Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Literary Lust

I never wanted to be the guy who'd get all excited about theology. I'm much more the practical ministry kinda guy. But...

I find myself salivating over a new commentary on Romans I just picked up from the Carey library! I couldn't believe it was there!

The commentary is Ben Witherington's "Paul's Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary".

Here is why I'm excited:

  • It's written by an Arminian/Wesleyan who is trying to bring this orientation to the exegesis as opposed to the more Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist readings generally available - in fact the author claims there hasn't been a reading of Romans from this perspective since the Reformation itself!
  • It deliberately incorporates a consideration of social and rhetorical factors in developing its exegesis - the socio-rhetorical bit
  • Witherington contents that Romans 7 is not autobiographical of Paul's life but rather descriptive of a spiritual crisis in the non-Christian's life - the celebrated "I do the things I don't want to do" loses its force as a mantra for the masses looking to find an ally in Paul and crediting him with the same sense of enduring moral failure that they experience as a Christ follower - this is where the Augustinian inheritance around original sin seems to come into play in a strong way - so I'm fascinated by this crucial distinction and the possibility it offers for a more optimistic reading of the holy life
  • I've also wondered for a while whether an Arminian view of scripture and salvation is actually more accessible to the post modern mindset so I'll be interested to see how this plays out in this most theological of epistles

So I am officially a theology nerd joining Frank and Rhett in endless controversies...

Well maybe not, but I'm glad to have found the commentary as I am preparing sermons over coming weeks on Romans and starting a paper on Romans at Carey...should be fun to wave the Arminian flag high within a Baptist College!

9 comments:

Andrew said...

Wow! Big call to place the label (reformed) on Carey. I studied there at under grad and post grad level and don't think a lot of the lecturers would be that impressed with being tagged as reformed... Or have I missed something obvious (like it's written in their statement of faith)?

BJ said...

Hey Andrew - given the diversity at Carey I guess they'd resist being labelled as anything in particular! I meant reformed with a small "r" ie generally non Arminian. Probably not a good term as it does have shades of meaning, some of them very specific which would not describe Carey at all (especially the Reformed Baptists)! I think its fair to say though that many of the lecturers are non-Arminian in orientation. Which is what I meant...but, of course many Baptists are Arminian in terms of their view on the availability of salvation to all...so i guess what I'm saying is: I should delete the word - even in brackets with a small "r"!

servant said...

I feel like I am discovering the Bible in a whole new way and am considering looking more into what it would mean to become a Calvinist.

That commentary sounds awesome!!!

Here's what Clarke (the famous Wesleyan) had to say on Romans 7 in his commentary on the Bible, taken from e-sword.... I use e-sword to get wesleyan commentary from both Wesley and Clarke:

Romans 7 -
The law has power over a man as long as he lives, Rom_7:1. And a wife is bound to her husband only as long as he lives, Rom_7:2, Rom_7:3. Christian believers are delivered from the Mosaic law by Christ Jesus, and united to God, Rom_7:5-7. By the law is the knowledge of sin, Rom_7:8. But it gives no power over it, Rom_7:9-11. Yet it is holy, just, and good, Rom_7:12. How it convinces of sin, and brings into bondage, Rom_7:13-24. No deliverance from its curse but by Jesus Christ, Rom_7:25.
The apostle having, in the preceding chapter, shown the converted Gentiles the obligations they were under to live a holy life, addresses himself here to the Jews who might hesitate to embrace the Gospel; lest, by this means, they should renounce the law, which might appear to them as a renunciation of their allegiance to God. As they rested in the law, as sufficient for justification and sanctification, it was necessary to convince them of their mistake. That the law was insufficient for their justification the apostle had proved, in chapters iii., iv., and v.; that it is insufficient for their sanctification he shows in this chapter; and introduces his discourse by showing that a believing Jew is discharged from his obligations to the law, and is at liberty to come under another and much happier constitution, viz. that of the Gospel of Christ, Rom_7:1-4. In Rom_7:5 he gives a general description of the state of a Jew, in servitude to sin, considered as under mere law. In Rom_7:6 he gives a summary account of the state of a Christian, or believing Jew, and the advantages he enjoys under the Gospel. Upon Rom_7:5 he comments, from Romans 7:7-25, and upon Rom_7:6 he comments, Rom_8:1-11.
In explaining his position in Rom_7:5 he shows:

1. That the law reaches to all the branches and latent principles of sin, Rom_7:7.

2. That it subjected the sinner to death, Rom_7:8-12, without the expectation of pardon.

3. He shows the reason why the Jew was put under it, Rom_7:13.

4. He proves that the law, considered as a rule of action, though it was spiritual, just, holy, and good in itself, yet was insufficient for sanctification, or for freeing a man from the power of inbred sin.

For, as the prevalency of sensual appetites cannot wholly extinguish the voice of reason and conscience, a man may acknowledge the law to be holy, just, and good, and yet his passions reign within him, keeping him in the most painful and degrading servitude, while the law supplied no power to deliver him from them, Rom_7:14-24, as that power can only be supplied by the grace of Jesus Christ, Rom_7:25. See Taylor.

BJ said...

Does one ever gain anything from considering looking into Calvinism if one is not actually the elect and therefore predestined to be a Calvinist? Your interest in Calvinism smacks of a prevenient heresy - you don't need to be interested in order for the holy spirit to give you sufficient faith to be convicted and converted...

servant said...

"Calvinism" "elect" "predestined" "prevenient" "heresy" "Holy Spirit" "faith" "convicted" "converted".... all in such a short post! What a theology nerd! ;o)

Steve Deur said...

Thompson had Witherington at Asbury - so be looking for a comment from him gushing all over the place. :)

Steve said...

Deur is a prophet.

Did you know that Witherington has a blog?

I didn't know how big of a deal it was to have Witherington in seminary at the time. And it struck me as a little cocky that all of the required texts for his classes were his own. But in hindsight, if those are the texts that everyone else is using too...

Jonesboy go to town on your Wesleyan/Arminian horse!! That's awesome.

Andrew said...

Hi BJ, I wasn't meaning you had to remove the tag! I was genuinely surprised to hear the Careyites being given a reformed tag. I know some would be comfortable with it but I know others wouldn't. I guess that only reinforces your point about the diversity that exists at Carey among the staff... Hope your studies are going well. If Romans is with George, I can vouch it is an excellent paper. Witherington's blog is very good if you haven't already looked at it.

BJ said...

Steves - with posts 14 mins apart, I'd swear you work in the same office...

Andrew - no worries - I just figured you were right...

Yup, the Witherington blog is awesome - amazing how many searches it pops up on! I have it as one of the few regular blogs I cruise...