Historically, the doctrine of the church has always been a subject of robust discussion and debate. This is understandable since it encompasses so many issues about Christian praxis such as worship, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and the Great Commission. Today is no different. Ecclesiology continues to elicit significant attention among biblical scholars and theologians alike. This is why we are devoting our Fall 2022 edition of CTR to the topic. Each article is authored by a scholar who addresses various facets of this important subject including pertinent matters that are historical, theological, exegetical, and cultural.
Our lead article is by Caroline Buie (Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) who serves as Director of Educational Technology and Adjunct Professor of Theology at Criswell College in Dallas, TX. Buie provides a fresh survey of the Shepherd of Hermas, a famous work in the corpus of the Apostolic Fathers. Specifically, she examines major themes that emerge to describe the theological nature of the church as God’s people.
Our second article is by Heath H. Kahlbau (Ph.D., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) who is Professor of Biblical History and Theology at Birmingham Theological Seminary in Birmingham, AL. Kahlbau provides a fascinating study showing how the ancient episcopal model of church government overlaps with certain features of church polity that exist today in Anglican Chapels of Ease as well as regional megachurches that have multi-site locations.
Criswell College has been training believers for service in Christ’s kingdom since its inception in 1971. A large part of its success in this endeavor has been its faculty who have been committed to rigorous scholarship and gospel ministry. One of the best examples of such devotion has been Criswell’s own Professor of New Testament, Dr. Leroy Metts, who recently retired after teaching for over forty years. In honor of his service to multitudes of students, this volume of CTR is a tribute to his heritage. Each article is authored by either a colleague or former student who is now pursuing (or has pursued) further academic endeavors in biblical and theological studies.
Our lead article is by R. Alan Streett who serves as Senior Research Professor of Biblical Theology at Criswell College. His essay is a small taste of his larger work on baptism, entitled Caesar and Sacrament. He argues that the early Christian movement’s adaptation of baptism as a religious sacramentum was done to demonstrate allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom as well as disavow any loyalty to Roman imperial power.
One fascinating dynamic of biblical and theological studies occurs when innovative approaches to academic inquiry and specialized areas of research converge. At times, this trend can help scholars examine the complexities of Christian doctrines more effectively. Currently, the discipline known as Analytic Theology is proving to be a prime example of this. Many theologians across the denominational spectrum are using the tools of analytic philosophy to address a wide assortment of issues. So much so that in recent years, a journal is now dedicated to the topic (The Journal of Analytic Theology) and numerous books and anthologies continue to be produced on the subject. It is for these reasons that we are devoting our Fall 2021 edition of CTR to this topic.
Our lead article is written by Christopher Woznicki who currently is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Woznicki addresses a longstanding dilemma about whether Penal Substitutionary Atonement requires the acceptance of universalism or limited atonement. Woznicki probes this issue by examining T. F. Torrance’s views on the atonement and concludes that one can affirm penal substitution as well as unlimited atonement while still rejecting universalism.
The doctrine of the atonement can be encapsulated in the simple yet profound statement that Jesus died for our sins. But if one begins to break down the details of what this claim means biblically, the theological implications are massive. So much so that one quickly discovers how central the death of Christ is to the Christian faith. Along with the resurrection, it is part of the very foundation of salvation itself. In recent years, however, debates have emerged among many evangelicals regarding the proper way to interpret how biblical language describes Christ’s death. For example, there are disputes over the question of whether atonement language necessarily entails the concept of violence or not. There are also ongoing polemics about the validity of classic models of the atonement that have developed throughout Christian history. It is for reasons like these that we are devoting our Spring 2021 edition of CTR to this subject. Readers are invited to engage the following articles from several scholars who address an assortment of issues related to this crucial doctrine.
Creeds and confessions of faith describe an assortment of doctrinal claims that Christian traditions affirm, and usually two major questions emerge when discussing their usage. One is whether they are functionally different from each other, and if so, how? This concern is often raised because, in many cases, creeds and confessions preserve common theological loci that all believers within various denominations share (i.e., creation, the Trinity, the deity of Christ). Yet sometimes confessions can be more specific than creeds in that they highlight differing interpretations of certain subjects like justification, the sacraments, or the return of Christ. Relatedly, another question pertains to the level of authority that creeds and confessions retain for believers. Should they be viewed as having equal authority with Scripture or not? Articulating an answer here can be complex because if one says “yes”, then there are concerns about the fallibility of human interpretation(s). But if one says “no”, then there is the danger of fostering irresponsible readings of biblical texts because there are no confessional boundaries to hold readers hermeneutically accountable. Consequently, because these questions are so important, our Fall 2020 edition of CTR is devoted to the role of creeds and confessions in the life of the church.
The Apocalypse, or Revelation, of Jesus Christ is the most enigmatic book in the New Testament. Its cryptic imagery, other-worldly symbolism, and dramatic visions often create an interpretive quagmire that biblical scholars and theologians have attempted to navigate for centuries. Sometimes such endeavors lead to sensationalistic views of the “end-times” or historicist perspectives of God’s acts of judgment in the past. But in recent years, a significant amount of scholarship focuses on the theology of Revelation as seen in its intertextual reliance on the Old Testament and development of early Christian themes. Because of such trends, our Fall 2019 edition of the Criswell Theological Review is dedicated to studies on this important part of the New Testament corpus. Continue reading →
The Apocalypse, or Revelation, of Jesus Christ is known for being the most enigmatic book in the New Testament. Its cryptic imagery, other-worldly symbolism, and visionary drama often contribute to an interpretive quagmire that biblical scholars and theologians alike have attempted to navigate for centuries. renewed interest in early Christian studies has emerged among many evangelical scholars in recent years. One reason for this development is a growing solidarity with the robust spirituality that the Church Fathers exhibited in their writings. Another is the historical proximity of the Patristic era to the first century. Just as 2nd Temple literature is prominent today in New Testament studies because it provides insights into the Jewish milieu that immediately preceded Christianity, so do the Church Fathers stand at the other end of the temporal spectrum as the initial successors of the theological traditions bequeathed by the apostolic generation. Finally, a growing number of exegetes and theologians resonate with selective facets of hermeneutical approaches utilized by the Fathers. Their views of biblical interpretation were premodern in orientation, which is to say they were not encumbered with many of the historical-critical pitfalls that sometimes stifle confessional readings of Scripture. Thus, it is for these reasons as well as many others that our Spring 2019 edition of CTR is devoting six articles to this important subject. Continue reading →
For the last few decades, a significant portion of biblical scholarship has been invested in research that shows how Jewish literature of the 2nd temple era contributes to the historical/cultural backdrop of the New Testament. In many cases, such endeavors have produced extremely helpful insights for our understanding of Scripture. Yet at the same time, inquiries into how this literary corpus possibly correlates to the thoughts of biblical writers has sometimes raised controversial questions. Such instances have led to stimulating engagements between scholars and theologians in some cases while in others, there have been staunch disagreements resulting in considerable impasses. Consequently, because of the potential influence that 2nd temple Judaism has upon biblical interpretation, our Fall 2018 edition of CTR offers six articles on the subject. Continue reading →
Evangelicals are well aware of the concept known as the “naked” public square. This phrase describes the ethos of our current cultural climate, which harbors an antagonistic and even hostile attitude toward religious influences in society. So much so that many desire to have political discourse only if religious speech and perspectives are excluded from the conversation. Such an environment creates a host of complexities that believers have to face. One in particular is how the church can possibly appeal to Scripture when engaging various ethical issues in broader cultural venues. If the majority of people express no deference to biblical authority, then how can believers use the Bible effectively when expressing their views and expect anyone to listen. This is quite a weighty issue today and that is why the first three articles in our Spring 2018 edition of CTR are dedicated to it. Subsequently, two articles are stand-alone essays addressing issues pertaining to biblical and theological studies. Continue reading →
A significant debate has steadily developed for quite some time within the ranks of Christian scholarship. It pertains to how biblical scholars and theologians can find methodological harmony between the exegetical task of interpreting Scripture and the related theological endeavors to synthesize biblical teachings in systematic confessional form. There are numerous reasons why differences of opinion exist on this question. However, the growing impasse among some in recent decades has jumpstarted a conversation regarding an alternative strategy that has come to be known as the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS). Though this movement is extremely diverse because it is being discussed by scholars all over the theological spectrum, many evangelicals are contributing to the conversation because they recognize the importance of both biblical studies and theological formulation. Consequently, the Fall 2017 edition of CTR is dedicated to this subject. Herein, readers can engage articles from several scholars who address various facets of this important issue. Continue reading →