According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change, Part 4 - Daniel Kirk

Daniel Kirk

“AHA” moments: biblical scholars tell their stories (3): Daniel Kirk
June 30, 2014

Today’s “aha” moment is brought you by Daniel Kirk, associate professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary, where he has taught since 2008. When he’s not watching a Coen Brothers movie, Kirk blogs at Storied Theology (“telling the story of a story-bound God”). His has written Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?: A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity and Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God. His current project is a volume on early Christology in a Jewish matrix to be published by Eerdmans.

Kirk’s aha moment concerns the resurrection accounts of Christ.


Each summer during college, I worked at Christian summer camp. No, it wasn’t pretty. The other counselors called me “the enforcer” because I was so hung up on everyone keeping the camp rules.

But I digress.

One year they let me teach sailing. Since I was not the true sailing instructor, this mostly meant that I sat on the shore and shouted encouraging words at anyone who hadn’t managed to get their Sunfish out of the cove.

In other words, I sat there on the shore for about three hours a day with nothing to do.

So one day I decided that the logical way to spend my time would be to create a chart of what each Gospel says about the last week of Jesus’ life.

Have you ever tried it? Go ahead. I’ll wait.

I told one of my fellow counselors about my project. He knew just what I’d find: “Wasn’t it beautiful how it all lined up?”

Um… No, actually. They don’t line up at all.

O.k., so “not at all” is an overstatement. But there are interesting differences.

One example: does Jesus go into the temple to cast out the money changers as the climactic moment of his “triumphal entry” (Matthew)? Or does he wait until the next day (Mark)?

Another: Does the fig tree whither immediately upon being cursed (Matthew)? Or does the withering happen overnight (Mark)? For that matter, does Jesus curse it before going to the temple for the clearing incident (Mark)? Or after (Matthew)?

Details, details, right?

But then there are potentially more troubling questions: did Jesus have his last meal with the disciples on Passover (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)? Or was Jesus killed on the day when the Passover Lamb was slaughtered, such that the religious leaders were scrupulous to keep themselves pure for the feast that would take place that night (John)?

Though I had not been raised in a fundamentalist church, I was attending one during my first two years of college. Somehow the idea of “inerrancy” had lodged itself in my mind. And here I was, reading the Bible, and discovering that the Bible we actually have doesn’t seem to line up with the Bible I was told to believe in.

As I prepared to go to Westminster Theological Seminary a couple years later, I got introduced to the idea of “hermeneutics.” Guided by the biblical studies department, a way forward began to open up, in which I might be able to affirm inerrancy with respect to the Bible we actually have: maybe we need to think about reading and interpreting differently, bringing a different set of expectations to the text with us.

This, frankly, carried me very far through my studies.

At Westminster (at the time) I was given ways of affirming inerrancy by attributing historical inconcinnities to authorial purposes that lay beyond the bounds of historical accuracy. Historical problems were due to differing expectations of the ancients, or they were due to the fact that the Bible’s history is “preached” history rather than “objective” fact.

Moises Silva, formerly a New Testament professor at Westminster, even wrote an article in which he stated the possibility that pseudepigraphy might be part of an inerrant New Testament.

Learning all of this at Westminster, and spending my first 4.5 years at Duke while I was at the same time pursuing ordination in an inerrantist denomination, I actually found that the view of the Bible I had been given had a lot of staying power.

See, what I had learned by the side of the lake at Camp Willow Run was that (1) the idea I had of an inerrant Bible couldn’t contain the Bible we actually had. What I learned in the classroom at Westminster was that (2) we can put the horse before the cart and allow the phenomena of scripture to define what we mean by “inerrant.”

When I left my conservative denomination for a mainline church shortly after graduating from my doctoral program, I did not change my doctrine of scripture. I simply realized that what I had been given as “inerrancy” in seminary is not how most people understood and used the term.

“Inerrancy” offers itself as a term to both predict and determine beforehand the results of historical and scientific and theological investigation. What I discovered early on is that it fails as a theory precisely because its predictions are wrong.

My co-counselor was right, in this sense: if the doctrine of scripture he was learning at his Bible college were correct, the last week of Jesus’ life would line up in a glorious harmony (the likes of which is nowhere to be found in any of our canonical gospels).

That’s not how they function, because that’s not what the authors wanted (Matthew, after all, was intentionally changing Mark, for instance), and because inerrancy aims to describe a Bible that, in the end, we don’t have.

One of the most compelling things about landing at Fuller Seminary six years ago was finding myself in a Bible Division practically devoid of inerrantists, and yet brimming with Evangelical colleagues who affirm that the Bible is the Word of God, who seek it for divine guidance, and who seek God as a direct and active participant in the lives of God’s people.

In the manner somewhat analogous to my time in a conservative denomination, I discover afresh that communities have tremendous power.

Formerly, my communities helped me hang onto something (inerrancy) that I had been willing to let go of for years. Now, my community of godly colleagues affirms for me what folks from my past would claim to be impossible: those who reject inerrancy handle the scriptures with reverent humility, and live fruit-bearing Christian lives, demonstrating that here is a place where not only the word of God but the very Word of God is living and active.

Index to Series - 

Transparent Moments of Scholarship when a Theologian Must Either Stay or Change

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