Friday, July 25, 2014

Scot McKnight reviews Rethinking Hell

Dr. Scot McKnight has been going through our book Rethinking Hell: Readings in Evangelical Conditionalism, and its been a real honor to read his thoughts and commentary on our book. It is quite encouraging to see how well many seem to receive the text!

So here are the links:

McKnight on John Stackhouse.
McKnight on Glenn Peoples and the basic introduction to conditionalism. Check out the comments.
McKnight on "perish" and "destruction."
McKnight on Stephen Travis.
McKnight on the famous John Stott.
McKnight on Clark Pinnock.
McKnight on John Wenham.
McKnight on Ralph Bowles and Revelation 14:9-11.
McKnight on Harold Guillebaud and the trends in Scripture.
McKnight on Philip E. Hughes and "immortality."


--Nick Quient

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Vignettes About The Rethinking Hell 2014 Conference

It’s difficult to process the amount of sheer memory that has stored itself in my mind during this past week. Much of this is recounted now, and I have little doubt that my memory is a bit shaky, like the IRS.

As Greg, Aaron, William and I packed ourselves into a rental van for a 24 hour trip to Texas from southern California, the only things I were concerned about included the following:

Don’t drink a lot because you don’t want to be the guy who has to pull over and water the bushes.

Please please please allow the AC in our car to be awesome.

And, ultimately, don’t let us break down on one of the many hundred mile long isolated stretches of desert.

But beyond that, when the four of us made it to our destination in Houston, Texas, we settled into a rather comfy routine of running around like chickens with our heads cut off. In between registration, setting up books, driving people around and trying to find the time to eat, we more or less figured out everything 

Thursday. Well, mostly. We went through our individual schedules and prayed that Chris Date would make it to Houston on time.

But, by God’s grace, Greg and I collapsed in our respective beds just before early Friday morning. Maybe around 1ish.

Friday was the easy day. Well, should’ve been. I ate a peanut butter sandwich and drank a few things and slept until noon. I spoiled myself until noon when I got up and was shuttled to the Lanier Theological Library again to, well, finish up everything. The entire Rethinking Hell group was there and it was nice to meet and greet amidst the chaos.

Then Chris Date showed up and it became a party.

Well. We shook hands and danced in a circle and plotted to sneak out the first edition of the KJV from the library. Only one of those is true, really.

Then registration happened. In between getting a ten-minute downpour that would’ve embarrassed a Seattle native, a few others and I were responsible for registering 140 people. That was intense. I worked in a movie theater for three years and I was the only idiot they brought in one Christmas morning to work the entire concession stand. If you are one of the few people to don’t go see a movie Christmas morning, it’s like being the only literate one in a room full of screaming children.

But registration went fine and I got to shake hands with a few people before the chaos diminished and William and I just sat in the dining hall while John Stackhouse gave his much-lauded plenary. Despite spending 24 hours in the same car as William, we still found time to talk about awesome things, sometimes related to theology.

Then some stuff happened and we all went about finishing up everything. Greg Stump was the Best from the West, working everything out rather nicely. So major props to him. I don’t remember much from Friday night because, well, everyone was dog-tired and everything became a game of shuffle along until you manage to crash back into your bed at the hotel.

Then 7am rolled around faster than it had any right to do so, and we were all back at the Lanier library at 8 for the entire day of breakouts, conversation, lunches, more breakouts, Glenn People’s plenary and the much-anticipated panel of 5 ‘hellions.’

As a side note, apparently I unconsciously adopted both a Texas accent and an Australian accent. I said Pee-tah instead of, well, Peter. I say this to let Peter Grice know that it wasn’t intentional; its just he has a really cool accent.

Since I’ve been asked several times about how my paper went, and I can’t say much beyond this: I enjoyed presenting it, and I got some decent pushback from Tom Talbott. I don’t remember the singular details, and being somewhat tentative in speaking off the cuff, but overall it was helpful. I enjoyed talking to a few folks afterword, which allowed me to clarify.

Amazingly, I got no pushback about my view of human anthropology. I was highly prepared to respond to almost any question, but none of the responses included that. So maybe my view isn’t that crazy.

Then Daniel, William, Joey, Glenn, Wes, Ralph Bowles and I went to legit Tex Mex. Quite good. I got myself a fruity drink and a disapproving raised eyebrow from our awesome waiter when I ordered that. It was good, my Sopa de Tortilla.

So the rest of the day was spent listening to Ronnie Demler’s great presentation, and meandering around the inner light that is the Lanier library. I saw books on ancient Greek, fragments of manuscripts and early editions of Bibles. Very cool. Mark Lanier is a cool cat.

Saturday climaxed in several ways. First of firsts, Glenn Peoples delivered his plenary, which was great. Insightful, provocative and entertaining. It ended with some brief Q&A and then we were off to dinner.

I don’t remember dinner, so someone from RH will refresh my mind on that. Oh wait. Wes suggested Whataburger. So I had that. Decent. Above average.

Myself and Dr. John Stackhouse
Then it was the final evening, the showdown. J. Lanier Burns (DTS), Shawn Bawulski (LLC), and Thomas Talbott (Willamette) all showed up to dialogue with Edward Fudge and John Stackhouse. It was over 90 minutes of back and forth, and it was really cool. There were some rough patches, as is to be expected when there are as many passionate people in one spot, but overall the dialogue was cordial and friendly, with things getting downright giddy in some instances (I think Dr. Burns and Edward were chuckling to themselves several times).

And Saturday ended with the tear down of all the materials and the stumble back to the hotel lobby for some … drinks. The entire RH team crowded around a small table, sipping and laughing and about ready to collapse.

Then it came to an end with a sermon by Dr. Stackhouse at Edward’s church, and our 24-hour drive back to southern California.

It was wonderful to finally meet my online friends and colleagues, and to meet some new ones. Speaking to Tom Talbott and getting his signature was pretty cool. Sharing drinks with the rest of the guys was great. The standout moments for me with often when it was just myself and another sitting down and chatting.

Whether it was with Peter Grice in the gym at Edward’s church.

Whether it was with Daniel Sinclair in the dining hall.

Whether it was with everyone else. It was great and I am so glad to have been there and done that.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Egalitarian Resources on 1 Corinthians 11

This text has vexed many interpreters, and it has designated some to regard it as an interpolation (William O. Walker is one such interpreter, I believe). That said, assuming its textual veracity seems more reasonable than not, so many commentators have sought to somehow resolve the many issues within this text. For me, this text simply was a morass of terrible reasoning on the part of Paul. 

Remember I was rather annoyed with Paul at this time for other reasons. 

What does kephale mean? How is it used here? 

How does this pericope jive with the rest of 1 Corinthians? 

What 'hangs down from the head?' 

In the words of Wayne Meeks, "The structure of Paul's argument in 11:3-16 is not one of his most lucid patterns of logic." (The Image of the Androgyne, 200, though he does acknowledge for an equality of sorts on 201). 

So, without further time on myself, I will offer several egalitarian resources that may help you with this really difficult text. I will say, on the whole, I think 'source' and 'preeminent' are both reasonable, though I favor 'source.'

As it must be said, Philip Payne's really detailed exegesis of this text has largely convinced me that 'source' is more probable. He examines every aspect of this sequence and offers a cogent and exegetically probable rendering of this text. You may consult his book Man and Woman, One in Christ. His reading is the only one that makes sense of the entire passage. If you want a condensed version, see his free Priscilla Paper's article.

Alan F. Johnson's article in the Ashland Theological Journal is helpful for one key reason: he surveys the major publications regarding 'kephale' and assesses them. He includes Grudem, Payne, Bedale and others. Its compact, insightful and he even offers his own thoughts in the end. You also have his popular commentary from IVP here; it is helpful, especially in his discussion of 1 Corinthians 11 and 15. He opts for 'preeminence' though he accepts 'source.'

Linda Belleville's book Women Leaders and the Church is deceptive. First, it is rather short and yet, it is packed with goodies. You should read the book. Second, her section on 1 Corinthians 11 is both short and sweet. She highlights major difficulties and places them within the overall trajectory of Scripture. Just get the book.  I believe she is undecided between 'preeminence' and 'source.' 

Morna Hooker's classic article on 1 Corinthians 11:10 is worth reading. Very intriguing. I cannot find the online article, so here is a google book.

Richard Cervin's first response to Grudem is worth reading for two reasons. One, he covers every example from a classical and linguistic perspective, thus bringing fresh insight. Two, he argues that 'kephale' means 'preeminence.' To be honest, he has made his case well. However, Grudem responded and Cervin did as well, though his article wasn't accepted. Having read Cervin's masterful (yet 'unpublished') second response, which is again exclusively directed at Grudem, I think 'preeminence' is a strong possibility, though I still think 'source' is better attested.

Gordon D. Fee's commentary on 1 Corinthians is not as in-depth as Payne on 1 Cor. 11:2-16, but he covers many of the major bases. His use of a chiastic structure is helpful. He accepts 'source' as the key translation of 11:3. See also his work in Discovering Biblical Equality ch 11. 

Other egalitarian commentaries include Anthony Thiselton, NIGNT commentary and his 1 Corinthians: A Shorter Exegetical & Pastoral Commentary, David Garland's commentary, Ben Witherington's commentary, and F.F. Bruce's (dated) commentary.  

For several great websites, see again The Junia Project, Christians for Biblical Equality, Adam Omelianchuk, Margaret Mowczko and J.W. Wartick. Tell them I say hi.

Hope this helps a bit.


Egalitarian Resources on 1 Timothy 2

The one nice thing you can say about the evangelical debate over women in ministry is that there is no shortage of material to read. Having read over a dozen books combined on both sides as well as dozens of journal articles, I figured it was time to put forth some resources that helped me sort out the tension within Scripture. While I would prefer to just dump everything here, I think I'd like to add a little more commentary to each section, so that is what will be happening.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 is the standard text that the debate begins with, at least in my experience. Call it a trump card text, or in the words of Gail Wallace, the "1 Timothy 2 Bomb;" a sadly apt appropriation of a term. That said, I'll post some articles and some books that have helped position this text within its historical-grammatical context. This post is by no means exhaustive, so if you have materials you want to add, just comment or tweet me.

Before we even step foot into this landmine field, start with Alan Padgett's "What is Biblical Equality?" If this is your first time reading, start there. If you are familiar with the gender debate, still start here.

First, of course, is Philip Payne's book Man and Woman, One in Christ. The book will appear in every single post because it is that good. However, the relevant pages are 291-444. What makes Payne's work so helpful is that it is a direct engagement with heirarchalist exegesis, and is incredibly detail oriented. He deals with every facet of the entire passage, including extensive word studies, and concludes that the passage doesn't exclude women from ministry.

If you want something less technical, yet historically aware, Allison Young's CBE post on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is quite good. She draws only from Linda Belleville, but this is fine because Belleville is pretty awesome. For Belleville, you can find her work in the chapter “Teaching and Usurping Authority: I Timothy 2:11-15,” Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy.

John Jefferson Davis' article "First Timothy 2:12, The Ordination of Women, and Creation Narratives" is helpful for at least two reasons. While Payne deals extensively with the creation accounts, Davis offers a more concise summary that is as helpful as Payne's is extensive. Second is that Davis teaches at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which is significant in that GCTS is a top school in evangelicalism and is egalitarian friendly(ish). So that's cool. He also deals briefly with the homosexuality charge that is often leveled at egalitarians.

Kate Bushnell is really good. You should read her. Like, now. Get on that.

For several great websites, see The Junia Project, Christians for Biblical Equality, Adam Omelianchuk, Margaret Mowczko and J.W. Wartick. I don't agree with necessarily everything, but they are committed Christians and very lucid thinkers.

There are several egalitarian commentaries that offer cogent explanations of the 1 Timothy 2 text. They include I. Howard Marshall , Gordon D. Fee and Philip Towner (technical and popular).

Enjoy. Keep reading.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Athanasias and the Incarnation

Athanasius, On the Incarnation 5.28:
Every one is by nature afraid of death and of bodily dissolution; the marvel of marvels is that he who is enfolded in the faith of the cross despises this natural fear and for the sake of the cross is no longer cowardly in face of it. The natural property of fire is to burn. Suppose, then, that there was a substance such as the Indian asbestos is said to be, which had no fear of being burnt, but rather displayed the impotence of the fire by proving itself unburnable. If anyone doubted the truth of this, all he need do would be to wrap himself up in the substance in question and then touch the fire. Or, again, to revert to our former figure, if anyone wanted to see the tyrant bound and helpless, who used to be such a terror to others, he could do so simply by going into the country of the tyrant's conqueror. Even so, if anyone still doubts the conquest of death, after so many proofs and so many martyrdoms in Christ and such daily scorn of death by His truest servants, he certainly does well to marvel at so great a thing, but he must not be obstinate in unbelief and disregard of plain facts. No, he must be like the man who wants to prove the property of the asbestos, and like him who enters the conqueror's dominions to see the tyrant bound. He must embrace the faith of Christ, this disbeliever in the conquest of death, and come to His teaching.
What I find interesting about this is Athanasius' emphasis on the fear of death. He speaks about physical manifestation of nature. Fire. Burning. Bodily dissolution. Very fitting imagery.

When the body dies, it decays. It 'stinketh.' The brain shuts down. The flesh corrupts. The bones begin to rot. To fear this, in some sense, is the human experience. We all die. We all see corruption. 

And yet, this is not the end.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Influential Female Theologians in my Life & Their Books

So I learned about Frank Viola's 100 best academic book list, and some women mentioned that there were only a few women in the entire list, and none in the theology section. I know Frank's heart so I don't attribute this to ill-will or anything like that. I dig the dude. He's a cool cat.

That said, I wanted to contribute a little to the conversation. I won't be breaking my 3 day rule because, technically, Frank's list came out in 2012 and I read it then. I was made aware of the lack of prominent female theologians today on twitter, so . . . splitting hairs. This isn't a response to Frank or anyone in particular. Just giving a few mentors their (over) due. :)

In no specific order are the following books written by female theologians that have had a profound impact on me. The list could go on, but these are the few that instantly pop to mind.

1. Dr. Jouette Bassler's "Navigating Paul." For clocking in at barely 100 pages, this book is primed with data that makes a seminarian like myself breath heavily. On the more critical side, but still really helpful at laying out the key issues in the life of Paul. My sole criticism was the lack of detail regarding the duetero-Pauline corpus. Since it wasn't written by Paul, it wasn't discussed; this is a negative mark only because of the influence Paul surely had upon the theological additions written in his name. I get it. I just wanted more.

2. Dr. Nancey Murphy's "Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies?" This one was a doozy. I confess I was already very much in line with her theological anthropology before reading this, but it helped
significantly. Her clarity and ability to articular very dense concepts was a great help to me. While I would've loved more material in her theological and biblical section, her work cannot be underestimated within Christian and secular spheres.

3. Marianne Meye Thompson's "The Promise of the Father: Jesus and God in the New Testament" is particularly relevant to New Testament Christology. While slim, this book crams a lot of
information into a short space. Dr. Thompson's grasp of New Testament theology is well-known, and her contribution, particularly in light of the current evangelical 'subordinationist' trend in many circles, is lucid, straightforward and enlightening. Her section on Second Temple Judaism was, in my opinion, the highlight of the book. If books needed trailers, that chapter would constitute most of the explosions and music.

 4. Dr. Linda Belleville's "Women Leaders and the Church: 3 Crucial Questions" ranks high on my list of books affirming an egalitarian interpretation of Scripture. In reading Dr. Belleville, I'm
reminded of a swim coach I had in high school. Dogged, fiercely intelligent and, above all, demanded that I really jump in the deep end. Dr. Belleville's work elucidates that memory. She covers the world outside the New Testament, critiques current scholarship and advocates strongly for the full inclusion of women in the church. A pointed, yet gracious, matter of fact presentation of the egalitarianism found in Scripture. Super good.

5. Dr. Lynn Cohick's "Women in the World of the Earliest Christians" was an eye-opener for me. While Dr. Cohick does address some of the New Testament texts regarding the status of women in the ancient world (1 Tim. 2:15 is one; John 4 is another), her world is far broader than the New Testament. She delves into manuscripts, ancient letters, inscriptions and the literature of the time. At once broad, yet detail-oriented, her work here was a helpful flick in the ear. I had no idea regarding much of this data and Dr. Cohick brought it all to light for me. And, in case you prefer a pinch of snark in your theological books, every once in a while Dr. Cohick drops a sneaky jab at some ancient sexist patriarch. The cheekiness of it reminds one that they aren't reading a dry textbook, but are engaged in a book of profound significance.

Again, this was not meant as a 'response' to Frank. I actually agree with the majority of the books he placed on the list. And I want to thank him, and others, for inspiring this mini-post. I hope you enjoy these books.

Who would end up on your list?

In Christ,


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Karl Barth & the Resurrection

Its short and happy.

"Within history Jesus as the Christ can be understood only as Problem or Myth.

As the Christ He brings the world of the Father.

But we who stand in this concrete world know nothing, and are incapable of knowing anything, of that other world.

The Resurrection from the dead is, however, the transformation: the establishing or declaration of that point from above, and the corresponding discerning of it below."

--Karl Barth.

Peter van Inwagen & the Resurrection of the Body

I'm quickly growing to love this topic. In preparing for my presentation at the Rethinking Hell conference I've shifted my thinking on many a Christian topic. Not in regards to anything that would contradict Scripture or the Creeds, but on more ancilarry items that affect how I regard a lot of secondary doctrines. 

But that's not why you clicked the link.

Peter van Inwagen is quite helpful in this area for me, and I count him as both a mentor and a bit of a guide in the dark in regards to philosophy; an area I am woefully untrained in. This was his unpublished paper and I present part of it for your viewing pleasure. 

Please read and enjoy.

Van Inwagen:

Most people in most cultures believe in a life beyond the grave. They tell stories about it. But not all cultures tell the same story. Some cultures tell stories of reincarnation or metempsychosis. In our western culture there is a tendency to tell stories of the sort we see in the movie Ghost (you may remember it: Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Swayze, and Demi Moore). 

In this movie, dead people rise from their corpses, and have a kind of diaphanous existence. They look like human beings (to anyone who can see them at all), but they are able to pass through living people and walls and other solid things. (Why don’t they fall through the floor, then? You may well ask.) And, of course, they are for the most part invisible to the living. Eventually, bright beings summon them to ascend a beam of light to heaven, or dark, gibbering creatures drag them screaming off to hell. This is, I am afraid, exactly the picture of the afterlife that is current among undergraduates at Notre Dame, although they might be willing to admit that the visual representation of disembodied souls in the movie was either symbolical or what might be called cinematic license. Most of them, every Sunday and major feast day, say the words, “I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” And every time they are present at the baptism of a child, they promise to help the parents and godparents of the newly baptized bring the child up in a faith one of whose tenets is (they say these words), “I believe in the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” But these words mean nothing to them. They say them, but they are getting no more meaning out of them than a famous six-year-old did from another well- known text; reciting the Lord’s Prayer, he said, “And lead us not into Penn Station.” A few days ago, I heard a speech by the President of Notre Dame about the difficulties of teaching theology to Notre Dame undergraduates. President Malloy remarked sententiously that we cannot presuppose, as we once could, that our students will bring some degree of catechetical formation to the study of theology. I don’t think he knows the half of it. 

This picture of death and immortality, the Hollywood-and-Notre-Dame- undergraduate picture, is, I believe, very far from the biblical picture of death and immortality. According to the bible, God formed us out of the dust of the earth and breathed life into us. When, in punishment for our rebellion against him we die and return to the dust out which he raised our first parents, we’re just, well . . . dead. 
For the rest, enjoy it here. The paper is the first one beneath the label Philosophy of Religion.