Churches teach you to quarrel about God

I ran across this interesting exchange between Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians and several commissioners trying to establish a new reservation for them. According to Dee Brown in Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, one of the commissioners mentioned that establishing schools would be a great advantage for the Indians. But, Joseph replied that the Nez Perce indians did not want the white man’s schools. And, here is the exchange that ensued.

“Why do you not want schools?” the commissioner asked.

“They will teach us to have churches,” Joseph answered.

“Do you not want churches?”

“No, we do not want churches.”

“Why do you not want churches?”

“They will teach us to quarrel about God,” Joseph said.

Isn’t it nice to know that the church has a reputation for being really good at something?

 

Reviewing Half the Church (Brad Harper)

This is a guest post by Brad Harper, Professor of Theology at Multnomah University. Brad has a Ph.D. in historical theology from St. Louis University, where he also served for thirteen years as associate pastor and church planting pastor at two Evangelical Free churches.

Many thanks to Zondervan for providing a review copy of Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James (2011).

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A colleague of mine asked me to write a review of the latest book by Carolyn Custis James. He said he already had recruited a complementarian to write a review so he wanted to get one from an egalitarian. I don’t mind the label. I had read James’ When Life and Beliefs Collide back in 2002 and enjoyed it. As a professor of theology at an evangelical university, I also spend a fair bit of time talking with students about women in the church. And since Zondervan was really pumping the book I thought I’d give it a read.

First, a note about the approach of this book. James says at the outset that one of her main inspirations for writing this book was her experience of reading the national bestseller Half the Sky by James Ridgway and Sheryl WuDunn, which chronicles the proliferation of sex trafficking, maternal mortality, and sexual violence against women in the world today, calling for people of compassion to respond. These stories of abuse and degradation become the lens through which James asks us to consider the place of women in the evangelical church today. Right away I recognized that this approach was going to be profound, but also littered with land mines. Would she succeed in the attempt to use such extreme and widely condemned abuses of women as the backdrop for a discussion on whether or not women can be ordained or teach in the church? I will return to this question at the end of my review. Further, this book is not an attempt by James to weigh in on the biblical debate between egalitarians and complementarians. While she engages the biblical story, she does so only generally at most points and does not offer exegesis of the most controversial passages. Now, a quick walk through the book.

After summarizing the troubling situation of women in many parts of the world today, James asks three questions: What message does the church offer women in the 21st century? What will the church do to address the rampant suffering of women in our world? What message are we sending the world by how we value and mobilize our daughters/Will the church benefit from women’s gifts or will they go untapped? (pg. 41) Her fundamental answer is that the message of the church is mixed at best as women are limited to “appropriate” zones in the church, minimized in their gifts, calling, and dignity.

A major theme for James is what she calls the “blessed alliance,” God’s creation based vision for men and women as partners in his mission. This alliance, she argues, has been degraded by the church’s limited vision for women. She talks about how often women are seen as having their primary role in marriage and child rearing even though there is a large percentage of women who do not marry, or are widowed, or divorced, leaving them to wonder if they are second class women citizens of the church. She notes how Christian women live a life of being equal with men in the work world and then come back to the home and the church where they are to be in submission, undermining God’s intention for men and women to be equal partners. She writes, “Descriptions of the woman as dependent, needy, vulnerable, deferential, helpless, leaderless, or weak are—to put it simply—wrong. . . . Adam did not need Eve just to have someone to do his laundry.” (114)

James takes us to Genesis for her understanding of the way the “blessed alliance” is supposed to work. Creation depicts men and women as co-bearers of the image of God, both given the responsibility by God to manage creation for him. Women are not meant to be spectators, but to be leaders in the task along with men since both genders are called to rule and subdue. James argues that men and women are created to work in partnership (an equal one) to live out their God-given mission as image bearers. In the church men and women are brothers and sisters who need each other in every aspect of the work of the church. The stories of Mordecai and Joseph show us examples of men who let go of the issue of being in charge in order for God’s work to be done by their partners Esther and Mary. Bottom line, men and women need to figure out how to be partners in the mandate to work for the values of the kingdom, worrying less about who is in charge and more about getting the job done.

I like this aspect of the book. James moves beyond marriage and ordination to talk in a more conceptual and practical/missional way about men and women needing each other and working together to engage the world with the message and values of the kingdom. Without wanting to minimize the importance of the Bible’s teaching on the roles of men and women in marriage and the church, I often find myself frustrated that while we argue about whether a woman can preach a sermon or be the final decision maker on a family issue, lives (often those of women) and families are breaking apart right beneath our noses. Ultimately, the best partnerships between men and women, both in marriage and ministry, realize that figuring out who is in charge is not the most important factor in making relationships work. Here, I think James is on target.

Another key theme for James is that of the woman as ezer-warrior. She argues that in the Genesis account of creation, the Hebrew word ezer used of Eve and often translated “helper,” does not mean that the woman has been made to be the man’s assistant. It is a word that is used of God himself in his relationship with Israel, sometimes in a military context. While I think the warrior idea may be stretching the word a bit far, James is right to argue that the word should not be translated in a way that portrays Eve as Adam’s junior partner.

In other sections of the book, James recounts stories of powerful women in the Bible who take leadership roles. She focuses especially on Ruth and Naomi who violate cultural conventions about the roles of women in order to lead by sacrificing themselves for the good of others. She argues that Jesus also moves beyond cultural restrictions when necessary to demonstrate the value of women and to give them a place in the proclamation of the kingdom.

On the whole, this book has some important strengths. I resonate with James’ argument that men and women carry out God’s mission more effectively when they see each other as equal partners. She is right to call on the church to stand against the egregious oppression of women in the world. I appreciate her argument that the best women leaders in the Bible were not interested in power but in accomplishing the mission of God and responding to the needs of others. But of course, as an egalitarian, I did not need to be convinced of any of this.

On the downside, there are some weaknesses. In places she makes critical generalizations without any documentation or support. For example, she indicates that much of the church sees the marriage altar as the starting gate for God’s call upon a woman. She needs at least to footnote some well-known church leaders who argue for this. She argues that the focus on the wife as the husband’s helper has led to the belief that God gave primary roles and responsibilities to men, secondary to women. She needs to give us examples of those who teach this. And she says female godliness in much of the church is primarily defined as submissiveness and surrender. OK, give us some quotes. Moreover, I can hear some of my complementarian friends saying, “I don’t hold to any of those views.”

Now, getting back to the question I asked earlier about James’ approach. Sometimes I struggle to understand her connections between the horrific abuse of women in the third world and the limitation of women’s roles in the evangelical church in America. James does ask whether the church’s limitations of women are just a kinder, gentler version of the abuse of women in the world. Without doubt, complementarians will see this arrow aimed at them. And they will object strongly. The fact is that complementarians are also concerned about the awful abuse of women and girls around the world. They see that as an issue that both egalitarians and complementarians agree on, rendering it irrelevant to the their debate. Perhaps that is what James is trying to push us towards. There are issues of the oppression of women in the world that are so monumental as to make our complementarian/egalitarian arguments seem rather petty. Isn’t it time to move beyond that debate to address the things that really matter? James argues, “Much deeper kingdom issues are at stake than resolving debates over disputed passages, deciding who’s in charge, resolving conflict, defining his and her roles, and dividing the proverbial pie so everyone gets their fair share.” (139) As a result of these sentiments, James declines to go on record as to whether she is egalitarian or complementarian. She wants to focus on the pragmatic issues of men and women working together and valuing each other rather than taking sides in a debate that just seems to end up diverting energy from the real task at hand. I get this, even resonate with it. But I also suspect that few critics will really let her do this. Already responses to the book have have begun to stake their positions based on the lines of the debate. Some complementarians, convinced she is an egalitarian, won’t recommend the book. And some egalitarian critics express their disappointment, wishing she would just come out and publicly join them. I suspect James is shaking her head in frustration, wondering why they are missing the point.

When half the church holds back…

I grieve the loss to the church when so many Christian women believe it’s possible to subsist on an anorexic spiritual diet. I grieve that far too many women and girls are living with small visions of themselves and their purpose. I grieve the loss to our brothers who are shouldering burdens we were created to share and are doing kingdom work without us when God means for us to build his kingdom together.

When half the church holds back – whether by choice or because we have no choice – everybody loses and our mission suffers setbacks. Tragically, we are squandering the opportunity to display to an embattled world a gospel that causes both men and women to flourish and unites us in a Blessed Alliance that only the presence of Jesus can explain.

That’s from the introduction to Carolyn Custis James’ Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women.  Over the next couple of days, we’ll be posting two reviews of the book from people with different perspectives on the role of women in the church. Brad Harper from Multnomah University will start things off tomorrow, and Todd Miles from Western Seminary will follow. I’d encourage you to track both reviews and get two different looks at the book.

And, don’t forget that Zondervan has also give us a copy of the book to give away. We’ll be giving the book away on Friday, so you still have a few days to enter if you’re interested.

If Moses had the internet

Here’s another of those videos showing how a biblical character might have used the internet if he were around today. My personal favorites in this one are using Google to translate “Let my people go” into Egyptian and the Google maps street view of the parting of the Red Sea. If you need Monday diversion, this is worth a couple of minutes.

Origen, Barth, and Bell: Theological Perspectives on Hell and Universalism

Let me begin by making two statements: 1. I have read Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.  2. I am not interested in giving a long critique of the book.  Several people have already written good ones, and another review from my perspective would add nothing to the conversation.  What I want to do here is attempt to answer the question, “Is Rob Bell saying anything different than what Origen and Karl Barth claimed?”  In the last month I have heard Bell’s view of hell likened to both of these men as well as C.S. Lewis.  (I cannot, however, speak to Lewis’ view b/c – to my shame – I have only read the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity).  Ironically, if you Google image “Universalism” both Origen and Bell’s pictures show up.  Origen was excommunicated for some of his teaching, being accused of saying that even the devil might have a shot at redemption.  At the end of Barth’s life he often had to defend himself against the accusation that he was a Universalist.  Is there any correlation between these men?

Origen

The notion that Origen taught that all people would be saved, including the possibility of Satan, has been around for some time.  The reality is that Origen was much more “orthodox” than what he is given credit for.  According to the historian, Justo Gonzales, Origen proposed many doctrines, not necessarily as truths to be generally accepted, nor as things that would supersede the clear doctrines of the church, but as his own tentative speculation, which was not to be compared with the authoritative teaching of the church.  He was in line with what was considered orthodox for his day.  It is unfair to take later matters settled by the church (some several hundred years later), and then look back on his teachings and scold him for wrestling with them.  However, the question is whether or not Origen taught that all men would eventually be saved, even Satan.  The answer is that he postulated some type of universal reconciliation because of his view of free will, but never affirmed it as orthodox or in line with Scripture. In his book, First Principles (1.8.4), he says, “So, too, the reprobate will always be fixed in evil, less from the inability to free themselves from it, than because they wish to be evil.”  Once in hell, the choice to choose otherwise will never be exercised because the will of man will not choose otherwise.  Concerning the possible salvation of Satan, Origen did not teach the possibility that he would be saved.  In a debate with a man named Candidus, Origen was defending his notion of free will, and said that Satan could be saved if he wanted, but that he would not be saved because of his choice to live in rebellion. Origen’s point was that Satan did not want salvation because his free will choice.  He writes in a letter defending himself against the above accusation, that anyone who would claim that Satan would be saved was a “madman.”  Although he was labeled a heretic in 399 by a council in Alexandria, and then excommunicated as heretic by the 5th Ecumenical Council in 553, Henri Crouzel says this was more from the musings of Origen’s followers than Origen himself.  Origen postulated a reconciliation of all things, but did not affirm it as orthodox.  He also did not teach any type of post-mortem changing of the heart.  Although he wanted to defend the notion of free will, he affirmed that the reprobate’s will was fixed in sin and rebellion.

Barth

When it comes to nailing down Karl Barth on the issue…good luck!  According to Oliver Crisp and Geoffrey Bromiley (translator of Barth’s Church Dogmatics into English) his theology cannot escape the accusation.  Karl Barth taught that Jesus Christ was both the subject and object of election.  As the subject he is the electing God.  As the object he is the elect man.  Simply, Barth sees Jesus as the representative of all men, not only some of them.  (He had a major beef with Calvinism!)  If Jesus represented all men, took the condemnation that was to fall on all men, then the logical conclusion of Barth’s theology would be that all men would be saved.  This is what Barth hoped for.  The problem is that he wasn’t sure it would happen.  When asked if he was a Universalist, he denied the label.  Furthermore, he taught that although all men were elected in Christ, their election still had to be actualized through the exercise of faith, and that the gospel had to be preached if there was any hope for man.  Thus, in the end you can take one of two approaches with Barth.  You can side with Oliver Crisp, who says that Barth was either a Universalist or incoherent in his doctrine.  Or, you can opt for George Hunsinger’s view that Barth was not a Universalist but an agnostic.  He simply left the question open ended with a strong tilt towards universal hope.

Bell

So where is Bell?  Again, good luck.  I think he wants to keep the free will of Origen, and the hope of universal reconciliation like Barth.  Unlike both of these men, however, he seems to go further and claim a definitive reconciliation of all people, including post-mortem redemption.  If all are not saved then love does not win, which is the premise of his book.  He redefines the term aion to refer to an “intense experience,” not a period of time with beginning and end (by the way, it’s never good to get one definition of a word and apply it to all uses of that word) (57).  Going so far as to say that, “forever is not really a category biblical writers use” (92) Thus, hell is not forever in the sense of time.  It’s just a “period of pruning” or a “time of trimming” or “an intense experience of correction” (91).  Hell can be now, on earth, as we reject God’s way and God’s story of love.  Hell can be a place we go to after death.  The picture John gives us in Revelation, however, is of a city with open gates in which people can “come and go.”  Bell suggests that if someone dies and goes to hell and is finally overcome by the goodness of God in Christ and repents, it is possible that God will let them into heaven whose gates are always open.  (I wonder if that also means those in heaven can leave?)  Hell, even one of their own making, has finally pruned their resistance.  He says that Christians should long for this (111) and admit that these questions “are tensions we are free to leave fully intact.  We don’t need to resolve them or answer them because we can’t, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires”(115).  If he is genuine in this statement, he affirms that he’s not sure if there is a universal reconciliation.  (If he’s wrong, though, doesn’t it end really badly for people?!)  Furthermore, Bell is not a traditional Universalist (i.e. everyone gets in regardless of what they want).  However, he seems to be advocating a type of Christian Universalism.  Jesus is necessary.  Everyone gets in, but everyone gets in only because of the sacrifice of Jesus.  In this sense Bell is exclusive.  Also, the sacrifice of Jesus was inclusive of all.  Bell says that “Jesus does declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody” (155).   He also says that people just might not be aware that it is Jesus doing this for them (155).  Buddhist will use a different name.  Muslim’s will say Allah.  In this case, the gospel in the Bible is not the only way to heaven (i.e. Believe this or you don’t get in).  Jesus is the only way, and the Christian church (especially those that mix the warning of eternal conscious judgment in hell with grace) doesn’t get to lay claim on the only exclusive message.  The message is really love.  So although Bell is not a traditional Universalist, he does appear to be advocating a view of Universalism (i.e. an Exclusive (Jesus alone) Inclusivist (Everybody) Pluralist (Many Ways to Understand) Universalism) that puts the love of God and the cross of Christ squarely in the middle of every persons salvation.  This allows him to have some vague tie to evangelical Christianity, even though his definitions behind the terms create something new.

If I’m reading Bell correctly, there is indeed a piece of continuity between his view and those of Origen and Barth.  There is the hope of universal reconciliation.  I think that all Christians would hope for what these men hoped for, the salvation of all men.  At that point our desires would be in line with God’s.  However, in the end Bell is very different from Barth and Origen.  Bells view is different from Origen b/c he postulates, not a fixed will of rebellion in hell, but the possibility that the will may always change, even post-mortem.  Origen may have questioned, but never considered it an “orthodox view” as Bell does.  Origen also never separated salvation from the Christian gospel or thought that the beliefs of Roman pagan religions were somehow coterminous with the gospel of Jesus.  Bell is different from Barth in that Barth never separates salvation from a choice that is made in the here and now.  Barth never spoke of a hell as a time of “pruning.”  More pointedly Barth never called for a softening of the biblical text or a “better story” that excluded judgment or widened itself to encompass other religions (Neither did Paul in Acts 17).  If anything Barth called for more proclamation and the indiscriminate preaching of the unique Christian gospel (not a widening of it) along with a warning for those who rejected it.  They hoped for a universal reconciliation, but thought it not possible or, at best, were agnostic about it.  In the end, neither Origen nor Barth, say what Bell is now saying.

A prayer for Sunday – St. Bonaventure

Pierce, O most sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, and with true, calm and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with entire love and longing for Thee, may yearn for Thee and for thy courts, may long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the Bread of Angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and super substantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delightful taste.

May my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, Whom the angels desire to look upon, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst for Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the fullness of the house of God;

may it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, come up to Thee, meditate on Thee, speak of Thee, and do all for the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, with perseverance to the end; and be Thou alone ever my hope, my entire confidence, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession, my treasure; in Whom may my mind and my heart be ever fixed and firm and rooted immovably. Amen.

Saturday morning fun….Jousting on Segways

“What have you and your friends always wanted to do?”

Well, I can’t say that this was on my list…until now.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSVQsyZLtKg&feature=player_embedded

Flotsam and jetsam (4/8)

Stereotypes Across America

 

We put so much extra energy and time into our special services. We create special art installations, pull out the drama for the kids, we present choral pieces that require extra instrumentation and in most cases we do all of the above. In our hopes to please God, we go all out, especially for Easter.  Well-intentioned rhythmic church activity, but activity that end up with  people who are burned out and a worship service that looks nothing like the service that is held on a normal Sunday.

Like all liberal theology, Dostoevsky leaves Jesus with an easy out: He didn’t fix things because that would infringe on human freedom; He didn’t fix things because He didn’t want to. If Jesus did intend to fix things, then we need to feel the full power of the Ivan’s question, Why ain’t they fixed?

The establishment of the Church of England serves as a public affirmation of one worldview that sustains a humanist anthropology and a liberal ethos, when humanist liberalism is under threat and in need of defence and promotion. Such an establishment is compatible with the free exercise of religion and the equal dignity of all citizens in a plural society. The secularist argument that liberty, equality and fairness in a plural society require, and are best served by, disestablishment is not cogent. I rest my case.

  • Halden posts a great, extended quote from Barth on the primacy of the family. Here’s one line, but make sure you read the rest.

The coming of the kingdom of God means an end of the absolute of family no less than that of possession and fame.

Very often, we’re challenged to make decisions with too little information. Sometimes, there’s no information–merely noise. The question is: how will you decide?

http://credenda.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=422:dostoevsky-the-liberal&catid=96:theology&Itemid=122

5 Reasons You Should Study Karl Barth

Buzz is already building around the celebration next month of the 125th anniversary of Karl Barth‘s birth (May 10). Those of you who have already spent some time with Barth’s theology don’t need me to convince you of its importance. You’ve already seen it firsthand. But, others may not yet have dipped into the sweet waters of the Swiss systematician. So, this post is for you.

But, before I begin, a confession. When I traveled to Scotland for my doctoral work, I had no intention of studying Karl Barth. I knew who he was, of course, but my rather conservative upbringing left me convinced that Barth was for those who didn’t really value scripture, were overly enamored of German theology, and had too much time on their hands. So, like those for whom this post is intended, I required considerable convincing that I should study Barth. Eventually, I came around. I’ve noticed that most of those who study in Scotland eventually do. You could be there to study botany, and somehow you’d end up reading Barth along the way. I think it’s something they put in the water.

So, without further ado, here are the 5 Reasons You Should Study Karl Barth:

  1. Everyone’s doing it. Just look around. They’ve published a gazillion books and articles on Barth in the last ten years. Everyone’s reading him. You can feel the peer pressure building. Must…read…Barth.
  2. If you don’t, all the cool kids at school will pick on you. You’ll be like that one poor kid who dresses funny and still doesn’t have a cell phone.
  3. You’ll learn how to use cool German phrases like das Nichtige. You probably still won’t know what they mean, but you’ll sound really smart. And, using expensive foreign phrases like that helps convince people that your education wasn’t a waste of money.
  4. The 14-volume Church Dogmatics would look really nice on your bookshelves. Granted, you don’t really have to study Barth for this to work. But, you don’t want to get in that awkward situation of someone asking whether you’ve actually read any of those impressive looking volumes.
  5. You’d get to call yourself a “Barthian”. Granted, you’d immediately have to deny being a Barthian since no true Barthian can accept the label “Barthian.” But still, when no one’s around, you can whisper it quietly to yourself. It not only sounds cool, but if you have a conservative background like mine, you’ll get to feel a little rebellious at the same time.

Without compelling motivations like those, how can you refuse?

When words mean more than they seem, or not

I like those optical illusions that are really two pictures in one. Some people see a saxophone player, others a woman’s face. But, the truth is that the picture contains both. It has semantic “depth,” containing multiple legitimate meanings at the same time.

Words function much the same way. Rarely does any particular term support only a single meaning. Instead, words are “polyvalent,” rich with multiple possible meanings, simply waiting for an author to select one of those many meanings in any particular act of communication.

But, that depth of meaning also contributes to significant ambiguity if it’s unclear which of these several meanings the author intends. And, at times, the difficulty of choosing between multiple possible meanings leaves the reader wondering if the author may actually be playing with more than one meaning at once. Is it possible, that rather than choosing between A, B, and C, I’m supposed to see all three in the same text? If so, how would I know?

These are the questions that James DeYoung addressed in the paper that he presented at the NW meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, “Origen’s “Beautiful Captive Woman,” Polyvalence, and the Meaning of the “Righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17“. (Dr. DeYoung is Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Western Seminary.)

The specific focus of the paper is the paper that Frank Thielman presented at last year’s national ETS conference. Thus, DeYoung begins his paper by summarizing Thielman’s two key arguments and the main lines of evidence used to support them. First, Thielman contended that “righteousness of God” in Romans is polyvalent, including at least three basic ideas: (1) the saving activity of God, (2) the gift of acquittal, and (3) an attribute of God. All three of these are in play throughout Romans, so we shouldn’t try to limit Paul’s meaning to any one of them. Second, Thielman argued that analysis of both biblical and extrabiblical information suggests that the specific attribute in view is God’s fairness and equity in how he distributes salvation.

What follows this summary is really a series of thoughts sparked by this way of understanding Paul. DeYoung is particularly concerned about the implications of finding such polyvalence in the text. Although he affirms that texts may have a surprising depth of meaning, and he’s cautious about identifying the meaning of the text directly with any particular interpretation of that meaning, he rejects the idea that an author (in normal discourse) intends more than one meaning at the same time. And, he suggests that such moves toward polyvalence are implicitly attempts to move away from authorial intent as a guiding hermeneutical objective.

DeYoung is also troubled by the emphasis that Thielman places on extrabiblical literature in the discussion. Although DeYoung recognizes the importance of such secondary literature, he thinks that the biblical context, particularly the OT background and worldview, of NT terms/phrases should have preeminence.

So when does the interpreter appeal to secular usage to interpret a biblical text? It should be done to confirm a biblical definition, or to explain a term that is a hapax legomenon (occurring only once in the literature), or when it adds meaning that the Bible would also support.

Several of DeYoung’s arguments relate to the fact that he remains ultimately unconvinced by Thielman’s argument for “equity” as the attribute under consideration. DeYoung thinks that Thielman mishandles some of the evidence and overemphasizes others.

So, to conclude, DeYoung offers his own understand of the phrase in question.

So what is the “righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17? It seems best to define it as follows. In the gospel, proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, God is revealing his nature as upright. He is upright or just because the gospel is God’s power to save everyone (v. 16) who believes it. Or, because the gospel (proclaiming the atoning, substitutionary death of Christ and his resurrection) is God’s power to save everyone (v. 16) who believes (v. 17b), God reveals that he himself is just or upright regarding the need to punish sin by what he has done right in the work of Christ at the cross and in the resurrection. He vindicates himself as just by  what he did at the cross and by how he can accept the guilty.

(This is part of a series highlighting papers presented by several faculty and students from Western Seminary at the 2011 NW regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. You can see the rest of the posts in this series here.)