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A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma...

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    Judged by a Jury of Peers: How Much Repentance Is Enough?

    Judged by a Jury of Peers: How Much Repentance Is Enough?

    Depends who you ask, of course. But truth be told, no one really asks this question. Repentance just isn’t thought of as a quality which has shades of meaning; either one repents or one doesn’t, and there is nothing in-between. If there is a debate about repentance, it has to do with its definition. Is it a change of mind, as the etymology of the Greek might indicate (μετά-νοια, after-thought)? Or is it an abrupt and radical break with one’s past, a conscious walking in a new direction entirely? When has “hearty repentance and true faith” occurred? Is it real repentance…

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    A (Qualified) Defense of Narrative

    A (Qualified) Defense of Narrative

    This is a follow-up to a recent piece titled The World Is Not a Story (According to Paul)—offering the other side of the coin.

    Paul wasn’t much of a storyteller. For him, the advent of Christ was principally a revelation of something unforeseen at a human level. It was an invasion of liberation into an enslaved cosmos ruled by the powers of sin and death. This controlling metaphor of revelation colors his thought such that Scripture itself becomes not antecedent, horizontal events that set into motion a story, but prophetic testimony of God’s unconditioned, vertical intervention into the world.

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    The World Is Not a Story (According to Paul)

    The World Is Not a Story (According to Paul)

    The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and the world are not all they’re cracked up to be. However much we want to believe we live a coherent narrative, where the endless succession of events of life have clear meaning, the stories we tell are invariably based upon the (mistaken) premise that we have a grasp, or understanding, of how it is the world works and what the best outcome should be for the narrative of our lives. Yet there is an almost indescribable gap between the logic that shapes our choices and their ultimate outcomes, one that…

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    Modern Bible Wars: On Scripture, Authority, and the Law-Gospel Hermeneutic

    Modern Bible Wars: On Scripture, Authority, and the Law-Gospel Hermeneutic

    I didn’t live through the “Bible Wars” of the 20th century (thank God), but their effects still reverberate into the many debates today. Those who hold to scriptural authority, usually defined as inerrancy or divine inspiration, view it as a bulwark against the tendencies of mainline Protestantism to discard the witness of scripture in favor of what is deemed a moral and doctrinal relativism. Thus, the popular distinction between Bible-thumping conservatives and apostate liberals. If one is to believe the rhetoric of capital-E Evangelicalism, Scripture and doctrinal orthodoxy go hand-in-hand, and the loss of the Bible necessarily leads to…

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    Through Thick N' Thin: Imputation in Paul

    Through Thick N’ Thin: Imputation in Paul

    To survey much of theology and biblical scholarship nowadays, you’d think that “imputation”, or the idea that God gives/reckons a moral status of righteousness to the otherwise ungodly believer, is a passé relic of former ignorance. On the biblical studies side, N.T. Wright has made half of a career out of refuting imputation. Peppered throughout his otherwise circuitously Reformed theology (surprise!) are direct refutations and veiled damnations of this reformational doctrine. For Wright, imputation is a grave misunderstanding of Paul’s theology and aims; imputation is “mistaken” (Paul in Fresh Perspective, p. 25), “misleading”, “a straightforward category mistake” (Justification, p. 232),…

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    Is Jesus Really God?

    Is Jesus Really God?

    I’ve waded through the arguments and read the commentaries, and most scholars agree. When it comes to the question of the divinity of Jesus, it seems there is one, inescapable conclusion: Jesus isn’t God. Whoever you imagine God to be, Jesus isn’t him (or, if you prefer, her). The standard, unsatisfactory, argument goes something like this. The God of the universe created all things: the universe, stars, planets, all creatures great and small, humanity, and this fragile earth, our island home. God is infinitely powerful, infinitely present in all things, infinitely knowing of all things. Jesus, as it is said…

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    The Gospel of Inclusion? An Assessment

    The Gospel of Inclusion? An Assessment

    If you hang around certain circles of the church long enough, it’s hard to miss the central role the idea of “inclusion” plays in their daily life and theology. Everyone, it is said, is included in the community, a maxim usually contrasted with more judgmental versions of Christianity. This takes a number of forms, depending on the setting, ranging from the selection of leaders to the practice of open communion (the forgoing of baptism as a necessary prerequisite to receive). God accepts everyone, and perhaps the worst thing one can be today is exclusive, a label that harkens back to…

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    Law and Gospel in Luther and Paul

    Law and Gospel in Luther and Paul

    You may not have heard, but the 500th anniversary of the unofficial start of the Protestant Reformation happened recently. Praise of Luther and his theology took my Twitter feed by storm as every theology nerd weighed in on the merits of Luther and the significance of the Reformation. This post aims to assess one of Luther’s central themes—his theology of Law and Gospel—and the relative value of his reading of Paul. Some find a great deal to appreciate about Luther’s reading of Paul, while others find less textual support.

    The Law and the Gospel, for Luther, constitute the two realms…

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