Form criticism applies the insights gained from the study of ancient folklore to identify and classify units of scripture which supposedly assumed distinctive forms during their period of oral, pre-literary transmission. Redaction criticism assumes the ‘results’ of form criticism but seeks to bring out how a writer could have edited (or redacted) the sources so that we are able to grasp his personal theological viewpoint. For example, we gain insights into the mind of an author X (e.g. Luke or the Matthean community) by observing how he uses [embellishes] a source document Y (Gospel of Mark), by making significant changes to the source document (e.g. additions or omissions in usage of source materials, changing words or phrases, supplying connecting ‘seams’, and reordering of sequence of events) to create a distinctive narrative framework of the life of Jesus with theological emphasis relevant to the needs of his intended readers.
Many critical scholars have concluded that the final form of the various units of the stories (pericopes/ pericopae) are strung together to form the four canonical gospels, the book of Genesis and the later chapters of the book of Isaiah are describing not so much the original historical reality of the stories, as providing insights into the social religious context of the author’s community (sitz im lebem). However, critics of form and redaction criticism contend that the ‘results’ of these criticism reflect more of the ingenuity of the critics than the actual historical processes in the formation of the biblical materials. Continue reading “Nonspeculative Redaction Criticism”
Believing Christian scholars are accused of being closed minded as they fail to take seriously critical scholars, which is a euphemism for scholars who don’t believe in the divine inspiration of the Bible. For these critical scholars, believing scholarship is an oxymoron. But, why should believers subject themselves to the judgment of unbelievers? Apparently, the authority of these critical scholars stems from their learned and objective scholarship. That these critical scholars are learned is duly acknowledged, but the objectivity of their scholarship is the issue in dispute. Continue reading “Critical Consensus and Believing Scholarship”
In 1971, Fidel Castro was reported to be confused and famously exclaimed that “theologians are becoming communists and communists are becoming theologians” [Jose Bonino, Christians and Marxists (Eerdmans, 1976), p. 15.] Today, one would be even more confused when one is repeatedly told by the media that many evangelicals are strong supporters of Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential elections, as Trump’s lifestyle is evidently contrary to Biblical values.
It seems that the word ‘evangelical’ has become a convenient, but misleading sociological category. Surely, this is a sign of evangelicalism lapsing into some form of ‘culture-Christianity’. However, this cultural shift is merely a symptom that lags behind an earlier theological shift. Indeed, there were already various questionable hyphenated evangelicals before the emergence of ‘Trumpian-evangelicals’. Sadly, given the present adulteration of the term ‘evangelicalism’ one may be tempted to abandon the term ‘evangelical’ and identify oneself simply as a ‘gospel-Christian’.
Perhaps there is no need to jettison the term ‘evangelicalism’ given its historic role in the growth of Christianity. It is fashionable for American historians to link Evangelicalism to the Great Awakening revivals in the USA in the 18th century. Others want to push the origins of Evangelicalism to the beginnings of Christianity. After all, the word ‘evangelicalism’ is derived from ‘evangel’ which simple means ‘the gospel’ or good news (euangelion). Continue reading “Who is an Evangelical? Part 1”
Part 2: Jesus Christ-Eschatological [Final] Prophet And Incarnate Savior: A Christian Proposal To Muslims
Muslims assert the utter transcendence of God. Divine revelation therefore takes the form of revealed commandments rather than a revealed person. The issue that separates Christians and Muslims is whether or not the claim that Jesus Christ as the decisive revelation of God compromises the utter transcendence of God. Resolving this issue requires an inquiry into the prophetic calling of Jesus. We need to ask whether Jesus ministry went beyond mere proclamation and constituted an adequate, if not decisive, act of divine salvation for humankind. Continue reading “God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 2)”
Part 1: God and Humanity in Islam & Christianity
Thesis: Ultimately, the difference between Islam and Christianity is that the former views the relationship between God and man within the field of power. The Divine-human encounter becomes a contest of strength where human submission is a matter of expediency in the face of sheer dominant power. In contrast, Christianity views the relationship as one that is moral: God, despite his sovereignty, treats human beings as persons with inherent dignity (since they are created in His image). God seeks allegiance from man based not on expediency but as a grateful response to a God who passionately cares for his welfare (c.f., pathos in Abraham Heschel’s work). Man may fail to perceive the depths of divine pathos. Without a personal revelation from God, man can only be dimly aware of divine pathos in pale and fragmented forms, described as divine sorrow, pity, wrath, and compassion because of his psychological limitations, although divine pathos must be perfect and complete within the divine Trinity. However, these partial perceptions of divine pathos are fully revealed and experienced as divine love when manifested at the cross. Hence the glorious declaration in 2 Corinthians 5:19 – in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself. Continue reading “God, Christ & Humanity: Christian & Muslim Perspectives (Part 1)”
I. Theological Preliminaries
1. Strictly speaking, it is wrong to describe the birth of Jesus as a miracle. The birth process was normal; so normal that Mary made a sacrificial offering required by the Mosaic Law as a woman was considered ceremonially unclean after giving birth. The miracle refers not to the birth, but to the conception of Jesus outside any sexual relations. The caveat duly noted, I shall continue to use the phrase “virgin birth” in accordance with convention.
Modern critics argue that belief in the virgin birth undermines Christian faith as it precludes the full humanity of Jesus. Rather than refuting hypothetical possibility with other hypothetical possibilities (mystere pour mystere), I shall presently focus on the Biblical testimony that the virgin birth does not compromise the full humanity of Jesus (Hebrew 2:14, 17). Likewise, Jesus sharing of our full humanity that includes a normal birth (and human temptation) does not undermine the sinlessness of Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). Continue reading “Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas Fulfilment of Isaiah’s Prophecy”
Prologue: Benjamin Breckinridge (B.B.) Warfield (1851-1921) – Professor of Theology, Princeton Seminary: a.k.a. Lion of Princeton.
There was perhaps no theologian in the world as deeply and as widely equipped for the theological task as this “leading ornament” of Princeton’s Theological Seminary. Warfield was well learned in all departments related to biblical studies – the original languages, Old Testament, New Testament, the new biblical “criticism,” theology, historical studies, philosophy, science. He stood out as a giant even in a Princeton land of giants, and was referred to as the “lion of Princeton.” It was said by those who knew him that not only did he know more than his great predecessors – he knew more than all of them put together. His learned grasp was as wide as it was deep, and in his own lifetime he was recognized for it. In all this God had prepared a spokesman, a defender of the faith who could take all comers – Fred Zaspel
THE MANDATE OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
With full acknowledgement and tribute to B.B. Warfield [*Vindication: justification with evidence and rational argument]
“False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. We may preach with all the fervour of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.” (John Gresham Machen)
We live in an age where traditional Christian teaching is challenged, and if possible, subverted and rejected in the name of modern scientific knowledge and historical criticism. It is no small temptation for some Christian scholars to become intimidated and capitulate to the ‘superior’ truth claims pronounced by the new priests in the academia, and to accommodate the gospel so that it is more acceptable to the learned despisers of Christian faith. Continue reading “Systematic Theology Vindication of the Gospel”
Part 2: Confessing Creeds and Renewing Evangelicalism
For Part 1: The Crisis of Creedless Evangelicalism LINK
The historic creeds are indispensable for the following reasons:
1. Authentic spiritual authority. The creeds serve as an antidote for Christians who have imbibed the spirit of individualism and skepticism leading to their rejection of authoritative proclamation of the gospel. However, these Christians end up following the latest fashion in spirituality when they are bereft of firm foundations of faith. No single individual has the credibility or competence to challenge prevailing social opinions. It is wise for the church to secure the counsel of many experts as any individual leader is limited in theological expertise and tends to focus on his idiosyncratic interests. Hence, creeds as products of collective wisdom have greater authority than any individual opinion and serve as judicious and authoritative statements for public declaration of the faith of the church. The purpose of a creed is not to debate the minutiae of theological exegesis but to synthesize a grand overview of Christian truths which the church commends to wider society as an alternative and better vision of life than what wider society can offer. Continue reading “Evangelicalism Today: Crisis and Creeds”
Part 1: The Crisis of Creedless Evangelicalism
For Part 2: Confessing Creeds and Evangelicalism LINK
“Evangelicalism” has become a fuzzy and amorphous word. Evangelicalism is associated with revival meetings where believers give more credence to the pronouncements of blessings by visiting ‘prophets’ and ‘apostles’ than to the plain but transforming teaching of the Bible. Preaching is as much about the good life of consumerism as it is about eternal life. Elsewhere, evangelicalism is seen to be a new manifestation of old-time fundamentalism which rejected advancement in science and associated faith with ignorance of modern knowledge. It is not surprising that many young evangelicals leave the movement when they go for higher studies. Some pastors who go for further theological training even lose confidence in the infallible authority and entire trustworthiness of the Bible after they imbibed the spirit of rationalism that is prevalent in the academy.
The foregoing episodes suggest that evangelicalism is facing a crisis. Continue reading “Evangelicalism Today: Crisis and Creeds”
It is astonishing to see prominent theologians like Wayne Grudem and Vern Poythress vigorously disputing with fellow evangelical theologians like Don Carson and Craig Blomberg! Indeed, the dispute is supremely important as it pertains to whether the church should adopt the New International Version for preaching and Christian education. To avoid confusion, it should be stressed that the NIV in question is not the ‘classic’ NIV (1984), but the NIV (2011) which was published earlier in 2005 as the TNIV.
The dispute arose when scholars like Grudem and Poythress rejected the gender-neutral or gender inclusive language policy adopted by Biblica, the publisher of the NIV, on grounds that the policy often gives rise to translation that deviates from the original meaning found in the Hebrew and Greek texts. Continue reading “The NIV (2011) Gender-Neutral Translation Controversy and New ‘Gold Standard’ Bible”