Monday, August 13, 2007

Reading for June/July 2007

So it has been a while since have posted anything, but other necessary tasks have been demanding my time and attention. I have also been trying to figure out what direction I want the blog to go. I am suffering from a serious famine of ideas for what to write about. But, some ideas have been coalescing recently, which might pump some more life from my end into the blog. No promises through for any improvement on my sporadic postings; at the very least, here is an update on what I have been reading in the past couple months; I know it is pathetic, but I have been really busy.

· A History of the Synoptic Problem- David Laird Dungan, 1999.

Dungan presents a comprehensive overview of synoptic studies throughout the history of the church. Beginning in the early church, Dungan identifies three forms of dealing with the differences in the synoptic gospels. Each form deals in some form with four issues, canon, composition, text and interpretation. The early church demonstrated two different approaches, that of Origin and that of Augustine. Origin, living before the final exclusion of all gospels except four, took notice of other gospels, even while granting preference to the four received ones, and paid attention to the varying texts in existence. What is distinctive about Origin’s approach was his consistent spiritual explanation for the differences between the gospels. Augustine, lacked discussion of the issues surrounding canon, since that had been settled, and of textual issues. His approach was one of harmonization, an approach followed today by many fundamentalists. The philosophical groundwork for the third, modern form of the synoptic problem was laid in the philosophy of Spinoza and Locke. Spinoza sought to bury Biblical interpretation behind a mass of historical questions, thus bringing traditional orthodoxy into doubt. Locke sought to promote the philosophical groundwork for a democratic society by making all equal in theological matters, answerable only to their own consciences. Along with the philosophical changes textual criticism caused a major revolution in synoptic problems. Based on these significant changes, modern synoptic studies have focused more on the composition of the gospels, without being tied to traditional orthodox theology. The book concludes with current trends in refining or questioning the current two source hypothesis and its assumption of Marcan priority and Q. While the discussion of Spinoza seemed unnecessarily long, the outlining of the background to modern thought was helpful. The outline of textual criticism in relation to the textus receptus was interesting. Especially insightful was the anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic sentiment lying behind the traditional modern synoptic solution.

· “A Summer to Remember” New Horizons (May 2007).

The lead article features profiles of several OPC summer camps. Clawson wrote an insightful article on Christians as Christ’s servants, arguing that Christian freedom is defined by service to Christ and others. Trueman offers a critical review of Olson’s book on Arminian theology. The strength of the review lay in the historical inaccuracies of many of Olson’s claims. Dr. Gaffin responded to the use of one of his statements in support of Wright’s defense of the Trinity to question Wright’s orthodoxy not only regarding the Trinity but the person Christ and his Messianic self-consciousness. Shorter reviews were offered on McGoldrick’s book on ancient heresies and Piper’s book on fighting for the truth featuring sketches of Athanasius. Owen and Machen.

· The Spirit of Eastern Christendom- Jaroslav Pelikan. The Christian Tradition Volume 2, 1974.

Second volume in the Christian Traditions series covering the development of Eastern Orthodox theology. Pelikan is clear that the orthodox system does not see itself as one for innovation or novelty, yet even the conservative theology offers much unique insight and development. The opening chapter outlines the conservative attitude with respect to the fathers. The volume covers the important contributions of orthodoxy to the development of Christology in response to monophysite and monotheleite heresies. Attention was also focused on the iconoclastic debates and the debates with the Latin church. Debates with the West, both Catholic and Protestant, forced the church to define its disincentives more clearly, The more direct relation the East had with Judaism and Islam was noted, with their reliance on orthodox Trinitarian theology to challenge both. Interesting was the discussion regarding the filoque and the Eastern defense and lingusitic concessions to the West.

· Josephus- The Jewish Wars Books I-III (Loeb Classical Library, Translated by H. St. J. Thackeray), 1927.

Covering the period following Antiochus Epiphanies through his capture by the Roman Vespasian, Josephus outlines the history of the Jews. The section covering the rise and reign of Herod was detailed and informative. The long history of revolts and disturbances in Jewish history was helpful in providing context for the decisive outbreak of the Jewish war. Also interesting was the causes of the revolt and the many occasions offered for a peaceful resolution.

· “A New Directory for Public Worship?” New Horizons (June 2007).

The feature articles revolve around the delayed attempt of the Seventy-Forth General Assembly to adopt a New Directory for Public Worship. The lead article describes the history of the DPW in the Presbyterian tradition and in the OPC, and the process thus far in the OPC’s history. Hart and Muether evaluate the worship practices in a largely descriptive survey. The biases of the authors were apparent throughout the article however. Wilson and Wallace both offer articles describing the goal and the biblical pattern of worship, while both indulging in the false dichotomy regarding form and content. Other articles offered a glimpse at a now disbanded outreach in a maximum security prison in Maryland. A longer tribute to Dr. Kline was published in this article. VanDrunen’s A Biblical Case for Natural Law was reviewed, and the author was given opportunity to respond to the criticism leveled against his book.

· Christ-Centered Preaching- Bryan Chapell, 2005.

This book introduced a basic method for composing an expository, redemptive message. The text is clearly founded on the conviction that the text must be central to the sermon, and Christ must be central to the text. Focusing on how to find Christ in the text, Chapell sets forth the Fallen Condition Focus found in every text which points to the redemptive answer found in Christ’s person and work. While offering much helpful information on classification and the mechanics of sermon preparation and components, the major focus is on understanding the propriety and goal of the methods, rather than presenting a step-by-step how to preach. The basic components of a sermon are discussed in greater depth. The discussion of illustration was helpful, but the limitation of full illustrations to developed stories tends to overlook other illustrative methods which need discussion. The final major division of the book discussing the redemptive-historical sermons is a careful and balanced presentation of the rationale and criteria for a truly Christ-centered sermon.

· The Synoptic Problem- Robert H. Stein, 1987.

Modern theories and practices regarding the synoptic gospels relationship and composition are discussed in this introductory book. The book is divided into three primary sections, the largest discussing synoptic criticism, then form criticism and finally redaction criticism. On the whole, the book is helpful in clearly setting forth the basic theories and evidence behind the theories. The largest section discussing the modern form of the synoptic theory clearly sets forth the evidence and why some of the weaknesses. He is careful to note at many points that the modern synoptic theory is based on the accumulated weight of evidence. While the discussion of the priority of Mark was clear, at times the relationship between Matthew and Luke agreements against Mark was harder to grasp. The discussion of redaction criticism was especially helpful in practically thinking through the composition of each unique gospel narrative. Any discussion of the synoptic problem raises issues that require attention in the doctrine of Scripture, and point to the inadequacy of many current formulations in taking seriously the date found in the synoptic gospels.


Darryl Hart said...

Out of curiosity, what exactly do you perceive the biases of Hart and Muether to be?

Keith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Keith said...

Mr Hart,

Wow, I am surprised you found my blog. I am honored to have such an illustrious visitor!

I will freely admit some comments you made at a conference in Rochester, where you said worship should be like a funeral have influenced my perception of your biases concerning worship. Also, while I have not personally read the book, I have heard a lot of discussion surrounding your book "With Reverence and Awe," and those discussions have likewise informed my perception of your biases. I tend to take differing conclusions that those you have reached.

Specifically, some areas where I perceived a particular bias in the article were the following areas:

The idea that uniformity is required within the church as a whole-I think this line of reason places more emphasis on the circumstances of worship (such as what songs are chosen and the form of those songs) should be left to the discretion of each individual session as they determine what will be most effective in reaching out meaningfully to their congregations and their community. While the content of all the songs chosen must be consistent with the Scripture and the confessional statements of the church, this does not necessitate a top down determination of what songs, within those limits, are or are not acceptable. I believe underlying this is a particular conception of the RPW, which is not universally agreed on in the OPC. At the very least, liberty in liturgical form and circumstances has not been determined to be a necessary inference of the Confessional doctrine. Further, I fail to see any Biblical principle or passage which demands either explicitly or by good and necessary influence that the RPW entails this.

Second, your description of revivalism and its impact on Presbyterianism too me clearly reveals your biases. I find the negative connotations in response to the demands of the original directory that worship have "life and power" to be particularly disturbing. I am fully aware of how this can and has been abused, but I do not see it the result of compromise and pragmatism, but commitment to the Biblical principles of worship.

These two point were the biggest biases I detected in the article, but I am open to be corrected if my impression was incorrect.