Introduction to Soteriology (Books)

Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, is arguably one of the most controversial doctrines within Christendom. If you are somewhat new to it and are looking to study it deeper, on top of the books listed below, consider also a previous article of mine titled “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions).”1

In order to avoid the strawman fallacy, that is, “[a] misrepresentation of an opponent’s position or a competitor’s product to tout one’s own argument or product as superior.”2, it is greatly recommended that one reads and learns the different soteriological positions from its original sources. This would include the works of those who hold to that particular position.

The following is by no means intended to be an extensive list. There are many other works out there on the topic and, seeing how soteriology is still contentious 400+ years after the time of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, I believe there will be many more books written on the subject. For introductory purposes, the books listed below will suffice.

 

For Arminianism

The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, edited by Clark Pinnock (Harper Collins, 1989)

Grace, Faith, Free Will (Randall House Publications, 2002) by Robert Picirilli

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2006) by Roger Olson

Understanding Assurance & Salvation (Randall House Publications, 2006)  by Robert Picirilli

Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Randall House, 2011) by F Leroy Forlines

Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation, edited by Clark Pinnock and John D Wagner (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015)

 

For Calvinism

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination (1932) by Lorraine Boettner

The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (P&R Publishing,  1963) by David Steele and Curtis Thomas

Chosen By God (Tyndale House Publishers, 1994) by R.C. Sproul

The Potter’s Freedom (Calvary Press, 2000) by James White

For Calvinism (Zondervan, 2011) by Michael Horton

 

For Lutheranism

The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: Exhibited, and Verified from the Original Sources (Lutheran Publication Society, 1876) by Heinrich Schmidt

Lutheran Theology (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) by Steven Paulson

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church (Tredition, 2012) by George Geberding

The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015) by Jordan Cooper

 

For Traditionalism/Provisionalism/Provisionism

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke (B&H Publishing Group, 2010)

The Potter’s Promise (Booktango, 2015) by Leighton Flowers

Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology, edited by David L. Allen, Eric Hankins, Adam Harwood (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016)

 

Misc [optional]

Chosen But Free (Bethany House, 2001) by Norman Geisler 3

Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Author House, 2014) by Steve Urick

Is God Calvinist or Arminian?: The Closing Argument (WestBow Press, 2018) by Bob Raymond

 

Disclaimer: The recommendations in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Your Mind Matters (2013) [Chapters 1-2]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Mindless Christianity

(pp.13-18)

Why Use Our Minds?

(pp.19-42)

A) About the author of the chapters:

“Educated at Cambridge University, [John] Stott was one of the most influential clergymen in the Church of England in the twentieth century. In 1950 he became rector of All Souls Church in London (the parish where he was born), and in 1975 rector emeritus. From 1952 to 1977 he led missions to university students on five continents. In 1982 he founded the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (now part of Christian Impact), serving as director up to 1986 and president from 1986. Chaplian to the queen from 1959 to 1991, he was appointed extra chaplain from 1991 onward and was awarded a Lambeth D.D. in 1983.”4

B) Summary of the chapters:

“What Paul wrote about unbelieving Jews in his day could be said, I fear, of some believing Christians in ours: “I hear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened.” Many have a zeal without knowledge, enthusiasm without enlightenment. In modern jargon, they are keen but clueless.”2

“Now I thank God for zeal. Heaven forbid that knowledge without zeal should replace zeal without knowledge! God’s purpose is both, zeal directed by knowledge, knowledge fired with zeal.”3

“As I once heard Dr. John Mackay say, when he was president of Princeton seminary, “Commitment without reflection is fanaticism in action. But reflection without commitment is the paralysis of all action.””4

“… outward ceremony is not to be despised if it is a clear and seemly expression of biblical truth. The danger of ritual is that it easily degenerates into ritualism, that is, into a mere performance in which the ceremony has become an end in itself, a meaningless substitute for intellectual worship.”5

“God made man in his own image, and one of the noblest features of the divine likeness in man is his capacity to think …

Scriptures assumes and portrays this from the beginning of man’s creation. In Genesis 2 and 3 we see God communicating with man in a way that he does not communicate with animals. He expects man to cooperate with him, consciously and intelligently, in tilling and keeping the garden in which he has placed him, and to discriminate – rationally as well as morally – between what he is permitted to do and the one thing he is prohibited from doing.”6

“It is quite true that man’s mind has shared in the devastating results of the Fall. The “total depravity” of man means that every constituent part of his humanness has been to some degree corrupted, including his mind, which Scripture describes as “darkened” …

So then, in spite of the fallenness of man’s mind, commands to _think_, to use his mind, are still addressed to him as a human being. God invites rebellious Israel: “Come now, let us reason says the LORD.” And Jesus accused the unbelieving multitudes, including the Pharisees and Sadducees, of being able to interpret the sky and forecast the weather but quite unable to interpret “the signs of the times” and forecast the judgement of God.”7

“What Scripture teaches concerning man’s basic rationality, constituted by his creation and not altogether destroyed by his fall, secular society everywhere assumes.”8

“The simple and glorious facts that God is a self-revealing God and that he has revealed himself to man indicate the importance of our minds. For all God’s revelation is rational revelation, both his general revelation in nature and his special revelation in Scripture and in Christ.”9

See Psalms 19:1-4, Romans 1:19-21, 1 Corinthians 1:21

“One may perhaps say that if in nature God’s revelation is visualized, in Scripture it is verbalized, and in Christ it is both, for he is “the Word made flesh.””10

“One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word and so to read his mind and think his thoughts after him, both in nature and in Scripture.”11

“For, although men’s minds are dark and their eyes are blind, although the unregenerate cannot by themselves receive or understand spiritual things “because they are spiritually discerned,” nevertheless the gospel is still addressed to their minds, since it is the divinely ordained means of opening their eyes, enlightening their minds and saving them.”12

“… redemption carries with it the renewal of the divine image in man which was distorted by the Fall.”13

See Colossians 3:10, Ephesians 4:23, 1 Corinthians 2:16

“… the essence of the argument of the apostle Paul in the early chapters of his letter to the Romans is that all men are guilty before God precisely because all men possess some knowledge – the Jews through God’s written law and the Gentiles through nature and through God’s law written on their hearts – but no one has lived up to the knowledge he has.”14

“God has constituted us thinking beings; he has treated us as such by communicating with us in words; he has renewed us in Christ and given us the mind of Christ; and he will hold us responsible for the knowledge we have.”15

Grace for All (2015) [Chapters 1-2]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Arminianism is God Centered Theology

(pp.1-17)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Roger Olson is Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University. Before joining the Baylor community, he taught at Bethel College (now Bethel University) in St. Paul Minnesota.

His alma mater is Rice University (Ph.D in Religious Studies). He also graduated from North American Baptist Seminary (now Sioux Falls Seminary). [1]

“A past president of the American Theological Society (Midwest Division), Olson has been the co-chair of the Evangelical Theology Group of the American Academy of Religion for two years.” [2]

[1] www.patheos.com/blogs/rogerolson/biography-2/

[2] https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=927923

B) Chapter Summary:

“What would count as truly God-centered theology to these Reformed critics of Arminianism? First, human depravity must be emphasized as much as possible so that humans are not capable, even with supernatural divine assistance, of cooperating with God’s grace in salvation.”[1]

“Second, apparently, for the Reformed critics of Arminianism, God-centered theology must view God as the all-determining reality including the one who ordains, designs, governs and controls sin and evil which are then imported into God’s plan, purpose and will. God’s perfect will is always being done, even when it paradoxically grieves him to see it (as John Piper likes to affirm).”[2]

“The only view of God’s sovereignty that will satisfy these Reformed critics of Arminianism is meticulous providence in which God plans everything and renders it certain down to the minutest decisions of creatures. Most notably this includes the Fall of humanity and its consequences including the eternal suffering of sinners in hell.”[3]

David Bentley Hart: “It is a strange thing indeed to seek [God-centered theology] … at a cost of a God rendered morally loathsome.”[4]

“Third, to satisfy Arminianism’s Reformed critics, God-centeredness requires that human beings are mere pawns in God’s great scheme to glorify himself; their happiness and fulfillment cannot be mentioned as having any value for God. But this means, then, that one can hardly mention God’s love for all people.”[5]

“… It accomplishes very little to construct a God-centered theology if the God at its center is sheer, naked power of ambiguous moral character. “Glory” is an ambiguous term. When divorced from virtue, it is unworthy of devotion.”[6]

“God is glorious because he is both and good, and his goodness, like his greatness, must have some resonance with our best and highest notions of goodness or else it is meaningless.”[7]

“Real Arminianism has always believed in human freedom for one main reason – to protect the goodness of God and thus God’s reputation in a world filled with evil. There is only one reason why Classical Arminian theology emphasizes free will, but it has two sides. First, to protect and defend God’s goodness; second to make clear human responsibility for sin and evil. It has nothing to do whatsoever with any humanistic desire for creaturely autonomy or credit for salvation.”[8]

John Wesley: “you suppose him [viz., God] to send them [viz., the reprobate] into eternal fire, for not escaping from sin! That is in plain terms, for not having that grace which God had decreed they should never have! O strange justice! What a picture do you draw of the Judge of all the earth!”[9]

“The point that Boice and other critics continually make is that in the Arminian system the saved person can boast because he or she did not resist God’s grace and others did. All Arminian theologians from Arminius to Wesley to Wiley have pointed out that a person who receives a life-saving gift cannot boast if all he or she did was accept it. All the glory for such a gift goes to the giver and none to the receiver.”[10]

“All [Classical Arminians] emphasize the sovereignty of God over his creation including specific providence and all underscore God’s power limited only by his goodness. What throws off Reformed (and perhaps other) critics is the underlying Arminian assumption of God’s voluntary self-limitation in relation to humanity. However, that God limits himself by no means implies that he is essentially limited. According to Arminian theology God is sovereign over his sovereignty and his goodness conditions his power.”[11]

[1] p.4

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea (2005), p.99

[5] p.5

[6] p.6

[7] Ibid.

[8] p.7

[9] John Wesley, The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (1872), p.221

[10] p.10

[11] pp.10-11

Continue reading “Grace for All (2015) [Chapters 1-2]”

Faithful Preaching of the Gospel in a Sermon

Guest Contributor: Calan Moy

“all [sermon] messages given were relevant … as well as faithful to the Gospel.”

The words of my friend sat in my head as I tried to wrap my head around how the seemingly “Christian” event he had went to had portrayed that concept to him since it was an event that was notoriously known for the lack of attention given to sermons. After contemplating for several weeks, I have came up with what I think is a good reference to discern sermons that are preached through a biblical perspective:

1) Faithful preaching of the gospel in a sermon is expository in nature

An exposition of the text simply brings out the meaning of the text to explicitly show the gospel from every location in scripture, hence the preaching fundamentally roots itself in the power of the words of the text, and not in the preacher.

2) Faithful preaching of the gospel is rooted in systematic theology

Faithful preaching understands, grounds and applies theology that has been derived from Scripture and it understands the nature of God in a deep and reverent fashion. It understands the truths about God’s justice shown in his awful fury and judgement towards sinners and yet restrains these truths with the love of God towards the righteous and unrighteous. The effect of systematic theology is that it acts as a control for the preaching. It preaches the “whole counsel of God” without missing out the essentials of the gospel.

3) Faithful preaching of the gospel is God-glorifying

The preacher of the gospel, ultimately, does not want people to hear what he has to say but wants people to hear what God has to say about Himself and about them. An emphasis that focuses on men, with a positive note as to what men achieve without the work of Christ in their lives, achieves the opposite effect of being God-glorifying.

4) Faithful preaching of the gospel is a blade

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ”…the word of God is active, sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart…”
Be very afraid of preaching that is faithful to the gospel. It is a blade (or a scalpel) that surgically slices you and reveals your motives as for what they are. It shows you to be what you really are.

5) Faithful preaching of the gospel has a basic understanding of biblical anthropology

Anthropology, which means the study of men and their beings, makes the condition and being of men the point of the preaching. It points out the deficiencies and incapability of men rather than teach a positive and high view of what man is.

6) Faithful preaching of the gospel grounds itself in the power of the Holy Spirit

The gospel which is exposited, relies wholly upon the Holy Spirit to convict and bring men to repentance. It is not of the preachers own doing. It does not rely upon the things that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:4, i.e. “…clever and persuasive speeches”, but rather, upon “(the) demonstration of the Spirit and of power”.

7) Faithful preaching of the gospel does not advocate legalism

The preaching of the gospel brings about the change within believers that only God can do and only by the sanctifying power of the word. It changes people to orient their thoughts and attitudes towards the good of both God and the neighbour, and thus smashes the power of legalism for it leaves the believers only with the law of love/Christ due to the work of Christ on the cross.

8) Faithful preaching of the gospel is Christ-centred

It centres itself around the nature, incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession of Christ, in his kingly, priestly and prophetic roles. I am convinced that to leave out any one of the 3 roles mentioned above is to deprive Christ of his majesty and glory, as well as to reject the Old Testament understanding of the “Messiah”. To preach Christ as Lord and Saviour requires all 3 roles to be rightly expounded and understood.

9) Faithful preaching of the gospel is apologetic in nature

The gospel when rightly proclaimed, teaches, rebukes and corrects our thoughts that are mistaken or which deviate from the truth of God. The gospel is, according to 1 Corinthians, “…foolishness to the world” as the world cannot comprehend the mind of God. Hence, the gospel serves as the argument that defends the truth of God and what He has revealed to us. We recognise that the gospel as an apologetic tool will never make sense to the world unless they repent and believe in it. The gospel either brings the unbeliever to repentance when confronted with the truth, or it pushes the unbeliever away with that exact same truth.

Conclusion

I believe that God still works through sermons that do not rightly have Christ at the centre. However, while admitting this, we must acknowledge that an abnormality does not equal to the norm. Instead, we should constantly hold to being “semper reformanda” (constantly reforming), in light of God’s word as these are dark and sinful times we are in. Therefore, all the more do we need to have a sharpness and a discernment of the truth that a preacher in the pulpit brings to us!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Editor’s Note: The author welcomes any feedback on the article and can be contacted at calanmoy20142015 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Jewish Theology Systematically and Historically Considered (1918) [Chapter 4]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Jewish Articles of Faith

(pp.19-28)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Kaufman Kohler “… was educated at the Universities of Munich, Berlin and Leipzig, (1865-69), and received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen in 1868.” [1]

“Feb. 26, 1903, he was elected to the presidency of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.” [2]

[1] https://www.jta.org/1926/01/29/archive/dr-kaufmann-kohler-president-emeritus-of-hebrew-union-college-dies

[2] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9419-kohler-kaufmann

B) Chapter Summary:

“… the word used in Jewish literature for faith is Emunah, from the root Aman, to be firm; this denotes firm reliance upon God, and likewise firm adherence to him, hence both faith and faithfulness. Both Scripture and the Rabbis demanded confiding trust in God, His messengers, and His words, not the formal acceptance of a prescribed belief.”16

“Only when contact with the non-Jewish world emphasized the need for a clear expression of the belief in the unity of God, such as was found in the Shema, and when the proselyte was expected to declare in some definite form the fundamentals of the faith he espoused, was the importance of a concrete confession felt.”2

“… Judaism lays all stress upon conduct, not confession; upon a hallowed life, not a hollow creed.”3

“To the rabbis, the “root” of faith is the recognition of a divine Judge to whom we owe account for all our doings. The recital of the Shema, which is called in the Mishnah “accepting the yoke of God’s sovereignty,” and which is followed by the solemn affirmation, “True and firm belief is this for us” (Emeth we Yatzib or Emeth we Emunah), is, in fact, the earliest form of the confession of faith. In the course of time this confession of belief in the unity of God was no longer deemed sufficient to serve as basis for the whole structure of Judaism; so the various schools and authorities endeavored to work out in detail a series of fundamental doctrines.”4

“3. The Mishnah, in Sanhedrin, X, 1, which seems to date back to the beginnings of Pharisaism, declares the following three to have no share in the world to come: he who denies the resurrection of the dead; he who says that the Torah—both the written and the oral Law—is not divinely revealed; and the Epicurean, who does not believe in the moral government of the world.”5

“Rabbi Hananel, the great North African Talmudist, about the middle of the tenth century, seems to have been under the influence of Mohammedan and Karaite doctrines, when he speaks of four fundamentals of the faith: God, the prophets, the future reward and punishment, and the Messiah.”6

See Rappaport; “Biography of R. Hananel,” in Bikkure ha Ittim, 1842.

“4. The doctrine of the One and Only God stands, as a matter of course, in the foreground. Philo of Alexandria, at the end of his treatise on Creation, singles out five principles which are bound up with it, viz.: 1, God’s existence and His government of the world; 2, His unity; 3, the world as His creation; 4, the harmonious plan by which it was established; and 5, His Providence.

Josephus, too, in his apology for Judaism written against Apion, emphasizes the belief in God’s all-encompassing Providence, His incorporeality, and His self-sufficiency as the Creator of the universe.”7

“Abraham ben David (Ibn Daud) of Toledo sets forth in his “Sublime Faith” six essentials of the Jewish faith: 1, the existence; 2, the unity; 3, the incorporeality; 4, the omnipotence of God (to this he subjoins the existence of angelic beings); 5, revelation and the immutability of the Law; and 6, divine Providence.

Maimonides, the greatest of all medieval thinkers, propounded thirteen articles of faith, which took the place of a creed in the Synagogue for the following centuries, as they were incorporated in the liturgy both in the form of a credo (Ani Maamin) and in a poetic version. His first five articles were: 1, the existence; 2, the unity; 3, the incorporeality; 4, the eternity of God; and 5, that He alone should be the object of worship; to which we must add his 10th, divine Providence.”8

“[Samuel David Luzzatto] holds that Judaism, as the faith transmitted to us from Abraham our ancestor, must be considered, not as a mere speculative mode of reasoning, but as a moral life force, manifested in the practice of righteousness and brotherly love. Indeed, this view is supported by modern Biblical research, which brings out as the salient point in Biblical teaching the ethical character of the God taught by the prophets, and shows that the essential truth of revelation is not to be found in a metaphysical but in an ethical monotheism.”9

“The Jewish conception of God thus makes truth, as well as righteousness and love, both a moral duty for man and a historical task comprising all humanity.”10

“5. The second fundamental article of the Jewish faith is divine revelation, or, as the Mishnah expresses it, the belief that the Torah emanates from God (min ha shamayim). In the Maimonidean thirteen articles, this is divided into four: his 6th, belief in the prophets; 7, in the prophecy of Moses as the greatest of all; 8, in the divine origin of the Torah, both the written and the oral Law; and 9, its immutability.”11

“6. The third fundamental article of the Jewish faith is the belief in a moral government of the world, which manifests itself in the reward of good and the punishment of evil, either here or hereafter. Maimonides divides this into two articles, which really belong together, his 10th, God’s knowledge of all human acts and motives, and 11, reward and punishment. The latter includes the hereafter and the last Day of Judgment, which, of course, applies to all human beings.”12 

“7. Closely connected with retribution is the belief in the resurrection of the dead, which is last among the thirteen articles. This belief, which originally among the Pharisees had a national and political character, and was therefore connected especially with the Holy Land (as will be seen in Chapter LIV below), received in the Rabbinical schools more and more a universal form. Maimonides went so far as to follow the Platonic view rather than that of the Bible or the Talmud, and thus transformed it into a belief in the continuity of the soul after death. In this form, however, it is actually a postulate, or corollary, of the belief in retribution.”13

“8. The old hope for the national resurrection of Israel took in the Maimonidean system the form of a belief in the coming of the Messiah (article 12), to which, in the commentary on the Mishnah, he gives the character of a belief in the restoration of the Davidic dynasty. Joseph Albo, with others, disputes strongly the fundamental character of this belief; he shows the untenability of Maimonides’ position by referring to many Talmudic passages, and at the same time he casts polemical side glances upon the Christian Church, which is really founded on Messianism in the special form of its Christology. Jehuda ha Levi, in his Cuzari, substitutes for this as a fundamental doctrine the belief in the election of Israel for its world-mission.”14

“9. The thirteen articles of Maimonides, in setting forth a Jewish Credo, formed a vigorous opposition to the Christian and Mohammedan creeds; they therefore met almost universal acceptance among the Jewish people, and were given a place in the common prayerbook, in spite of their deficiencies, as shown by Crescas and his school.”15

“10. Another doctrine of Judaism, which was greatly underrated by medieval scholars, and which has been emphasized in modern times only in contrast to the Christian theory of original sin, is that man was created in the image of God. Judaism holds that the soul of man came forth pure from the hand of its Maker, endowed with freedom, unsullied by any inherent evil or inherited sin. Thus man is, through the exercise of his own free will, capable of attaining to an ever higher degree his mental, moral, and spiritual powers in the course of history. This is the Biblical idea of God’s spirit as immanent in man; all prophetic truth is based upon it; and though it was often obscured, this theory was voiced by many of the masters of Rabbinical lore, such as R. Akiba and others.”16

“11. Every attempt to formulate the doctrines or articles of faith of Judaism was made, in order to guard the Jewish faith from the intrusion of foreign beliefs, never to impose disputed beliefs upon the Jewish community itself. Many, indeed, challenged the fundamental character of the thirteen articles of Maimonides. Albo reduced them to three, viz.: the belief in God, in revelation, and retribution; others, with more arbitrariness than judgement, singled out three, five, six, or even more as principal doctrines; while rigid conservatives, such as Isaac Abravanel and David ben Zimra, altogether disapproved the attempt to formulate articles of faith.”17

“The present age of historical research imposes the same necessity of restatement or reformulation upon us. We must do as Maimonides did,—as Jews have always done,—point out anew the really fundamental doctrines, and discard those which have lost their holdup on the modern Jew, or which conflict directly with his religious consciousness. If Judaism is to retain its prominent position among the powers of thought, and to be clearly understood by the modern world, it must again reshape its religious truths in harmony with the dominant ideas of the age.” 18 

“Many attempts of this character have been made by modern rabbis and teachers, most of them founded upon Albo’s three articles. Those who penetrated somewhat more deeply into the essence of Judaism added a fourth article, the belief in Israel’s priestly mission, and at the same time, instead of the belief in retribution, included the doctrine of man’s kinship with God, or, if one may coin the word, his God-childship.”19

The Literature and History of the New Testament (1915) [Lesson 3]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

The Greek Background of Christianity

(pp.10-14)

A) About the author of the chapter:

John Gresham Machen “studied at Johns Hopkins University, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the universities at Marburg and Göttingen. In 1906 he joined the faculty of the Princeton Theological Seminary …

He left Princeton in 1929, after the school was reorganized and adopted a more accepting attitude toward liberal Protestantism, and he helped found Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Gresham-Machen

B) Chapter Summary:

1) The Hellenistic Age

“The Greek world culture which prevailed after the conquest of Alexander was widely different from the Greek life of the classical period. The earlier period is called the “Hellenic” period, the later period is designated as “Hellenistic.”” [1]

“When Greek thought made itself master of the world, it became mingled with numberless foreign elements. The mixture appears most clearly, perhaps, in the sphere of religion. Polytheism was capable of indefinite expansion. New gods could easily be identified with the old, or else be received along with them without a conflict. The religion of the Greco-Roman world is therefore different from that of ancient Greece.” [2]

“The learning of the Hellenistic age was centered in Alexandria in Egypt, a city which had been founded by Alexander the Great.” [3]

“Greek culture had ceased to belong to Greece in the narrower sense. It had become a possession of the world. The great library of Alexandria was a sign of the times. The Hellenistic age was an age of widespread learning.” [4]

“When Rome became master of the eastern world, conditions were not fundamentally changed. Rome merely hastened a process that was already at work. Already the nations had been brought together by the spread of Greek culture; Roman law merely added the additional bond of political unity. The Roman legions were missionaries of an all-pervading Hellenism.” [5]

“The Greco-Roman world was astonishingly modern. It was modern in its cosmopolitanism. In our own time the nations have again been brought together. The external agencies for their welding are far more perfect to-day than they were under the empire. Even the Roman roads would be but a poor substitute for the railroad and the telegraph and the steamship. But on the other hand we lack the bond of a common language. In some ways the civilized world was even more of a unit in the first century than it is to-day.” [6]

2) The Greek Bible

“The Church originated in Palestine. The first missionaries were native Jews. Yet even they had been affected by the cosmopolitanism of the time. Even they could use Greek, in addition to their native language. And Paul, the greatest of the missionaries, though a Jew, was a citizen of a Greek city.” [7]

“The Old Testament was a Hebrew book, but before the Christian era it had been translated into Greek. From the beginning Christianity was provided with a Greek Bible.” [8]

“Everything was prepared for the gospel. God’s time had come. Roman rule had brought peace. Greek culture had produced unity of speech. There was a Greek world, there were Greek-speaking missionaries, and there was a Greek Bible. In the first century, the salvation that was of the Jews could become a salvation for the whole world.” [9]

3) The Papyri

“”Papyri” are pieces of papyrus. Papyrus was the common writing material of antiquity up to about A. D. 300, when vellum, or parchment, came into general use. Unfortunately papyrus, which was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, is not a very durable substance, so that ancient papyri have been preserved until modern times only under exceptionally favorable conditions. These conditions are found in Egypt, where the dry climate has kept the papyrus from disintegration.” [10]

“In Egypt, within the last thirty years, have been discovered large numbers of papyrus sheets with Greek writing.

Of these the “literary papyri” contain simply parts of books. They differ from other copies of the works in question only in that they are usually older than the vellum manuscripts.

The “non-literary papyri,” on the other hand, are unique. They are private documents of all sorts—receipts, petitions, wills, contracts, census returns, and most interesting of all, private letters. It was usually not intended that these documents should be preserved. They were simply thrown away upon rubbish heaps or used as wrappings of mummies. They have been preserved only by chance.

The non-literary papyri are important first of all in the study of language. They exhibit the language of everyday life, as distinguished from the language of literature.” [11]

“The language of the New Testament is more like the language of the non-literary papyri than it is like the language of contemporary literature. The papyri indicate, therefore, that the New Testament is composed in the natural living language of the time rather than according to the canons of an artificial rhetoric.” [12]

4) A Gospel in a Real World

“The people that are introduced to us so intimately in the papyri are probably very fair representatives of the people among whom the gospel was first proclaimed …

The people of the papyri are not the great men of the time; they are just plain folk.” [13]

“Many of the early Christians were slaves, many were humble tradesmen.” [14]

[1] p.15

[2] pp.15-16

[3] p.16

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] p.17

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] p.18

[11] Ibid.

[12] p.19

[13] pp.19-20

[14] p.20

Modern Day Apostles?

Mid-2017, there was a healing rally in my country, Malaysia 20, led by an individual who goes by the name of Apostle G. Maldonado on social media.2 More recently, in September 2018, a local church in Malaysia hosted a prayer conference featuring Apostle Julius Suubi. 3

Naturally, within my circles, this sparked discussion about whether or not there are apostles today in light of the close of the canon.

A) Are there apostles today?

The answer to this question would depend on your definition of an apostle. Marcelo Souza, in his article “Are There Apostles Today?” notes the biblical requirement for apostleship.

“1. The apostle had to be an eyewitness of the risen Jesus [see Acts 1:2-3, 21-22; 4:33; 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-9] …

2. The apostle had to have been commissioned directly by Jesus [see Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:21-26; Gal. 1:1, 26].” 4

However, the requirements he laid out refers to a narrow sense of the term apostle. There is a broader sense which will be considered below.

Wescott and Hort defines ‘apostolos’ (the Greek word for “apostle”) as “a messenger, envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; an apostle.”5

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance’s definition is “a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle“] (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.”6

Thayer in his NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon (1999) defines ‘apostolos’ as “1. a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders … 2. Specially applied to the twelve disciples whom Christ selected, out of the multitude of his adherents, to be his constant companions and the heralds to proclaim to men the kingdom of God … 3. In a broader sense the name is transferred to other eminent Christian teachers; as Barnabas, Acts 14:14, and perhaps also Timothy and Silvanus, 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (6), cf. too Romans 16:7 (?) …” 7

“According to BDAG [i.e. a Greek lexicon], apostolos “can also mean delegate, envoy, messenger … perhaps missionary.””8

So what I would argue is that we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries, for the very reason that missionaries are sent out to preach the Gospel.

we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries Click To Tweet

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship as quoted above.

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship Click To Tweet

Another way to see it is according to Gordon Fee’s distinction in his commentary the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987). He distinguishes between the “functional” (ongoing ministry) and “positional/official” use of the term9. So today, we would have apostles in the functional sense, but not in the positional/official sense.

Tl;dr – There is a difference between apostles in the technical/specific/narrow sense of the word apostolos (Gk 652) and the non-technical/broad sense of the same word. We no longer have the former, but we can have the latter.

B) What are their roles?

With regard to the role of apostles, their general role is, together with the other offices/positions in Ephesians 4, “… to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”10

More specifically, based on the semantic range of the Greek word apostolos, an apostle’s role would be to go out and perform the tasks to which they have been assigned. If the task is to go to Area A and plant/start a church there, that is that particular apostle’s role.

C) Should we shy away from using the term “apostle”?

The short answer is no. We should not shy away from using the term apostle just because it is misused by certain quarters. There are cults leaders who refer to themselves as pastors.11 Should we then no longer use the term pastor12 despite it being a biblical role?

Instead, what we should be doing is educating Christians about what the Bible teaches on apostles so that they would know how to distinguish between the functional and the positional/official sense of the word.

For further reading, see the following great articles by Dr Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary13:-

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 1)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 2)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 3)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 6]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Acts of the Apostles

(pp.72-79)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Louis Berkhof “graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 …

In 1902 he went to Princeton University for two years earning a B.D. degree …

In 1906 he was appointed to the faculty of Calvin Theological Seminary. He assumed the presidency of the seminary in 1931 …” [1]

[1] http://www.calvin.edu/hh/seminary_presidents/semm_pres_berkhof.htm

B) Chapter Summary:

I) Content

“The contents of this book is naturally divided into two parts; in each of which the main topic is the establishment of the Church from a certain center:

 I. The establishment of the Church from Jerusalem, 1:1—12:25 …

 II. The Establishment of the Church from Antioch. 13:1—28:31.”14 

II) Characteristics

 “1. The great outstanding feature of this book is that it acquaints us with the establishment of Christian churches, and indicates their primary organization. According to it churches are founded at Jerusalem, 2: 41-47; Judea, Galilee and Samaria, 9: 31; Antioch, 11: 26; Asia Minor, 14: 23; 16: 5; Philippi, 16: 40; Thessaalonica, 17:10; Berea, 17:14; Corinth, 18:18, and Ephesus, 20:17-38.”2 

“2. The narrative which it contains centers about two persons, viz. Peter and Paul, the first establishing the Jewish, the second the Gentile churches. Consequently it contains several discourses of these apostles …”3

“3. The many miracles recorded in this writing constitute one of its characteristic features.”4

“4. The style of this book is very similar to that of the third Gospel, though it contains less Hebraisms. Simcox says that “the Acts is of all the books included in the New Testament the nearest to contemporary, if not to classical literary usage,—the only one, except perhaps the Epistle to the Hebrews, where conformity to a standard of classical correctness is consciously aimed at.” The Writers of the New Testament, p. 16. The tone is most Hebraic in the first part of the book, especially in the sermons in chs. 2 and 13 and in the defense of Stephen ch. 7, in all of which the Old Testament element is very large ;—and it is most Hellenic in the last part of the book, as in the epistle of the church at Jerusalem, the letter of Lysias, the speech of Tertullus, and the defense of Paul before Agrippa. This is undoubtedly due to the fact that the first part of the book deals primarily with Jewish, and last part especially with Gentile Christianity.”5

III) Title

 “The Greek title of the book is πράξεις ἀποστόλων, Acts of Apostles. There is no entire uniformity in the MSS. in this respect. The Sinaiticus has simplyπράξειςalthough it has the regular title at the close of the book. Codex D is peculiar in havingπράξις ἀποστόλων, Way of acting of the Apostles.We do not regard the title as proceeding from the author, but from one of the transcribers; nor do we consider it a very happy choice.”6

Continue reading “Introduction to the New Testament (1915) [Chapter 6]”

The Literature of the Old Testament (1913) [Chapter 6]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Deuteronomy

(pp.58-65)

A) About the author of the chapter:

George Foot Moore “graduated from Yale College in 1872 and from Union Theological Seminary in 1877, in 1878 Moore was ordained in the Presbyterian ministry and until 1883 was pastor of the Putnam Presbyterian Church, Zanesville, Ohio.

He was Hitchcock professor of the Hebrew language and literature at Andover Theological Seminary, 1883–1902. In 1902 he became professor of theology and in 1904 professor of the history of religion at Harvard University.” [1]

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Foot-Moore

B) Chapter Summary:

“Deuteronomy purports to contain the laws under which Israel is to live in the land of Canaan. It deals with the conditions of an agricultural people, settled in towns and villages, in the presence of a native population to the contamination of whose religion and morals the Israelites are exposed.” 7 

“The book is thus almost wholly in the form of address, and the hortatory note is insistent. As an introduction, Moses briefly recalls the history of the wanderings, from Horeb on, impressing at every turn the lessons of their experience (Deut. 1-3); the material is taken chiefly from E’s narrative, which it was intended to supersede in an independent Book of Deuteronomy.”2 

“The core of Deuteronomy is cc. 5-11; 12-26; 28. Speaking generally, the first part (cc. 5-11) expounds the fundamental principles of religion, while the second (cc. 12-26) contains special laws, and, as a fitting and effective conclusion of the whole, c. 28 sets forth the blessings which God will bestow on Israel if it keeps his commandments, and the curses it will incur by unfaithfulness and disobedience. The special laws, particularly in Deut. 22 ff., are similar in character to those in Exod. 21-23 and in Lev. 17-25, and doubtless embody in the main ancient custom; but beside them are provisions of a singularly Utopian kind, such as those on the conduct of war in c. 20 and the septennial cancelling of all debts (xv. 1-11).”3

“The conception of religion which dominates the whole book, but is most conspicuous in cc. 5-11, is the highest in the Old Testament. There is but one God, supreme in might and majesty, constant in purpose, faithful to his word, just but compassionate; he is not to be imaged or imagined in the likeness of anything in heaven or on earth; idolatry, divination, and sorcery are strictly forbidden. The essence of religion is love (Deut. vi. 4), the love of God to his people and their responsive love to him is the ruling motive in worship and conduct. In the relations of men to their fellows, whether countrymen or strangers and to the brute creation, humanity and charity are the prime virtues; the Utopian features of the laws are such only because they push the ideal of humanity too hard for unideal human nature.”4 

“All the other evidence in Deuteronomy points to the same age. Its conception of God and of religion is derived from the prophets of the eighth century. The influence of Hosea is particularly plain: that the essence of religion is love is Hosea’s idea, if there is such a thing as originality in religion. The language and style of Deuteronomy are of the seventh century, in its excellences and in its defects; Jeremiah and the author of Kings have the closest resemblance to it in its rhetorical manner and in its peculiar pathos.

On these grounds, since the latter part of the eighteenth century, an increasing number of scholars have held that the book was written in the second half of the seventh century for the purpose of bringing about a revolution such as actually followed its well-timed discovery; and this is now the opinion of almost all who admit that the common principles of historical criticism are applicable to Biblical literature.

 Deuteronomy is not all of one piece, as has already been pointed out. Many older laws were taken up into it at the beginning or introduced subsequently; considerable additions were made to it after Josiah’s time, and even after the fall of Judah, for in several passages that catastrophe and the dispersion of the people are an accomplished fact, an existing situation. It is only the reform programme and what hangs together with it that can be definitely dated.”5

Lawyer-Theologians

In my brief study of theologians throughout church history, I noticed a common denominator between many of them. Quite a number of theologians received formal legal training/education in their lifetime6. The following is a non-exhaustive list of lawyer-theologians, arranged chronologically:

2nd Century

Tertullian of Carthage

Background

“Son of a proconsular centurion, Tertullian studied law at Rome and as a young man converted to the Christian faith.”2

“There is an historical tradition, based on Eusebius and the Justinian Law Code, that Tertullian was a great legal expert. Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica mentioned that Tertullian knew ‘the Roman laws extremely accurately’. Justinian’s Digesta and Codex also quoted legal works by a jurist named Tertullian.”3

“Many word studies of Tertullian found legal terminology in his writings and declared his theology formed by the legal context. After Barnes, however, scholars began to reevaluate the presuppositions of these words, concluding with different results …

Claude Fredouille, and many now see Tertullian, not as a legal expert, but as a rhetorical genius capable of persuading with a whole range of imagery, including legal imagery.”4

Theological Contribution

Apologeticus
De testimonio animae
De Adversius Iudaeos
Adv. Marcionem
Adv. Praxeam
Adv. Hermogenem
De praesciptione hereticorum
Scorpiace

De monogamia
Ad uxorem
De virginibus velandis
De cultu feminarium
De patientia
De pudicitia
De oratione
AD martyras

3rd Century

Gregory Thaumaturgus

Background

“Gregory of Thaumaturgus had originally left Pontus to study Latin and Roman law at Beirut. While there, he might have been seduced from his legal studies not by biblical studies with the Christian teacher Origen, but by the delights of classic Greek culture.”5

“In the mid-third century, the Church Father, ‘Gregory the ‘wonderworker’ – later known as Gregory Thaumaturgus’ – studied rhetoric and Roman law with a private teacher in his hometown of Neo-Caesarea (the capital of Pontus, Asia Minor), before setting out with his brother and others for the law school at Beirut; they got as far as Caesarea in Palestine, where they continued their education with Origen …”6

“There is a passage from Gregory Thaumaturgus, who had studied law in his youth and became bishop of Nicocaesarea in Pontus about the middle of the third century …”7

Theological Contribution

Oratio Panengyrica
Epistola Canonica
Exposition of the Faith
Epistola ad Philagrium

4th Century

Basil of Caesarea 

Background

“[Basil of Caesarea] studied for five years in Athens, then came back home to begin a successful worldly career, teaching rhetoric and practicing law in Caeserea, the region’s capital.”8

“After years of private study, Basil enrolled in the University of Athens, the most prestigious university at that time. In due course, Basil returned to Cesaria, where he began his legal practice.”9

Theological Contribution

On the Holy Spirit
Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius

Amphilocius of Iconium

Background

“Amphilocius, later Bishop of Iconium, had abandoned his practice of law and was living in retirement at Ozizala, not far from Nazianzus, where Gregory, his uncle, was bishop.”10

“A number of key bishops in the Eastern Church who had received rhetorical education went on to practice as advocates before their episcopal appointments. From the Cappadocian Fathers we can name Basil the Great and his contemporaries Amphilocius of Iconium and Asterius of Amasea.”11

Theological Contribution

Against False Asceticism
Epistola Synodica
In Occursum Domini
Epistula lambica ad Seleucum

John Chyrsostom

Background

“After the completion of his studies, Chrysostom became a rhetorician, and began the profitable practice of law, which opened to him a brilliant political career.”12

“In due time, Chrysostom began to practice as a lawyer; and as the profession of the law was reckoned one of the surest avenues to political distinction for a man of talent, and the speeches of Chrysostom excited great admiration, a brilliant and prosperous career seemed to lie before him.”13

Theological Contribution

Hieratikon
Kata Ioudaion
Against Those Who Oppose the Monastic Life
On the Priesthood
Instructions to Catechumens
On the Imcomprehensibility of the Divine Nature

Continue reading “Lawyer-Theologians”