Part One: The Heresy and Mischief of LIMITED ATONEMENT by David Bentley Hart

•2011/03/30 • Leave a Comment

Re: Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov and the mischief of limited atonement by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

The moral rationality of Ivan’s rebellion remains entirely unassailable, however, when it is set against those forms of theological fatalism that, having failed to understand the difference between primary and secondary – or transcendent and immanent – causality, defame the love and goodness of God out of a servile and unhealthy fascination with his ‘dread sovereignty.”

The crude and unapologetic “double predistinarianism…’ could scarcely be any better evidence of what mischief can be worked upon theological thinking when the difference between primary and secondary causality is forgotten then the heresy of “limited atonement,’ which has so dreadfully disfigured certain streams of Reformed thought.

The doctrine, of course, completely contradicts Scripture: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

And proponents of the doctrine that all biblical statements of God’s universal will to salvation in fact refer only to his will for the elect is entirely incongruent with the language of 1 Timothy 2:4, which clearly states that God desires that “all human beings [pantas anthropous] should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”

At its most unfortunate, this exaggerated adoration of God’s sheer omnipotence can yield conclusions as foolish as Calvin’s assertion, in Book III of the Institutes, that God predestined the fall of man so as to show forth his greatness in both the salvation and the damnation of those he has eternally preordained to their several fates.

One wonders, indeed, if a kind of reverse Prometheanism does not lurk somewhere within such a theology, a refusal on the part of the theologian to be a creature, a desire rather to be dissolved into the infinite fiery flood of God’s solitary and arbitrary act of will. In any event, such a God, being nothing but will willing itself, would be no more than an infinite tautology – the sovereignty of glory displaying itself in the glory of sovereignty – and so infinite banality.

This is why I say that, within Ivan’s arraignment of God’s design in creation, on can hear the suppressed but still prophetic voice of a deeper, truer, more radical and revolutionary Christianity. [Further] Christ has overthrown those principalities that rule without justice and in defiance of charity, and has cast out the god of this world; and we are free (even now, in this mortal body) from slavery to arbitrary power, from fear of hell’s dominion, and from any superstitious subservience to fate. And this is the holy liberty – THE GOSPEL – that lies hidden but active in the depths of Ivan’s rebellion.

(89 – 92) David Bentely Hart

The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? by David Bentley Hart

•2011/03/29 • Leave a Comment

The cross of Christ is not, after all, simply an eternal validation of pain and death, but their overthrow. If all the tribulations of this world were to be written off as calculably necessary contributions to redemption – part of the great “balance” of things – then Christ’s sacrifice would not be a unique saving act so much as the metaphysical ground for the universe of “sacrifice,” wherein suffering and death are part of the sublime and inevitable fabric of finitude; and divine providence would be indistinguishable from fate. (80)

It makes a considerable difference, however – nothing less than our understanding of the nature of God is at stake – whether one says that God has eternally willed the history of sin and death, and all that comes to pass therein, as the proper or necessary means of achieving his ends – OR – whether one says instead that “God has willed his good in creatures from eternity and will bring it to pass, despite their rebellion, by so ordering all things toward his goodness” that even evil (which he does not cause) becomes an occasion of the operations of grace. It is only the latter view that can accurately be called a doctrine of ‘providence’ in the properly theological sense; the former view is mere determinism (82).

If it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God (87)


University of Wales, Trinity Saint David (Lampeter) — Religion and Theology Department ranked in top 10 for 2011

•2011/03/21 • 2 Comments
Rank Institution Student Satisfaction Research Assessment Entry Standards Graduate Prospects Overall Score
1 Oxford 4.43 2.90 523 80 100.0
2 Cambridge 4.09 2.90 507 85 99.5
3 Durham 4.15 3.00 445 80 97.3
4 St Andrews 4.47 2.65 426 80 96.9
5 Edinburgh 3.89 2.75 459 75 95.2
6 Aberdeen 4.36 2.95 327 75 93.8
7 Glasgow 4.05 2.30 363 80 92.9
8 Nottingham 4.03 2.75 381 70 92.6
9 King’s College London 4.00 2.70 423 65 92.5
10 Lampeter 4.15 2.30 292 85 92.4

Love Wins: The Review

•2011/03/12 • 23 Comments

Let me say at the outset, this book simply does not promote universalism. In Love Wins Rob Bell chooses heaven, God.

Though one might wonder if Rob Bell is universalist, this book does not suggest he is, because THAT is not the point.

The point of this book is to construct a theology of love, or another way to put it, a theology of God. While much of Rob’s teaching comes across as deconstructive — it only is that because he is telling an alternative story. A story of Jesus, that same Jesus, but one where God’s wrath is NOT poured out upon humanity. God is not about wrath toward us, only toward evil and brokenness. We are loved by the sustainer of the cosmos, no matter what.

By no means is this book academic or intended to be. Countless groups are going to critically evaluate the ‘ideas’ they ‘think’ they see in Rob’s message. But let me say this again, the point is NOT about Rob Bell being a universalist — it’s just not the point. The point is that God’s love wins out, no matter what.

The most interesting part of this book for me is Rob’s understanding that heaven and hell begin now, and they continue.

So, if heaven and hell continue, universalism is not the point of this book. This book portrays God’s love as free and freeing.

Love Wins because we are free to choose heaven and hell, for eternity. The questions left open in this book are not the ones the book is intending to answer. I’m sorry, if you don’t get that — then you don’t get the book. That’s just how it is my friends. This book answers YES to you and me, even when we think we’re not worth it. Even when the Calvinists have made us feel like themselves (that is, utterly depraved). God, in Christ, has already rewritten your story and mine, because Love Wins.

All we have to do is live into it!

The choosing never stops — we can choose hell or heaven — forever.

In a series he taught several years ago, Rob suggested that the “flames of heaven are hotter than the flame of hell.” This book, Love Wins, is the culmination of several teachings, teachings in which he also suggested that “grace pays the bill.” So, the fundy’s will cry because they’ve lost a bit of their grasp on the gates of hell, but Love Wins — so they have to let go.

Evangelicalism is moving beyond fundamentalism, in the theological sense, because it is rediscovering Jesus as the evangelion, the good news. And remember, the point, is that the good news is not ‘freedom from God’s wrath.’ He doesn’t intend to pour out wrath on you and me and everybody else. Love destroys evil. Love went to hell and back, that is, Jesus went to hell and back. Back, because love won — resurrection is life, winning.

What I’m left with is this. The good news is for everyone — some want it, some live into it, some aren’t sure — but it will always be available, it doesn’t end…and maybe…just maybe…more and more will enter into the loving goodness of God, here and now and forever.

University of Wales Trinity Saint David Receives Royal Approval

•2010/07/26 • Leave a Comment

At the Privy Council meeting held at Buckingham Palace yesterday, 21st July 2010, Her Majesty The Queen, on the recommendation of the Privy Council, approved an Order granting a Supplemental Charter to the University of Wales Lampeter, and directed the Lord Chancellor to apply the Great Seal to the Charter.

This Charter will lead to the establishment of a new University to serve the needs of Wales and the higher education sector in the UK. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David brings together the strengths of University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College Carmarthen. This is an historical event which brings together the two oldest academic institutions in Wales to create a radical new model of post-16 education in the region.

Dr Medwin Hughes, Vice-Chancellor, said “This is history in the making. We bring together the two oldest University institutions in Wales, Lampeter established in 1822 and Trinity in 1848. Our new University will be entrusted with the oldest Royal Charter given to any university in England and Wales, apart from Oxford and Cambridge. The University of Wales Trinity Saint David will offer for Wales a new civic university, which will be appropriate for the needs of the nation as it re-defines the role of civic institutions for the 21st Century.

“We acknowledge £14.3 million grant that we have received from the Welsh Assembly Government to establish this institution. This is a clear indication of the confidence and commitment the Welsh Assembly Government has in the vision of the importance of furthering higher education in South West Wales. Over the next few years, this funding will secure the transformational change of both Lampeter and Carmarthen. We have already started on multi-million pounds capital developments which provide first class facilities for students and staff.”

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David will welcome its first students in September.

University of Wales Trinity St David (Photo: Copyright 2010 Independent Ltd)

SBL – Provisional Schedule

•2010/06/19 • Leave a Comment

Here is my provisional schedule based upon a first look through the sections at SBL 2010.


Institute for Biblical Research
6:45 PM to 10:00 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Annual Lecture and Reception

Annual Lecture: N. T. Wright
Lee McDonald, Acadia Divinity College, Welcome (5 min)
Hélène Dallaire, Denver Seminary, Scripture Reading and Prayer (5 min)
Craig Keener, Palmer Theological Seminary, Introduction (5 min)
N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
The Kingdom and the Cross (45 min)
Michael Bird, Crossway College, Respondent (20 min)
N. T. Wright, Church of England, Respondent (5 min)
Discussion (15 min)
Reception hosted by InterVarsity


Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: History, Historicisms, and Theological Interpretation

Michael Gorman, Saint Mary’s Seminary and University, Presiding (5 min)
Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, Eastern University
The Quest for the Historical Leviathan: Truth and Method in Biblical Studies (30 min)
Joel B. Green, Fuller Theological Seminary
Rethinking “History” for Theological Interpretation (30 min)
Matthew Levering, University of Dayton
Augustine’s Theology of History (30 min)
Jeannine Brown, Bethel Theological Seminary (St. Paul, MN), Respondent (15 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Christian Theology and the Bible
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Patristic Interpretation of Genesis 1-3

George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary, Presiding
Peter Martens, Saint Louis University
Origen’s Doctrine of Pre-Existence in its Exegetical and Heresiological Contexts (25 min)
George Kalantzis, Wheaton College (Illinois)
“‘Did God Plant a Garden in the Manner of a Farmer?’ Divine / Human Relationship in Origen.” (25 min)
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, St John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT 06511
Augustine and the Role of Scripture in Christian Formation: Genesis 1-3 (25 min)
Thomas Holsinger-Friesen, Spring Arbor University
“Never Did Adam Escape the Hands of God”: Irenaeus’ Vision of Genesis 2:7 (25 min)
R. W. B. Moberly, Durham University, Respondent (25 min)
Discussion (25 min)


Romans through History and Cultures
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Reconciliation and Peace in Romans

Kathy Ehrensperger, University of Wales, Lampeter (Trinity St.David), Presiding
Jason A. Whitlark, Baylor University
Peace with God and the Pax Deorum: Hearing Romans 5:1 in Rome (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Matthew W. Bates, University of Notre Dame
The Proto-Creed in Rom 1:3-4—A tool of reconciliation?: Evaluating the Proposal of Robert Jewett (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Ralph J. Korner, McMaster University
Making Room for Sacred Space in Jewish – Christian Reconciliation (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Soham Al-Suadi, University of Basel
Placing Christian Origins into the Ordinary – The Hellenistic Meal and the “Birth of Christianity“ (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)
Edward Pillar, University of Wale, Lampeter (Trinity St David)
“The Reconciliation of the World”: Exploring how Paul’s Expansive Vision for Israel and the Gentiles Counters and Subverts Pretensions of the Empire (25 min)
Discussion (5 min)

Theological Hermeneutics of Christian Scripture
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Reading Isaiah as Christian Scripture

Thomas Holsinger-Friesen, Spring Arbor University, Presiding (5 min)
Mark S. Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
Singing Women and Promised Seed: Isaiah 54:1-3 as Christian Scripture (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Katie M. Heffelfinger, Church of Ireland Theological Institute
A Word Returning: The Word of God in Isaiah 55 (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
Geth Allison, Vance-Granville Community College
Jesus, Isaiah, and the Day of the Lord: the Christology of Isaiah 13 (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)
David Kneip, Univ. of Notre Dame/Abilene Christian Univ.
The Spirit, the Sacraments, and Sanctification in Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on Isaiah (25 min)
Discussion (10 min)


Book Review: Joseph Mangina, Revelation, in Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2010)
4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Ryan Hansen, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Presiding
Kathryn Greene-McCreight, St John’s Episcopal Church, New Haven, CT 06511, Panelist (15 min)
Richard B. Hays, Duke University, Panelist (15 min)
Nathan Kerr, Trevecca Nazarene Universit, Panelist (15 min)
Joseph Mangina, Wycliffe College, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (25 min)
Business Meeting (30 min)

Following the panel, we will discuss proposing a new program unit under the theme, “Explorations in Theology and Apocalyptic,” in which biblical scholars and theologians might explore how apocalyptic has shaped Christian theology in the NT and throughout history, and how it might shape contemporary Christian theology.

SBL Members’ Reception
8:30 PM to 10:00 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
John Kutsko, Society of Biblical Literature, Presiding


SBL Student Members’ Reception
10:00 PM to 11:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD



Paul and Scripture
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: The Place of Scripture in Paul’s Theology

G. K. Beale, Westminster Theological Seminary, Presiding
Matthew Bates, University of Notre Dame
How Do We Judge What Role Scripture Played in Paul’s Theology? (10 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Linda Belleville, Bethel College
Scripture and Other Voices in Paul’s Theology (10 min)
Discussion (30 min)
Break (10 min)
Roy E. Ciampa, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Approaching Paul’s Use of Scripture in Light of Translation Studies (10 min)
Discussion (50 min)

Papers will be summarized, not read. Papers will be available for download in early November on the seminar’s Web page at

Society for Pentecostal Studies
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Review of John R. Levison, “Filled with the Spirit” (Eerdmans, 2009)

James Shelton, Oral Roberts University, Presiding
Roger Stronstad, Summit Pacific College, Panelist (15 min)
Max Turner, Panelist (15 min)
Robby Waddell, Panelist (15 min)
John R. “Jack” Levison, Seattle Pacific University, Respondent (30 min)
Discussion (20 min)
Discussion (40 min)


Exile (Forced Migrations) in Biblical Literature
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Problems in 2 Kings 24-25: North American Insights

John Ahn, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Presiding
Gary N. Knoppers, Pennsylvania State University, University Park
“Cast Out of His Presence”: The Depopulation of Jerusalem and Judah in Kings (30 min)
Baruch Levine, New York University
Reconciling 2 Kings 24-25 with Jeremiah: Preparing for the Judean Exile (30 min)
Robert R. Wilson, Yale University
The End of Preexilic Judah and the Sociology of Exile (30 min)
Marvin Sweeney, Claremont School of Theology
The Chronicler’s Debate with the Deuteronomistic History Concering the Question of Exile (30 min)
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary
2 Kings 24-25: A Theological Reflection on Theological Reflection (30 min)


Pauline Soteriology
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: The “Cosmos” in Paul’s Soteriology

Susan Eastman, Duke University, Presiding
Martin de Boer, Vrije Universiteit-Amsterdam
The Cross and The Cosmos in Galatians (40 min)
Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary
Neither Height nor Depth: Discerning the Cosmology of Romans (40 min)
Break (5 min)
Edward Adams, King’s College – London, Respondent (20 min)
Discussion (45 min)

Christian Theology and the Bible
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Book Review Panel of C. Kavin Rowe’s “World Upside Down: Reading Acts in the Graeco-Roman Age”

Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Presiding (10 min)
Beverly Gaventa, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist (25 min)
Robert Wall, Seattle Pacific University, Panelist (25 min)
Douglas Harink, Panelist (25 min)
Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Panelist (25 min)
Kavin Rowe, Duke University, Respondent (25 min)


Society of Christian Ethics
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: What Biblical Scholars Wish Christian Ethicists Would Start/Stop Doing with Scripture
Scholarship exploring the context, meaning, and reception of Scripture makes a foundational contribution to Christian ethics, but in this session, Scripture scholars have been invited to advise ethicists not just about how to read texts but about how to do ethics. Terence Fretheim and Stephen Fowl will offer their manifestos, to which Stanley Hauerwas will respond. Their ensuing dialogue will invite additional contributions from those attending.

Michael Cartwright, University of Indianapolis, Presiding (5 min)
Terence Fretheim, Luther Seminary, Panelist (30 min)
Stephen Fowl, Loyola College in Maryland, Panelist (30 min)
Stanley Hauerwas, Duke University, Panelist (30 min)
Discussion (55 min)

Disputed Paulines
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Colossians and Ephesians

Daniel Darko, University of Scranton, Presiding
Matthew E. Gordley, Regent University
Reading the Household Code of Colossians in its Contexts: A Critique and Proposal (30 min)
Ben C. Blackwell, Durham University
Deification and Colossians 2.10 (30 min)
April Favara, Iliff School of Theology/University of Denver
The Stoic Ethic of Perfect Manhood in Ephesians 4:13 (30 min)
Aaron Sherwood, Durham University
A Discourse Analysis of Ephesians 3:1–13 (30 min)
Discussion (30 min)

Bible and American Popular Culture
4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Graphic novels / Comic Books / Comic Book Characters (movies)

Linda Schearing, Gonzaga University, Presiding
Karl N. Jacobson, Augsburg College
“But these words are drawn so that you may come to believe…,” the Bible according to Siku (30 min)
Grant Macaskill, University of St Andrews, Scotland
Better to Rule in Hell? Lucifer and Hell in Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman.” (30 min)
Phil Quanbeck II, Augsburg College
Nothing Left Out!: The Interaction of Text, Illustration and Popular Culture in R. Crumb’s “Genesis.” (30 min)
Robert Mason, Claremont Graduate University
The Batman’s Use of Malchus’s Cave Summary (30 min)
Business Meeting (30 min)


Christian Theology and the Bible
9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Room TBD – Hotel TBD
Theme: Theological Interpretation of Acts

D. Christopher Spinks, Wipf & Stock Publishers, Presiding
Mark Bowald, Redeemer University College
Narrative Christology and the Interpretation of Scripture: The Hermeneutical Gravity of The Lordship of Christ in the Speeches of Acts (20 min)
Douglas A. Hume, Pfeiffer University
Reading, Community, and the Wilderness Road (20 min)
Geth Allison, Vance-Granville Community College
Jesus, Justice, and the Day: Paul’s Christology in Acts 17:31 (20 min)
Michael W. McGowan, Claremont Graduate University
Pentecost in Theological Perspective: The Acts of Apostles in Tillich’s Ecclesiology (20 min)

Some recent reading…

•2010/05/31 • Leave a Comment