Monday, January 05, 2009

Great Commission? Really?

Updated 5th Jan 09:
Just found out that Robin Parry has posted a reflection over the interpretation on Matt 28 which I think is relevant here. He wrote,

"...if Jesus was calling restored Israel to go to the nations then the text's relevance for a mission by Gentile Christians to other Gentile Christians is one or two steps away from what Jesus was getting at." (Emphasis added)

2nd Jan 2009 post:
What is 'evangelism' as understood through Matthew 28.18-20?

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

a) Saving souls by asking them to receive Christ as their saviour.
b) Declaring the sovereign of Jesus over all that exists.
c) Both (a) and (b).
d) None of the above.

Another related question:
Did Jesus actually asked his disciples to save souls by asking non-believers to receive him as their saviour? In Matt 28.18-20, Jesus asked them to baptize and teach them. Does that amount to 'saving souls'?


davinci said...

That amount to building a community who honor God and practise God's commandment. in short, realise the kingdom of God.

But as to "save souls"?

How you define "save souls"? a ticket to heaven? after life in heaven? If this is so, then I think that is not so much the matthean community's concern....???? !!!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

'save souls' in the sense where most churches emphasize on in their evangelistic rally. Usually the preachers start to preach about sin, then about Christ, then the cross, then the message that sinners are reconciled to God. Then alter call (usually will accompany with soothing musics at the background to simulate the psychological & romantic effect of being 'loved').

Sounds familiar?

I'm not sure about Matthean community. U could provide the info perhaps?

Thank you for comment!

davinci said...

Your description likely fit in the Pauline soteriogy which evangelicals stress most.

Matthean concerns; to make disciples of Jesus, acting on His teaching and usher in the Kingdom of God.

You can refer to : David Bosch,"Transforming Mission"

davinci said...

Some interesting discussion relating to historical matthean/markan community and their implied readers.

can try:

Matthew as Story
by Jack Dean Kingsbury
2d edition, revised and enlarged
Fortress Press, 1988

Conflict in Mark: Jesus, Authorities, Disciples
By: Jack Dean Kingsbury
Augsburg Fortress / 1989 / Paperback

Mark As Story, by David Rhoads, Joanna Dewey,Donald Michie; Fortress

Probably you not interested in above, cos you already so deeply rooted in theology??? eg: Barth, Piper....!Ha!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

Thank you for the pointers. Will be good if u could summarize their comments on this issue here as I have limited access to such wealth of resources. :)

davinci said...

Hi Szezeng, I already summarised the David Bosch comments. For the rest of books, I am sure you can get in TTC. Read yourself lah , very interesting.

Maybe Kar Yong can testify on this, about the story of Jesus,,...haha ..

davinci said...

Hi Szezeng, tks for releasing my comment in your blog..

I got feeling the theology guy usually gone astray when talking about reading the bible.

in the sense that, they like to explain the bible from the theological perspective and thought that, this is doing bible study.

Szezeng, you are predominantly a theology guy, so beware of this...

haha..."story of Jesus series" is very raw, literary works, expousing the Gospel... maybe theology guy dont find fun reading it !!??,,,ha

davinci said...

Stephen Tong is typical case; he holds seminars, teaching Book of Hebrew and Romans; and He talked on just one or two verses, which could spent the whole night session...ha , this is crazy!

He used to repeat his favorite theme; eg: cultural mandate,God's sovereignty, Plato/socrates,the glory of God,Romans architecture,,,,etc..

of course, never forget to condemn charismatics...ha !

To me , he is talking theology , not doing bible studies...

You try listen to his CD, and tell me how you feel??

Maybe this comment of mine, offensive to theology and reformed people, and you might not reveal it?haha !

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

all this while I got the feeling that both theology and biblical studies guys & girls go astray when talking about everything, including reading the bible.

"story of Jesus series"? What's that?

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

It's not a matter of generalization here. Rather it's on individual pursuer of truth, don't u think so?

Why not pick theologian such as Oliver O'Donovan or Robert Jenson or John Webster or Wolfhart Pannenberg or Jurgen Moltmann or Rowan Williams or Anthony Thiselton or even N.T Wright (who professed himself to be a 'theologian' in one of his downloadable lecture)?

Why pick Stephen Tong to back the point that theologians are generally not careful in biblical studies?

Just as there are people like James Crossley who are good at Biblical studies, present series of lectures on it, wrote books on it, and yet does not think God exist; there are theologians who do bad in biblical studies. But that is not amount to demonize both respective field of studies.

Again, it's on the individual pursuer of truth that matters. They should be measure by their own discussion and should be judge by that alone.

Besides, I've just finished reading Ben Witherington's (a biblical scholar) book on theology of scripture. And I find that he doesn't understand 'postmodernism' and other philosophical theologies. But I don't conclude that generally biblical scholars sucks at that. I know there are biblical scholars like Richard Bauckham, Joel Green, Kenton Sparks, Brevard Childs, Stephen Fowls, John Goldingay, Steve Motyer etc that are good with theology. :)

davinci said...

Story of Jesus, means 'story of Matthew, mark , John,,,"

I also think that biblical guy usually not good in theology and philosophy... haha, let them specialies lah, dont have to be apologetic...

But I surprised, Grudem good in bible as well as systemtic theology... ha, he published both..

anyway, you didnt answer how you feel towards Stephen Tong pertaining to my above comment on him....

hey, be frank and bold.. speak the truth..

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

The synoptics ya...ok. I'm not an expert on them as u can see in two of my attempts to describe some of their themes:

What is the 'Gospel'?
What is the 'kingdom of God'?

Both can be found at the right column of my blog under the title "The Essence of Life"

No, i strongly disagree with you on your polarization between biblical scholars and theologians. There are exciting and constructive works undergoing among both camps to breach the gap.

I also disagree with u that Grudem is good in bible and theology. His systematic theology textbook is one of the worst for our times, in my opinion.

Concerning Stephen Tong, all I can say is that his expository preaching is theological exposition rather than critical exegesis of texts. But that's how homiletic usually being done. One thing clear is that he is neither giving critical theological or exegetical paper every week. If not, the congregation will be sleeping on the pews! :)

davinci said...

Hi szezeng, seems you disagree with me all the times. like that, no fun lah! ha!

so far I read Millard and grudem's systematic theology. Millard more in depth with German theology and philosophy,but I think, that is too much for evangelical pastor/students. Kepala pusing and unnecessary.

Grudem's one is simple, easy understand-english, yet essential,just nice for evangelical guys like me and others..

I think you are too chim! with Barth and Pannenberg. I dont think these people ever nurtured evangelicals anything. in fact almost, all evangelicals pastors and lecturere I hv met, dont know these type theologians.

except you and your agora gangs...ha!

I thought, Grudem is well recognised as reformed theologian?

To me, he is genius and pragmatic. we , evangelicals need him, or his type of scholars.

I know, you will disagree with me, but its ok. When you getting older, and more involved in ministry, then you will agree with me.. ha, I prophesy altho I am not a prophet...!

Steven Sim said...

I believe different tier of the community require different presentation. We have ppl like Josh who are able to read Barth and Pannerberg like drinking water, but we need ppl like erikson and grudem to present Barth and Pannerberg in a more concise manner to a different tier. Perhaps when the grudem tier graduated to Josh's tier, they discover that Barth were essentially saying almost the same thing after all, albeit denser and perhaps more articulated? And then we have ppl like Barth and Pannerberg who probably reads some "higher" Barth and Pannerberg to write their books for Josh.

I think Grudem is fine, easy read (except that its thick), but Josh being the critical biblical scholar he is probably couldn't agree much with systematic theologian, that's acceptable...

Steven Sim

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci

No, i dont disagree with u all the time. And it's not merely for the sake of fun that we're having this discourse :)

By 'Millard', do u mean Millard Erickson?

Me too chim? I think there are degrees of depth in all subjects, including theology and biblical studies. Perhaps the circle of evangelical pastors and lecturers prefer to stick with Grudem and Erickson.

Yes, Grudem is a reformed, but that doesn't mean he is authoritative over other reformed people. Reformed circles is very diverse. All the theologians I named in my previous comment are Reformed.

This is how Grudem summarize his own approach to systematic theology:

(1)Find all the relevant verses on a certain topic; (2) summarize the points made in the relevant verses; (3) Finally, the teachings of the various verses should be summarized into one or more points that the Bible affirms about that subject.(Systematic Theology, pg.35-37)

Grudem is genius and pragmatic? Anyone can be as genius and pragmatic by following his way. But when it comes to discussing other practical issue like cultural engagement, public-policy, bio-ethics, media, science etc, these methods don't offer much help.

If you want to go beyond Grudem and Erickson yet still reluctant to engage Barth and Pannenberg, I'll recommend Stanley Grenz's Theology for the Community of God (Published by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2000) for a start. :)

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Steven,

Instead of writing for and from different tier, I see Grudem, Erickson, Barth, and Pannenberg intend to expound Christian theology from different paradigm. Tier seems to give a picture of different level or strata while paradigm present a flatten field for all different approaches to contest.

And often Pannenberg (Barth's student) disagrees with Barth. So it's expected for Grudem and Erickson to have different conclusion with the former two.

er...I'm more theologically-inclined than biblical studies. The latter is always a handmaid. :)

不肖生 Sceptics said...

it is consensus by social study scholars that, christian spirituality meltdown in europe partly because of the protestant theologians'very chim theology, be it liberal, neo-orthodox or whatever la, by the turn of 20th century.haha!

but Catholicism continue to be vibrant faith because insulated from that bunch of people.

I am highly sceptical to these very chim people!

Barth once pastored in Swiss village church,actully no one understood him and he got bad experience pastoring there with his chim theology...

just beware la, "theology-inclined-critical tier-paradigm" folks...

Sze Zeng said...

Hi 不肖生 Sceptics

Which social studies is that that says the "christian spirituality meltdown in europe partly because of the protestant theologians'very chim theology"? Will appreciate for the reference.

And which sources say that Barth was unintelligible to his congregation and had bad experience as pastor?

Eberhard Busch, Barth's ex-colleague and one of his most authoritative interpreter, has stated otherwise.

Highly skeptical of 'chim' people? God is super 'chim', more 'chim' than all theologians combined. So my guess is that u are skeptical of God too.

不肖生 Sceptics said...

Hi Szezeng,

I purposely dont provide you with the reference. haha!

one day soon, you discover yourself or friends like steven sim tell you, then suddenly, you realise, Sceptics also is very chim...ha!

of cos, when I say , consensus, that means widely accepted saying, so I am sure, soon you will find out..ha!

Sze Zeng said...

Hi 不肖生 Sceptics

I don't find that hilarious especially when it comes to alleging a person in the negative way.

"Sceptics" very chim? Am I surprise? I don't. As I've wrote in response to davinci that all subjects has its degrees of depth.

"Consensus" could also means your circle of exposure and not being the general case as well.

davinci said...

Hi Szezeng,

you said that, the chim theologians can deal with the cultural, ethical issues, not Grudem.

I dispute this.

all these chim theologians, seminar talk on such issues only, but basically the secular people ignore them , treating them irrelevant, with principles from the bible which considered dogmatic.

NUS philo dept got its strength in ethics study with secular principle. They seem in the front line now.

EG: No any chim theologian can solve the issue of homosexuality without not having to just claim that ;" this is forbidden by the bible.."

as for the non-christians secularism, who care about what bible forbids..???

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

It's fine and you may dispute all you want given your bias over certain theologians. But dismissing the ongoing theological contribution in public issues is not your call to make given your unfamiliarity with the theological scene.

Not that I'm an expert in theology, but at least I think I'm more expose to it and hence I can't make such sweeping claim that u made.

davinci said...

yes, szezeng...

I agree that you are more exposed than I do, to contemporary theology. I cant dispute this.

In fact, I sm so surprised to encounter such guy like you, of your generation.

In fact, you are even more exposed than Stephen Tong does...haha! Not funny, but seriously..

Sze Zeng said...

Hi davinci,

There are others who are way beyond me as well!

Just to give one example. It was a Lutheran theologian Frederick Nolde who served as the principal architect of United Nations Declaration of the Human Rights.

Not sure if Wayne Grudem or Millard Erickson mention this theologian in their book. They could have, and I just missed it while reading them.