The Cruciform God: Righteousness and Faith, Part 2

We’re continuing our study of Michael J. Gorman’s Inhabiting the Cruciform God.

Now, at this point, I begin to sound a bit antinomian (lawless), because it sounds as though I’m saying you can be sinful and not submit to God’s will and still be saved. And, not surprisingly, Paul was accused of the same thing. Indeed, if you never suffer such an accusation, it may be that you aren’t teaching the gospel as well as Paul.

N. T. Wright explains in Christian Origins and the Question of God: Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 263, how “repent” and “faith” were used by First Century Jews. He refers to a story told by Josephus about a Jewish rebel named Jesus –

I was not ignorant of the plot which he had contrived against me … ; I would, nevertheless, condone his actions if he would show repentance and prove his loyalty to me.

[quoted by Wright at p. 250.]

The Greek in the Josephus, metanoesein kai pistos (repent and believe = show repentance and prove loyalty)  is identical to the Greek in Mark 1:15 —

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Josephus notes that “believe in me” is translated “be loyal to me” in most translations. “Believe in” or “have faith in” means “be loyal to” or even “submit to as lord.” Continue reading


N. T. Wright’s After You Believe: Fruits of the Spirit, For Discussion

Regarding the fruits of the Spirit, Wright says,

[Paul] is not saying, “Once the Spirit has taken up residence in a person or community, these are the things that will happen automatically,” as though thereby to reinforce the romantic or existentialist approach to behavior against some kind of legalism. Nor is he saying, “Now that you’ve got the Spirit, isn’t it great that you can can rid of that silly old Law [of Moses] with all its moral restrictions?” Rather, he is saying, “This, after all, is the behavior which the Spirit produces; can’t you see that you don’t need to impose the Mosaic Law on converts in order to generate people like that?”

(p. 195). Paul’s argument is that that the real purpose of the Law was to produce people of character, and since the Spirit forms the desired character without any need for the Law, the Law is no longer in effect for such people. It’s not repealed so much as fulfilled.

Does that mean that the required behavior is exactly the same as the Law of Moses demanded? How can we distinguish those values that the Spirit instills from those commands that expired with the crucifixion?

The Fork in the Road: Learning from the History of Worship, Part 1

It occurred to me the other day that our view of worship is largely defined by the Protestant Reformation, which reinvented the assembly in reaction to earlier Catholic practices. The Reformation theory was to return to a biblical understanding of worship, but their understanding was filtered through 1,500 years of Christian church history.

The Restoration Movement attempted the very same thing, but pushed for a purer understanding of First Century practice — but filtered through 1,800 years of church history.

You see, to go back to the First Century, you really have to go back to Abraham. That’s right. We and our Reformation forebears ignored over 2,000 years of worship history, assuming the Old Testament to be irrelevant. It isn’t. Continue reading

An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: In Reply to Robert

Angel with harpThis is in reply to Robert’s comment.


You continue to make the fatal mistake of confusing disobeying a command with doing more than is commanded. Had Noah made the ark with knotty pine, he’d have plainly violated the command. Had he brought along shovels — a subject on which God was quite silent — there’d have been no violation. And I’m sure the shovels were needed and that Noah brought them. Continue reading

An Experiment in Christian Dialogue: A Post by Bruce Morton

Angel with harpSeveral days ago, reader Bruce Morton challenged me to post his arguments against instrumental music in worship. I invited him to write such a post. Here it is, entirely unedited, other than the insertion of a link to his book available at Amazon.

Concerning Ephesians 5:18-21
Bruce Morton

The teaching in Ephesians 5:18-21 by Paul has, at times, been separated out of the broader context of 4:17-5:21.  The Restoration Movement has focused attention on the teaching and in some cases concluded that apostolic teaching is silent regarding instrumental music in worship assemblies. Continue reading

The Cruciform God: Righteousness and Faith, Part 1

We’re continuing our study of Michael J. Gorman’s Inhabiting the Cruciform God.

The material in this post isn’t in the book. But it occurred to me while reading the book, and it’s built on and, I think, consistent with what’s written in the book. It’s about righteousness.

Now, to many of us, “righteousness” means doing right, means obeying God’s commands. That’s not a terrible definition. But it’s not the way Paul uses the term — not quite.

(Rom 3:21 NIV)  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

(Rom 3:21 ESV) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—

The NIV, like many translations, translates dikaisune theou “righteousness from God,” when the most natural translation is “righteousness of God.” Stick an “ou” ending on a Greek noun and you normally get “of” that noun. The KJV and many other translations agree with the ESV and disagree with the NIV. But “righteousness of God” sounds odd to us, because God can’t obey his own commands. How can God be righteous in the same way we are righteous?

Therefore, the NIV ignores the grammar and interprets the text as speaking of imputed righteousness. But, of course, in the theology of imputed righteousness, we aren’t really credited with God’s righteousness — it’s Jesus’ righteousness. Jesus is the one who obeyed God. So the NIV simply trades one riddle for another. Let’s consider what scholars are increasingly concluding is the right riddle. Continue reading

Theophilus and Bob’s Blog

Many readers are likely already familiar with the cartoon Theophilus featured at the late Cecil Hook’s “Freedom’s Ring” website.

Bob West is the cartoonist behind the Theophilus cartoons, and he now has a blog. Good stuff.

(Thanks to Pat for pointing me in his direction.)