Themelios 46.3 – Brian Tabb

The new December 2021 issue of Themelios has 257 pages of editorials, articles, and book reviews. It is freely available in three formats: (1) PDF, (2) web version, and (3) Logos Bible Software.

Brian J. Tabb | What Makes a “Good” Church? Reflections on A Church Called Tov
General Editor Brian Tabb engages appreciatively and critically with A Church Called Tov, which rightly laments unbiblical, worldly leadership in the church and commendably calls for Christian communities to cultivate Christlikeness, compassion, and truthfulness. The question is this: how do we promote “good” churches that reflect Jesus’s truth and love to one another and to the watching world? The tov proposal ultimately lacks the proper theological, ecclesiological, and missiological foundations for building healthy churches.

Daniel Strange | On Being Soteriologically De-motivated
Contributing Editor Dan Strange responds to recent works that cut the nerve of missionary evangelistic urgency. Terry Muck’s article “Who Is Saved?” seeks to reframe the soteriological question, while James Beilby’s monograph Postmortem Opportunity offers a heterodox answer. Both works raise methodological concerns in their doctrine of Scripture on which their respective theses rest.

Jonathan Worthington | Navigating Empathy
What exactly is empathy? There is confusion. Most empathy scholars laud it as putting yourself in someone’s mental and emotional shoes for a time, usually to help them. Most laypeople also commend empathy, but some misunderstand it and are actually commending such unhealthy (and non-empathic) practices as enmeshment and extreme relativism—but under the banner of “empathy.” Other people condemn “empathy” as an enticing sin, polarizing, etc. But they tend to condemn non-empathic practices that have been called “empathy” by their perpetrators without realizing the term is being used wrongly. They thereby seem to critique (and many times think they are critiquing) empathy itself, or a certain version of empathy. Can multiple definitions of “empathy” conflict and yet each be legitimate? If conflicting definitions of one term are used widely, how can any be thought illegitimate? Jonathan Worthington helps readers navigate discussions about what empathy is and is not within academic research, diverse (and conflicting) lay uses of the term, and various clashes that arise.

Roland Elliott | Leviticus in Light of Christ
Christians have long wrestled with how to read the Law in light of the work of Christ. Focusing on Leviticus, Roland Elliott defends a proposal for its structure and leverages this as a starting point for reading its laws in light of Christ. The resulting approach considers laws in terms of (1) the purpose of the overarching section to which they belong and (2) how they are expressed in terms of old covenant realities. This provides the tools for nuanced consideration of the degree and manner of how these laws continue to be relevant to daily life in Christ.

S. D. Ellison | Old Testament Hope: Psalm 2, the Psalter, and the Anointed One
Scholarly discussions concerning the nature of Old Testament hope are arguably most passionate and divisive when the figure of the anointed one (often designated the messiah) is in view. S. D. Ellison suggests that the Psalter may offer a profitable avenue in which to reconsider the debate, and employs Psalm 2 as an example. By considering its placement in the Psalter, content, and use in the New Testament, he concludes that Psalm 2 is a signpost to the future hope of a coming Davidic king. In this way, the Christian Scriptures document, unfold, and realize Old Testament hope.

Justin Jackson | Raised up from the Dust: An Exploration of Hannah’s Reversal Motif in the Book of Esther as Evidence of Divine Sovereignty
The book of Esther presents a challenge for many modern interpreters, since the book does not mention the name of God or his direct action. This glaring omission has led some throughout history to doubt Esther’s place in the canon of Scripture. Contrary to such doubts, Justin Jackson seeks to show that textual evidence of God’s sovereign work does indeed exist in Esther. By highlighting the inner-biblical parallels between Hannah’s psalm of great reversal in 1 Samuel 2 and the events that take place in Esther, he argues that Esther presents the God of Israel as the same God who humbles the self-exalting and exalts the humble, whether it be in the life of King David or the lives of his exilic people in Persia.

Peter Beckman | Ben Sira’s Canon Conscious Interpretive Strategies: His Narrative History and Realization of the Jewish Scriptures
Peter Beckman outlines the canon-conscious worldview of Ben Sira, highlights the major contents of his authoritative corpus of Jewish Writings, and describes his hermeneutical strategies. Ben Sira’s interpretive methods include (1) his reading the Jewish Scriptures as a coherent religious message and (2) his realization and application of these texts to and within his believing community. This scripturally authoritative worldview understands that the Jewish Scriptures are not locked away in the past, but rather it believes that they can and ought to be realized in the present believing community who models and participates in its story.

Bruce R. Reichenbach | Soteriology in the Gospel of John
Salvation plays a central role in the Gospel of John, although the author never develops an abstract theory of salvation. Rather, by various narrative techniques, and ultimately by his overall dramatic narrative, John suggests diverse soteriological concepts. He introduces rebirth as bringing about children of God, depicts Jesus drawing people by being lifted up and dying on behalf of others, and shows Jesus as he claims victory over the devil and demonstrates healing. Underlying and unifying all these themes is the fundamental thesis that salvation brings life, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Bruce Reichenbach investigates John’s medley of soteriological concepts, explores their relation to Old Testament themes, and inquires how they connect with the fact of Jesus’s death and its necessity.

Daryn Graham | The Placement of Paul’s Composition of 1 Corinthians in Troas: A Fresh Approach
Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in Troas, argues Daryn Graham. By drawing upon primary sources and critical modern scholarship, he argues that 1 Corinthians was not written by the apostle Paul in Ephesus, as is the main consensus, but in Troas to the north, after Paul had his vision of the man from Macedonia begging him to preach throughout Macedonia, from where Paul journeyed to Corinth, as he stated he would in 1 Corinthians, after which he then travelled to Ephesus, for the first time. Graham concludes that before he embarked for Macedonia from Troas, Paul completed writing 1 Corinthians.

Jordan Atkinson | Genre-Sensitive Biblical Interpretation in 1 Peter
Jordan Atkinson argues that 1 Peter 1:10–12 contains Peter’s hermeneutic for interpreting Old Testament messianic prophecies in 1 Peter. Though the scholarly consensus is that these verses govern every use of Scripture throughout 1 Peter, an exegesis of 1 Peter 1:10–12 reveals that Peter only discusses Old Testament prophecy in these verses. In addition to quoting prophecies, though, Peter also quotes the Law and wisdom literature. The hermeneutic for the Law and wisdom literature in 1 Peter is distinct from that of prophecy and is a model for how Christians should continue to interpret biblical texts according to their genres.

Iain McGee | Revelation and Religions: Towards a More ‘Harmonious’ Jonathan Edwards
Iain McGee provides an overview and interpretation of Jonathan Edwards’s thought on God’s revelation of himself to adherents of non-Christian religions. He engages with Gerald McDermott’s well-known interpretation of Edwards on this subject, and critiques it on the issues covered. Concerning the methodological approach adopted, Edwards’s deist context and his comments on reason are considered key interpretation aids. McGee suggests that these, together with the identification of dominant themes in his writings, can help the reader overcome some of the challenges faced when attempting to understand Edwards’s comments on the prisca theologia, inspiration, typology and type readership. The alternative interpretation of Edwards forwarded in this article has certain advantages over McDermott’s, the most important being that it results in a more “harmonious” reading of Edwards’s thought.

Bradley J. Bitner | The Theological Vision of Geerhardus Vos: Theological Education and Reformed Ministry
Gerhardus Vos’s lesser-known first inaugural address (1888) entailed a theological vision. Its subject was not biblical theology, but theological method and theological education for Reformed ministry. Vos first identifies cultural, theological, and curricular challenges to the kind of theological formation he thinks students need. Then he exemplifies the kind of confessional framework, theological patterns of thinking, and historical humility that he envisions as necessary for ministry that bears lasting, robust gospel fruit for the church. Brad Bitner explains that Vos’s vision provokes us to reconsider the shape and aims of contemporary theological education as well as the relationship between systematic and biblical theology in his theological method.

Featured Book Reviews:

Tremper Longman III, Confronting Old Testament Controversies, Pressing Questions about Evolution, Sexuality, History, and Violence. Reviewed by John F. Klem
R. B. Jamieson, The Paradox of Sonship: Christology in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Reviewed by Jared Compton
Brad Vermurlen, Reformed Resurgence: The New Calvinist Movement and the Battle Over American Evangelicalism. Reviewed by Kenneth J. Stewart
Graham A. Cole, Faithful Theology: An Introduction. Reviewed by Chandler Ray Kelley, with Hans Madueme
Sharon James, Gender Ideology: What Do Christians Need to Know? Reviewed by Robert S. Smith
Ken Magnuson, Invitation to Christian Ethics: Moral Reasoning and Contemporary Issues. Reviewed by Andrew J. Spencer
Andrew T. Walker, Liberty for All: Defending Everyone’s Freedom in a Pluralistic Age. Reviewed by Daniel Anderson
Craig Ott, Teaching and Learning Across Cultures: A Guide to Theory and Practice. Reviewed by Duane H. Elmer

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