Hermeneutics: “Jesus is Lord” as a Speech-Act

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If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Romans 10.9-13, NRSV
This meaning of this passage has been flattened in the wake of the Enlightenment’s effect on Western Christianity. John Locke, the 17th century philosopher, stated “the Gospel was writ to induce men into a belief of this proposition, that Jesus was the Messiah; which if they believed, they should have life.”[1] Combined with the Reformation overemphasis of sola fide (faith alone), modernity’s “reasonable Christianity” caused salvation to be understood “epistemologically rather than ontologically.” In other words, salvation became “an assent to clear and intelligible propositions” and less about Christian works and being.[2]


However, one could say Locke is interpreting the “plain meaning” of the above passage from Romans 10: One simply needs to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved. I argue that this passage calls for more than mere intellectual assent in its historical context.[3] “Jesus is Lord” is a speech-act. But what is a speech-act, exactly? And how does that help us navigate through this passage?

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Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter III (Part IV)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here.  This is the fourth installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation
Part II: Chapter I
Part III: Chapter II

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
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The third chapter of Jonah focuses on the response of the Ninevites to the prophet’s preaching. Jonah cried out, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” It’s undetermined whether this was all that Jonah spoke or if there was more to his message. Although this is an interesting textual issue, the Jonah’s message is not the main subject of the passage. We will focus more on the response of the Ninevites in the
Inclusion section, as well as who they are and why their place in the story is so important. Now we move on to our familiar terms of Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion.

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Living Theology: Praying ‘The Lord’s Prayer’

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Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
    On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
    As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
    But deliver us from evil.

Christ’s statement “Pray, then, in this way” has been popularly interpreted in two ways: Actually praying the following prayer or modeling our prayers after this one. There are those who want to avoid a ritualistic prayer life, and that is understandable. There is always the temptation to merely utter words from memory and not mean them. However, repeating a prayer over and over does not necessarily mean that the prayer loses meaning. We eat every day, with some meals tasting more or less bland, but they give our body sustenance. Those who have been married a long time go through a day-to-day routine with their loved one, but that does not mean their love has become insignificant. Athletes repeat workouts, but their exercise maintains and builds strength. Too often, we do not know what we ought to pray for and our minds wander and our words stumble. The Lord’s Prayer is the ideal prayer to put into practice because it is not only connected with the early liturgical Christian community, but to the historical Christ himself.[1] St. Gregory of Nyssa, a 4th century theologian, remarked:

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Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter II (Part III)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here. This is the third installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation
Part II: Chapter I

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
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The second chapter of Jonah focuses on the prayer of Jonah and his salvation. There are a few issues with this text, however. It has been argued that this prayer/psalm was a later addition or outside construct, but I will be treating the text as pivotal to the narrative.[1] There is also the issue of narrative
timing. How can Jonah pray “out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you [Lord] heard my voice” when Jonah is still within the fish? How can Jonah be sure that his “prayer came to [God]” at this point in the story? One possible answer is that the prayer of Jonah is reflective; that is, a prayer about a past episode. Consequently, it would be difficult to separate what Jonah actually prayed in 2.2-9 from its reflective elements. Textual issues aside, my goal is to treat Jonah as a fully received narrative. The allusions, mostly to the Psalms, are a major non-critical textual note in this chapter.[2] These allusions are important to tying the story of Jonah to the larger theological narrative and doxology of the Old Testament. How does Chapter 2 of Jonah fit in with Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion?

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Early Church: Clement of Alexandria and ‘Seeing Through A Glass’

imageThere are many Christians who who subscribe to the thought that, when they read the Bible, they simply “read” instead of “interpret” Scripture.[1] These Christians, with good intentions, want to preserve the “objectivity” of the Bible and defend what it “clearly says”. However, any survey of historical biblical interpretation or historical theology shows us that the Bible has been interpreted in many ways that self-referenced by individuals who claimed that their interpretation was the “true” interpretation of Scripture. The Early Church was rife with differences over the interpretation of Scripture: Was Jesus God? If so, how? How can God be One while invoking “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”? These early theological debates were centered around the interpretation of Scripture, and I claim that is still one of the main, if not the main, issue today in Christian theological debates. Clement of Alexandria wrote:

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Hermeneutics: Jonah | Chapter I (Part II)

imageYou can read the text of Jonah here. This is the second installment of my Jonah series. Be sure to read the other installments:
Part I: Interpretation

All biblical quotations are from the NRSV unless otherwise stated.
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As I stated in the previous article, I will be exploring Jonah
as a fully received narrative whole in its historical and literary context, rather than breaking down different parts as is common in many commentaries. I will rather be discussing the major themes and development of these themes in each chapter of the book of Jonah. Please note that I am using the chapter system as a convenience and loose narrative guideline, rather than as a strict basis for understanding and developing these themes, since the verse and chapter systems came later in history. Again, this is not intended to be an “exegetical commentary” on Jonah, but something more akin to a short narrative-thematic commentary series. So what are the major themes in Jonah? In each chapter, I will discuss the themes of Creation, Salvation, and Inclusion.

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Living Theology: You Are A Story

In the age of the internet, it is quite common to fill out an “about me” section:
Name. Date of birth. Job. Title. Education. Current City. Likes. Dislikes. Etc.

We often place others and ourselves into these neat little categories of political affiliation, economic status, extrovert or introvert, and so on. But that’s not how we learn about people. Yes, these things may be true of others and ourselves, but we don’t get to know someone by simply filling in the blanks. We get to know people through story. You, I, and others are a story. Our lives are a story.

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