In Markus Bockmuehl’s Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (the inaugural volume in Baker’s (Studies in Theological Interpretation), he presents a proposal for an implied reader of the New Testament. This is in order to facilitate a better understanding of how to approach New Testament studies. I’ve yet to see how he fleshes out this picture since I’ve only read the first chapter, but I thought this much was instructive and I’m looking forward to his second chapter which present a picture of the “implied exegete” of the New Testament.
As Bockmuehl sees it, here’s the “five simple thesis” for what an implied reader of the New Testament looks like:
The implied reader of the New Testament has a personal stake in the truthful reference of what it [the NT] asserts (69)
The implied reader has undergone a religious, moral, and intellectual conversion to the gospel of which the documents speak (70)
To the extent that this is even broadly correct, it also necessarily follows that the implied reader already takes a view of the NT texts as authoritative (70)
Almost invariably, the implied readers are ecclesially situated (71)
Finally, the implied reader is evidently assumed to be “inspired” in the sense of Spirit filled [and I would add different than in the sense of the author's inspiration] (72)
He then concludes by saying that “the texts appear to envisage a reader who freely explores certain lines of interpretation while avoiding others. There is a sense in which these texts already presuppose something akin to Lectio Divina” (73).
Generally speaking, I try to read anything Carl Trueman writes. He is always thought provoking and I think his perspective on evangelical Christianity should be more widely heard (whether or not he’s actually right in some of his analysis). I’ve reviewed quite a few of his books on the blog (here, here, and here for instance), so it’s only fitting to not only review his most recently published work, The Creedal Imperative, but also to offer you the chance to win a copy courtesy of Crossway!
In his brief introduction, Trueman sums up his overall case:
I want to argue that creeds and confessions are thoroughly consistent with the belief that Scripture alone is the unique source of revelation and authority (19).
Actually, just kidding. Trueman would never spend a whole book just to argue something like that. No, he tells us he actually wants “to go somewhat further”:
I want to argue that creeds and confessions are, in fact, necessary for the well-being of the church, and that churches that claim not to have them place themselves at a permanent disadvantage when it comes to holding fast to that form of sound words which was so precious to the aging Paul as he advised his young protege, Timothy (19).
Ultimately then, Trueman doesn’t want to just convince you that creeds are compatible with a high view of Scripture’s uniqueness and authority. No, he wants to convince you that “the need for creeds and confessions is not just a practical imperative for the church but is also a biblical imperative.”
No, in order to accomplish this, Trueman starts in chapter 1 by treating the cultural argument against creedalism. First, he offers his three presuppositions underlying his case for creeds (22-23):
The past is important, and has things of positive relevance to teach us
Language must be an appropriate vehicle for the stable transmission of truth across time and geographical space
There must a body or an institution that can authoritatively compose and enforce creeds and confessions
He then notes that each of these represent a “profoundly countercultural position, something that stands opposed to the general flow of modern life” (23). He then spends the rest of the chapter fleshing out in turn how modern life undermines each of these presuppositions.
In chapter 2, Trueman takes a positive turn, and rather than explaining why people are averse to creeds, he begins building his case for them. He builds a kind of biblical theology of creeds that culminates in Paul’s instructions to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:13. Ultimately he concludes that there is a biblical precedent for not just passing on sound doctrine itself, but the pattern or specific way of speaking of such doctrine. Rather than taking the place of “norming norm” which belongs to Scripture alone, creeds are “normed norms.”
The next two chapters cover the historical development of Christians creeds. First in the early church (chapter 3) and then the classical Christian creeds (chapter 4). Here Trueman is doing what he does best: historical exposition. In about 50 pages, Trueman gives a thorough, but precise overview of the development of the majors creeds within the Christian church. Even apart from the larger argument of the book, there is much to be gleaned here.
In the final two chapters, Trueman talks first about the connection between Christian praise and the confessions/creeds before wrapping up with a chapter on the practicality of them. After discussing how valuable they are in the context of Christian worship, Trueman suggests that the question should be “Why would we not use them?” rather than “Should we use them?” (158). From there, Trueman offers a list across the final chapter to explain the “advantages the church can enjoy if she gives creeds and confessions their proper place in her daily life” (159). He first points out that all churches and all Christians already have some kind of latent creeds or confessions they hold to, so by making them publicly accessible, the following advantages follow:
Confessions Delimit the Power of The Church
Creeds and Confessions Offer Succinct and Thorough Summaries of The Faith
Creeds and Confessions Allow For Appropriate Discrimination between Members and Office Bearers
Creeds and Confessions Reflect the Ministerial Authority of the Church
Creeds and Confessions Represent the Maximum Doctrinal Competence That Can Be Expected from a Congregation
Creeds and Confessions Relativize the Present
Creeds and Confessions Help to Define One Church in Relation to Another
Creeds and Confessions Are Necessary for Maintaining Corporate Unity
Trueman doesn’t expound on these exhaustively, but merely sketches the contours. It is probably one could write a whole book just expanding his final chapter and the list above would make the table of contents.
In looking at Trueman’s book from an evangelical perspective, he offers a critique that mainly strikes people who want to say they have no creed but the Bible. I think Trueman does a good job of dismantling this claim as both untrue and unhelpful when it comes to how we formulate doctrine in the life of the church. After reading his book (and looking at the history of the church before the 20th century), I do not see a rational way to hold to the idea that we don’t need some kind of creeds or confessions that our individual churches adhere to.
I had a little difficulty though seeing how the book was addressing more than this particular audience. Christians who are part of churches already bound to creeds and confessions will find Trueman’s book interesting, and certainly his historical overview chapters valuable, but it may not offer much to them unless they are also engaged in dialogue with other Christians parting churches lacking a defined creed or confession (such as many non-denominational and Bible churches).
An extension of this is that I hard time figuring out how Trueman’s argument would relate to my personal situation. So, for instance, I’m part of a church that adheres to the Apostles and Nicene creeds, as well as the doctrinal statement of the National Association of Evangelicals. Much of this is in virtue of being part of a church that is in the Acts 29 network, which while not a denomination per se, more or less functions like one. However, a weakness of this is that we do not have a more extensive confessional statement of faith, so when it comes to catechesis, we don’t have anything fleshing out our doctrinal statement. It was hard to tell from Trueman’s overall case whether our creedal stance is sufficient, or since it really is in the background of our church life (we don’t use it in the worship service and I would doubt whether the average person in the church could summarize either the Nicene Creed or our doctrinal statement) that we would fall under his critique.
That aside, Trueman presents a very strong case for his position and as always, does so in an engaging, lively way. So, my main concern would be the intended audience of the book, but other than that, it’s a very strong case for the use of creeds in the modern church. Hopefully it’ll be read by those who need to hear its argument.
If you’re interested in reading a book that makes a clear case for adopting creeds and confessions in the local church, this is the book for you. If you don’t find Trueman convincing, I’m not sure who you would find convincing. I think, after reading his book, that every local church should at the bare minimum adhere to one of the oldest Christian creeds. Non-denominational churches may balk at adopting at more recent creed or confession, but I think many of the problems that come with being part of a non-denominational church could be traced back to this position. That is probably another blog post entirely, and I don’t want to purse that here.
In response to a claim by some that Jesus’ male gender had no “christological significance, or significance for salvation” Ware gives12 reasons for why Jesus had to become a man and not a woman (summarized on p. 107 but exposited over the course of chapter 6):
Jesus Christ’s preincarnate existence and identity is clearly revealed to be that of the eternal Son of the Father
Jesus came as the second Adam, the man who stands as head over his new and redeemed race
The Abrahamic covenant requires that the Savior to come, as the promised descendant of Abraham, would be a man
The Davidic covenant explicitly requires that the one who will reign forever on the throne of David be a Son of David, and hence a man
The new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 requires that the Savior to come will actually accomplish the forgiveness of sins, and to do this, the Savior must be a man
The Savior to come must be a prophet like unto Moses, as predicted by Moses and fulfilled in Jesus Christ, and so he must be a man
Our new and permanent High Priest, whose office is secured as sins are atoned for and full pardon is pleaded on our behalf before the Father, must be a man
Christ came also as the glorious King of kings, reigning over the nations in splendor and righteousness, and to be this king, he had to be a man
The incarnate mission and ministry of Jesus required that he come as a man
Because the risen Christ is now presented to the church not only as her Lord and king but also as her bridegroom, the Savior had to be a man
Because our Savior came as the “Son of God” it was necessary that he come as a man
Because our Savior came as the “Son of Man” it was necessary that he come as man
I can see how some would disagree with a few of these, but overall, this is quite the impressive list of reasons Jesus had to be a man. Gender issues are huge these days, and it seems many want to either relativize the Bible’s teaching on gender roles, or as we see with recent responses to the Church of England decision on female bishops, draw illegitimate conclusions from Christ’s resurrection’s relevance to what men and women can and can’t do in the church.
Ware’s book doesn’t really speak to those issues much, he just presents solid theological reflections on Jesus’ humanity. And as I’ll encourage you when I review it (soon!) you should pick up a copy for yourself to read as we approach Christmas.
A couple of weeks ago, I showed you that I got these Theologian Trading Cards in the mail courtesy of Zondervan Academic. I thought I’d give you a few more pictures, my thoughts, and link to where you can enter a giveaway to get some for yourself!
Basically, this is a set of baseball cards, but with theologians instead of athletes. I’ve got a collection of several thousand baseball cards (we’re talking like 15000+) lurking in my parents attic, so naturally I think these cards are radical.
Rather than just a random assortment of theologians though, Norman Jeune III, who developed these cards, split the theologians up into teams:
Athens Metaphysicians (philosophers)
Serampore Preachers (missionaries)
St. Pius Cardinals (important post-Reformation Catholic thinkers)
Jerusalem Resourcers (contemporary theologians)
Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics, in the classical sense, so no Brian McLaren)
Avignon Crusaders (Medievals minus mystics and monks)
Geneva Sovereigns (later Reformed)
Munich Monks (Hermits, mystics, monks)
Los Angeles Knights (Fundamentalists/Evangelicals)
Berlin Aggiornamentos (Contemporary scholars)
As you can see, some of these are historical divisions, while others theological divisions. All in all, Norman did a good job of spanning the entire history of the church. The front of the card features either a picture if they are modern, or a painting or portrait if they are not. On the back, you’ll find important biographical details (and major writings) on the first half of the card (like every good baseball card includes). Then, a brief rundown of the “stats” of each theologian (otherwise known as his or her significant contribution to Christian theology).
All in all, this is a great collection of cards and something that every theology nerd/geek you should own. I do however have a couple of complaints.
First, several of the cards have the blank silhouette (like a Facebook user who hasn’t picked a profile pic). While this may be understandable in some cases, I have a hard time believing G. C. Berkouwer never allowed himself to be photographed. In fact he did, and with a quick Google search, you can find a superb picture of him that should be on the front of his card. This was the case as well for Emil Brunner, as well as a handful of others. I’m not sure why some of them don’t have a picture, but seeing as how quick I could conjure one up in Google, it looks like a lack of care for details or a deadline for publication was reached. Either way, pictorial uniformity would have been nice.
UPDATE: So, about this complaint…had I read the Q/A with the author a little closer (or gotten to the back page) I would have seen that the main reason they don’t have some of the pics is because of 1) copyright issues and 2) resolution of uncopyrighted pics they did find. That being the case, I rescind my complaint about the missing images and only add that I hope they will eventually get an aesthetic upgrade, but as the stand, it’s not the publisher or the author’s fault images aren’t included on several modern theologians.
Second, there are several notable (in my opinion) omissions:
Cornelius Van Til
J. I. Packer
These are just what I could think of off the top of my head, and granted, these are all modern theologians. But if we’re going to give Vanhoozer and N. T. Wright cards, there has to be some reasonable calculus for who gets excluded in the modern period. Perhaps some of the more obscure theologians on other teams could have been cut to make room. Perhaps this is just historical bias on my part. Either way, you can’t tell me you don’t wish there was a Charles Ryrie card in here that you could tape inside your Ryrie Study Bible.
The upside is that there are a total of 8 blank cards, so given my list above, I could just make each of them a card myself. In that case, if you and several of your friends got a set of these, it does have customization possibilities.
All this being said, I would encourage you to get this set of cards as a Christmas present for that seminary student in your life. They are less than $20 and are not only entertaining, they’ll also make a great study aid for anyone taking a church history class! If I hadn’t already selected textbooks for my church history section, I’d make these a required “textbook”!
A little over a month ago, I noticed a small ball of fuzz making its way down the street across from our driveway. As usual, I investigated and to my surprise, it was a mole (picture above is about actual size).
Given my predisposition to critters, I decided I needed to capture the mole. Shortly after posting this picture online, he was named Dusty (by my wife’s twin sister) and by the end of the day he had a new temporary home in one of our outdoor recycle bins (that wasn’t in use). I filled it half full of dirt and placed a small water dish in there and began the weekly trip to the pet store to get meal worms so Dusty would not starve.
All was well and good. I mean who else do you know that had a mole? I mean like a rodent mole, not the skin blemish. Anyway, I didn’t intend to keep him forever, and was going to transplant him to another area (he’s fine in the recycle bin, but he better not be digging up a mess in the yard) sometime after Amber (the aforementioned twin sister) could see him at Christmas.
Well, unfortunately while we were gone this past week, something ate Dusty for lunch (the horror!). I’m pretty sure this is what happened since a) he didn’t dig out the bottom of the recycle bin and b) he couldn’t get a grip to climb out the top either. I know he didn’t starve since a friend of ours came and fed him mid week. So, sometime between late Tuesday afternoon and Saturday morning, some other larger critter found Dusty and had a Thanksgiving meal out of him.
Looking at the bright side, if anyone asks me what’s new, I could always say I just had a mole removed!
If you like the way my blog looks, that’s basically Standard Theme right out of the box. If you’re considering giving your blog a facelift without hiring a web guy, this is the way to do it! The best thing to do is get the lifetime license, that way you can keep downloading updates as they come.
If you’re curious about the pricing scheme, here’s what it looks like with this deal: