Running Heads

From the editors of Cascade Books and Pickwick Publications at Wipf and Stock Publishers

Page 3 of 75

Ten Commandments of Debate

This has made the rounds on the internet for some time under various titles. It ought to be mandatory reading for anyone posting a Facebook comment or standing to ask a question during a session at an academic conference.



Daylight Saving—Movie Trailer (funny)


Charles Chauncy (1705-1787) on ‘death’ in 1 Corinthians 15

I just had a weird experience. I was looking on the internet for information about Rev. Charles Chauncy when I came across a blog post that I found very thought provoking. The weird thing is . . .  I wrote it (back in August 2009). I had forgotten that I had written it and I had forgotten that Chauncey had said the things he said. I’d also forgotten the ideas it provoked in me. So, I hereby give it a second lease of life.


Charles Chauncy was minister of First Church in Boston for decades. He was very influential and is best known as an opponent of the Great Awakening (standing against men like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, et al). So that does not make him an obvious person for an evangelical to turn to for inspiration.

However, Chauncy was a firm Bible-believing Christian and whilst he sadly came to doubt and then reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity we must stress that he did so because he believed it to be unbiblical (it was not uncommon in this period for Bible-based Christians to reject the Trinity as unbiblical).

Anyway, of interest here is that Chauncy became a universalist because he believed it to be the only view consistent with Scripture. In 1762 he preached a sermon entitled “All Nations Blessing Christ,” which was the first hint at this new view. But the main work he wrote is a very scholarly (I’m not joking about the scholarly part) book published anonymously in 1784 entitled The Mystery hid from Ages and Generations, made manifest by the Gospel-Revelation: or, The Salvation of All Men: The Grand Thing aimed at in the scheme of God (they loved short and snappy titles in those days)

The Salvation of all Men (1784) is a very impressive work—one of the more impressive works from the history of universalist theology. It provoked a book-length response from Jonathan Edwards (son of the famous Jonathan Edwards) entitled The Salvation of all Men Strictly Examined: and the endless punishment of those who die impenitent, argued and defended against the objections and reasoning of the late Rev Doctor Chauncy, of Boston, in his book entitled “The Salvation of all Men”. See what I mean about snappy titles! At least you knew what the book was all about! It does what it says on the can. (for those who are interested you can download both books online. Here is Chauncy and here is Edwards).

Anyway, all I wanted to do was to draw attention to one of Chauncy’s arguments regarding 1 Corinthians 15. The relevant text reads (in the ESV)

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order:
Christ the firstfruits,
then at his coming those who belong to Christ.
24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.
25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Against the majority view Chauncy argues that Paul sees a temporal gap—perhaps a very long one—between the end of v. 23 and the start of v. 24 (p. 208). He reasons that Paul has in mind the Second Death when he speaks of ‘death’ in v. 26. Consequently, until the Second Death is destroyed (which is effected when all those condemned to hell are redeemed) Christ has not defeated death.

Now I find Chauncy’s case unconvincing as an attempt to exegete what Paul meant (not least because his arguments, which I will not set out here, depend on interpreting Paul’s meaning through the Book of Revelation).

However, there might be a theological argument from Chauncy’s reading of Paul that is suggestive. Chauncy reasons that the grounds for thinking that death is an enemy would also apply to the Second Death—indeed more so. If death is an enemy of Christ that needs to be destroyed then the Second Death is more so. Both are divine punishments on sin that cause humans to fall short of God’s ultimate intentions for them. If one was inclined to agree with such logoc then Paul’s argument in 1 Cor 15 would require an extension beyond what Paul was talking about (i.e., the first death) so as to apply to the Second Death. In other words Paul has provided a theological argument that has an even bigger implication that he draws out explicitly (but one fully consistent with his universalist intro in 15:22).

Now Chauncy also has a fall-back argument in case any readers have not been persuaded that Paul is speaking of the Second Death. It too is interesting. He points out that the kind of resurrection that would count (for Paul) as a defeat for the first death is not a mere restoration to life. Rather, only a resurrection to glory and immortality would do the job. 1 Cor 15 makes that clear: only when “the corruptable shall have put on incorruption” shall it come to pass that “death is swallowed up in victory.” So until all have attained such a resurrection it cannot be the case that the first death has been fully defeated (and 1 Cor 15 requires that it is fully defeated).

Now this is an interesting argument—one I have never considered before [RAP on 30 Sept 2015: and one I had completely forgotten until this morning]. I am not sure that it would count as a straightforward exegesis of what Paul ‘had in mind.’ But it surely counts as a sensible reflection on the implications of Paul’s reasoning. I don’t think that Paul’s concern in 1 Cor 15 was the salvation of all. I do believe that he asserted the salvation of all in 15:22, but his focus is on how that applies to believers. The damned don’t appear in his scheme, except in the gaps and by implication. But I think that Chauncy helps us see how a theological reading of 1 Cor 15 that takes Paul’s logic seriously can lead in universalist directions.


Why Do Republicans Want to Govern?

There’s a strange thing about Republicans who want to serve in federal government. This includes the many Republican candidates for the president, the strongest office in the federal government. With the demise of moderate Republicans, most if not all Republican candidates for the House, Senate, and Presidency talk about how they want to shrink and in some cases eliminate government (think of Rick Perry, in the 2012 elections, wanting to eliminate three regulatory agencies, even if he couldn’t remember all three). Not to put too fine a point on it, but why do these Republicans want to serve in a government they say they hardly believe in? Their scorn for government raises questions about their ambition to be a part of it.

What would we think of an aspiring doctor who said she wanted to eliminate much of the practice of medicine? What to make of a would-be banker who said banking should be shrunk “to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub”? Or a house-builder who set out to build as few houses as she might possibly could? For that matter, what about a book editor whose goal was to produce fewer books every year? (I know what my bosses at Wipf and Stock would make of that!)

So here’s a question that should be asked in the next interminable Republican presidential debate: If you hate federal government so much, why do you want to be a part of it?

Persons over Projects

So I did an impromptu interview the other day in our office about my work as an editor. I wasn’t at all dressed or shaved for the occasion, but it was fun and it gave our media guy a chance to play around with his new toys and editing software. Here’s a piece he put together:

Oh, and there was this as well…



One biblical book that is not highly read by the nonscholarly community is the book of Deuteronomy. My friend of over thirty years, Don Benjamin, has written a really engaging commentary on Deuteronomy, employing methods of feminist criticism and social-science criticism. He provides so much that is interesting along with an enormous wealth of secondary literature (most of it not well know). He engages a wide range of not only feminist and social-science literature, but also comparative ancient Near Eastern materials. This volume will be ready by the Society of Biblical Literature meeting in November. I recommend you put this on your list.

The Joy and Freedom of Being a Sinner

I was listening earlier today to Nina Simone’s 1969 recording of Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 classic, “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” (I paid attention because, by coincidence, I listened to Eric Bibb’s 2010 version yesterday.) Here is the Simone version:

Nobody’s fault, but mine.

Nobody’s fault, but mine.

And I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

Then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a father.

I got a father and he can preach

So I said if I should die

and my soul, my soul becomes lost,

Then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a mother.

I got a mother and she can pray

So I said if I should die

and my soul, my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


Oh I got a sister.

I got a sister and she can sing. Oh Yeah.

and I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine.


And I said if I should die

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine

and I said if I should die

and my soul becomes lost,

then I know it’s nobody’s fault but mine

I confess that I found this such a breath of fresh air—a liberating song.

Increasingly, we spin identity-creating stories in which we are always the victims. Even if we do bad things it is because of our genes or what happened to us or our circumstances or the government. We are not to blame; we are not guilty. But while many seek to flee from notions of sin and guilt, I find them humanizing. Of course, there are mitigating factors—biological, sociological, and so on. And of course we need to take into account the circumstances. However, when the rubber hits the road, to be told a story in which I am a responsible moral agent with a free (albeit limited) will—that I can sin and be considered guilty for so doing—is to treat me like a human being with dignity. I am not simply an effect; I am an agent.

So weirdly enough, I don’t find the idea that I am a person who can be guilty of sin to be oppressive. Blaming myself is not necessarily bad—though, it can be bad in some circumstances—sometimes it is precisely the morally appropriate response. We get over guilt not by always denying it (I am the victim) but by recognizing and acknowledging it (when appropriate) and dealing with it. The gospel provides the story in which we find God dealing with our guilt and locates us in a narrative of reconciliation and forgiveness.

I am an agent with freewill and responsibility—one who is accountable and will be called to account. I am a human being.

Gareth Dunlop

Gareth Dunlop is a singer–songwriter from Belfast, Northern Ireland, who has a fresh sound. I recommended him a couple of years ago in a blog. His website has two albums that you can listen to in full. He moves from R&B rhythms to ballads with ease and great lyrics. His website now also includes his “Hold On,” which is a featured song in Nicholas Sparks’ film, The Best of Me. He is joined by the group SHEL. I think he is worth a listen.

Oakman’s The Political Aims of Jesus

Years ago, I acquired The Political Aims of Jesus by my good friend Doug Oakman for Fortress Press, and it finally appeared in 2012. Doug is also the author of Jesus and the Economic Questions of His Day (1986), Jesus and the Peasants (2008, a collection of his most important essays), and Jesus, Debt, and the Lord’s Prayer (2014). Together, he and I wrote Palestine in the Time of Jesus: Social Structures and Social Conflicts (2nd ed., 2008; 1st ed. 1998). Working with him on that last book was one of the highlights of my life.

Doug asked me to give him feedback on a preliminary version of the manuscript of Political Aims, and I was blown away by it. But now, three years later, I just reread the whole thing, and I was blown away a second time. I think I have had more time to let his approach and conclusions sink in; but I am repeatedly startled/awakened by his skill in bringing new light on well-known gospel passages.

Doug begins with the importance of H. S. Reimarus‘s work for seeing what Jesus was up to, and why Schweitzer so highly praised his work. But we are are far down the road from Reimarus in terms of archaeological, historical, literary, and social analyses, and this is where Doug’s work takes off. He analyzes the political—and political economic—landscape of Galilee and greater Palestine and then focuses on the earliest Q (Sayings Source) material and what Jesus’ emphases were: the disenfranchisement of the peasants, the land grabs by the elites, the oppressive tax situation (temple, Herodian, and Roman), emphases of priestly religion that foregrounds purity issues over justice, and what God’s dominion would mean in addressing these issues.

He looks intently at the sayings, parables, and actions of Jesus in a politically charged and economically complex environment—and prior to later christological emphases. One of the most rewarding things about the book is Doug’s analysis of the intent of the parables. Reading his fresh interpretations often feels like I am hearing these for first time. But this brief summary only scratches the surface of this important work.

If you are interested at all in a deep look at the Jesus tradition, I not only highly recommend this book, I would say put it on your “must have” list!

Unintended Consequences

The phrase “unintended consequences” usually implies negative results—and that is what Sandra Ericson recently wrote about in an opinion piece in our local newspaper. Ericson is a former member of the Planning Commission and chair of the city’s Climate Protection Task Force in St. Helena, California, in the Napa Valley.
The focus of her piece is on the negative effects of expanding wineries. She points out that instead of vineyards being part of a balanced agriculture in California and Oregon, they have displaced orchards, truck farms, and wheat fields. The vineyards have become tourist centers, overtaxing roads and other infrastructure. They have required more hotels and taken a share of the hotel taxes. They tend to push middleclass residents out of the area to make room for the 1 percent.
Another set of problems is water. During the droughts, the vineyards have had to drill deeper wells, draining the aquifers. She also notes that growers deforest hillsides to plant more vines; and vineyards absorb carbon at a rate of 1.5 compared to trees at 85.
One of the truly bizarre issues Ericson mentions is that in the U.S. a foreign investor can obtain a “green card” (permanent resident status) for investing $1 million in agriculture. But it is only $500,000 if one invests in a vineyard. Who knew you could actually buy a green card at all?
One last issue is how “boutique” wineries become absorbed into corporate agriculture. They are bought up as investments by both U.S. and foreign investors with no care about the local community. In other words, the profits are taken from the community, but the consequences to water resources, climate, animal habitat, infrastructure, and the local economy are not dealt with by those who profit from it.

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