Angles on the Atonement

I have chosen, in prayer (of course) during Lent and approaching Easter Sunday, to preach through different angles on the atonement, or what academia calls, models or theories. We mustn’t be confused by how the idea of “theories” is being used here. It is not a way to shoe-horn in a text into an abscure or concocted formula, but rather, a working method or structure for how to legitimately view a biblical text.

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Why Trinity?

“Most orthodox Christians claim to be “biblical” in doctrine yet also “Trinitarian”. Many share the view expressed by Whitely and by Kelly that the Pauline texts embody “traces of a Trinitarian ground-plan”. It is certainly the case that Paul unambiguously expresses the Christian belief in one God (1 Cor. 8:6), and that in many passages, both associations and distinctions are drawn between God as Father, Christ as Lord, and the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:14; Rom 8:11, 14-16; Col. 1:15).

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Biblical Theology – by BW III

The whole house shook as the package hit the floor with a resounding thud!  In a few months I am teaching a module to undergraduates in Biblical Theology, and I could think of no better resource to add to my own notes and books from teaching in previous years, than this beautiful beast of a book by the great theologian Ben Witherington III.  His 2019 published work is called, ‘BIBLICAL THEOLOGY – The Convergence of the Canon’ and rocks up at nearly 500 pages!!

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A Pentecost Sermon: Uniting Some Biblical Strands


“When the Day of Pentecost arrived…”

Pentecost….from the Gk meaning 50th.  50th what?

50th day after Passover.

In the OT it is called The Feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

A national holiday of rest, offering and celebration of the harvest (Lev. 23).


Now that’s interesting.

On the day of rest and offering and celebration:

On the one hand liberation and exodus from tyranny in Egypt.

On the other, the first fruits of the harvest in field and herd in the land.


The disciples were all together, 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection;

Just a few days after Jesus had ascended to the Father (Acts 1).

With final instructions to bear witness to Jesus, here, there and everywhere (Acts 1:8).

OK, Ok, but first they needed to replace Judas; and Mathias became an apostle.

What did Jesus mean when he said we would be clothed with power? 

Anyway, until then….

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Women in Ministry

I am going to do some personal research of a biblical theology of women in ministry.

Why is the church struggling, in some quarters, to come to terms with this great egalitarian-complimentarian divide?  I for one am tired of the way this hurts churches and seems to limit ministry potential in so many women.

I’ve already revealed my preference (bias?), but so what!  Why should I, and who am I, to limit the ministry and giftings of women who are born to teach biblical truth and sound doctrine?  What notion of patriarchy do we inhabit when we fail to ‘fan into flame’ the gifts of God so evident in many godly women.

hush-womanAbove is a picture with text I for one find insulting to humanity!  Below is an outline of where I would like to go.  They are discussion points and areas of particular study necessary for exegesis to trump eisegesis (although this comment in no way is meant to undermine a complimentarian view that has been thought out; my point is simply to counter the infantile notion that claims “that’s what the bible says” as though anything that counters it clearly isn’t taking the Bible seriously.  This study, as the outline below shows, focuses on a biblical theology of women; historical, contextual and grammatical detail, as well as applying this study to the contemporary church today.

The categories and questions are:

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Doing Theology


Theology is the most amazing subject, and one of the most misunderstood.  It can relate to the entire discipline of religious studies, but Christian theology is more specifically the study of what the Scriptures say.  This is not minimalism, since this study includes exegesis, historical criticism, careful analysis of method and epistemology, and then comes the careful presentation of this.  Theology can thus be defined like this:  disciplined discourse about God.  This discourse is fully and finally constrained by the Bible.


Exegesis is the study and work carried out on the final form of the text which is considered as an integral and self-referring literary object.  It includes, but is not limited to parsing, word study, and syntax at various levels (clause, sentence, discourse, genre) while being attentive to literary features and the running argument. The running argument is the idea that the task of the exegete is never complete.  One can study a text using all the skill and tools available, and get to the end of the text and be satisfied, and in this sense it is complete, but the self-referential nature of the authority of Scripture means that an ‘end’ is never achieved, since it is God’s ever speaking Word to us through all generations.  It is because there is always something to discover in God Himself, that there is likewise a never-ending discovery awaiting the careful reader of the Bible.

Biblical Theology

There are about six competing definitions of Biblical Theology, which make it quite hard to define.  However, Biblical Theology may inductively focus on the whole Bible or select biblical corpora.  It certainly involves a salvation-historical study of the biblical texts; this is the understanding and exposition of the texts along their chronological line of development – this aspect of Biblical Theology is vital for preachers today in a age of almost total biblical illiteracy.  Five elements are essential to Biblical Theology:  1.   It reads the Bible as an historically developing collection of documents.  2.  It presupposes a coherent and agreed canon.  3.  It presupposes a profound willingness to work inductively from the text – from individual books and from the canon as a whole.  Its task is to deploy categories and pursue an agenda set by the text itself.  4.  It clarifies the connections among the corpora, i.e. it is committed to intertextual study, because Biblical theology, at its most coherent, is a theology of the Bible.   5.  Ultimately and ideally, Biblical Theology will call all people to a knowledge of the living God.  In other words, it does not stop with the Bible’s structure, corpus thought, storyline, or synthetic thought; it must in a sense, capture the experiential, the existential element.

Biblical Theology focuses on the turning points of the Bible’s storyline, and its most pivotal concern is tied to the use of the Old Testament in the New.  All Christians must read the Old as filtered through the New.  Old and New Testaments are subsets of Biblical Theology, which forms the whole.

Historical Theology

Historical Theology is the written record of exegetical and theological opinions in periods earlier than our own, a kind of parallel to the diversity of exegetical and theological opinions that are actually current.  It is what is known as the diachronic study of theology, the study of the changing face of theology across time.

Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology is Christian theology with a systematic internal structure.  This means it is organised on atemporal principles of logic, order, and need, rather than on inductive study of discrete biblical corpora.  This is why it can address broader concerns in Theology.  Thus Don Carson can say, “It is not merely inductive study of the Bible, though it must never lose such controls, but it seeks to be rigorously systematic and is therefore concerned about how various parts of God’s gracious self-disclosure cohere… The questions it poses are atemporal… the focal concerns are logical and hierarchical, not salvation-historical.”

Some people cheaply knock Systematic Theology, which is foolish.  The issue is not whether it is legitimate, the issue is the quality of one’s Systematic Theology reflected in its foundational data, constructive methods, principles for excluding certain information, appropriately expressive language, and logical, accurate results.  Ultimately, Systematics must be controlled by the biblical data and be aware of going beyond how various truths and arguments function in Scripture, not least because a number of fundamental Christian beliefs involves huge areas of unknown, such as the Incarnation, Trinity, and God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.  It is precisely because the Bible has a unity that Systematics is necessary.

Who Needs Theology?

Theology is the most exciting thing on the planet, no, the universe, no even that’s too small.  Theology is amazing because God Himself is amazing.  I heartily recommend the book ‘Who Needs Theology? An Invitation to the Study of God’ by Stanley Grenz and Roger Olsen as a great place to start.  It will even make you laugh – who says theology wasn’t fun?  My thanks for the above to Andy Naselli, who has worked closely with Dr Don Carson over many years.  You have made theology exciting to me, and I hope the flame burns bright in others.

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