Saturday, June 2, 2018

For Teachers Everywhere

I and my sons are big Golden State Warriors fans, since I was born in San Francisco, raised in the East Bay, and brainwashed my boys to love California teams over Chicago. It was a rough start for Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals but #30 helped pull out the win. Cleveland made a crucial mistake in the last seconds of play that could have ended the regular game time with their win, not Oakland's. I made a meme of the infamous episode in honor of all professors and teachers in education who know how the following feels:

Best! MJL

The End of the Bibleworks Era

It saddens me to hear that Bibleworks 10 will be the last version produced by the fantastic programmers and staff come June 15, 2018. The good and faithful folks at BW have provided a needed academic application/program/database for Bible scholars, seminarians, and undergraduate students for decades. Hands down, the best Bible program and database out there, I personally have valued Bibleworks for its up-to-date Greek texts on the New Testament, the Septuagint, Josephus and Philo, its Hebrew text for the Old Testament, their lexicons, multiplicity of English translations, and its powerful search engine. 
    While the programmers will try to keep up with periodic updates on the latest version of BW10, inevitably, many Bible scholars and students will have to find an alternative program to use. Personally, I'm not a fan of Logos' library, so I'm at a loss of what new application+tools to adopt. Ughhh! I'm quite discouraged by this loss. Details of the discontinuation of Bibleworks can be read on their website. Below is a screen capture of Michael Bushell's (owner/founder) letter to BW users.

Letter by Michael Bushell to BW users on the end of future editions at the BW site

    For all that Bibleworks has done, thank you for decades of service and ingenuity. I'm grateful for all that I could learn and do with BW4-10 (yes, I've gone through six versions). I wish the team at BW the Lord's blessings in their future endeavors. MJL

Monday, May 28, 2018

Intertextuality in the New Testament Section SBL Denver 2018

Invited Plenary Speakers for the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section
Theme: Ancient Exegetical Methods in
Greco-Roman Discourse and the New Testament
SBL Denver 2018
It's been quite some time since I revisited my blog but I have not forgotten about it. But I did need the timely break to get a sense on how to manage my time as the chair of the biblical field at North Park Theological Seminary.
    In this post, I'm excited to announce the opening plenary session of the Intertextuality in the New Testament Section at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting in Denver this November 2018. The theme of the session is Ancient Exegetical Methods in Greco-Roman Discourse and the New Testament. Much ink has been spilt on how the New Testament authors quote, cite, echo, and allude to Old Testament and Jewish texts in their writings, but little has been done on the way they quote, echo, allude or recontextualize Greco-Roman sources. The three main presenters who are giving papers on various intertexts between Greco-Roman discourse and the New Testament are all experts in their respective fields and have masterfully engaged with a wide range of rhetorical, religious, political and philosophical material by Greek and Roman authors. The speakers and their papers titles are listed below. 
     I especially want to highlight that the respondent to each of the papers is Peter Oakes. Anyone having read his 2005 journal article in JSNT entitled "Remapping the Universe," where he outlined four possible ways the New Testament texts allude, echo, appropriate or compete with Roman imperial texts/theology would know that there are few who could comment on not only the specific content of the papers but on the broader issue of how to map out a method for detecting Greco-Roman textual and conceptual allusions in the New Testament. It's sure to be a fantastic session. I hope all attending SBL and reading this post will come to the session on Saturday morning Nov 17, 2018. Best! MJL

Intertextuality in the New Testament
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Ancient Exegetical Methods in Greco-Roman Discourse and the New Testament
Each paper will be 25-30min long. Peter Oakes will be responding after each paper for 10min. There is a general discussion at the end of the session

Max Lee, North Park Theological Seminary, Presiding

Bruce Longenecker, Baylor University
Intertextuality in Pompeian Plaster: Can Vesuvian Artifacts Inform Our Expectations about Intertextual Expertise among Sub-Elite Jesus-Followers? (30 min)

Peter Oakes, University of Manchester, Respondent (10 min)

Judith M. Gundry, Yale Divinity School
Roman Household Religion and the Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:14 (30 min)

Peter Oakes, University of Manchester, Respondent (10 min)

Paul Trebilco, University of Otago
Echoes in Ephesus: ‘From the beginning’ in the Johannine Letters and in Ephesian Foundation Myths (30 min)

Peter Oakes, University of Manchester, Respondent (10 min)

Discussion (30 min)

Business Meeting (0 min)

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year! The Year of God's Favor and Strength

Wow! 2017 came and went. I know it's the same 12 months in a year, or 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours, or 525,600 minutes, and so on... but it does feel like it goes by much faster as I get older. And before I knew it, 2017 raced by without many blog posts. My life just became too busy to keep up with weekly posts. I did not even keep up with monthly ones. Probably, for the time being, I will post randomly and occasionally. I hope this is just an interim period. As soon as I get some book projects off my desk, and perhaps finish my tenure as chair of the biblical field at North Park, I will come back to the blog and reignite it with a flurious succession of original articles, book reviews, pastoral reflections, and historical-cultural notes from the world of the New Testament and early Christianity. 
     But for now, blessings to all this 2018!

FYI, this is the year of the dog according to the Chinese Lunar calendar! It's the year of fortune and health. May the Lord bless the work of your hands and give you strength to serve Him faithfully this 2018. MJL

Monday, October 2, 2017

Part 2 of Participation in / Union with Christ: Papers from the 2017 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture

Continuing from Part 1 of the 2017 Symposium for the Theological Reading of Scripture at North Park Theological Seminary, here I offer comments on, and video links to, Sessions 5-8. 
Ben Blackwell giving the 5th paper of the Symposium
   On Friday night (9/29), the 5th session of the Symposium featured the paper read by Ben Blackwell, Assistant Professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University and author of Christosis, entitled: "You Become What You Worship: Theosis and Story of the Bible." In his paper, Blackwell worked through the model of imitation as theosis (theosis = participating in the divine nature and becoming changed by it somehow) as it is practiced in the worship of the church. The very content of worship in the Old Testament and the New highlights the distance between the creaturely and the Creator. The gap is emphasized. Yet, at the same time, the gap is traversed, in part, as believers worship because they become like the object of their worship. Blackwell illustrated this thesis taking one divine trait of God, His holiness, and explained how participating in the divine life/nature of God through worship makes believers holy. He also discussed how idolatry is the sinister dark side of worship. If we worship idols, we embody the system of idolatrous values that the idol represents. 
      To watch the video of Blackwell's paper presentation and subsequent response plus discussion, see the link below: 

The response, by the way, was given by Cynthia Peters Anderson, Senior Pastor at Batavia United Methodist Church and author of the book Reclaiming Participation. She asked a helpful question that drew out the pastoral implications of Blackwell's paper: what symptoms of false or true worship do we need to observe in our worship practices at church so that we become more like Christ and not the idols of our age? 

Brent Strawn giving the 6th paper of the Symposium
   The next morning (9/30), I moderated the 6th session which engaged the paper read by Brent A. Strawn, Professor of Old Testament at the Candler School of Theology. The paper was entitled: "Participation with God (and/in Christ?): (Re-)Reading the Life of Moses with Some Help from Gregory of Nyssa." It's hard to catalogue here all the nuggets of insight in this paper. For one thing, in his reading of Moses through the Exodus story, Strawn highlighted the unavailability of God and noticeable lack of divine participation. God is absent for much of Israel's history between the end of Genesis and beginning of Exodus. God's people cannot assume that they can participate in the life of God automatically, as if God is on call 24/7 at our beckoning. But when God does awaken to our cries and prayers, He himself first participates in the sufferings of His people (as He did with Israel's travail in Egypt) and then acts. 
    My favorite line in the paper was: God's people are called to "participate in God's verbs." God has a synergistic relationship with Israel where at times, it is unclear if God is doing the action or God's people are doing the action. God works by, through, and with Moses and all His people. 
    To watch a video of Stawn's paper presentation and subsequent response plus discussion, see the link below: 

The response was given by Nathan Clayton, Hebrew instructor at North Park and adjunct professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Moody Bible Institute. Among other helpful insights, Clayton asked Strawn to map out and describe in greater detail what "synergy" is: that is, how do divine and human agency work in a synergistic relationship with each other. 

     The 7th session featured the paper by Michael Gorman, The Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and former dean of the Ecumenical Institute at St. Mary's Seminary and University. His paper was entitled: "Cruciform or Resurrectiform? Paul's Paradoxical Practice of Participation in Christ." In this paper, Gorman sets out to answer some of recent criticisms of his work (see what he calls his "accidental trilogy": Cruciformity, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, and Becoming the Gospel) that there is overemphasis on the cruciform character of theosis at the expense of resurrection. Engaging a group who wants to emphasize the "resurrectiformity" or "anastiformity" of participation in Christ, Gorman argues that while participation in Christ does have a resurrection quality, something is lost if the interpreter does not emphasize the cruciform nature of our life and union with God. 
Michael Gorman giving the 7th paper of the Symposium
To watch a video of Gorman's argument for the priority of cruciformity and how our cross-shaped participation in Christ is simultaneously a participation in his resurrection (power), see the following link below:

The response was given by given by a North Park seminary alumnus Markus Nikkamen, who is currently a doctoral student of New Testament at the University of Aberdeen. The response was a robust engagement of Gorman's paper in its exegesis and theological assertions. One objection Nikkamen has is the language that "self-emptying" is part of Christ's nature. Perhaps love, but not self-emptying or kenosis. The response and discussion are both worth hearing.

    The last and 8th session of the Symposium ended with the paper presented by Ashish Varma, Assistant Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute. His paper was entitled: "Jews and Gentiles Together? Acts 15 and Racial Reconciliation in Christ." 
Ashish Varma giving the 8th paper of the Symposium
Engaging with the work of Brian Bantum's Redeeming Mulatto and Willie Jennings' The Christian Imagination, Varma posits that the Acts 15 Council is a model of mutual accomodation between Jews and Gentiles, and not the assimilation of Gentiles into Jewish Christianity. As such, the Acts 15 Council provides a model of mutual accomodation of different ethnicities today into the church of God, and this work of accomodation and mutual incorporation as one church is a form of participation in the life of God and the mystery of Christ unveiled. 
     The response paper was given by Hauna Ondrey, Assistant Professor of Church History at North Park Theological Seminary, who challenged the thesis of the paper that Acts 15 is an ideal model of mutual accomodations. In her opinion, Acts 15 represents a non-ideal compromise to the Gentile mission which still favors Jewish Christianity. If so, then it is actually quite dangerous to posit the Acts 15 Council as a model example of incorporation of diverse ethnicities into the church. The model could be used, for example, to favor white superiority where white Christianity is the new Jewish Christianity and all other ethnicities are the Gentiles. 
    To hear more, follow the link below to the video of the paper presentation, response, and subsequent Q&A.

     This concludes the Symposium and all eight sessions. It was a tremendous weekend, and not only did I learn much, but I'm still reflecting on the implications of the papers/responses for the work and ministry of the church. MJL

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Participation in / Union with Christ: Papers from the 2017 Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture at North Park (Part 1)

Every 4th weekend of the September month (Thurs evening to Sat afternoon), in conjunction with the Nils W. Lund Memorial Lectureship, North Park Theological Seminary holds its annual Symposium on the Theological Reading of Scripture. This year's theme is: Participation in / Union with Christ, a most fitting topic given that the year 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. 
Bruce Fields delivering the 1st paper of the Symposium
     On the opening Thurs evening (Sept 28, 2017), Bruce Fields, Professor of Faith and Culture at Trinity International University, gave a plenary paper for the 1st session entitled: "The Christology of Augustine's City of God: Participation in Christ That Compels the Pursuit of Justice in the Human City." Describing Augustine's understanding of two cities as two loves (i.e., a love of self [= contempt for God] that characterizes the earthly polis or city versus the love of God [= contempt of self] that characterizes the heavenly city), Fields provocatively explains how for Augustine justice is interchangeable with love (charitas). Participation in the life of Christ takes place in the church where members internalize love as justice, but participation also takes place out in the world where the church, acting on that internalization, practices love-justice in the earthly realm.

The paper response was given by George Kalantzis, Professor of Theology at Wheaton College and Director of the Wheaton Center of Early Christian Studies, whose main criticism was the use of Augustine in support of Field's (evangelical) reading of Paul's letters when Augustine, in the opinion of Kalantzis, should simply be read for his own sake. 

     The next morning (Sept. 29), the 2nd session featured a paper read by Grant Macaskill, The Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis at the University of Aberdeen, and entitled: "Union(s) with Christ: Colossians 1:15-20." Macaskill picked up where he left off in his Lund Lectures and further interpreted Col 1:15-20. 
Grant Macaskill giving the second paper of the Symposium
Here he argued that, building on the foundation that all things connect through the mediator Christ to God (see his Lund Lecture), we can now talk about unions (plural) with Christ. The level of participation is different depending on the type of union. God’s covenantal relationship with Israel is not just salvific. He cares about the way they farm, and the way they built houses, and under Isarel's covenant there are different levels of participation in the life of God. Covenant bears differently also concerning the alien or foreigner who lives in the midst of Israel. They are with Israel but not covenant members, and so a different kind of reciprocity is expected of them as they participate with Israel in the life of God. 
     It should be noted that Macaskill is careful, however, not to talk about unions as if it was a kind of flat universalism (a critique of Douglas Campbell's work in The Deliverance of God). Macaskill is not a universalist and does posit the unique union of believers with Chrsit but also recognizes it as a fullfillment of all previous types of unions established in the history of God with His people. The link to the video of the 2nd session of the Symposium is below: 

The paper response was given by Constantine Campbell, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, who has also written his own separate monograph on Paul and Union with Christ
     It was a lively response and engagement with Macaskill's paper. Con (not be confused with Doug) Campbell engaged Macaskill's reading of Col 1:15-20 from the minute details of whether the genitive's attached to the word "first-born" were partitive (Macaskill's view, which makes the phrase a temporal reading, i.e., "first-born of all creation") or subordinate (Campbell's view, which would then read "first-born over all creation") to addressing larger historical issues as: which covenant (Abraham, Mosaic, David, creational) does Paul refers to at specific points in the biblical text. 

    The following 3rd session featured a paper by Olli-Pekka Vainio, Lecturer of Systematic Theology at the University of Helsinki, entitled: “Why Bother with Participation? An Early Lutheran Perspective." Vainio has written a "few" books and articles (195+), the most important of which for the symposium's theme include: Justification and Participation in Christ and Engaging Luther. Vainio represents the new Finnish school of interpretation on the theology of Martin Luther. Vainio paper's focuses on a second-generation Lutheran reformer named Martin Chemnitz (1522-86) who expanded on Luther's teachings and used the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ as a way of framing the separate divine and human agencies of participation. 
Olli-Pekka Vainio giving the 3rd paper of the Symposium
The response was given by North Park's own Stephen Chester, Professor of New Testament at the seminary, who just published a phenomenal book (deserving of its own blog post review) with Eerdmans entitled: Reading Paul with the Reformers. Chester notes that the most helpful contribution of Vainio was providing a way forward through Christology for the Finnish school who has been accused in the past of collapsing Creator and creaturely categories, divine and human.
     The link to the video of the 3rd session of the Symposium is below: 

    The 4th session that afternoon was from Julie Canlis, Lecturer at Regent College and author of the book Theology of the Ordinary, who read a paper entitled: "The Geography of Participation: In Christ Is Location, Location, Location." 
Julie Canlis giving the 4th paper of the Symposium
Her paper focused on the theology of John Calvin, where she pointed out that location is very important for Calvin who had a particular trinitarian Christology where Christ sits at the right hand of the throne of the Father with the Holy Spirit sent from the throne to the ends of the earth. Calvin uses the metaphor of "upward" or "heavenly-ward" to describe how the Ascension of Christ provides a framework for participation. Our participation is oriented to, and our future is tied to, Christ's resurrrected body. At the same time, Christ has descended to meet humanity in the ordinary. Our human bodies, especially the collective Body of Christ, becomes the locus or place for participation with God. 
    If all of this sounds a little abstract, Julie and her husband, a pastor, have put together an adult curriculum with accompanying video that offers Bible study, commentary, and best spiritual practices for participation in the life of God through the daily details of the ordinary. 
     The paper response was given by Mary Patton Baker, Lecturer at North Park University and Pastor of Community Formation at All Soul's Anglican Church. The link to the video of the 4th session of the Symposium can be found below: 

      Coming soon: Part 2 of the 2017 Symposium on Participation in/Union with Christ with links to video and remarks on Sessions 5-8. MJL

Friday, September 29, 2017

The NT Lund Lectures 2017: Grant Macaskill on the Mystery and Sufferings of Christ

Prof. Grant Macaskill, the NT Lund Lecturer for 2017
Today (Sept 28, 2017), the New Testament series for the Nils W. Lund Memorial Lund Lectureship was given by Dr. Grant Macaskill, the Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis at King's College in the University of Aberdeen, who spoke on theme of participation in Christ. But unlike past tendencies in scholarship to frame Paul's participation language vis-à-vis justification, Macaskill framed Paul's participation language with God's providential working of history to its eschatological end, and under the category of Providence is the unique participation of the believer in the sufferings of Christ.
    But I'm actually getting ahead of the series. The 1st lecture, entitled: "The Mystery of Revealed: Christ and Cosmos," focused on the Christology of Colossians 1:15-20 as the starting point for reading all of Scripture as a whole. Using the movie The Unusual Suspects as an example (spoiler warning!), Macaskill explained that no one can watch the movie a second time without remembering the plot twist: that Kevin Spacey's character is actually Keyser Söze, the main villain of the story. Likewise, the Christian cannot read the Bible without remembering the mystery unveiled anticipated by both Wisdom and the Torah is Christ. Creation and the Law are not the last word on reality. Christ is. 
    The link to the 1st Lecture is below: 

     Building on the theoretical framework of set forth by the 1st lecture, Macaskill's 2nd lecture drew out the implications of the church's participation in the mystery of God unveiled in Christ. The 2nd lecture was entitled: "In the Likeness of the Image: Participating in Providence." This lecture started off slowly and methodically but ends on a pastoral crescendo. Wow! Probably the most powerful insight was the discussion of the believer's participation in the sufferings of Christ as part of participating in God's providence. 
     A believer's suffering is not like Jesus' suffering, nor is it analogous to the sufferings of Christ, but rather it is a participation in Christ's sufferings. Christ died a senseless death. When the Son needed the Father the most, it appears that God had abandoned him on the cross. When our experience of suffering lacks glory or purpose, when our suffering seems senseless, this lowest point of human experience can manifest Christ-likeness that no other experience can duplicate. Suffering does not have to be redemptive to be meaningful. There is a particular way that a person can suffer or even be martyred, and it resembles Christ. The person who suffers Parkinson's disease, the still-born baby, and any apparent senseless death can resemble Christ. God's providential care becomes evident only in retrospect, not at the moment of suffering, but only afterwards when ultimately He works out his purposeful end even in what, at the time, seems senseless.
     To hear more, follow the link to the 2nd Lecture below. MJL