The Reading List – April 1 – 7

April 7th, 2013

A History of the Church in the Middle Ages By F. Donald Logan. I read this because of the fact that we didn’t really cover this at college. It shows the strange and connected world of papacy, politics, people movements, and power that made the medieval age a rather funny place to be. In Judges, you get this refrain at times, that there was no king in the land, everyone did as he pleased. Well, in the medieval age, there were many kings in the land, and somehow they came through it all. Knowledge was lost and found: lost because of things like some idiots deciding some scholar who happened to know Greek and was in the middle of translating Greek works needed to be executed for treason (for whatever reason), and everyone else in the West was pretty much Greek illiterate; found because the English liked book-learning and copying, and because the Spanish were invaded by the Islamic Barbars, who happened to have Greek texts translated in Arabic, which could then be translated back into Latin by the Spaniards who now knew Arabic. It seems that in all this there was spiritual fervour, as evidenced by the popularity of forsaking wealth and entering monasteries and so forth. But the knowledge of salvation was blurred, confused, like when I go around without my glasses on. You can see the wheels turning towards the Reformation, but only then in the 16th century were the conditions really right for it to spring forth, unlike the failed reformatory efforts of Wycliffe and Hus.

The next few weeks, I won’t be reading so much, but I’ll be learning … umm … something else. Well, trying anyway. I’m going to put my ability to learn to read a language quicker than most to the test.

The Reading List – Mar 25 – 31

March 31st, 2013

This week: Gerald Bray’s Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present. In my quest to understand the historical development of biblical theologies, I turned to this rather comprehensive overview of how the Bible has been interpreted over the ages. It’s broad, covering all of Christian history up to the 90′s (published in 1996). It gives enough information (including bibliographies for each section) so that you can hunt down for more depth later, whilst giving probably enough to give you an idea of what’s going on. It’s easy to read, but it really is only an overview intended to allow one to find the entry points for further research. It’s getting a little dated, and could probably do with an update.

The Reading List – Mar 18 – 24

March 25th, 2013

1) God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology by Michael Horton. Following up on the covenant theology business from Kingdom through Covenant. I’m entirely unconvinced of any covenant of redemption (the idea that a covenant exists within the Godhead), and I’m fairly convinced that here, the notion of covenant is expanded to the point where you may as well have a fair crack at calling any relationship of a more formal nature a covenant. This book is, nevertheless, an introductory-level book, and so I will probably start searching elsewhere in the shelf-loads of other Reformed writers for a more detailed exposition.

2) Origen in the series Early Church Fathers. An introduction and reader on this early church exegete. His allegorical interpretations are … interesting. What is also evident is his commitment to his previous scribal or grammateus training, which comes out in the fact that he was compiling the hexapla, his concern for discerning ‘prosopa’ or what we might call the implied narrator or author, and other technical details.

City Navigation 101: My favourite back-routes, part 4

March 23rd, 2013

Getting through King Georges Rd on a Saturday

During peak hour, King Georges Rd is usually fine. This is because the traffic is mostly laminar. However, during a Saturday, firstly, you lose the peak-hour-only clearways, and secondly, DFO. The first of these turns the Wiley Park rail bridge into a choke point. The second makes getting through the M4 intersection a nightmare. It’s even worse if there’s a sale on. I have thus devised the longest bypass route ever. It consists of three sections, of which one part is optional.


Part 1: Homebush and Strathfield

Note that this works for any start/end point that can involve Underwood Rd in Homebush, for example, some sort of sports event at Homebush, or the Easter Show, or even North Strathfield.

What is little known is that Underwood Rd is a fairly reliable intersection going to and from Homebush. To get out, you go on to Parramatta Rd and then head for the aptly named Bridge Rd to cross the rail bridge. You can take the reverse way also, but depending on where you came from, you can also take a sneaky turn to go onto Underwood northbound (dotted lines). Essentially, if you arrive in the main Homebush area from Strathfield in any way that involves going past the Moll’s, you can sneak onto Parramatta Rd before the right turn onto Underwood via an underpass and a left turn. Note that this works best on a weekday, because it involves getting a clear left turn with lanes to cross. It’s pretty easy, but it needs some good timing.

There are a number of ways up and down Strathfield. The main ways are marked accordingly on the second map. The dark blue dotted line gives you the option of getting back onto King Georges early, or getting off late. The getting off late option is helpful when you see traffic backed up on the Liverpool Rd overpass as you approach from Roberts Rd, which is a not-uncommon occurrence. Otherwise, the other routes go via Belfield.

Part 2: Belfield to Beverly Hills

To key to the success of this part of the trip is the fact that hardly anyone uses it. What is little know is that there is a rail bridge between Belmore and Lakemba, and that’s what makes this route work. The crossings at Belmore and Lakemba go through shopping strips, and are usually busy, whereas this one inbetween does not. The route, described southbound, takes you through the Belfield shopping strip, which is relatively easy to get through, shifting right onto the aforementioned rail bridge, down a few roundabouts and then popping up at Canterbury Rd next to the Maccas, crossing over to get to Moorefields Rd, which is where you get back on King Georges. Note that to get to my place, you can also then hop over to my other back route that goes through Narwee.

Random Miscellany, pt -2e+7i

March 23rd, 2013

1) So, my cricket team, the St James Croydon Tungstens, have won the NSWCCU B Grade Grand Final. The team has previously won titles, but only this time have I been there and been on the team to experience the win. To put the enjoyment level I am experiencing about this in context:
- we got smashed in our first game, which exposed just how underplayed and in need of immediate remedial cricket work most of us were.
- we had a good first half of season, but a scratchy second half
- we scraped through into the finals because the rain-affected washout of the last round prevented the team only two points below us an attempt at beating us
- we were 4th, meaning we had to play 3 finals – the elimination final, preliminary final, and then grand final (imagine the modern AFL and NRL finals systems, but only with 4 teams)
- we were struggling at times to get enough players in for the finals
- there were some tense moments in the run chases for each of the finals games
So basically, what I’m trying to say is, on paper, at many times this season, we didn’t deserve to win. But we did. And now, I finally get an official baggy cap.

2) In other random news, still looking. But I’m not bored, as the previous posts regarding my reading adventures may indicate.

3) In a few weeks, the soccer season starts, so I’m going to have to get my running fitness back

The Reading List – Mar 11 – 17

March 17th, 2013

Seeing as I’d read biblical theology last week, I figured I’d switch to something systematic this week. So I picked up Gerald Bray’s relatively recent one-volume systematic theology, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology. Those in the Moore College community will know that Gerald is a frequent visitor to our shores.

This book, despite it’s large size (~740 of text) is relatively easy going. Gerald only quotes from the Bible, minimises usage of technical terms to the point of non-existence, and doesn’t talk at length about historical personae. Whilst this probably lowers the depth of discussion and will be of disappointment to those expecting discussion of any theologian of the last century and a half (e.g. Barth), nevertheless, there is a generally sufficient coverage of all the relevant issues, enough to get someone up to speed on something like the procession of the Holy Spirit.

I’d probably recommend this over Know the Truth or some such as the lay level introduction to systematics, mainly because of the overall better treatment of, well, everything (Know the Truth, for example, is ridic.stupid on the Trinity). Probably a good present for someone about to enter a theological college.

The Reading List – Mar 4 – 10

March 10th, 2013

As noted previously, the book is Kingdom Through Covenant: A Biblical Theological Understanding of the Covenants by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, both faculty at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Over in America, there are two ends of a ‘spectrum’ of biblical theological approaches – dispensational, and covenant theological, which roughly equates to Reformed. As noted above, these guys are Baptists. Thing is, ‘Baptist’ covers a very wide range of, well, organisations in America, and so, apart from distinctives such as credo-baptism and related ecclesiology, it is not really possible to nail down what Baptist theology in America actually is. So you’ve got Baptist dispensationalists as well as Reformed-leaning Baptists. This book says that it is an attempt at a rapprochement between the ends of the spectrum. It’s probably more right to say that it’s an attempt to have a solid covenant-centred Biblical theology without the bits that Baptists don’t like about Reformed theology, like paedobaptism, and the bits that are just wrong (IMHO) in dispensationalism. The book has had quite a reception. There was some controversy when it came out because the Monergism web shop refused to stock it (use Google if you’re interested in that little dust-up). The Gospel Coalition decided it would have a three reviews – Horton as the reformed guy, Bock as a dispensational guy, and Moo as ‘moderate third party’ I guess. The reaction isn’t that surprising given the environment. It offends quite a few hobby horses – denying the dispensationalist claim about the land promise, rejecting paedobaptism, saying moral/civil/ceremonial is dumb (more or less), and hating on (or more politely, critiquing) Paul Williamson (well, that probably just makes us down here feel for the guy). Unfortunately, all this really clouds what is mostly an interesting read.

There are three sections. The middle section is Gentry basically doing a fairly comprehensive exposition of the covenants in the Old Testament. It’s quite thorough, and others doing study on this topic will find this a useful resource. It’s weakness is it’s lack of explicit New Testament study. There is only one chapter explicitly in that realm, on Ephesians, but the rest is all in the Old Testament. There are references scattered throughout to New Testament passages where appropriate within the discussion, but the Old Testament is where the discussion firmly lies. Not surprising given that Gentry is an OT scholar. As remarked earlier, I disagree regarding an Adamic covenant, and I’m not convinced about his work on Daniel 9 re: the seventy sevens. There are moments of weakness here and there but on the whole it’s good stuff.

Wellum writes the first and last parts. The first is an intro – to covenants, to the current academic milieu, and to the hermeneutics employed. The last part is synthesis and theological outworkings. Of this section, chapter 16 – the penultimate chapter – is basically a “short” summarising of all of Gentry’s chapters. Those who are inexperienced in biblical theology and/or the OT may prefer to read just this chapter to get an overview of this OT biblical theology. The last chapter devotes itself to implications in systematic theology, and thus also to differentiating Wellum and Gentry’s position from dispensationalists and covenant theologians. For example, they make a case for definite atonement based on Christ as the new covenant priest and mediator.

Overall, this is a good book. I’m not sure I can really understand the Monergism hullabulooh without really understanding the North American reformed tradition. The book is easy to read (way, way easier than Greg Beale’s), though in Gentry’s section, a working knowledge of Hebrew helps a bit. I’ve seen According to Plan – a laity level work, from Sydney, being referenced in a semi-academic tome in America! – referenced more times than one might expect anywhere outside of Moore, which probably shows how much we in Sydney would agree with what’s in this volume. Let me put it this way. Ignore what the Americans are saying about this book. Read this thing for yourself if you’d like to know more about biblical theology, the OT, or covenants.

Covenant with Adam?

March 6th, 2013

This is a precursor post to my next reading list post, since the next reading list post consists of one book (albeit one fairly hefty 700+ pages, 800+ if you include the bibliography, indices, etc.).

The book is Kingdom through Covenant. My interest in biblical theology has meant an interest in other people’s biblical theologies. The central premise is that covenant acts as a meta-backbone for the metanarrative of the Bible. One of its assertions is that there is a covenant with Adam. Because of this, Paul Williamson gets a fair amount of critique as a noted ‘Adam-covenant-denier’. I reckon Paul would just take it out on the football pitch, or the basketball court. And probably win, but that’s beside the point.

See, thing is, as much as there is tantalising evidence for the existence of a covenant of some description, all of Genesis up to Noah doesn’t actually mention a covenant. The chapter in the book on Genesis 1-3 is more about the kingdom aspects that are apparent here than on the covenant aspects. In fact, I don’t remember Gentry mentioning any specific covenant aspects. And that’s the problem.

Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t a covenant there. No. Rather, my argument stems from literary theory.

One does not mention the existence of a gun in a story unless it at some point is going to be shot (the rule or trope known as Chekhov’s Gun). That is, a good author only mentions the details that are important or have a reason for being there. One does not mention elaborate details that have no bearing to the plot or characterisation or so forth.

In the same way, none of the authors or redactors of Genesis saw it fit to include explicit mention of a covenant in those first few chapters. I would argue that this was done because, even if there was one there, it’s not important. In other words, in the canonical scheme of things, the existence or not of any putative covenant with Adam or creation or whatever is a non-issue. Whilst Gentry has dealt with the evidence for and against the existence of a covenant, he has not adequately dealt with what the significance is if it does exist. If it does exist, how does this advance the argument of the book? Answer: I have no idea.

The Reading List – Feb 25 – Mar 3

March 4th, 2013

1) God is a Warrior by Tremper Longman III and Daniel Reid. This book is crap. Mainly because the OT section is about as shallow as Paris Hilton. And that might be offensive, for Ms Hilton, that is. I have no idea how they got this published, because really, that section alone needed a lot more work. I almost feel dumber having read it, and that’s pretty hard for what is supposedly a book in a series on Old Testament Biblical theology. The NT section is more rewarding, but because the front half has little payoff, the effort feels wasted.

2) Progressive Dispensationalism by Blaising and Bock. Reading again to help a, ahem, overseas friend [Hi if you're reading. You know who you are.] There are interesting and insightful things to read here about hermeneutics and the development of dispensational thought. If you cut out references to dispensations in Part 3, you would, for the most part, feel in quite a fair bit of agreement. However, the amount of weight being attached to Paul’s use of oikonomia and oikonomos – which would normally attract a gloss of ‘stewardship’ or ‘administration’ (-ia), or ‘steward’ (-os) – which they translate as ‘dispensation’ (-ia) or stretch to relate to it, is far too heavy. Bock himself writes about that type of weight-loading on words in his chapters on hermeneutics. Whilst it is generally true that God has administered his relationship with people differently, we in Sydney would probably be attaching this more to ‘covenant’, a word/concept which is capable of holding all of the theological baggage because it occurs across both testaments in significant spots, unlike ‘dispensation’. I’m going to keep trying to read books that have attempted some sort of approchement between dispensationalists and covenant theologians (as the divide usually seems to be drawn) in the US. Next will likely be the somewhat epic Kingdom through Covenant. It got a bit of attention over at TGC.

3) Augustine of Hippo: Selected Writings: Just dipping the toes into actual theological writings by our forefathers in the faith. I figured it’d be good for my reading diet to read some firsthand stuff from the Patristic period.

The Reading List – Feb 18-24

February 23rd, 2013

1) David Tsumura’s Creation and Destruction: A Reappraisal of the ChaosKampf Theory in the Old Testament. Man, am I glad I read this book. Essentially, through some timey-wimey linguistics (many references to, for example, Ugaritic, Akkadian, morphology, etymology, …) and showing how much everyone else has been wrong, more or less, Tsumura shows that Chaoskampf is an outdated theory. Genesis isn’t referring to chaos-waters, and everywhere else is probably just straightforward metaphorical poetics. If anything, those other references are probably Divine Warrior type references, or references to how powerful God is, etc.

2) The Old Testament Pseduopigrapha, by D.R. Russell. A short introduction to some of the content of these texts. Many of them seem to follow the formula:
- take Biblical character
- make them more like Chuck Norris

3) A Brief Guide to Islam By Paul Grieve. This would be easier to read if the guy stopped comparing Islam to Christianity. I really just wanted to read something like this to get a better understanding, but the slightly polemical edge (he appears to be an agnostic or atheist) is somewhat irritating.