N.T. Wright Extends Debate with John Piper by Releasing Apostle Paul Tome

wrightN.T. Wright Extends Debate with John Piper by Releasing Apostle Paul Tome

By Jonathan Merritt

N.T. Wright is one of the top five theologians alive according to Christianity Todayand given his accomplishments, it’s a difficult claim to dispute. Wright is currently Research Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at University of St. Andrews, and before that, he served as Bishop of Durham for The Church of England and taught New Testament studies for 20 years at Cambridge, McGill, and Oxford Universities. He has written a stack of widely-acclaimed and bestselling books, both academic and popular, and has a cult following among young Christian thinkers in the United States and Europe.

But Wright has also become a controversial figure in recent years, igniting a heated debate among American theologians with his so-called “New Perspective on Paul.” Many prominent Christian leaders wrote rebuttals of Wright’s perspective–most notably pastor John Piper, who devoted an entire book to the matter (The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright).

How does one respond to such controversy? If you’re N.T. Wright, by penning a 1700-page tome on the life and theology of the Apostle Paul–the most comprehensive published work on Paul in the history of Christianity. It’s called Paul and the Faithfulness of God, and it promises to extend the debate he sparked years ago. Here, we discuss the book’s thesis, how it may inform gender and political debates, and what he thinks will make John Piper most upset.

JM: And how do you anticipate that this historical and theological study of Paul will reframe Christian theologies of salvation, justification, and law?

NTW: The main point is that most second-temple Jews weren’t discussing “salvation” and “justification” in anything like the way later Christians did. They were anxious about how Israel’s God was going to unveil his long-awaited covenant purposes, returning in person to deliver Israel from subservience to pagans and to launch “the age to come”. That, for them, was “salvation”; and “justification”, not that they discussed it much, was about how you could tell in the present who God would vindicate in the future. Their debates focused on how all that would happen, and what they should be doing in the meantime.

I have shown how Paul’s teaching on justification, the law, etc. is best understood as the radical reworking of these debates around the new fixed point: that Israel’s God had returned in the person of Israel’s Messiah and that, in his crucifixion and resurrection, he had not only launched but had also redefined the “age to come”–right in the middle of ongoing and contested history. For Paul, this sovereign, saving act of the creator and covenant God was then being implemented through the work of the Spirit and in the announcement of the “gospel” in the pagan world. We only “get” what he means by “justification” and “salvation” when we put it all in this larger context. Nothing of value is lost thereby from older traditions (though some cherished formulations, themselves unbiblical, will need to be revised in the light of what Paul actually said); but much, much is gained, particularly the large and utterly coherent vision of his whole thought and work.

 

CONTINUE READING HERE! 

Atonement, Theosis, and St. Paul

paulGreat post from “The Preachers Institute“:

Atonement, Theosis & St. Paul

by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Orthodox Theology has only recently found its way into English, and much of that English is dominated by Latin terms: Trinity, Sacraments, Deification, Advent, Mission, Nativity, Presentation, Redemption, Salvation, and so on. Most Orthodox Christians appear to have no problem with this. Non-Latin English theological terms appear less frequently, Lent being the obvious exception.

Writing in English, consequently, I hope to be forgiven by other Orthodox Christians for using a uniquely English expression, “Atonement,” to designate what Christ the Redeemer accomplished on the earth. I am relying on this word, which is signified in its central, accented, and load-bearing syllable, to convey four ideas. Indeed, I am hard pressed to think of another English word that conveys all four of these ideas equally well:

First, “At-one-ment” conveys the force of the idea of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; cf.Romans 5:10). On man’s part-not God’s-says Paul, there was an enmity God Himself removed by what He accomplished in Christ. This is one of the meanings of Atonement:

“the Redemption which is in Christ Jesus”” (Romans 3:24).

Second, the word conveys our experience of being “in Christ” and “with Christ.” These analogous “prepositions of place” have long served to designate the union we have with Christ by his gracious love. “Atonement” expresses this union perfectly: We are at-one with Christ.

Third, “Atonement” expresses the goal of Redemption, which is union of man with God. Orthodox Soteriology should not start—as Saint Anselm did—with fallen man. It should commence, rather, with man completely restored in Christ. The word “atonement” means the goal, the telos or skops of all God’s activity in this world: man’s participation in the life of God.

(Anselm, let me mention in passing, did not know or use the word “Atonement.” He was an Italian who wrote exclusively in Latin. Those who speak of “Anselm’s theory of the Atonement,” then, can be safely dismissed.)

This is a very traditional idea in the Church. Already in the second century, Irenaeus of Lyons, the direct and almost-immediate heir of the Pauline and Johannine traditions of Asia, wrote of

“our Lord Jesus Christ, who by his supreme love became what we are, in order to bring us to what he himself is.”

More boldly Athanasius of Alexandria, two centuries later, wrote of God’s Son,

“he became man that we might become God.”

The tradition represented by Athanasius regarded the divinizing of man as the purpose of the Incarnation. Variations of theopoiesis appear repeatedly among the Alexandrians.

Slightly later in the fourth century St. Gregory Nazianzen invented a shorter expression, theosis, which became more common among the Greek Fathers to designate the believer’s incorporation into the life of God. This persuasion—and even this mode of expressing it—became standard during the period of the great Christological controversies.

Largely through the Latin translations of St. John Damascene and Pseudo-Dionysius in the Middle Ages, the equivalent Latin word, deificatio, gradually became acceptable in the West.

I use the word “Atonement,” then, to include Redemption’s full effect in the human being—that is, deification, man’s transfiguration in the glory of Christ. Among properly English words I cannot think of one that better expresses this theandric (God-man) quality of what Christ accomplished.

Fourth, “Atonement” enjoys the added merit of expressing the cosmology of Redemption, the reconciliation of the whole universe, its “re-heading” (anakephalaiosis, recapitulatio) in Christ. “Atonement” conveys everything St. Paul meant when he wrote that it pleased the Father, through Christ,

“to reconcile all things (apokatallaxsai ta panta) to Himself, through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of his cross.”

Christ’s reconciliation embraces “all things”—ta panta. The glory of the transfigured Christ transforms the whole universe; heaven and earth are full of his glory.

For this reason an adequate theology of the Atonement should treat of several subjects not commonly associated with the Atonement, such as history, philosophy, literature, and psychology. I believe this disassociation is a serious defect; the exclusion of these subjects narrows the soteriological idea to a mere fraction of its meaning. All of these expressions of human consciousness and creativity give voice to man’s place in the world, his vocation to be the one locus where the Universe tries to makes sense of itself.

Why Hooking Up Is Letting You Down

Hipsterdox

ISI_meaning-of-sex_Intercollegiate-ReviewWhy Hooking Up Is Letting You Down
By J. Budziszewski

Midnight. Shelly is getting herself drunk so that she can bring herself to go home with the strange man seated next to her at the bar. One o’clock.Steven is busy downloading pornographic images of children from internet bulletin boards. Two o’clock. Marjorie, who used to spend every Friday night in bed with a different man, has been bingeing and purging since eleven. Three o’clock. Pablo stares through the darkness at his ceiling, wondering how to convince his girlfriend to have an abortion. Four o’clock.After partying all night, Jesse takes another man home, not mentioning that he tests positive for an incurable STD. Five o’clock. Lisa is in the bathroom, cutting herself delicately but compulsively with a razor. She isn’t trying to kill herself. She doesn’t understand why she does it. She does it often.

This isn’t what my…

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The Faithfulness of Christ is the Gospel: Ruminations on the Gospel and Soteriology

faithful“If someone were to ask me how to become a Christian, I’m not sure what I would tell them, except to follow Christ.”

A friend of mine on Facebook made this remark to me yesterday in response to some discussion on what is known as “The Sinner’s Prayer” (a prayer you pray asking Jesus into your heart). I had remarked, along side some other believers, that that prayer is dangerous and for lack of better terms, crappy. The gentleman had inquired as to why we would say that and that is wherein he wrote the sentence above, which prompted some quick thoughts in response. I wanted to elaborate on what I had said to him in response to what he asked.

Before I share that, however, I must dive into what we call the Gospel. As many following along here or on the Facebook page may know, I have been diving into N.T. Wright’s work as well as Michael Gorman’s. So the question of “what is the Gospel?” has been coming up and is fresh in my mind, which was good since I saw my friend’s remark about what to tell someone if they asked about how to become a Christian. In order to address that, we must focus shortly on what the Gospel is.

Without being too theological and verbose, for me the Gospel is the answer to the promises that God made to Abraham. The promises to Abraham are fulfilled in the Messiah, who we know is Jesus Christ. God’s plan for the world through Israel (to borrow Wright’s language) was to sort out what had gone horribly wrong with humanity, to make right that which was wrong. The Gospel is Christ, and more specifically the faithfulness of Christ (more on that in a moment). The story of Christ is the long-awaited fulfillment and coming of a new age. It is the end of an exile. An exile filled with sin and death. The Gospel is God’s breaking into the world via Christ to set it right, to bring about the beginning of the new creation. As N.T. Wright says, it is a rescuing from sin and death and corruption and an invitation to look upon Jesus and to participate in His death, burial, and resurrection in a very real, deeply sacramental way.

The Faithfulness of Christ is the Gospel

I recently shared a post on the blog with a video of N.T. Wright speaking about the Gospel. In it, he is asked what he would share if someone asked him to share the Gospel with them in a few short minutes. He makes a great point I want to mention here that the Gospel can’t be reduced to such, and I certainly am not attempting to paint a full picture here, but merely give some thoughts on how I would do it if I had just a few moments to speak with someone about it.

N.T. Wright said that “at the center of it [being asked what the Gospel is in a few moments] must be Jesus Christ. Not a theory, not an idea, but actually something about this Person.” He gives a beautiful illustration that the front door of the House of the Christian Faith is Jesus Christ Himself; without Christ it all means nothing. He remarks that it has to do with who He was, the meaning of His death, His Resurrection, etc. It is through Jesus that God has opened the door to the new world. Wright encourages us to say a quick prayer, keep it about Jesus and something about what God has done through Christ. It is now that we can turn to the faithfulness of Christ is the Gospel.

If I were to share the Gospel with someone in passing, in a few short minutes, on their deathbed, or when asked in general, I would begin with the faithfulness of Christ. What do I mean by that? Let’s examine what St. Paul says in Galatians 2:16:

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”

This is where I’d begin. I would explain as quickly as possible, and as simply, that through Christ God is reconciling the world (II Cor. 5:19). God’s ideal vision for the Israelites was that they’d be a vehicle through which He could redeem the world. Having given them the Law, they were to be His people and He their God. He entered into a covenant with them and has remained faithful to His covenant. Again, His plan all along was to bring about the True Israelite who would fulfill the covenant and the Law, which in turn opens the door for Jew and Gentile to belong to God’s family. The Israelites being as sinful as anyone else failed to fulfill their covenant role and the Law.

The Messiah enters.

It is through the Messiah’s faithfulness to fulfill the Law and the Covenant that we are justified. The Orthodox Study Bible has this to say about Gal. 2:16, “The faith of Christ IS the Gospel…It is the faith of Christ-His beliefs, His trust, His obedience-that justifies us, not our faith as such.” The Messiah breaks into humanity to rescue it from sin, corruption, and death by defeating those on the Cross and in His Resurrection, which liberates us from the power of sin and death. Christ, as Gorman says, fulfilled the vertical and horizontal demands of the Law in our place, so that the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled and the door to the new creation is opened.

It is not our faith, which comes and goes, that justifies us. It is the faithfulness of the Messiah that is the Gospel. It is through His faithfulness that we are declared right and found in favor with God. It is through His faithfulness that we can participate in His death, burial, and resurrection.

How Are You Saved? 

Back to “The Sinner’s Prayer” aspect of the story here. Herein lies my issues with that prayer: For me it is flawed because it treats salvation like a one time event and it is not. I also do not differentiate between being saved [or getting saved] and baptism. For me baptism is being saved and it is through the grace of the waters that God save you or better yet it is God’s grace in the water. Salvation is a continual life event but to begin it one cannot just simply utter a prayer.

To be saved is to be obedient to Christ and what He taught and what the Church has taught. It is to recognize that God has done something in the world through the Messiah and that you want to partake of Christ’s faithfulness by being baptized into His death and raised with Him in resurrection via baptism. It is accepting Him as messiah and participating in His sufferings [and suffering love] which redeem us. It is cruciform theosis! We are in Christ and it’s His faith that justifies us and liberates us and vindicates us. We then are free to carry on with good works. We die daily to ourselves and work out our salvation daily.

This is what it means to be saved. We are saved by the grace of God in baptism, we are being saved by the grace of God in dying daily to ourselves, being crucified with Christ, suffering with Him, while the Spirit restores us to union with God, and we will be saved, Lord willing, in the Final Judgment. Salvation is not a one-time event. We are transformed by the power of the Cross and of the Resurrection. The faithfulness of Christ is what opens the door to salvation up for us. This is nothing we can do our own! It is a gift given to us by Christ, which we reject or embrace.

Become One with Christ

In summary, my friend was right when he said, “I’m not sure what I would tell them, except to follow Christ.” At least he is headed in the right direction. It is about Christ. I would say, to use stronger language, that is about being crucified with Christ. Justification is for St. Paul by faith, but that faith has to be understood as co-crucifixion with Christ. It is direct participation not just imitation in the death, burial, and resurrection with Christ. The old man dies; the new man is born! Theosis is the continuing work of the Spirit in our lives to conform us to Christ and to unite us with God. If I were to be asked about the Gospel, I’d say it is about Christ, His faithfulness, our participation in that faithfulness, and cruciform theosis to become one with Christ in a very real way. This is not a thorough treatment, full exegesis of any texts, or an holistic definition. There is much more that could be said, but I was prompted by Wright’s thoughts and the conversation with my friends, so I wanted to reflect on this. It is sometimes a question that may surprise us, but we should contemplate what we’d do if we were asked “what is the Gospel?” or told “tell me about God”.

I would share with them that it is about bringing our story into the story of Christ, which is one of faithfulness, love, courage, redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and more than anything, one of hope and beauty for us sinners.

Engaging The Culture: 8 Simple Ways

Hipsterdox

engaging-cultureEngaging The Culture: 8 Simple Ways

By Father John Peck

Here are 8 practical everyday actions  you can take to effectively engage the culture around you. These steps guarantee that the needs of those outside the Church are a serious concern – that is the foundation of successful evangelism.

1. Start conversations. Just talk to the people you come in contact with while going through life. These could be neighbors, co-workers, or even total strangers you come across in the course of daily activities like shopping or sight-seeing.

2. Hang out with people who enjoy the same things you do. Find non-believers who enjoy doing the same things you do – or who can teach you something you would like to learn to do. Find ways to hang out with them and enjoy them while exposing them to “Christ in you.” Find your new friends outside, as well as inside, the Church.

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N.T. Wright on the Gospel and Advice to Young Christians

wrightN.T. Wright says some extremely beautiful and prolific insights in this short video. I really wanted to share it because I think he challenges us on so many levels whether it be how to present the Gospel, presenting the Gospel in a 5 minute window if asked, where repentance comes into play, and what the Gospel of Paul has to do with the Gospel of Christ (hint: they are the same). However, at the end he has some sage advice, especially for those like me who love theology, that is deeply practical, but full of wisdom.

When asked what advice he has for young theologians he recalls an email to a young man wanting to pursue graduate studies in Pauline theology (which was fitting to me like a glove to a hand). He remarked that he gave the young man the same advice he gives every body who desires to be a theologian/teacher/professor.

  1. “You just have to soak yourself in the Scriptures much more than you ever imagined doing; preferably in the original languages.”
  2. “You have to soak yourself in prayer.”
  3. “You have to listen hard to the cries of pain that are coming from the people next door who are your neighbors or from people on the other side of the world.”
  4. And he didn’t say it exactly, but he said we have to basically immerse ourselves in community and in the Sacraments, which Christ gave us for life and for a way of life.

I love when he says, “Jesus Himself and the New Testament itself teaches that the way we get to know who we are and where we’re called to be is through Scripture, through prayer, through the Sacraments (Divine Mysteries)…, and also [through] the cry of the poor [where we meet Christ].”

He goes on to say, “God wants to do new things, but he people through whom He will do those new things are people who are Bible people, are people who are prayer people, are sacrament people, and are people who are listening to the poor people. And somehow Jesus will come afresh to them and please God through them in ways that at the moment we can’t imagine, predict, or control.”

N.T. Wright is a brilliant man whom I respect and admire. He is a holy man filled with the light and love of Jesus. I hope his wisdom here is as beneficial to you as it was to me.

N.T. WRIGHT ON THE GOSPEL AND ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE (VIDEO IS HYPERLINKED)! 

Restless (ˈThē Tranˈsendənt III)

restlessThē Tranˈsendənt is Orthodox Ruminations’ series about the transcendence of art, music, and culture. These would be things that lift the soul to its Creator and bring us to the experience of the Divine. These things take us above the here-and-now of our dreadful, yet hopeful, existence on this life. These things show a light of the Divine that helps us to gain a taste of the things to come. These things are a beautiful collision of our depravity with His divinity to paraphrase David Crowder. These things lift us! They unite us! They speak of things not fully here, but nonetheless present.

Paradox.

Beauty.

Mystery.

Tranˈsendənt!

The third installment is bringing a song that caused me much thought today. While getting ready for an interview I decided to listen to Switchfoot. The song “Restless” came on and it caused me to stop and think about the hecticness of not only American life in the 21st century, but also my own life. We are so disoriented much of the time aren’t we? I know I have been for most of my life.

What do I mean by this? I mean that we orient ourselves around things that don’t matter in the light of eternity  or that bring us distress, anxiety, and restlessness. The lyrics to this song described not only American life, but also my own life! Every since I graduated I feel like I’ve living in a haze, in a fog! I’m restless and disoriented and discouraged.

I AM LOST…

Upon graduating from undergrad, I once had a clear path and what I thought was a calling in mind. I imagined I’d be heading straight into seminary and pursuing full time ministry. However, that is not how the page turned, which is usually how it is in life anyways.

The page turned to a chapter yet written!

BLANK

WHITE

PAGES!

That is the page before me. I hold the pen back, resisting the first stroke upon these pages. I know not what to write! This is an anxious time in which I live! I feel like sometimes I want to write a chapter that has me waiting on the priesthood; taking a chance on something that may never be. However, I honestly don’t know if I trust God at this point or if I trust His Church. I hate the Evangelical cliche saying “Oh, just wait and trust Jesus”, but yet I feel like that is one thing to write, but if I do this and the priesthood chapter isn’t not written then I would have wasted valuable time and years sitting around not progressing or taking advantage of other academic interests or vocational paths.

So that is the other chapter: one where I pursue other graduate opportunities, but which ones? More anxiety! More pressure!

Restlessness.

My passion and my zeal primarily lie in what I find to be a gift of teaching and preaching! When I read a theologically-geared book, like Michael Gorman’s “Inhabiting the Cruciform God” (which I’m about to finish) I get excited. I love being led deeper into theological truths of the Scripture and Faith! I love leading people into these truths and wrestling with them! So on one hand I could pursue this and a Masters of Art in Theology, which really would not give me a job! There aren’t enough seminaries in Orthodoxy to rely on a career of being a professor, which I could see myself doing. So there goes that!

On the other hand, I love counseling and therapy as well! I could really pursue that as a vocation and find joy in my work. I’m fascinated by relationships and how they work. I desire to help lead people into healing emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and relationally. I take what I find to be justification in Scriptures, which is restoration and reconciliation, and bring it into the public sphere! This could be called social justice if you like. I don’t care what it is called, but I do have a desire to help people.

This all causes me great anxiety and restlessness.

Listening to Switchfoot’s song made me think that perhaps I’m looking for doors to open instead of finding Christ in the midst of this restlessness. It has deeply disturbed my prayer life and faith in many ways. I’m frustrated and anxious about my future, my wife’s future, our family’s future.

The song describes me right now and how I feel, but perhaps it also gives me an answer. I can pursue these studies and opportunities, but perhaps I’m failing to pursue Christ? Perhaps I’m restless because I’ve gotten no rest outside His arms. I don’t know. These anxieties and restless things become weightless in the eye of eternity’s light. I don’t know. I felt that this song and what I’m experiencing right now were tied together somehow. I’ve been wanting to express these feelings in words for some time, and Switchfoot’s song helps me to do that. It shows me where I’m at, but where I need to be.

I need to find rest.

Solitude.

Silence.

Peace.

I hope to carry out my plans to visit Hermitage of the Holy Cross in December to clear my mind and heart from all 21st century distraction and my own personal anxiety and restlessness. I need to find rest. One cannot make a clear, good decision from such a position. I want to proceed with my life through the doors that He opens. I just hope in finding Him I find rest from these restless things. I know this blog will be random rambling and such, but a part of me hopes you get it and can at least appreciate the transparency.

I don’t know what to do with life right now! It is confusing, frustrating, disappointing, and restless.

However, I know I need Christ, and I need His rest. If you need it too then this is for you. If you don’t then pray for us sinners who remain restless…

DISCLAIMER: I will include hyperlinks in the titles for all the post, so for the music to this song click on the title below:

Restless

I am the sea on a moonless night,
Calling, falling, slipping tides
I am the leaky, dripping pipes
The endless aching drops of light
I am the raindrop falling down,
Always longing for the deeper ground
I am the broken, breaking seas
Even my blood finds ways to bleed

Even the rivers ways to run
Even the rain to reach the sun
Even my thirsty streams,
Even in my dreams

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
I’m looking for you

I am the thorn stuck in your side,
I am the one that you left behind,
I am the dried up doubting eyes
Looking for the well that won’t run dry

Running hard for the other side
The world that I’ve always been denied
Running hard for the infinite
With the tears of the saints and hypocrites

Oh blood of black and white and gray
Death and life and night and day
One by one by one
We let our rivers run

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
Looking for you

I can hear you breathing,
I can hear you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
’til the final healing
I’m looking for you

Until the sea of glass we meet
At last completed and complete
The tide of tear and pain subside
Laughter drinks them dry

I’ll be waiting
Anticipating
All that I aim for
What I was made for
With every heartbeat
All of my blood bleeds
Running inside me
Looking for you

I am restless, I am restless
I am restless, looking for you
I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore
I’m looking for you

I can feel you breathing
I can feel you leading
More than just a feeling
More than just a feeling
I can feel you reaching
Pushing through the ceiling
’til the final healing
I’m looking for you
I’m looking for you