All posts by Matt

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to my wife Kate, and a father to my two sons Jonathan and Jacob. I serve as Professor of New Testament Studies at Grace College and Theological Seminary.

Help for a Classical Music Neophyte

Although I enjoy classical music, I am woefully ignorant about it. At this point, my knowledge and exposure is pretty limited to Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Tchaikovsky and Bach, but even my exposure to them is rather rudimentary. So I am turning to others to assist me in expanding my classical music horizons. The recent gift of a 60GB video IPod as a graduation gift has fueled my desire to expand my classical music library, so what suggestions do those of you who have more knowledge than me ( = just about anybody) for where to begin adding to my collection?

The Role of Faith in Politics & Society

Andrew Sullivan writes an interesting piece on the intersection between Christianity and political involvement. In light of our recent post on 1 Peter 2:13-17 (see below) and the God-ordained role of government to restrain/punish evil and praise the good, how do you evaluate Sullivan’s argument?

NOTE: I would be particularly interested in the perspective of our readers who are outside of the U.S., as I am guessing they might have some particularly helpful observations that Americans at times may be blind to.

Blogging Hiatus

This weekend is graduation for me here at Wheaton, and with all of the family and friends in town to celebrate, I will be unable to post anything again until at least Monday. I will, however, occasionally check in and see what’s going on, so please feel free to continue posting comments. Have a blessed weekend.

Drama of Scripture: Act 2 – Rebellion in the Kingdom

This morning I read Act 2 – Rebellion in the Kingdom in Drama of Scripture. Given the title of the chapter I expected to find rebellion against God as the central motif in the chapter, but was surprised that the word rebellion did not occur anywhere in the chapter. To be sure, the term mutiny is used. But the central term that emerges is autonomy, defined as “choosing oneself as the source for determining what is right and wrong, rather than relying on God’s word for direction” (43).

While not in any way denying that autonomy is an excellent way of expressing Adam and Eve’s sin, I guess I was anticipating more discussion of the fall in terms of God’s vice-regents / stewards rebelling against their commission from Gen 1:26-31 and instead asserting their own authority to rule as they saw fit (which is certainly an expression of autonomy.

This relates to a second observation. Great emphasis is placed on the horizontal dimensions of sin, and although the vertical dimensions of sin are mentioned (and even described as fundamental), the amount of discussion of the horizontal effects of sin has the subtle of effect of making them seem more important. Related to this is the very brief and almost in passing reference to God’s judgment on Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the ground, something I would have liked to see more discussion of. One of the things that Gen 3 clearly highlights is that as his creation we are responsible / accountable to God, and I think establishing that fact as early in the story as possible is very important.

Final observation – given the importance of this act for the entire storyline I was a little surprised that it only received four pages; I would have expected and hoped for more.

Of course, I should mark these comments as provisional, subject to revision as I continue through the book. Perhaps these are lines developed as the book progresses, and I am aware that one cannot do everything in a book this size. But I wanted to get some initial thoughts out there. So what think you, esteemed readers?

1 Peter 2:13-17

In the weekly Bible study that I lead, I am teaching through 1 Peter. This week I will teach through 2:13-17, a section that speaks about the Christian’s obligation to submit to government authorities and the place of government within God’s created order. One of the things that I always seek to do is trace the biblical-theological roots of the (or one of the) major themes in the passage. So with respect to tracing the biblical theological roots of the obligation to submit to government authorities and the role of government, what key passages would you draw upon and how would you trace them out? The obvious parallel is Rom 13:1-7 (though there are some differences between the two passages), but I’m thinking primarily of the OT and canonical roots.

I’ve already taken my stab at it, but I want to see your efforts before I share mine at some point. So, readers, how would you trace the biblical theological roots of submission to government authority?

Wheaton Ph.D. Program

Several of you have asked me to post on the Wheaton Ph.D. program that I am on the brink of finishing, and now seems like an appropriate time. The program itself is only 4 years old, and I will be the 3rd graduate from the program. It is designed as a hybrid between the standard North American program in which one does two full years of coursework and then a dissertation and the British model in which you move straight to dissertation work. The result is a requirement of about 1/2 to 1/3 the amount of coursework of a NA program, but an emphasis on beginning dissertation work immediately. The intention is for students to finish in 3-4 years.

Strengths – The quality of the mentors is top notch, as a glance at the website will show. The small size of the program (only 6 admitted each year; typically 2 each in OT, NT, & systematics) means focused attention from your mentor and a close knit community within the program. It also enables Wheaton to fully fund your tuition and offer an $8,000/yr stipend in return for about 8 hrs/wk of work for a professor. On that front, it may be the best deal in evangelicalism. There is a strong emphasis on integration across the disciplines, and in the admissions process they look for dissertation ideas that focus in one area but significantly interact with other disciplines as well. In particular this program is establishing a reputation for doing work on the use of the OT in the NT.

Potential Drawbacks – In addition to it being difficult to get in, the attempt to be hybrid between NA and British models can result in feeling a bit squeezed at times. They are still working through some of these issues, and because it is a new program they are still working through various issues in the program. The stipend is guaranteed for only three years, though there is the possibility of getting it extended for a fourth year. Something else to consider is that since the program is almost brand new, it is hard to know how a Ph.D. from Wheaton is perceived within the academy when searching for a job. I have yet to hear anything negative, butw who knows what is said behind closed doors.

Advice – If you are interested in learning more about studying at Wheaton, feel free to ask questions here or email me. I would recommend making contact with the particular professor you might be interested in studying under here at Wheaton and discussing potential dissertation topics to see what catches their interest.

In sum, I think Wheaton is one of the premiere Ph.D. programs within evangelicalism, and if you are interested in doing doctoral work, this is a place you need to consider.

Together for the Gospel

The past few days I was at the Together for the Gospel Conference, and I imagine that others who read this blog were there as well. I may have other posts on this conference, but I wanted to begin with a very open ended post to give those who were there a chance to comment on the conference. What were its strengths and/or weaknesses? Favorite speaker or message?

NOTE: Tim Challies has detailed notes from the various sessions at T4G for those who couldn’t attend or need a refresher on all that was said. Thanks, Tim.

Recommended Resource: New Dictionary of Biblical Theology

This dictionary was published by IVP back in 2000, edited by T. Desmond Alexander, Brian S. Rosner, D.A. Carson, and Graeme Goldsworthy. The subtitle is “Exploring the Unity & Diversity of Scripture” and it does just that. With approximately 125 contributors that span the spectrum theologically and internationally, this dictionary is a helpful resource that is divided into three parts.
Part One: Introduction contains articles on foundational issues in biblical theology such as exegesis and hermeneutics, NT use of OT, relationship of OT to NT, canon, systematic theology & biblical theology, and even preaching and biblical theology. These articles provide a substantive but generally accessible entry point into biblical theology and its relationship to other aspects of theology.
Part Two: Biblical Corpa and Books has articles on major sections of the canon such as Genesis to Kings, the prophetic books, etc., followed by entries on each individual Biblical book. In these articles the contributors attempt to identify key themes within the specific biblical book itself as well as indicate how the specific themes of a book contribute to the larger canonical presentation of that theme.
Part Three: Themes contains articles that trace key themes throughout Scripture (e.g. Adam, exile, Jerusalem, Law, sin, suffering, wilderness).

Every entry concludes with a very short bibliography for further reading (at times I wish these were longer).

As with any dictionary, the quality of individual entries can vary, but by and large the articles are well-written and helpful starting points. Consequently this is an excellent resource for any who are actively engaged in the study and teaching of Scripture and want to understand how the parts relate to the whole.

The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 records the Transfiguration of Jesus in front of Peter, James and John (cp. Mark 9:1-13). During that transfiguration Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain with Jesus (17:3). What is the biblical-theological significance of their appearance? And why Moses and Elijah? How does their appearance contribute to our understanding of who Jesus is?

HINT: There is a LOT that could be discussed here; feel free to explore any and all of those possibilities.