In God’s grace several of the sermons I listened to yesterday connected with one another in providential ways. As I was getting ready yesterday morning, I began listening to Tim Keller’s sermon on Isiah’s vision of God in Isaiah 6. I finished the message at lunch and the very next message on my iPod was a sermon by Steve Hafler that that began with readings from the Scripture passages in which Ezekiel and Daniel had visions of God. The closeness in content between Keller’s sermon and the way Pastor Hafler’s sermon began was striking.
In addition to this, Pastor Hafler developed the concept of the fear of God, which is a key thought in Exodus 20:20–a verse that I’ve been studying in my devotional time.
During the morning service at church I was able to teach a neighborhood teen class. We began our class time by working on memorizing Revelation 5:9-10, and I taught on Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King. In our evening service Pastor Vincent preached from Matthew 12:6, 41, 42. He concluded the message by noting Priest, Prophet, King theme in these verses and by reading Revelation 5:9-10.
I take these “coincidencecs” as good gifts from my heavenly Father to guide my thoughts about Him on His day.
In the latest 9Marks newsletter Schreiner reviews several recent Wright books. Both reviews contain appreciation for aspects of Wright’s work (see also this post by Mark Ward), but Schreiner also includes several critiques of Wright.
His critiques of Wright’s collection of sermons, Christians at the Cross, really apply to Wright’s work as a whole and are worth noting here.
First, one of the central themes in Jesus’ preaching was the call to repentance and faith. Wright rightly offers comfort to the church, but Jesus also emphasized the sins of those in Israel (yes, even when speaking to those who were already religious). Hence, he called on Israel to repent, to take up their cross and follow him, to turn away from all other gods, and to believe in the gospel. That theme is quite muted in Wright’s sermons.
The second weakness is related to the first. Wright pays much more attention to our responsibility to further God’s work in this world than he does to the need to put one’s faith in Jesus. He agrees that the latter is necessary, but he stresses the former. Of course the Christian life is about more than “getting saved.” We have work to do in this world after we believe. Nevertheless, it would seem that Easter week sermons would be a prime occasion to call upon one’s hearers to believe in the gospel; and yet a strong call to faith is lacking from this book. Wright seems to assume that all his hearers are already Christians. Wright should emphasize conversion more and call his readers (and hearers) to repentance and faith, especially since the church in England is shrinking and evangelism is such a crying need in Britain.
Third, Wright clearly believes that Jesus bore our sins as our substitute. Still, he scarcely emphasizes the awful judgment and wrath that we deserve as sinners—a wrath that is turned away by the cross of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:25-26; 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9). Wright focuses on the love of God, but he does not say much about his holiness. Yet it is when we see God’s dazzling holiness that his love shines all the brighter.
This month’s RBL contains a review of a published dissertation supervised by D. A. Carson. The review is an interesting specimen of the reaction of a critical scholar to evangelical scholarship as the following quotes demonstrate:
Hoskins rejects conceptions of typology that do not presuppose the historicity of the events in the history of Israel seen as fulfilled in Jesus. Instead, he favors a “canonical” approach, rigidly historicist and literalist in its interpretations. Readers outside the narrow confines of conservative evangelicalism, even those willing “to believe that sometimes the anticipatory import of Old Testament events, persons, and institutions is clarified by later revelation” (26), will find this rigidity stultifying, culturally anachronistic, and methodologically obtuse.
Subsequent sections are similarly problematic, covering successive stages in the cultic history of Israel as though this were a monolithic process to be reconstructed by reading the Deuteronomistic History at face value. That Chronicles represents a different perspective is acknowledged, but justice is done neither to the complexity of the historical evidence and the tensions within the collated traditions nor to the interpretation of these traditions within Judaism of the first century C.E.
Hoskins’s exegesis is careful and his references to previous scholarship copious, even if there is a conspicuous preference for evangelical authors.
This is a complex book. Its central chapters are fundamentally sound and make a substantial contribution to scholarship. This is accomplished despite the weaknesses in the background study to which attention has been drawn. More problematic, however, are the essentially theological premises on which this work is based and which strongly shape its conclusions. The assumption of a single, linear sequence of historical events, accompanied by prophecies that, together with the events and the central characters therein, find their definitive if not their sole fulfillment in Jesus of Nazareth, is fundamentally problematic. In that it implicitly impugns the legitimacy of alternative traditions and interpretations, and in particular the continuing existence of Judaism and practice of non-Christian Jewish worship, this work espouses a particularism that critical scholarship will never accept. Scripture is read in accordance with preconceived theological agenda, which undermines not merely academic rigor but also, ironically, evangelical principles regarding the authority of the Bible.
It is worth noting how worldview disagreements are masked in the language of scholarly critique. The reviewer could simply note that he does not believe in the historicity or unity the Old Testament. Instead he uses terms like “methodologically obtuse” or “preconceived theological agenda” (as if this review has none!). The last paragraph cited, however, reveals that the main objections are primarily theological.
This reviewer really wants a denial of the Christian faith. He admits that critical scholarship “will never accept” Jesus’ words:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.
John 5:39 (ESV)
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 14:6 ( ESV)
In other words, critical scholarship will not accept Jesus.
This calls to mind the words of Eta Linnemann:
“Mein NEIN zur historish-kritischen Theologie entspringt dem JA zu meinem wunderbaren Herrn und Heiland Jesus Christus und zu der herrlichen Erlösung, die Er Golgatha auch für mich vollbracht hat.”
My “No!” to historical-critical theology stems from my “Yes!” to my wonderful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to the glorious redemption he accomplished for me on Golgotha.