Regeneration. Justification. Sanctification. Glorification. These are all at least recognizable terms even for the theologically-unconcerned Christian. But how often do we think of adoption? Trevor J. Burke recognized that adoption is greatly neglected despite its profusion in Paul’s writings, and Adopted into God’s Family is his attempt to set things right.
Burke wisely begins by defining terms and surveying the territory. When adoption hasn’t been neglected, it has been misunderstood: often as synonymous with justification or regeneration. However, “Adoption describes aspects not found in any other of the above soteriological terms Paul uses…if adoption is important and distinct enough…[it] should occupy a more vital role in our theological reflection and understanding” (p28).
After discussing metaphor (ch 2), Burke surveys the potential background(s) that informed Paul’s doctrine of adoption; whether the Old Testament, Grecian law or Roman law (ch 3). Burke concludes that Paul viewed adoption primarily through the lens of Roman law with the OT playing a secondary role. Granted, the OT itself never says that Israel was adopted by God but considering Rom 9:4, it is surprising that Burke didn’t assign the OT more influence in Paul’s doctrine of adoption.
Next, since each member of the Trinity has a unique role in adoption, and rich chapters of exegesis are devoted to each (ch 4, 5, 6). The Father is the initiator and head of the household (Eph 1; Gal 4:1-7); the unique Son provides adoption to those united with Him, though not adopted Himself (Rom 1:3-4; Eph 1); and the Spirit – in one of the best chapters – assures us of our adoption and is evidence of the redemptive-historical change for God’s people receiving the full blessings of fully-grown adopted sons (Gal 3-4; Rom 7-8). Next, Burke examines the relationship between adoption and honor in the first century world, and how this plays out in Paul’s letters (ch 7): examples being that Paul uses familial language to describe his own role in the household of Christ (Rom 1:1), his relationship to other believers (Rom 1:13; 16:5, 8, 9, 23), and also rhetorically to overcome divisions (Rom 1:7, “our father”; 8:15). Lastly, the implications of adoption’s already/not-yet character are given its own excellent chapter (ch 8).
There are many things to commend in Adopted into God’s Family but I will begin with a few shortcomings. Burke excels at the “familial” aspect of adoption, but I believe that he missed important implications of our adoption: inheritance and rule.
Inheritance is linked with adoption in Romans 8:17. Burke rightly recognizes that “inheritance” in the OT refers to the promised land, but holds that for Paul, “the term takes on a different meaning rarely found in the Old Testament” (p97), with Roman law providing “a more suitable background” (p97). Whatever the Roman influence, I think Burke errs by stripping inheritance of its OT meaning, and reducing it to “inheriting” salvation and God Himself in some abstract sense. Space prohibits proper unpacking, but the OT and NT recognize that Abraham’s inheritance typologically points forward to the new creation (Rom 4:13; Heb 11:8-11; Matt 5:5) and adoption, sonship, inheritance and new creation are all wrapped up together (Gal 3:23-47, Rom 4:13-14, Rom 8:17-30). In other words, God’s adopted children do inherit “the land”: the new creation.
Rulership is also linked to adoption. While no NT text explicitly links “adoption” with rule on a word-level, thematically it is there: we are adopted as God’s sons! But Burke isolates Israel’s sonship as irrelevant to the discussion for being purely “redemptive” and “elective” and not familial (p71); however Paul surely considered adoption as resulting in sonship, so sonship in the OT is very relevant here. I would argue that various “sons of God” in the OT and NT have at least one thing in common: rule under God’s authority. Therefore, divinely-delegated rulership would also be a blessing of adoption. More detail on the nature of Jesus’ sonship could have helped here considering that the NT uses “son of God” primarily not in a divine-second-person-of-the-Trinity sense, but rather as royal/Messianic identification (Matt 16:16; 26:63; John 11:26). The Messiah is God’s ideal king and divinely-appointed ruler who will rule the earth (Ps 2; Ps 110) as Adam was commissioned to do. So in what sense are we “sons” like Jesus? One answer is in rulership. And since our sonship is obtained through union with Christ, then we too are being restored to the image of God (Rom 8:29) and will reign with Christ over the new creation (2 Tim 2:12; 1 Cor 3:22-23; 6:3; Rom 5:17)!
With the criticisms over, I can now wholeheartedly praise the book on all other counts. I will list the strengths briefly for brevity’s sake. First, Burke is unafraid to intermingle systematic and biblical theology. For example, he began by discussing systematic treatments of soteriology, and there was no apology for presupposing the Trinity and using it to structure his book! Some may be frustrated that he presupposes some systematic categories in a work of Biblical theology, but for me it was refreshing.
Second, Burke’s chapter on the social aspects of honor was unique and very insightful. This was the most surprising chapter in the book as it touched on a lot of areas, including Paul’s abundance of “family” language (brother, sister, father, son, even slave) and also provided a great basis for holiness: adopted children truly are sons, but still need to learn to “fit in” to the way the family does things. God wants there to be a family resemblance (Rom 8:29), and this is a good basis for further sanctification.
Third, a large chunk of the book is made up of exegesis both scholarly and pastoral. Burke is careful to let the texts speak for themselves, but also isn’t ashamed of allowing this book to be encouraging! Many scholars don’t find this easy (or enjoyable?) to do, but for Burke it comes naturally from the material. This is top-notch pastoral scholarship tightly bound to the text of Scripture. Read this book and you will have a hard time not rejoicing in God’s act of pure grace in adopting us as His blessed children.
Adopted into God’s Family is a deeply moving book. Even academic rigour and details can’t get in the way of such a rich topic! But Burke goes further; he allows wonder to come through in his own writing. It is clear that his study of adoption has impacted him and it’s contagious. Whilst maintaining my two perceived shortcomings, I’d highly recommend this work to anyone (pastor, student, teacher) interested in the theological depth found in Paul’s “adoption” language. It truly is a wonderful thing to be adopted into God’s family!
- Publisher: IVP (USA)
- Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT)
- Release Date: October 2006
- Paperback 237 pages
- ISBN: 978-0-8308-2623-0
- Read PDF excerpt
Did Paul dare to be a Daniel? If you’re expecting a sarcastic lambasting of that expression, then I’m sorry to disappoint (that will have to wait for another post!). Getting back to the question, Benjamin Gladd, professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, would answer “yes”; in in fact, in From Creation to New Creation Gladd goes even further and says that Paul consciously himself “as a Danielic figure…someone who wades in the stream of Danielic behaviour” (p272-3). As in, Paul saw himself much like Daniel and hinted at it in his letters.
In “Dare to be a Daniel” – the final chapter in From Creation to New Creation – Gladd makes his case as follows:
- Establishing the popularity of Daniel in Judaism and early Christianity
- Detailing two characters who identified themselves as Danielic figures (Josephus and Qumran’s Teacher of Righteousness)
- Two thematic connections between Paul and Daniel
- Two allusions in Paul’s writings to the book of Daniel
The former two points serve as supporting evidence, because if Daniel was a very popular figure and others identified with him then it is more likely that Paul did so too. The latter two points are where the real evidence lies, so I’ll summarize some of his points below.
Gladd highlights a few thematic similarities between Paul and Daniel, perhaps the most significant being their shared role of “declaring and administrating revealed mysteries or eschatological revelations” (p264). One would naturally identify the Apostle John with Daniel in this regard, but when we recognize the proliferation of mystery (μυστήριον) in Paul’s writings it is not so far fetched to see him in a similar light. Of the 28 occurrences of “mystery” in the New Testament, 21 come from Paul, and “scholars are in general agreement that the NT use of the term originates from apocalyptic Judaism, particularly Daniel” (p264). Daniel is the only OT character who receives and mediates “mysteries”, and Paul also sees himself as doing the same.
- “Mystery” in Daniel: Daniel 2:18, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 47
- “Mystery” in Paul: Rom 11:25; 16:25; 1 Cor 21:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 14:2; 15:51; Eph 1:9; 3:3, 9; 5:32; 6:19; Col 1:26; 2:2; 4:3; 2 Thess 2:7; 1 Tim 3:9, 16
we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory (1 Cor 2:7, NASB)
the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, 10 so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. (Eph 3:2-10)
Paul sees himself and the other apostles and prophets as having received the mystery of Christ and being charged with stewarding and announcing that mystery.
In addition to thematic similarities, Gladd highlights two allusions to Daniel in Paul’s writings.
Daniel 2:20-23 in the Greek (LXX) and Rom 11:33 contain very similar words and conceptual backgrounds, so much so that “Daniel’s praise becomes Paul’s…Paul alludes to the hymn of Dn 2 in order to underscore God’s unparalleled wisdom and power in his dealings with Israel” (p270).
The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is familiar even to those with little Biblical knowledge, and Paul appears to draw on it as well in 2 Tim 4:17. The same Greek words are present in both passages, and when 1 Maccabees 2:60 refers to Daniel, it uses the exact same 4-word Greek phrase as Paul. In addition to the Greek similarities, the backgrounds are parallel. Both trusted God for deliverance from impossible situations and both experienced God’s reassuring presence (Dn 6:22; 2 Tim 4:17). Paul’s soon appearance in Roman court reminded him of Daniel facing the lions!
At first I thought this wouldn’t be persuasive, but now I am on board! The thematic similarities are strong, the allusions interesting, and I suspect there’s more to be found. I look forward to Hidden but Now Revealed, which Gladd is co-authoring with G.K. Beale and is coming out later this year.
So who cares? Paul saw himself as a Daniel figure, big deal. Well, this insight actually has several ramifications; one being a good defence those who believe the apostles didn’t consider their writings authoritative (more on this).
Last post I reviewed John Walton’s Old Testament Genres Logos Mobile Ed course. Now comes the difficult task of evaluating Mobile Ed as a whole. It’s important to remember this series is a document of my experience with one Mobile Ed course. I would not want a reader to be unfairly prejudiced for/against Mobile Ed by reading more into my reviews than what is there.
With disclaimers in mind, I offer the following reflections on my experience with Mobile Ed.
As regular readers of my blog will know, My Digital Seminary serves as an output for my own theological studies. When I saw Logos Mobile Ed advertised I first thought that it looked ideal for self-study. I was not wrong.
The professors are leaders in their fields and the videos are extremely high in quality. Particularly helpful for students are the bite-sized 5-7 minute videos. I must admit that I was skeptical of this at first, but soon came to recognize its benefit in making the material more memorable. The fact that all this can be taken anywhere with you (including your mobile device) only adds to its usefulness. The transcripts would also aid ESL students, so Mobile Ed can be used internationally with great benefit.
Classroom settings & Church groups
Though I’m also a Bible College teacher, I didn’t have the chance to use Old Testament Genres videos in my class. I plan to integrate a different Mobile Ed course into my class, and will no doubt have comments then. I am certain that Mobile Ed could be useful for provoking discussion in the classroom or even as preparation for an upcoming lecture. Now, if a teacher wants to use an individual video, they will need to either view it from within their Logos software or track down the downloaded video on their hard drive. The latter is not straightforward as I discovered. Having easier access to individual video files would open up the teacher’s options.
Limitations from the User’s Logos Package
One’s own Logos package will determine how much of the required and additional reading they can access. Since the required reading is an essential element of any given Mobile Ed course, it’s unfortunate that the required reading is not included – or at least only the required sections from the full textbooks. Understandably, something like this could increase costs. However it’s also understandable that a user would be disappointed if, after buying a Mobile Ed course, they discovered that a large portion of it doesn’t work and that the solution requires buying a number of textbooks or upgrading their Logos package.
Integration of Mobile Ed with Logos Software
As the Logos product page advertises, the Mobile Ed videos are all transcribed and fully searchable from within Logos. The tutorial videos for Old Testament Genres are quite helpful, but are even better in the two other courses I demoed (and will be reviewing in the future). This is unsurprising since the other courses deal more directly with Bible study, where Logos excels. One suggestion that would integrate Mobile Ed and Logos Homework further are assignments that give the user a few tasks to accomplish on their own within Logos.
For many (including myself!) cost is the first question to be asked. For this reason I have intentionally left it for last. Cost is always a relative matter, but considering the proliferation of free seminary-level courses online, why would one pay for Mobile Ed?
I was once told that businesses can only ever choose two of the three: quality, accessibility, and cost. This applies to theological resources too. Yes, there is an abundance of free fast-food audio/video lectures out there, and they serve a fine purpose. But I challenge students to find anything comparable in quality and functionality of what Logos is doing with Mobile Ed. You have your twinky and your tiramisu of theological resources; Mobile Ed is the latter. Logos recognizes – like all other businesses – that it can’t be everything, and simply prioritizes quality and accessibility over cost.
That said, a Mobile Ed course is cheaper than a corresponding seminary course and one gets to retain much more than class notes! Hopefully through my review series it is plain that Mobile Ed offers something special. Its price reflects that.
I must admit that Mobile Ed surprised me. My wife and I are missionaries living on financial support, so free resources (and review copies!) are literally a Godsend. I initially dismissed Mobile Ed due to cost and apparent similarity with what else I could get online for free. I’m so glad that I thought twice and asked to review it! I’ve since come around to recognize that Mobile Ed has something very unique to offer. With a quickly-expanding list of courses, it only stands to get better!
Well, I hope you enjoyed my series reviewing Logos Mobile Ed. I actually have two more courses to review, and am so excited about reviewing one of them that I’ve already begun working through it. However, I think we could all do with a short break from Mobile Ed, so regular programming will resume for a few weeks.
All Posts in My Logos Mobile Ed (John Walton) Review
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to review Mobile Ed courses! I was not required to give a positive review.
The last few weeks have been a bit intense for us. We moved house and gave birth to our second child, first son: Whitfield Stephen Kennedy. Now that our internet is hooked up again, I will be finishing my review of Logos Mobile Ed by way of John Walton’s Old Testament Genres course. In prior posts we talked about Mobile Ed, the video, the supplemental material (workbook, exams, tutorials), and the iPhone/iPad app. What’s missing is a review of the Old Testament Genres course itself! In tomorrow’s (final) post I will give my concluding thoughts on my Mobile Ed experience.
John Walton: Old Testament Genres
Having already praised Walton’s teaching ability and charisma in front of the camera, I will restrain myself to the content. All quotes are directly from the workbook transcripts.
Old Testament Genres is an introduction-level class to, well, Old Testament genres! Walton’s aim is clear: “Knowing God is the key, and we’re going to find out how the Old Testament opens up the doorways to knowing God through its various genres”. This is not mere academic reflection; notice Walton’s pastoral intentions. Understanding the OT genres makes one a better reader and reading the OT better results in knowing God better.
Old Testament Genres is broken down into six units. Genres are presented in the the Hebrew OT order: Law, Former Prophets, Latter Prophets, and Writings.:
- Genres: Law
- Genres: Narrative
- Genres: Prophecy and Apocalyptic
- Genres: Wisdom and Psalms
- Theology and Faith
Foundations introduces the OT as a whole, giving guiding principles for becoming effective readers. Crucial for reading well is recognizing a few commonly overlooked elements – Biblical authors carefully chose what they wrote, emphasized certain facts, selectively recorded dialogue, and structured the material in a particular way. We must be readers who carefully follow the text as it is intended to be understood, and respond rightly to its message.
Walton’s discussion of genres is very clear and often illuminating. While the Law does not save, it was still a gracious gift and a guide to holiness. Its transcendent relevance for modern believers is discerned through asking ‘how is this revealing God’s holiness?’ God is the primary character in OT narrative, and it shows us God’s attributes in action. An all too common moralizing approach to reading narrative – children should follow David’s example by fighting the local bully – will inevitably miss the author’s intended message. Walton is careful here though, since the Bible does in fact sometimes present its characters as role models: Hebrews 11, for one!
The treatment of Prophecy and Apocalyptic was mixed. Walton rightly corrects popular misconceptions that prophecy is merely future-telling and also helpfully distinguishes between the prophets’ message and its fulfilment. For example, it is mistaken to read Daniel only looking for its ‘fulfilments’ in history. Prophecy meant very much to its readers; even if they did not understand the fulfilment, the message was clear.
There is much good here, but I think Walton errs when discussing fulfilment. Using the admittedly knotty example of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15, Walton wrongly concludes that the NT (mis)uses the OT in a way only permissible due to the authors’ divine inspiration. In his words, “We don’t have to worry about what hermeneutics Matthew might be using. Hermeneutics don’t matter very much if you have authority…But we recognize that we can’t do the same thing.” Following this, Walton unsurprisingly had very little to say about Messianism throughout the course; it only came up in the prophetic literature. This was quite disappointing for one who believes the OT is a thoroughly Messianic book and that the NT authors interpret it legitimately and in a way we can emulate.
Also mixed were statements on the Spirit’s role in aiding the reader. Walton rightly insists that the Spirit does not give us new meanings to the text, as if we could make it mean whatever we want. “The Spirit is not going to redo the work that was done with the author or with the text as we read the text”. Instead, the Spirit guides and enables us in the application of a text. However, Walton insists that the Spirit doesn’t “tell us even what that truth is”. Yes and no. Interpreters certainly cannot play a ‘the Holy Spirit told me so’ card to trump any differing views! However, statements like, “The Spirit does not tell us what the meanings of the authors were” must be clarified in light of passages such as 2 Timothy 2:7 and Proverbs 2:1-6. It seems that God does play a role in our understanding. We cannot take full credit for exegetical insights!
Criticisms aside, John Walton’s Old Testament Genres is an excellent course. This would serve very nicely as an introduction to the OT, in and out of a classroom setting. Though an introduction, it is not tedious for someone more familiar with its contents.
The Old Testament needs to be (re)claimed by the church, and crucial in achieving that aim is in understanding how it works and how to be better readers.
I used to walk a good 40 minutes round-trip to my job and to redeem the time I’d listen to a sermon or theological podcast. I’ll be posting some recommendations. I don’t agree with everything said, but these are informative and thought-provoking.
The Dividing Line
The Dividing Line is hosted by Christian Apologist James White. White is an excellent apologist (though admittedly somewhat controversial within Calvary Chapel circles) and this podcast covers a broad range of theological and apologetic topics. The episodes feel more like a radio show, where there aren’t clear distinctions between episodes. For example, White may discuss a news article he just read before the show, an upcoming debate, or take calls. Much of the show has White playing audio recordings of his debate opponents and commenting on their arguments as an outflow of his research. Some will find it frustrating that episodes aren’t strictly topical, or others will find White’s explicit Calvinism off-putting, but there is a lot of interesting content on any chosen issue if you are willing to look past these things.
The podcast doesn’t keep much of a backlog but I’ve enjoyed most episodes on homosexuality and Islam, two areas White is strong on and discussing frequently at the moment. It’s best to look at the episode description and download episodes that seem to cover interesting topics.
Other recommended podcasts.
I ran across a unique understanding of Ephesians 5:18 when reading Clinton Arnold’s Powers of Darkness. He referenced a paper by Cleon L. Rogers, Jr entitled The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18, wherein Rogers argues that Paul’s comments are specifically addressed to drunkenness that took part in the worship of Dionysus.
Here is Arnold’s summary:
Possibly the drunken and frenzied revelry connected with the worship of the god Dionysus, the god of wine, forms the general cultural background of this statement. The first-century readers were called to turn their backs to alcoholic intoxication and inspiration from any other spirit or deity (such as Dionysus) and yield themselves completely to the Holy Spirit of God.
– Powers of Darkness, p119
Rather than a contrast (or comparison, as some Christians see this verse) between the behaviour that comes from the Spirit’s filling and that of drunkenness, Roger’s understanding also includes a direct forbidding of idolatry and association with other spirits. This would fit themes in Ephesians, the cultural context of Ephesus itself, and explain the otherwise seemingly arbitrary mention of drunkenness (why not another sin?).
Judging by Arnold’s comments in his recent Ephesians (ZECNT) commentary, he seems less intrigued by Roger’s view than before. Admittedly, Paul’s comment here is too little to go on in forming a conclusion. However, Dionysian practices certainly inform the background of the Ephesian culture and were a constant temptation of the “old ways”, whether or not Paul was specifically referencing them in Eph 5:18. It’s intriguing nonetheless.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. — Eph 5:18
Have a read (it’s only 8 pages), judge Roger’s arguments for yourself, and comment below!
- A link to Roger’s paper: The Dionysian Background of Ephesians 5:18.