You can’t read more than a few paragraphs of Paul’s letters without bumping into something about Christians being “in Christ.” It’s so prevalent that many would say that it’s the most important theme in Paul’s theology, a concept you must grasp if you’re going to understand anything Paul says about salvation, the Christian life, or God’s plans for creation itself.
But there’s just one problem. No one seems to know what it means.
In steps Con Campbell with his book Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study (Zondervan, 2012). Campbell’s goal is to take another look at the biblical texts and see if we can work out what Paul means with this pivotal idea. And in the process he offers a thorough and insightful study of what it means to be “in Christ,” why that matters for how we read Paul, and, more importantly, how that shapes our view of salvation itself. Campbell’s book is a must-read for anyone looking to wrestle with these central issues.
- Creativity Is Really Jut Persistence, and Science Can Prove It: When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete. (Fast Company)
- Why Aren’t More Ph.D.’s Teaching in Public Schools? Despite this surplus of teachers, though, individuals with years of graduate school education and years of college classroom experience should be snapped up by public schools. They have far more classroom experience and deeper knowledge of their content than most graduates from education programs. (The Atlantic)
- Leading in a world of unreliable information: Yet the sort of tacit and systemic knowledge for which CEOs are yearning is the bread and butter of a theological education. Theological thinking involves seeing the whole and the parts within the whole. It is the ultimate in tacit and systemic. Christians have a picture of God’s reign from scripture that guides us, no matter the current circumstances. (Call & Response)
- Dubious Reporting about International Adoptions: This is a helpful response to the NYT piece highlighted on the 9/23 Flotsam & Jetsam. (Family Research Council)
What’s in a name? Is a name just an arbitrary collection of letters, a pragmatic tool for distinguishing one thing from another? Or do names run deeper, capturing something essential about the thing named? Do names matter?
Does it make a difference if we’re talking about God’s name?
That’s the question R. Kendall Soulen raises at the beginning of his book The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity: Distinguishing the Voices. Before he spends an entire book looking at God’s name in the Bible, Soulen wants to know if names even matter all that much.
Can we just call God whatever we want?
- Come See That the Church is Already Diverse Racially, Culturally, and Ethnically: American Christians have a tendency to see their own denomination, local church, association of partner churches, and so on, as “the church.” With this reduction comes a number of blind spots about what the church looks like around the world. (Anthony Bradley)
- Why Atheists Are Starting Their Own Global Church: This church doesn’t believe in God. It’s motto is “live better, help often, and wonder more.” It’s striving to be a global atheist religion. (The Week)
- Trends Among Growing Churches: Some Reflections on the Fastest Growing and Largest U.S. Churches: Growing churches are showing a great commitment to multiplying themselves, as we see in the discussion about multiple campuses, and this commitment to multiplication often creates a need for sacrifice. Sacrifice is inherent to the experience of every growing believer—and every growing church. (Ed Stetzer)
- The hidden immigration impact on American churches: Much has been written about the way that growing numbers of “millennials” are walking away from the church. Yet while millennials are walking out the front door of U.S. congregations, immigrant Christian communities are appearing right around the corner, and sometimes knocking at the back door. And they may hold the key to vitality for American Christianity. (Religion News Service)
Apparently it’s National Punctuation Day. So, in honor of this prestigious holiday, here’s a helpful chart for understanding the various personalities of your favorite punctuation marks. And, as a bonus, you can use it to psychoanalyze yourself and the people around you.
I’m definitely a comma. I like to pretend it’s because my brain routinely comes up with amazing new thoughts while I’m speaking, and I have to pause to process them. In reality, I’m just easily distracted.
I want you to imagine something with me. Pretend that I have a son and a daughter. They’re very different people, but they’re both amazing. And they both need to hear something important.
So every year I sit down with them for a family chat. I know they’ve heard this before, but it’s a big deal. So I emphasize the need to listen, and then I plow right in.
Son, men are important. They matter. They have an important role to play in church, family, and society because God has called them to be godly leaders in the world. So you need to find men who will encourage you toward greater godliness. You have a tremendous responsibility.
And honey, you need to pray for your brother because of the challenges he faces.
I’m sure you see the contrast. You may agree with everything that I said, but you’re still wondering: Why would I take time out to emphasize that my son is important and that God has called him to godliness without saying anything similar to my daughter? What kind of father would do something like that year after year?
I don’t know. But I see it in churches all the time. And it needs to stop.
Okay, so this video isn’t really a smackdown. And union with Christ vs. imputation probably doesn’t sound like anyone’s idea of a cage match. But many people do think that if we emphasize our union with Christ as the central aspect of our salvation, we will end up downplaying imputation — that is, the “great exchange” between us and Jesus where we receive his righteousness and he takes on our sin.
According to Con Campbell, though, this is a false dichotomy. Rather than seeing the two in opposition to one another, we need to understand imputation as flowing out of our union with Christ. I’ll be reviewing Campbell’s book Paul and Union with Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study later this week. Until then, here’s a short video of Campbell explaining how he understands the relationship between these two important concepts.