Questions for 2015 image

Questions for 2015

At the end of each year I look back and discover, with some joy, that I've had a number of questions answered. Many of them are aired on this blog: How do paedobaptists argue for their position? What does it mean to be a man, as opposed to a woman, biblically speaking? Is limited atonement biblical? Should a Christian join the marines? What is "food offered to idols", why is it prohibited so forcefully in the New Testament, and why does nobody seem to notice? How literally should we take the commands concerning herem warfare in Joshua? And so on.

But I also want to look forward to the questions I’m hoping to have answered in 2015. Priorities may change; these may well not be the questions I actually spend lots of time looking into this year. At the moment, though, here are five things I want to get my head round in the next twelve months.

1. A theology of children. I’ve thought for a while that, whilst credobaptists have a better theology of baptism, paedobaptists have a better theology of children. Consistency is hard to find: many of us (baptists) treat our children as believers in the way we teach them to pray, read the Bible, apply biblical promises to their lives, thank God for forgiveness, and experience the gifts of the Spirit, yet treat them as unbelievers in the way we postpone the Lord’s Supper, church membership and especially baptism. I want to give some time in the next few months to thinking through this very muddled situation (no doubt with the help of some insightful friends and scholars!)

2. Clarity about poverty. What is poverty, biblically speaking? At a staff coffee time recently, we reflected that when you read through the whole Bible, one of the things that strikes you is its repeated emphasis on serving the poor - the Bible talks more about poverty and justice, and less about quite a few other things, than we might expect. But who are the poor, today? Assuming we’re going to be selling our possessions and giving to them, and spending ourselves on behalf of them, and devoting ourselves to defending our cause, and remembering them, and so on: who are they? Biblically, is the current trend for understanding poverty in a multifaceted way (wealth, opportunity, education, social context, spirituality, etc) correct? How do the scriptures present “the poor”? Should our understanding be the same? Why / why not?

3. Warnings and assurances. The relationship (tension?) between biblical warnings and assurances has been an ongoing question for me over (at least) five years, because it has been the main topic of my PhD research in 1 Corinthians, but this year, I hope to answer it! I’m planning to submit in 2015, which means I may go a bit quiet here for a while. It also means, though, that various strands of what I’ve been writing may get unceremoniously dumped here from time to time. Sorry about that.

4. Antinomianism. I’ve never given antinomianism much thought: I’ve assumed that you know it when you see it (“let’s go on sinning, that grace may abound!”) But discussions about the third use of the law, free grace, hypergrace and the like have convinced me that I need to (at least) understand what antinomianism is, historically speaking, and to have a slightly more nuanced view of what it means to be opposed to the law. If Merriam Webster is right in its definition of an antinomian - “one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation” - then an awful lot of popular evangelicalism is antinomian, and that’s something I should probably think/say/do something about.

5. Medieval Church History. I’ve just started Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts and the End of Slavery, and I’m enjoying it enormously, but it’s revealing just how little I know about Church history between 400 and 1500. I’m teaching on it this year, as part of the Catalyst Leadership Foundations course, so there’s a bit of an incentive to learn some more about it! I’m really looking forward to that.

I have a few other big questions simmering - the winners of the 2015 general election, what a truly charismatic liturgy might look like, and so on - but those are the main ones that, God willing, I’ll be looking into. As Danny DeVito puts it in LA Confidential, “when I know, dear readers, so will you.”

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