What, Exactly, Did God Breathe?

My post on Adam and Christ generated the range of predictable responses, from, “Thank God someone is saying what I’ve thought for a long time,” to “How on earth can anyone believe what Paul says about the resurrection of Jesus if he flubbed so badly on the existence of Adam?!”

To the latter question I address this post.

More the point, I address this post to the question of why I acknowledge the errors in the Bible, the ways that ancient cultures influenced the biblical writers to say things that we cannot agree with, and the like.

No, I’ve not quite said it right yet–I want to address how the Bible, precisely as the word of God can be so varied in its witness, and so reflective of both the strengths and shortcomings of its writers.

My confidence in scripture as the word of God, comes from the great source of “there can’t be any errors” itself–2 Tim 3.

The part of 2 Tim 3 that everyone likes to quote and that becomes the bedrock of their doctrines of scripture is, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction…”

Scripture is God-breathed. Yes!

But wait! There’s more!

Or, perhaps better put–wait, you forgot a part!

The verse before this presents a significant qualification: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

Did you see it?

Scripture isn’t just “good.” Full stop. It is good for a particular purpose. That purpose is Christological. Scripture is not rightly read as scripture when it is given its historical, scientific, or critical meaning. It is not rightly read as scripture until it is read as a witness to, or cultivating a wisdom that inclines us toward, the crucified and risen Christ.

In Romans, Paul says similar things: the righteousness of God (in the crucified and risen Christ) is borne witness to by the Law and the Prophets; Christ is the end/goal of the Law.

Paul is faithful in what he says about Adam, not because he rightly identifies Adam as the biological precursor of all subsequent humanity, but because he sees in Adam a way to understand how the crucified and risen Christ is the beginning of God’s plan for a new humanity at the acme of new creation.

What did God breathe? Words of wisdom. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation. Words of wisdom that lead to salvation through faith in Christ.

If we read and find only words of science or dogma or ethics or history, the Bible has not yet become for us the living and active and inspired word of God.

Fuller’s New President: Mark Labberton

The Press Release:

Fuller Seminary Announces Mark Labberton as Its New President
The Fuller Theological Seminary Board of Trustees has announced that Dr. Mark Labberton has accepted the call to serve as the seminary’s fifth president, beginning July 1, 2013. Labberton has served at Fuller Seminary since 2009 as the Lloyd John Ogilvie Associate Professor of Preaching, and director of the Lloyd John Ogilvie Institute of Preaching.

Mark Labberton: Fuller's Next President

Mark Labberton: Fuller’s Next President

Labberton’s unanimous election by the trustees followed a 10-month search and review of 250 nominations. Board Chair, Dr. Clifford L. Penner announced, “Along with my fellow trustees, I am delighted to welcome Mark Labberton to the presidency of Fuller Seminary. We are excited and inspired by the outstanding qualities and accomplishments he brings to this position. He is a scholar and academic leader, pastor for more than 25 years, accomplished author, and leading voice in many international ministries. Mark brings strong spiritual leadership, a wide range of experiences and the vision to guide Fuller into a new era of global leadership in seminary education. As a Fuller alumnus (M.Div.) and professor, he fully comprehends Fuller’s rich and diverse legacy.”

“Fuller has influenced my life and ministry in so many ways,” said Labberton. “I am honored to have this opportunity to work with faculty, students, staff, alumni, and our Board to further Fuller’s leadership in seminary education and its global outreach.” Labberton also expressed admiration for the leadership of Dr. Richard J. Mouw, who has served as Fuller President since 1993 and is retiring in June 2013. Commenting on the way Mouw has helped Fuller‘s public voice and life become widely known and understood, Labberton said, “I hope to continue the kind of generous, gracious, and irenic leadership that he established at Fuller and the world beyond.”

“Mark Labberton is an excellent choice to be the next President of Fuller,” said Dr. Mouw, “I know him to be a very gifted Christian leader who will be able to take Fuller into an exciting new future.”

Included among the priorities Labberton has already identified for his presidency are to strengthen Fuller’s commitments to the church, to deepen the ways Fuller addresses some of the key concerns and needs of the world, and to nurture a spiritually supportive community that includes all of Fuller’s regional campuses and the rich ethnic, language, and denominational diversity of the seminary.

Labberton encourages prayers for Fuller “at such a turbulent time in the church and in the world, when tangible demonstrations of God’s love are needed.” He also welcomes prayers for his new role as president, as he seeks to foster “careful understanding, deep and diverse community, courageous and wise decision-making, and effective creativity to address the challenges facing seminary education.”

With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Whitman College, Labberton earned a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller and a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Cambridge, England. In 2009, Labberton joined Fuller’s faculty with a key goal of empowering preachers through the development of small and highly diverse pastor-formation Micah Groups, which have now expanded into 25 U.S. states as well as several international cities.

Prior to coming to Fuller, Labberton served for 16 years as senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, CA. “In the national and international setting of this university church community, the canvas for life and for the Gospel was big and wide,” Labberton shared. “I had the daunting joy of leading a team of staff and laity toward seeing and engaging the Gospel, each other, the campus, the city, and the world more fully.”

Labberton also served in the early 1990s as senior pastor of Wayne Presbyterian Church in Wayne, PA.

Long committed to international ministry and development, Labberton co-founded the Christian International Scholarship Foundation (now ScholarLeaders, Int’l), which funds advanced theological education of Christian leaders from the Majority World. He has also worked closely with John Stott Ministries (now called Langham Partnership), which provides books, scholarships, and seminars for Majority World pastors. Today, he continues to contribute to the mission of the global church as a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission.

A frequent lecturer and preacher at conferences, in congregations and at academic gatherings throughout the world, Labberton has authored: First Things: A Theology of the World, the Church, the Pastor, and the Sermon (2013); The Dangerous Act of Loving Your Neighbor: Seeing Others Through the Eyes of Jesus (2010) and The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God’s Call to Justice (2007). He has also published articles in periodicals such as Christianity Today, Christian Century, Radix, and Leadership Journal, for which he also serves as contributing editor.

Labberton succeeds Dr. Mouw who announced last May his retirement from the Fuller presidency. Following a study leave during the 2013-14 academic year, Dr. Mouw will return to Fuller in a faculty role. Under his leadership Fuller has become the largest multidenominational seminary in the world with seven regional campuses, rapidly expanding online programs, and a new Korean-language Doctor of Ministry program. In addition, new centers of study, research and innovation have been established, including the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts. Known and highly respected as a key proponent of communicating with “convicted civility” in the public square, Mouw has participated widely in interfaith dialogues with Catholics, Mormons, Jews, Muslims, and others.

“With almost every nation and institution undergoing profound change, this is the time when the light and salt of the Gospel is meant to show up and make a real difference,” Labberton said. “Fuller is well-positioned to influence how the Gospel is communicated, understood, and embodied in the world.”

From the East Bay of Northern California, Mark Labberton and his wife, Janet Morrison Labberton, have two sons, Peter (24) and Sam (18).

In case you’re wondering, this is VERY good news.

Lent and Our Incomprehensible Daring

Over at the Fuller website I have a blog post up, “Lent, Reconciliation, and the Mission of God.”

The great Jewish philosopher Martin Buber writes, as he reflects on the Christian celebration of God’s good news, “To the Jew the Christian is the incomprehensibly daring person, who affirms in an unredeemed world that its redemption has been accomplished.”

Lent brings us face to face with our incomprehensible daring… (Read the rest here)

New One-Year Theology and Ethics Program at Aberdeen

From Dr. Mike Mawson:

We are pleased to announce a new one-year Master’s in Theological Ethics degree at the University of Aberdeen. Aberdeen’s department of Divinity is currently one of the top-ranked theology programs in the UK, and recent appointments in the areas of Systematic Theology and Theological Ethics have further strengthened the department. The Theological Ethics area emphasizes fundamental texts and thinkers in the Christian tradition for engaging contemporary issues and debates. For more information: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/divinity/pgrad/MThTheologicalEthics.shtml

If you have questions or are interested in applying to the MTh program feel free to contact Professor Bernd Wannenwetsch, Dr Brian Brock or Dr Michael Mawson. We will be happy to meet with prospective students at the American Academy of Religion meeting (in Chicago in November 2012) or the Society of Christian Ethics meeting (in Chicago in January 2013).

In addition, we would be happy to discuss funding options for prospective Master’s and doctoral students. Among other things, there will be doctoral funding in the two following two interdisciplinary collaborations: ‘Normativity – Nature, Narrative and Nihilism’ and ‘Transitional Justice, Peace and Reconciliation.’ We would be interested in supporting Welcome Trust applications for students hoping to work in the area of bioethics. Finally, we are willing to support external funding applications for especially strong proposals. For additional information on funding: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/divinity/pgrad/awards.shtml

The University of Aberdeen is a charity registered in Scotland, No SC013683.

Living Biblically

Way back in August, just before I decided to take a Blogbatical, I agreed to review Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood. With the awesome press coverage it’s getting, she sure doesn’t need Storied Theology to make folks aware of the book.

For all my self-aggrandizing tendencies, I do realize that I have nothing on the Today Show.

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But be that as it may, I have one big thought about the book that I’d like to share.

As you probably know, the book chronicles Rachel’s year of following every commandment in scripture directed toward women. The tongue-in-cheek exercise helps expose the difficulty in claiming that “biblical womanhood” is the goal toward which today’s women should aspire.

Her project exposes the most basic reality of biblical interpretation and application: we do not, cannot, and indeed must not, simply pick up the Bible, see what it says, and go do it.

All of us approach the Bible with some sort of interpretive grid that helps us to know when we do or do not need to take to heart the commandment issued. Rachel has grown weary of “biblical” as a trump-card adjective, thrown out in an effort to baptize whatever (conservative) social, religious, or theological position a person wants to endorse.

So, the story of the year is a story of challenging the notion that “biblical womanhood” is to be had by opening up the Bible and applying “God’s word to women.” (Camping in the backyard during your period, anyone?)

But there’s another story within the story.

And this is what the nay-sayers are going to avoid, deny, and otherwise be blind to.

As Rachel says at the end of her Today Show interview, she actually loves the Bible. And this thread runs right through the narrative of swear-jars, Thanksgiving dinner, and “Dan is awesome” signs.

What Rachel discovers this year is not simply that the Bible is embedded in a cultural context where myriad different assumptions about life make direct application impossible. She also discovers a richer, more potent biblical (there’s that word again!) prescription for womanhood.

That prescription is one of trust, of gentleness, of concern for the weak, of executing justice, of loving, and of honoring those worthy of honor.

This is a great book for raising, again, the question, “What is the Bible and what are we supposed to do with it?” (a phrase I steal from Enns on a regular basis). And my invitation to you is to read with an eye toward both stories: the over-the-top, witty narrative of literal biblical reading as a critique on our simplistic views of the bible, but also the underlying current of a true biblical womanhood that has the power to infuse even those “liberated women” who can’t quite bring themselves to call their husbands “master.”

Lying Fallow

This electronic land has produced good fruit.

And now, it will lie fallow for a season that it might resume such productivity at some point in the future.

Or, to move from metaphor of fields to metaphors of speaking: James advises that we be quick to listen, slow to speak. After a season of incessant speech, the season of listening is demanding its due.

And it shall have it.

From Faith to Follow

I keep coming back to Confessions of Faith. As I dance around this (repeatedly) there’s one major thing I’m trying go get to: we as Christians have regularly created the impression that being a Christian is defined by thinking/believing the right things.

Thinking the right things isn’t bad. At some level it’s necessary. But I don’t want to say with, say, Philip Schaff, that belief in the content of the creeds is “necessary and sufficient” for salvation.

So what if our recitations of our shared narrative began with a phrase other than, “I believe,” a phrase that was was self-involving in a different way?

What if we recited together, instead, something like this?

I worship God the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who brought us up out of the house of bondage, the God who did not spare his own son but delivered him up for us all and raised him from the dead;

And I follow Jesus the Messiah, his only begotten son, who was anointed son of God by the Spirit, taught us with authority, healed the sick, fed the hungry, embraced the outcast and the sinner, cast out demons, beckoned us to follow, took up his cross, loved me and gave himself for me, reconciled the world to God, was raised from the dead and enthroned as Lord and King, and sent his followers and Spirit out into the world;

I receive the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the crucified and risen Christ, given by Christ that I might walk in faithfulness, receive forgiveness, crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, and receive a share in Jesus’ own sonship, speak in God’s name, extend forgiveness, make peace among people, heal the sick, feed the hungry, embrace the outcast and sinner, cast out demons, take up the cross and pour myself out in self-giving love for the good of my neighbor, be raised to newness of life, and thus live and reign with him forever.

That’s what I’m getting at. There are lots of good, true things in our statements. But how do we talk and think about who we are such that we are always remembering that our statements are self-involving? Not merely involving of our minds, or our “hearts,” or our beliefs, but summoning us to participate in the narrative of the coming reign of God?

Thoughts?

Telling the story of the story-bound God