Recent reading has brought my attention to matters involving theology and the church, and the leadership role theologians and biblical scholars need to play in the life of the church. In a day when few see the role of theology and theologians as anything more than marginal and when many view theologians as adding nothing but unnecessary confusion to what everyone already believes, this may seem an odd matter on which to dwell. However, both theologians and the church need to recognize how essential each is to the other.
"e;The church is the locus of theology"e; writes 2011 SCJ Conference featured speaker Luke Timothy Johnson (Emory University) in an incisive book for church leaders called Scripture & Discernment (Abingdon, 1996): And, he continues, "e;Because everyone in the church is required to interpret his or her life before God, everyone in this community is also required to do theology"e; (26). Included in this communitynot outside of itis the theologian. Where does he or she fit? How is he or she valued in the local community? It depends, observes Johnson, on how deep a role Scripture actually is playing in the lives of individuals with whom life in the church is shared. He asks, "e;If the people are not themselves seeking to determine the Word of God in the tangle of their individual and shared lives, how can they discern the accuracy and adequacy of the theologians interpretation of that Word for the group?"e; (27). Yet, the flipside falls to the theologian. Johnson cautions, "e;A theologian who is not in contact with the faith-life of an actual church runs the danger of having nothing to say"e; (27).
Note the point about an "e;actual church."e; Theologiansand by this I include biblical scholars of all sortsneed to be involved in the lives of real people in real congregations despite the real temptation to stand aloofor critically aboveso much more comfortable in the world of ideas and more energized by interaction with academic peers. With peers theologians can quickly converse in learned, technical language and find mutual stimulation critiquing and learning from one another. But what about the church? Even the local church? How can theologians provide meaningful talk of theological-biblical ideas even with those whom Johnson describes as trying to live their lives under the teaching of Scripture. Here, C. S. Lewis, as quoted by Alistair McGrath in The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind, InterVarsity, 2010), p. 41, offers, as he so often does, a poignant word: "e;I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot translate your own thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts are confused. Power to translate is the test of having really understood your own meaning."e;
Theologians and biblical scholars should consider conversation regarding the world of biblical ideas with fellow believers as a personal challenge to prove the value of their thinking, even to deepen their own understanding of their thinking, Editors Preface Stone-Campbell Journal 15 (Spring, 2012) 12 at the level of the felt needs of real believers. They need conversation partners who are uneducated in the technicalities of their field of study to prove the value of their life-work to the church. As McGrath himself opines later in the book, "e;Nothing demonstrates the futility of a purely academic approach to theology so powerfully as parish ministry"e; (61). However, theologians create problems for themselves that can hinder leaders of any sort, inside or outside the church. This failing is described in a surprisingly perceptive chapter on "e;Leaders and Leadership"e; in a completely out-of-date, college freshman textbook on psychology I almost threw away while cleaning out my basement recently (Floyd Ruch and Philip Zimbardo, Psychology and Life, 8th edition, Scott, Foresman, 1971). It points out that the thinking of leaders can be so far ahead of their group that they have vanished in the distance and are no longer seen as part of the group, leaving the group in disarray and confusion, feeling leaderless. Using recognizable, Christian imagery, it concludes, "e;The successful shepherd thinks like his sheep, and can lead his flock only if he keeps no more than the shortest distance in advance"e; (481).
This applies to theologians and biblical scholars, who are leaders in thought for the church. Regardless of how far down the road they are walking side by side with their fellow theologians, they need the challenge of communicating their thoughts with sincere people in the church who value them as one with them. Perhaps, this can help their leadership in biblical thinking to be valuedeven treasured as a needed resource for the church, both locally and beyond.
More from Luke Timothy Johnson can be learned in this issue in an insightful article on what can be learned about the Spirit and resurrection based on one of his 2011 SCJ Conference lectures. This issue also includes a challenging article based on Barry Blackburns (Point University) SCJ Conference lecture that looks to Jesus miracles to provide understanding of the triune nature of God. Jesse Long (Lubbock Christian University) provides an article that provokes looking at Jacob differently in light of his account of wrestling with God. Michael Young (Faulkner University) ponders the challenges of "e;restoring"e; anything in light of the ideas of philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer. Mark Wiebe contests the influence of Thomas Reids version of Common Sense Realism on Alexander Campbell. And heading our issue is Ron Bruners look into the work of James Garrison to affect what we would call "e;spiritual formation"e; among those in Stone-Campbell congregations of the period.
I am excited to announce the launch of a new era for SCJ. Subscribers may now choose to receive their SCJ issues in print or online, right now for the same price ($30, only $20 for students), both with full, FREE, access to the article and book review archives online. Subscribers are now automatically members of the newly forming Stone-Campbell Scholars Community. Log in and complete your profile! Benefits will include reduced SCJ Conference pricing, attaching personal website and blog links, access to a job board, advanced notification of news, and connection to other members, with more to come. See the website for details.
Though interest in spiritual formation in the Stone Campbell Restoration Movement may appear to be a recent phenomenon, in actuality J. H. Garrison produced a substantial body of work designed to disciple new converts in 19thcentury churches. As editor of a religious paper and owner of a publishing company, Garrison used his resources and power to attend to the emerging formational needs of individuals and the movement. He understood spiritual formation to lead to a transformation equivalent to theosis.
This study focuses on Alexander Campbell's correspondence with an unnamed 'skeptic.' The skeptic is concerned with the problem of evil and questions the rationality of the Bible and Christian faith. Campbell provides weighty, creative responses, particularly regarding the problem of evil, which find a parallel in the work of thinkers like Alvin Plantinga a century later. I explore Campbell's responses, with particular attention to the influence of Locke's epistemology, and also ask what he might add to the contemporary conversation.
What occurs in the intellect and in the resultant event during the task of restoring something? H.G. Gadamer's phenomenological analysis of the event of coming to understanding provides a few pertinent remarks concerning the nature of restoration, especially in Truth and Method. This analysis is juxtaposed with the Vatican II emphasis of aggioramento (updating) and ressourcement (recovery) to propose a possible description of "what is the case" when attempting the restoration of Christianity.
A literary reading of the arcane story of Jacob wrestling with God at the Jabbok brings out the artistic quality of the composition and highlights the protagonist's character change. When read in light of the larger narrative, wrestling and older/younger, bigger/smaller themes underscore Jacob's journey from taking his brother's birthright and blessing to being ready to give them back. Along the way, Jacob struggles with men and with Godand in humility prevails with the awareness before Him that "I am small."
The traditions in the canonical gospels pertaining to the miracles performed by Jesus frequently attract the attention of historians, exegetes, and apologists, but have often been neglected by systematic theologians. This study intends to demonstrate the fruitfulness of bringing these miracle traditions to bear on reflection concerning the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Each divine person so participates in Jesus' miracles in such a way as to support and illustrate trinitarian theology.
Close analysis of Paul's language concerning the resurrection of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15, and the hope for the future resurrection of believers, shows the importance of the designation of Christ as "Life-Giving Spirit," and leads to an appreciation of the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, for which the only appropriate language is ontological (existential) rather than historical or even moral. For Paul, the resurrection alters the very structure of existence, in a "new creation."
Mark G. Toulouse, Gary Holloway, and Douglas A. Foster, Renewing Christian Unity: A Concise History of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
(James S. O'Brien, Cincinnati, Ohio)
John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? A Historical Introduction
(James L. Gorman, Baylor University)
Clifford Williams, Existential Reasons for Belief in God: A Defense of Desires and Emotions for Faith
(Andrew Ramey, Pekin, Illinois)
Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
(Richard J. Cherok, Cincinnati Christian University)
David J. Hesselgrave and Ed Stetzer, eds., MissionShift: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium
(Andrew Wood, Cincinnati Christian University)
Lian Xi, Redeemed by Fire: The Rise of Popular Christianity in Modern China
(Wes Harrison, Ohio Valley University)
Georges Houssney, Engaging Islam
(Wes Harrison, Ohio Valley University)
Fred Parker, The Devil as Muse: Blake, Byron, and the Adversary
(Nathan Babcock, Bismarck, Illinois)
Brad J. Kallenberg, God and Gadgets: Following Jesus in a Technological Age
(Philip D. Kenneson, Milligan College)
William T. Cavanaugh, Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church
(Shaun C. Brown, Bristol, Tennessee)
Amy E. Jacober, The Adolescent Journey: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Practical Youth Ministry
(Alvin W. Kuest, Great Lakes Christian College)
Timothy Paul Jones, ed., Perspectives on Your Child's Education: Four Views
(Carrie Birmingham, Pepperdine University)
Siang-Yang Tan, Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Christian Perspective
(James Robert Ross, Lincoln Christian University)
Dyron B. Daughrity, The Changing World of Christianity: The Global History of a Borderless Religion
(Christopher Scott Chesnutt, Pepperdine University)
Alan G. Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission
(Robert F. Hull, Jr., Emmanuel Christian Seminary)
John J. Pilch, Flights of the Soul: Visions, Heavenly Journeys, and Peak Experiences in the Biblical World
(Ralph K. Hawkins, Kentucky Christian University)
Christian Smith, The Bible Made Impossible: Why Biblicism Is Not a Truly Evangelical Reading of Scripture
(J. David Stark, Faulkner University)
Grenville J. R. Kent, Paul J. Kissling, and Laurence A. Turner, Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching
(Don Sanders, St. Charles, Missouri)
Herbert W. Bateman IV and Brent Sandy, eds., Interpreting the Psalms for Teaching and Preaching
(Rob O'Lynn, Kentucky Christian University)
J. Gordon McConville and Stephen N. Williams, Joshua
(Walter D. Zorn, Lincoln Christian University)
Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan P. O'Dowd, Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction
(Ryan Cook, Asbury Theological Seminary)
Daniel J. Treier, Proverbs & Ecclesiastes
(Stephen Paul, Washington, North Carolina)
Jack R. Lundbom, The Hebrew Prophets: An Introduction
(Craig D. Bowman, Rochester College)
Lawrence H. Schiffman, Qumran and Jerusalem: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the History of Judaism
(J. Andrew Sowers, Harding School of Theology)
John Clabeaux, NT Greek: A Systems Approach
(T. Michael W. Halcomb, Asbury Theological Seminary)
Jonathan Hill, Christianity: How a Despised Sect from a Minority Religion Came to Dominate the Roman Empire
(David M. Thompson, University of Cambridge)
Edward W. Klink III, ed., The Audience of the Gospels: The Origin and Function of the Gospels in Early Christianity
(John Harrison, Oklahoma Christian University)
Michael Card, Luke: The Gospel of Amazement
(Clint Burnett, Harding University Graduate School of Religion)
Dale C. Allison Jr., Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History
(Rafael Rodriguez, Johnson University)
Ben Witherington III, On the Road with Jesus: Birth and Ministry
(T. Michael W. Halcomb, Asbury Theological Seminary)
Riemer Roukema, Jesus, Gnosis, and Dogma
(Elizabeth Scott, Florida State University)
Patrick J. Hartin, Exploring the Spirituality of the Gospels
(Les Hardin, Florida Christian College)
Keith Warrington, Discovering Jesus in the New Testament
(Stuart Paul, Titusville, Florida)
Nicholas Perrin and Richard B. Hays, eds., Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N. T. Wright
(Dennis R. Lindsay, Northwest Christian University)
James P. Ware, ed., Synopsis of the Pauline Letters in Greek and English
(Gary D. Collier, Cloverdale, Indiana)
Martin Hengel, Saint Peter: The Underestimated Apostle
(Thomas Scott Caulley, Wamego, Kansas)
Quotables from SCJ 15.1 Chosen by Stephen Lawson Emmanuel Christian Seminary.
"Restoring the faith is a difficult and complex task, in contrast to the oft-quoted dictum of the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement of restoring 'the simple gospel.' The hunger for simplicity is perhaps a disguise for intellectual laziness."
Michael R. Young, "Gadamer and Vatican II on Restoration" (SCJ 15.1:45)
"Hence the past comes to us only through tradition, that is, transmitted and not merely conserved."
Michael R. Young, "Gadamer and Vatican II on Restoration" (SCJ 15.1:43)
"For Garrison, the goal of this spiritual formation is not merely becoming close to God but becoming like God."
Ron Bruner, "'A Being of Wondrous Beauty': Spiritual Formation and Theosis in the Work of J. H. Garrison," (SCJ 15.1:4)
"While we look upon these earthly symbols [the Eucharist] that tell us of a Savior that partook of our flesh and blood, that He might, by means of death, destroy him that had the power of death, let us not forget that through the benefits of this death we are enabled to lay aside 'all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit.' and take on the lineaments of the divine until we are transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ."
Ron Bruner (Quoting Garrison), "'A Being of Wondrous Beauty': Spiritual Formation and Theosis in the Work of J. H. Garrison," (SCJ 15.1:11)
"Although many paint Campbell as a full-blooded Scotch-Realist, an examination particularly of his background and apologetic work warrants reconsidering whether or to what extent this is the case."
Mark Wiebe "Letters to a Skeptic: Alexander Campbell on Rationality, Religious Belief and Evil" (SCJ 15.1 19)
"He [A. Campbell] thus implies that the natural human tendency to rely upon testimony should still lead one to a stance of epistemic trust rather than skepticism."
Mark Wiebe "Letters to a Skeptic: Alexander Campbell on Rationality, Religious Belief and Evil" (SCJ 15.1:26)
"In the Hebrew canon, the God of Israel fights both for and, at times, against the descendants of Abraham."
Jesse Long, "Wrestling with God to Win: A Literary Reading of the Story of Jacob at the Jabbok in Honor of Don Williams" (SCJ 15.1:49)
"When he meets his brother, Jacob sees a different Esau. In his brother's face, he sees the face of the God who has been gracious to him."
Jesse Long, "Wrestling with God to Win: A Literary Reading of the Story of Jacob at the Jabbok in Honor of Don Williams" (SCJ 15.1:55)
"If one is prepared to acknowledge that the Bible is not only a human word but also the Word of God, then one can accept growth in its meaning as its divine Author continues to reveal himself."
Barry L. Blackburn, Sr. "The Miracles of Jesus Viewed from Above" (SCJ 15.1:66)
"The Gospel traditions concerning Jesus' miracle-working can provide a rich basis for theological reflection. These traditions, which comprise such a large portion of the canonical Gospels, should not be regarded as the exclusive domain of historians, philosophical theologians, and apologetes."
Barry L. Blackburn, Sr. "The Miracles of Jesus Viewed from Above" (SCJ 15.1:74)
"The resurrection/exaltation of Jesus as Lord, it appears, has consequences for the very structure of reality."
Luke Timothy Johnson, "Life-Giving Spirit: The Ontological Implications of Resurrection" (SCJ 15.1:8)
"The resurrection is, for Paul (and those who preach as he did) more than a historical event of the past concerning Jesus. It is an eschatological reality that affects believers in the present and anticipates the character of their future existence in which God will be 'all things in all things.'"
Luke Timothy Johnson, "Life-Giving Spirit: The Ontological Implications of Resurrection" (SCJ 15.1:88)
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