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Preston Sprinkle is associate professor of biblical studies at Eternity Bible College. He co-authored Erasing Hell (remember that?) with Francis Chan and co-edited The Faith of Jesus Christ with Michael Bird. His doctoral dissertation was published as Law and Life: The Interpretation of Leviticus 18:5 in Early Judaism and in Paul. The present book, Paul & Judaism: A Study of Divine and Human Agency in Salvation is the outworking of an “educated hunch” Sprinkle had during his doctoral studies.

Specifically this hunch was derived from noticing “aspects of discontinuity that were either not detected or not emphasized among scholars” when it came to comparisons of the writings of Paul and the Dead Sea Scrolls (13). While the latter are the Jewish writings most similar to Paul, Sprinkle grew to see more discontinuity in terms of the their respective soteriological structures while doing his Ph.D. This book is an attempt to explain and explore that more fully.

Though not necessarily beach reading, that’s exactly how I read it. I didn’t intend to, but I had a whole afternoon with appropriate shade and hydration and found that I just couldn’t put it down. The opening chapter revisits E. P. Sanders monumental work Paul and Palestinian Judaism which suggested more continuity between Paul and Jewish thought than was previously imagined. Sprinkle pushes back on some of Sanders’ conclusions by examining soteriological motifs in Paul and the writings of the Jewish sect at Qumran (known as the Dead Sea Scrolls).

Before really getting to that, in chapter 2, Sprinkle compares two streams of Old Testament restoration theology. First, we see the conditional promises of restoration in Deuteronomy (which are also in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles). Second, we see unconditional promises of restoration in the prophets. The point here is to demonstrate that the Old Testament presents “diverse paradigms of restoration” rather than show which stream is more Pauline or Jewish (67). The resultant streams will be “heuristic lenses to understand and compare the soteriological structures of Paul and Qumran” (67).

In chapter 3, Sprinkle looks at how Paul and the Qumran community handle the promise of restoration from the curse of the law. While both argue along similar redemptive-historical lines, Qumran tends to have a more Deuteronomic view of the restoration (conditional on obedience), whereas Paul is radically Prophetic, to the point of discarding the need of works of the law altogether (94).

In chapter 4, Sprinkle examines the motif of the eschatological spirit. Here, he notes there is an even spread of discontinuity and continuity rather than the radical disjunction of the previous chapter (120). The main difference is that for Paul, the eschatological spirit is a divine agent that effects obedience in the restored people, and for Qumran, it is not (121). Sprinkle sees this as a major point of disconinuity.

After a brief excursus on Moses, Paul and the glory of the Old and New Covenants, Sprinkle turns to anthropological pessimim in chapter 5. The specific question is “does humanity possess the unaided ability to initiate a return to God and obey his laws?” According to didactic text the answer is yes and according to some hymnic texts, the answer is no (144). Qumran doesn’t offer a uniform portrait, but Paul does. For Paul, humanity is in desparate need of divine rescue, and though Qumran offers something close to this portrait in the hymnic texts, Paul is much more radical in his assesment.

This becomes more apparent in chapter 6 which focuses on justification. Here, Sprinkle shows that contra N. T. Wright, it is hard to sustain the argument that “Paul’s doctrine has exactly the same shape as that of MMT” (this is Wright’s quote). As Sprinkle says, “Paul’s emphasis on God’s initial act of justification of the ungodly through grace is unparalleled – even rebutted – in the Scrolls” (170). From Sprinkle’s perspective then, there is further radical discontinuity between Paul and Qumran on this issue, whereas for New Perpective advocates like Wright, there is considerable continuity. Having read both, I think Sprinkle has a better case in this argument.

Chapter 7 brings an even more contentious issue into focus. Comparing Paul and Qumran on judgment according to works, Sprinkle sees both affirming future judgment on the basis of works. However, for Paul, epeically in his didactic letters, “the source and ultimate cause of all human obedience” is God (201). In hymns from Qumran, we see some continuity with this emphasis, but never in the didactic writings. Further, Sprinkle says, “it is more than just divinely empowered obedience that will push the believer through the pearly gates, but the unilateral act of God on Calvary and in the vacant tomb that secures both the initial and final verdict for those in Christ” (203). As Sprinkle then concludes, “I have not seen anything in Qumran – not even in the Hodayot – which parallel Paul’s thinking on this.”

After another brief excursus on justification by grace now and in the future, Sprinkle’s final motif is divine and human agency, though here he is providing a survey of early Judaism on the subject. This is done to help situate Paul and Qumran on the map so to speak in his conclusion. He sees similar concerns shared with other Jewish writers, but in the end, Paul “seems to push the envelope of God’s role in salvation with a complexity and precision that is unparalleled in the literature of early Judaism” (238).

Sprinkle provides a brief concluding chapter that summarizes the findings of his study. Overall, I found his case compelling. It helps that, much like Wright, Sprinkle has an ability to make what could otherwise be an impenetrable technical discussion into something you could read at the beach. I particularly enjoy whenever a writer offers lens and organizational categories to make sense of a broad array of texts. In this case, Sprinkle brings interpretive insight into an on-going discussion on Paul’s relationship to Jewish thought. Although he ultimately comes out in a position that would be more or less a classical approach (or Old Perspective) to Paul, he ends up there via a very nuanced path. He has wrestled well with the evidence, and you’ll find that his writing is worth the read.


Preston M. Sprinkle, Paul & Judaism Revisited: A Study of Divine and Human Agency In Salvation. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, August, 2013. 256 pp. Paperback, $24.00.

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Thanks to Matt Perman posting this, you can now watch a 10 minutes animated run-down on Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. It’s a book that is helpful if your job involves working with people, and I regularly return to it for insight. If you don’t have time to read it, you’re probably too busy (it’s a quick read or even scan). But, if you’ve got 10 minutes, this is well worth your time.

Say you wanted to brush up on your understanding of music notation. Maybe you’ve always wanted to understand music theory. Well, now you can.

Here is an online book that will help you get a grasp of music theory (thanks Lifehacker!)

Below is a chart showing all of the standard musical notations you might come across (larger via).

P-MusicNotes_0909_WP_NEWZOOM

A ring that makes you invisible? Sounds familiar right?

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Michael J. Kruger is president and professor of New Testament at RTS in Charlotte. He is the author of several books, notably Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. Now more recently, he has released The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.

Though his canon book are related, they are not redundant. While his previous book focused more on explaining where we got the canon and why it is authoritative, this book focuses more on the canon’s very existence in the first place. Loosely, one could say the previous book was answering what, when, and how, while this one explores why.

The status quo that Kruger is challenging is that “the New Testament was not a natural development within early Christianity, but a later artificial development that is out of sync with Christianity’s original purpose” (17). This is what Kruger calls “the extrinsic model,” which is to say the canon was imposed upon the Christian faith from outside of it (18). He acknowledges there is much correct within this model and so his goal in writing is “not to deny the truth of the extrinsic model in its entirety, but to offer a well-intended corrective to its assessment and interpretation of some of the historical evidence” (20).

His plan is to focus on 5 tenets of the extrinsic model, giving each a chapter that is composed of assessment and response. In doing so, Kruger will be offering correctives from an “intrinsic model” of the canon’s development (21). This model is not the polar opposite of the extrinsic model but rather suggests the development of the canon was organic to the Christian faith. In some respects, proponents of either model could agree to many of the historical facts about the development. The disagreement is centered more on why the process started in the first place and therefore will radiate out to different understandings of the authority and composition of the canon in the life of the church past and present.

The five tenets that Kruger will interact with are:

  • We must make a sharp distinction between Scripture and canon
  • There was nothing in earliest Christianity that might have led to a canon
  • Early Christians were averse to written documents
  • The New Testament authors were unaware of their own authority
  • The New Testament books were first regarded as Scripture at the end of the second century

To the first, he says it is good as far as it goes, but more insight could balance our understanding of the canon. To the second, as well as the fourth, Kruger marshals evidence to strongly suggest otherwise. To the third, Kruger explains that while early Christians may have been predominantly illiterate, they were still a people who used and appreciated written texts in their communities. To the final tenet, Kruger suggests the date is a bit earlier than scholarly consensus would have.

While the main body of the text is not necessarily heavy lifting, it isn’t beach reading either (unless you’re me). Like his earlier book on canon (and presumably other writings), Kruger provides rigorous documentation in the footnotes. Two of the five chapters have over 250 footnotes in the span of about 50 pages and the bibliography is almost 40 pages long. Given that the book itself is right around 250 pages, that gives you an idea how the space within is used.

As for the argumentation itself, I’m already on board with Kruger’s thesis and I thought his previous book was excellent. So far as I can tell, he is fair with opposing views and never comes across as disparaging or derisive towards those with whom he disagrees. As such, I would hope that it is inviting to those who think the canon is either a late development or an imposition onto early Christianity. Kruger argues compelling otherwise and does so in a clear and creative way (by using insights like speech-act theory and a latent triperspectivalism). For anyone interested in New Testament studies in general and canon studies in particular, Kruger is a scholar worth your time.


Michael J. Kruger, The Question of Canon: Challenging The Status Quo In The New Testament DebateDowners Grove, IL: IVP Academic, October, 2013. 256 pp. Paperback, $24.00.

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9781433537080Beginning in chapter 3, Cosper surveys many of the types of stories we tell in our cinematic arts. We have stories of paradise lost and playing God (chapter 3), of the search for love (chapter 4), of original sin and falls from grace (chapter 5), of the frustration and futility in a post-fall world (chapter 6), of fear and mystery (chapter 7), of violence vengeance and judgment (chapter 8), and finally of heroes (chapter 9). As you can see, Anchorman references do not figure prominently.

A potential downside, depending on your viewing habits is that chapters 5 and 6 are off-limits unless you watch Mad Men and The Wire respectively. If you don’t plan to watch either, you can read through the spoilers (Cosper is kind enough to warn), but if you’re not that familiar with either show, those chapters won’t be as familiar. I haven’t started Mad Men yet, but I plan to, and when I do, I’ll come back to these chapters.

I generally avoid horror movies, but I had seen enough X-Files to read chapter 7 with interest. The money chapters for me though were chapters 8 and 9, so that’s what I’ll focus on here. I’ll circle back to chapters 2-3 and in the next post.

Chapter 8 split time between Dexter and the films of Quentin Tarrantino, mostly Pulp Fiction. I’m not a fan of Dexter, but Ali was and so I saw enough episodes to follow Cosper’s analysis. On the other hand, I enjoy a good Tarrantino film, so I was more engaged with what Cosper had to say. Cosper points out that Tarrantino’s films “have a strong moral thread that unites them: sin, judgment, wrath, and resurrection” (167). He is also a playful filmmaker who wants to have fun with his audience, blend genres, and generate discussion. His films, because of their often over-the-top character, help to present a story where vengeance on wrong-doing is executed and the happy ending is acheived, but in a way that isn’t sappy or corny. Our enjoyment of films like this points to our hope that one day all wrongs will be made right, a hope that only Christians legitimately have.

Chapter 9 is still kind of working in this vein by tackling hero stories. Cosper draws connection between the archtypal hero stories and the story of Jesus in the Gospels. The archetype was developed by Joseph Campbell, building on the work of Carl Jung. In comparing ancient hero myths, the stories were strikingly similar, and so Campbell worked out a kind of blueprint for these sorts of stories. Specifically, it looks like this (Jesus’ action in parenthesis):

  • Called Away (Incarnation)
  • Tried and Tested (his temptations and ministry)
  • Into the darkness (crucifixion)
  • Out of the darkness (resurrection)
  • Home again (ascension)

He then compares it to Frodo’s journey in Lord of The Rings, and Superman’s journey. He also charts how this journey is reflected in the stories of Katniss Everdeen, Luke Skywalker, and Harry Potter (189):

Stories We Tell Chart

Now one of the reasons for these similarities is that it just makes for good storytelling. Beyond that though, screenwriters are actually taught to do this explicitly. Building even further on the work of Campbell, Christopher Vogler spells out a more detailed hero’s journey in The Writer’s Journey (a book for screenwriters). As I previously pointed out, here are the stages in the first act, called Separation:

  • Ordinary World
  • Call to Adventure
  • Refusal of the Call
  • Meeting with the Mentor
  • Crossing the Threshold
  • Tests, Allies, Enemies
  • Approach

In the second act, which can be split into two parts itself, Descent and Initiation, there is the single stage:

  • Central Ordeal.

In the last act, called Return, the stages are:

  • Reward
  • The Road Back
  • Resurrection
  • Return with Elixir

Though I won’t elaborate on it here, you could use this grid as well for Katniss, Luke, and Harry. With a little help from Vern Poythress here is you can apply the above grid to Christ’s life and ministry. In the initial act (Challenge), Christ is in heaven (his Ordinary World) and is sent by the Father to redeem the world, which is a Call to Adventure that lacks a Refusal of the Call (Galatians 4:4-5; 1 John 4:14). At the outset of Christ’s public ministry there is a Crossing of the Threshold (Matthew 4:1-11). From there Christ makes Allies (the disciples) and Enemies (Satan, the Pharisees) and amidst the many Tests (challenges from Pharisees and demons) he breaks away often to meet with his Mentor (God the Father). All the while, Christ has set his face to Approach Jerusalem (for this emphasis, see Luke’s Gospel). In the second act, it is not a stretch at all to see Jesus’ crucifixion and death as the Central Ordeal of the gospel story (Matthew 26-27). In his death which is the start of the final act, Jesus was vindicated and received the Reward, completed the Road Back and was Resurrected from the dead. He then returned to his Ordinary World (heaven) having accomplished redemption and made the Elixir available to all who would believe (1 Timothy 3:16; Philippians 2:8-11; Romans 4:24-25).

As I see it, even though it happened in the middle of history, the Gospel is the archetype for all stories with a redemptive trajectory. Film is no exception, and Cosper makes that case as well in his writing. He wraps up the book with one more chapter, which along with chapters 3-4, will be the focus of my next post.

When the guitarist for Scale The Summit released his solo project this past summer (Lightbox), he utilized several guys from The Reign of Kindo. I hadn’t heard of them, but now I’m glad I have. This song is off their most recent album, Play With Fire, which also comes in an 8-bit remix version, Play (which they also did for the previous album, This is What Happens and its remix, This is Also What Happens).

New Books of Note

October 15, 2014 — Leave a comment

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Authors Paul Copan and Kenneth Litwak offer readers an extended analysis and exposition of Paul’s message on Mars Hill in Acts 17. Since Litwak is a professor of NT studies at Azusa Pacific University and Copan is professor of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic, they make a great team. They cover both the ancient setting and contemporary equivalents (chapters 1, 3, 4). They also challenge F. F. Bruce’s contention that Paul’s message was a mistake (chapter 2). They then give an overview of Paul’s speeches in Acts (chapter 5), before offering analysis of Paul’s audience (chapter 6) and gospel (chapter 7). Then, the final three chapters draw insights on persuasion, as well as how we can further apply the wisdom in Paul’s message. For readers interested in apologetics, and specifically mode and manner rather than content, this is a great resource.

Paul Copan and Kennet Litwak, The Gospel in The Marketplace of IdeasDowners Grove, IL: IVP Academic, June 2014. 201 pp. Paperback, $18.00.

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Michael Graves tackles both an interesting and important topic in his recent book. He does so by specifically looking at what we can learn from the early church’s attitudes on the topic as evidenced in their writings. Broadly, his book is divided into 7 chapters. He begins with understandings of “usefulness” and then moves to the spiritual/supernatural dimension of Scripture. Next, he covers mode of expression, historicity/factuality, and finally agreement with truth. The final chapter draws conclusions from the study. Since these are rather broad divisions, Graves very helpfully includes numbered subdivision within each chapter that present theses derived from his study. So for instance, under “usefulness” one thesis s is “Scripture solves every problem that we might put to it,” while under “mode of expression,” another is “Scripture speaks in riddles and enigmas.” There are a total of 20 of these, after presenting them all, Graves discusses what we might glean from them, as well as ways we need to respect the differences. The result is a fine study in both historical and practical theology. The worst thing I can say about this book is that endnotes were chosen instead of footnotes, but given lengthy nature of some of them, I can somewhat understand why. In the end, the book is probably more accessible, and hopefully that will lead to a wider audience.

Michael Graves, The Inspiration and Interpretation of Scripture: What The Early Church Can Teach Us. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, February 2014. 224 pp. Paperback, $24.00.

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Authors David P. Setran and Chris A. Kiesling offer readers “a window into the very meaning of adulthood in Christian perspective and also provide wisdom for emerging adult mentors in college, church, and world” (10). Setran is associate professor of Christian formation and ministry at Wheaton while Kieling is professor of human development and Christian discipleship at Asbury Theological Seminary. Together, they guide readers through both “important scholarship, a Christian theological vision, and attentiveness to concrete ministry applications” (7). They begin with two chapters specifically on spiritual formation for young adults, the latter of which more specifically focuses on how one might reverse the trend of moral therapeutic deism. In the remaining chapters readers are taken from a focus on identity to church, vocation, morality, sexuality, relationships and finally mentoring as windows into young adult development and how Christian ministry can best address spiritual growth in those areas. Given my own context, this is a valuable resource. If you are similarly engaged with college ministry or even high school ministry, this book offers practical guidance for mentoring those transitioning into adulthood.

David P. Setran & Chris A. Kiesling, Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood: A Practical Theology for College and Young Adult MinistryGrand Rapids: Baker Academic, September 2013. 288 pp. Paperback, $21.99

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Co-written by pastor Daniel Montgomery and professor Timothy Paul Jones, PROOF is a fresh way of explaining the doctrines of grace. The acronym stands for Planned Grace, Resurrecting Grace, Outrageous Grace, Overcoming Grace, and Forever Grace. For readers perhaps more familiar with TULIP, this way of conceiving of the doctrines is as if you rearranged the letters LUTIP and then framed them all in the context of grace. After on opening chapter explaining grace, readers are guided through the doctrines chapter by chapter. A final chapter tacklesliving in light of this grace, the connections between PROOF and TULIP, and how to not be a cage-stage Calvinist. If this weren’t enough, five appendices provide further Biblical foundations for the doctrines, as well as answer perennial questions like, “For whom did Jesus die?” “What’s the point of predestination?” and “What about free will?” The final result is my new favorite book explaining Calvinist theology. It is excellent for anyone wanting understand the doctrines of grace as well as those who might be put off by the way they are usually presented (either because of how they are framed or because of who was doing the framing). All of this to say, I would highly recommend this book to you, and even more so if you are frequently asked by high school students, “Hey, what’s your position on predestination vs. free will?”

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Jones, PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, May 2014. 224 pp. Paperback, $16.99.

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John Goldingay is David Allan Hubbard Professor of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has written a three volume Old Testament theology, a three volume commentary on the Psalms, and many, many other books related to the study of theology and the Old Testament. Most recently, he has written The Theology of The Book of Isaiah, which offers readers a short (but not light) treatment of the theological message of Isaiah.

He opens the book clarifying, “my aim for this book is first, to articulate the theology in the book called Isaiah.” Additionally, he aims to “articulate the theology of the book called Isaiah as a whole” (11). To carryout this plan, Goldingay first surveys Isaiah section by section. He begins with chapters 1-12, then 13-27, 28-39, 40-55, and finally 56-66. Those familiar with critical studies of the book of Isaiah will recognize the divisions of 40-55 and 56-66. Thankfully, Goldingay chose to deal with 1-39 in three sections instead of one fell swoop.

Having done his section by section survey (aimed at articulating the theology in Isaiah), Goldingray moves to a more thematic overview of the book as a whole. These chapters are relatively short (compared to the survey chapters) and cover topics like “The God of Israel the Holy One, Yahweh Armies” (chapter 7) and “Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility” (chapter 15). The focus is on the theological themes that properly fall under the category of the title of the this book.

This volume was a quick read for me, but a book I’ll come back to as I do more teaching prep on Isaiah. I liked that Goldingay combines a theological survey with a thematic survey. The thematic chapters don’t need to be read in order and can be returned to as interest dictates. As for the survey chapters, I don’t know of a better theological overview in under 75 pages (this one is right about 67 or so). If you’re particularly interested Isaiah, I would recommend checking out Goldingay’s take on it. For more aggressive reader, it’s a great weekend read. For those intimidated by studying Isaiah, this is a great way to get started without feeling overwhelmed.


John Goldingay, The Theology of The Book of Isaiah. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, May 2014. 160 pp. Paperback, $18.00.

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A friend of mine on Facebook posted a cover of this song recently, so I ran it to ground to get the original. Jon Gomm is singer/songwriter with some very impressive guitar magic:

If you’re interested, like I was, you can get the tab for this song here. This video is about 3 years old, so here is his most recent song, Everything: