Month: May 2012

another quote

This comes from Kenneth Berding’s incisive (and occasionally comical) critique of how ‘charisma(ta)‘ is understood both in NT scholarship and lay theology. The gist of his argument: stop using charisma(ta)-language as a technical term for ‘(spiritual) gifts’–i.e. special abilities or talents–because such a technical usage is not supported by the biblical texts. Berding concludes his article with this little gem:

“But what will I teach my Spiritual Gifts Class (or congregation, or college students, or seminarians)?” You can begin by teaching that the word [charisma] does not inherently mean Spirit-given ability. [Charisma], as with any other word, needs to be defined in such a way that it fits appropriately with the passage in which is found. Teach that [charisma] generally means a concrete way that God expresses grace but can be defined more narrowly if the context suggests it. You can teach that Paul’s list-passages discuss ministries rather than abilities (though God gives general spiritual enablement to every spiritual task). You can teach that the items listed by Paul (teaching, prophecy, adminstration, exhortation, tongues, etc) are in fact ministries (large and small) given by God to members of the Christian community to build that community up in Christ. You can teach your class to get involved in minsitry and not wait around until they have figured out what special abilities they do or do not have. You can tell them to dispense with their “spiritual gifts tests.” You can stop using the word “gift” and talk about ministries instead. And after you have done all of these, you might consider cancelling your Spiritual Gifts Class altogether and start another called “Ministering to One Another.”

 –K. Berding, “Confusing Word and Concept in ‘Spiritual Gifts’: Have We Forgotten James Barr’s Exhortations?” JETS 43.1 (2000): 50-51

quotes for the morning

In the opening portion of his book, Here and There in the Greek New Testament (1898), Lemuel Potwin articulates the essential traits (or qualities) for exegetes of the NT.* Two stood out from the others, simply because their practicality (and dare I say necessity) is sometimes overlooked.  First:

Sympathy with the writer.  The New Testament was written with a religious intent. To understand it fully we must have a religious spirit. We go with the writer and put ourselves in his place. This  is not in conflict with the open mind [trait #1], for with open mind we get as near as possible to the writer in order to catch his thought and feeling, which together make his meaning. . . . Indeed it is a literary axiom that a writer, to be appreciated, must have a large measure of sympathy. “Not to sympathize is not to understand.” This need of religious sympathy is emphasized by the inspiration of the writers. The reader needs the same Spirit. Further, [and this is the point I wanted to stress] as the New Testament has several authors, this sympathy must be individualized. The matter-of-fact Mark, the mystical John, the warm-hearted Peter, and the profound enthusiast Paul, cannot be read well, all with the same feeling. The ideal exegete will enter into the mental states, and even the moods of each one. . . . (p. 13)

And second:

A logical power that is flexible and adaptive. If the New Testament were a collection of orations, like those of Demosthenes, or a continuous treatise, there would be full scope for formal logic and rhetoric. As it is, there is, perhaps, equal, but different, need of logic. The book to be expounded is made up largely of familiar conversations, off-hand speeches, and letters. The course of thought is often abruptly broken; diverse topics are packed together; the feelings press hard on the intellect; the graces of style are unknown or ignored. The well-trained logician finds the logic elusive, but it is there; only it requires mental nimbleness to follow and seize it. Rigidity will fail. There is danger, on the other hand, that different subjects that are brought together simply by rapid speech, or condensed report, be forced into an artificial logical connection. (p. 15)

And a third little gem, just because of its pointedness (or, pointiness):

A knowledge of human nature and quick perception of its springs of action. A mere book-worm cannot be a good expositor, because the New Testament is full of human life. Characters must be understood in order to understand their language. The ancients are not statues in gallery of art. We see them, real and living, in ourselves and our neighbors. Yet our knowledge of human nature must be broad, so that we shall not attribute nineteenth [or 21st] century manners to the men and women of the Bible. [Here’s the pointy bit:] This is about the same as to say that the exegete must have common sense. (p. 15)

* He gives 20 +1 distinct traits, all of which are insightful.  (I say “+1” because the last reflectively asks: “Must, then, one be a Meyer, or a Lightfoot, before he attempt to explain a book that, without explanation, is already plain enough to bring joy and salvation to the humblest mind?” [24]. Don’t worry, Potwin goes on to say the traits are more like an ideal or standard).

quote of the morning

When F.H. Elpis argued that in baptism, believers are united with the second person of the Godhead (i.e. Jesus), yet confirmation is the necessary second-stage for receiving the indwelling presence of the third person (i.e. the Spirit), G.W.H. Lampe ably retorts:

This is wholly false. The Church was not told to await the Paraclete after being already united with the Second Person of the Trinity; the disciples were promised the coming of the Paraclete to be the mediator to them of the glorified Christ: to make them Christian believers, united with the Lord and receiving new life through him. The idea that we can be Christians, united by faith with Christ, and yet be without the indwelling of the Spirit, is a basic Trinitarian error, resting on a tritheistic theology.

–G.W.H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit (1967), xxiii-xiv

transient theological thoughts (3)

Because I appreciate and lean more towards a Molinist view of divine foreknowledge (that’s going to bother some; oh well), this came to mind:

God predetermined that humans would have free-will.

I know it sounds simple–remedial, even–but it’s the implications from it that strike me profoundly.  Give it a think and let me know what comes to mind.

Happy Friday to you.