience of Christ, the author argues that the New Testament’s doctrine of justification is focused on the cross. Dr. Kirk briefly examines the major passages and argues that they all focus on Christ’s death as the basis for justification, without consideration of the active obedience. Some passages even appear to disallow a righteousness found in obedience to the law. In conclusion, citations from older and contemporary worship with focus on the cross as the basis for salvation are noted.
A significant volume in contemporary Pauline studies which offers a clear outline of Paul’s thought as it can be discerned in his writings. The discussion roughly follows the outline of Romans, and the exposition is along the lines of a systematic theology, with the final sections dealing with ethical issues in Paul. While all the exposition is brief, the analysis shows careful thought and attention to the underlying texts. Data from Hellenistic culture and Second Temple Judaism is brought in where helpful in understanding the background of Paul’s thought. What is especially helpful is the emphasis placed on the sociological concerns which underlie Paul’s writings to the early churches, and how those discussions are important for our understanding his message to the churches. Most important is his carefully nuanced statements on the law and its function(s) for current “New Perspective” controversies. In discussing Paul’s conception of Christ Dunn emphasizes Paul’s care to maintain his traditional monotheism, yet at the same time allowing for the central and unique place afforded Jesus in all of Paul’s theology. In discussing eschatology, Dunn writes that for Paul the focus is on the past events, and not a futuristic focus. The exposition of Romans 9-11 was helpful, especially in showing its careful integration to the whole of Romans. Disappointing was the section on the church, since, without clearly offering the reason for the disqualification, the Pastorals and the rich church theology of Ephesians were excluded from discussion.
- “Communicating the Gospel without Theological Jargon”- Andrew Steinmann
The article examines the results of a survey testing knowledge of prominent Biblical/theological terms by those within the church. The results of the survey suggest that the church at large does not properly understand these terms. Grace, justify, righteousness, redeem and covenant were used in the survey. The article contends that other terms should be used to translate these terms which more accurately reflect the underlying Greek and Hebrew and to reduce misunderstanding.
- The Historical Figure of Jesus- E. P. Sanders, 1993.
Sanders examines the historical accounts of the gospel’s portrayal of Jesus to outline the historical figure of Jesus. The book opens with an introduction to the social, political and religious situation in Jesus day before examining the biblical narratives. Sanders is careful to place Jesus in the Jewish context of his day, and to clarify places where that context has been misunderstood, or a later context is read into the Gospel accounts. Discussing Jesus life, Sanders focuses on Jesus’ birth, Galilean ministry and message, and his final week in Jerusalem. The book contains much helpful information regarding the social and political situation in Palestine, and the differences between Galilee and Judea. Also helpful were the discussions regarding fixing the date for Jesus birth and death, and the length of his ministry. While Sanders is clear that he believes in the general historical reliability of the Biblical narratives, he is not committed to a conservative inerrantist position- allowing for the creation of narrative accounts and free editing of materials to fit a (later) viewpoint. Much is made of the differences in the synoptic traditions, but Sanders too easily allows differences to become contradictions. Other historical and cultural data, such as the issues with the dating of the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, require careful consideration; and demonstrate that many issues remain in studying the gospel narratives.
- That Hideous Strength- C. S. Lewis, 1946.