Daily Gleanings: Pistis (6 September 2019)

Just out from Baylor University Press is David Downs and Benjamin Lappenga’s Faithfulness of the Risen Christ. According to the publisher, the volume contributes to the ongoing discussion of the pistis Christou and related phrases by

focus[sing] upon the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus …. They claim that when Paul writes of Christ’s pistis, he refers to the faithfulness of the risen and exalted Christ. Downs and Lappenga carefully survey Paul’s use of pistis in Philippians, the Corinthian letters, Galatians, Romans, and Ephesians, revealing how pistis epitomizes the risen Christ’s continuing faithfulness toward all those who participate in him by pistis. Downs and Lappenga effectively reframe any future consideration of the pistis Christou construction for both New Testament scholars and theologians by showing that the story of Jesus in the letters of Paul extends to the faithfulness of the exalted Christ Jesus, who will remain faithful to those justified through union with Christ.

Daily Gleanings: Faith-Allegiance (3 September 2019)

This month with Brazos, Matthew Bates is following up on the trajectory he has previously set out with Gospel Allegiance. According to the publisher,

Popular pastoral resources on the gospel are causing widespread confusion. Bates shows that the biblical gospel is different, fuller, and more beautiful than we have been led to believe. He explains that saving faith doesn’t come through trust in Jesus’s death on the cross alone but through allegiance to Christ the king. There is only one true gospel and one required response: allegiance.

Bates ignited conversation with his successful and influential book Salvation by Allegiance Alone. Here he goes deeper while making his acclaimed teaching on salvation more accessible and experiential for believers who want to better understand and share the gospel. Gospel Allegiance includes a guide for further conversation, making it ideal for church groups, pastors, leaders, and students.

Faith, demonstration, and friendship

Fathers of the Church book coverIn his On the Advantage of Believing, Augustine reflects on the necessity of belief but also on the danger of being overly credulous. He comments, in part,

But now consider, you will say, whether in religion we ought to believe. For even if we concede that it is one thing to believe, another to be credulous, it does not follow that there is no fault in believing in religious matters. What if it be a fault to believe and to be credulous, as it is to be drunk and to be a drunkard? One who holds this view as certain, it seems to me, could have no friend. For, if it is base to believe anything, either he acts basely who believes a friend, or, in not believing a friend at all, I do not see how he can call either him or himself a friend…. For there is also no friendship at all unless something is believed which cannot be demonstrated by positive reasoning. (Util. cred. 10.23–24)

To be sure, reasons are important, but reasons have force within the context of some kind of faith toward the source from which the reasons derive.

Bates, “Salvation by allegiance alone” and some theological forebears

Bates, "Salvation by allegiance alone" coverOne of the new titles in the recent Baker catalog (due for release this month) is Matthew Bates’s Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. According to Michael Bird’s blurb,

Matthew Bates argues that faith or believing is not mere assent, not easy believism, but covenantal loyalty to the God who saves his people through the Lord Jesus Christ. Bates forces us to rethink the meaning of faith, the gospel, and works with a view to demonstrating their significance for true Christian discipleship. This will be a controversial book, but perhaps it is the controversy we need!

I haven’t read the volume yet, and the book’s apparent thesis will doubtless be controversial in some quarters as Bird suggests. But, this thesis is also something that definitely resembles prior thinking.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer had the formulation “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes”—because believing is a response to an announcement that has the nature of a command (Cost of Discipleship, 69–70). Or,  as Augustine suggested, the notion of faith may have two aspects:

We use the word in one sense when we say, “He had no faith in me,” and in another sense when we say, “He did not keep faith with me.” The one phrase means, “He did not believe what I said;” the other, “He did not do what he promised.” (On the Spirit and the Letter 31.54)

Or, indeed, in Romans, as sometimes is bypassed all too easily, part of Paul’s portrait of Abraham is precisely that his faith was also obedient: Abraham becomes the father not only of individuals within the scope of his biological descendants, but to all “those follow in the footsteps of the faith our father Abraham had while he was uncircumcised” (Rom 4:12; τοῖς στοιχοῦσιν τοῖς ἴχνεσιν τῆς ἐν ἀκροβυστίᾳ πίστεως τοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν Ἀβραάμ; cf. Rom 1:5, 3:31; Dunn, Romans, 211–12).

Gospel and Testimony

Richard Bauckham
Richard Bauckham

In his 2006 Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham suggests:

that we need to recover the sense in which the Gospels are testimony. This does not mean that they are testimony rather than history. It means that the kind of historiography they are is testimony. An irreducible feature of testimony as a form of human utterance is that it asks to be trusted. This does not mean that it asks to be trusted uncritically, but it does mean that testimony should not be treated as credible only to the extent that it can be independently verified. There can be good reasons for trusting or distrusting a witness, but these are precisely reasons for trusting or distrusting. Trusting testimony is not an irrational act of faith that leaves critical rationality aside; it is, on the contrary, the rationally appropriate way of responding to authentic testimony. . . . It is true that a powerful trend in the modern development of critical historical philosophy and method finds trusting testimony a stumbling-block in the way of the historian’s autonomous access to truth that she or he can verify independently. But it is also a rather neglected fact that all history, like all knowledge, relies on testimony. (5; italics original)

Thus, it is perhaps not without irony that we find ourselves still under the sway of a certain kind(s) of testimony even when we seek most to avoid or to exercise our independence from testimony of some other kind(s) (cf. Gadamer, Truth and Method, 354; Lewis, “Meditation in a Toolshed,” 215).