A couple of posts

A couple of articles – one a podcast that might be of interest. Thomas Jay Oord is one of the key writers on Open Theology. Here is an article on God and foreknowlege:


If you decide to read the article scroll down to the comments also – one or two interesting bits in there, related to God and ‘timelessness’ (a concept the Greeks might embrace but not one Hewbrews could swallow).

Andrew Perriman always writes material that will necessitate a measure of re-reading of Scripture. Here is a video cast he has just released on:


How does the New Testament predict the future… So essential to grasp that we do not have a book that is helping us see we are in the ‘last days’ because of this, that and the other!! We are, have been in the last days, with some hope that there will be a ‘last day’ yet to come.

And why not throw in Peter Enns. He helpfully does a number of podcasts where he ‘ruins something’! This one on ‘Peter ruins Isaiah’ makes for a good listen:


A trip back in time

Sychar. A well. John 4. Sychar – the Samaritan village, the Greek name could well be a translation of Shechem (more later), and the village might well be the Shechem of the Old Testament (I think so); if not they were in very close proximity… So first trip back: Shechem.

Genesis 34. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob is violated; the sons of Jacob do not find a way through this other than to respond with anger and murder:

On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males.

I do find it intriguing how often we read ‘on the third day’ in Scripture! However, the key point here seems to me to be that the land is locked in a painful memory with the sin of abuse and the response of murder. The land holding the corporate memory. So much pain locked up (can only be released through forgiveness / cleansing), and I suggest manifesting very visibly in the woman at the well.

There was another well in Sychar, one much easier to access, but here we have the woman journeying outside the city, and not only but she is doing at in the midday sun. She is no insider with privileges.

But wells… So many biblical stories set the well as the place of romance. Gen. 21 the servant finds Rebekah at the well ‘outside the city’ and he knows that she is the one to be married to Isaac. And given that this is the well of Jacob, we also find that Jacob’s family history involves a well and romance:

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,” they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father. (Gen. 29:1-12).

Jesus comes to the well – what does he talk about? Husbands, marriage

Then the contrast with John 3. Nicodemus – male; comes at the darkest hour; a teacher in Israel with the Law, the Prophets and the Writings; and he needs to be born again!

John 4. Unnamed woman; at the brightest hour; a Samaritan with only the first five books of Moses; and not told to be born again! (There are other contrasts.)

Jews did not walk through Samaria when heading north, they avoided the area and the journey took them considerable extra time. Jesus deliberately goes that way. Then comes the highly controversial exchange of conversation. He deliberately went that way to bring a release to the woman, but also to the land.

When the disciples returned they were shocked to see him talk with ‘a woman’. They would have been shocked to see him talk with ‘a Samaritan’, but that is not picked up on by John: the real shock is that he is talking with a woman.

Something was going on, and at least the disciples picked that much up!

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” (John 4:27).

The second question (not asked) was of course aimed at Jesus (‘why are you speaking with her?’. The first question? I think perhaps also aimed at Jesus! The question is: Τί ζητεῖτε, a literal translation would be ‘what are you seeking?’ Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer suggests it is a translation of a Hebraism, meaning something along the lines of:
“What are you looking for in life?”

The same phrase occurs as the first words in Jesus’ mouth in John’s Gospel when two of John’s disciples come to him. He says to them: Τί ζητεῖτε. Same phrase. In that context those two disciples of John having heard that Jesus was the Lamb of God, they began to follow Jesus. Then Jesus turns to them and said, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38, as stated aready the same phrase as in John 4.) ‘What are you about, what is it that lies at the core of your being?’ Maybe that is putting it slightly too strongly, but it was certainly not a surface question but one to penetrate to the interior of someone.

Now if that question – ‘what are you seeking, what are you really about?’ – that first question forming in the minds of the disciples was aimed at the woman it is quite radical. But what if they are really so provoked they are aiming it (also) at Jesus. No one dared ask, ‘What are you about? What is at the core of your being?’ Their shock is not at the woman, but that he is talking with a woman. What is Jesus about? ‘What are you seeking, Lord?’ ‘What is at the core of your being?’ are questions that still remain.

I kind of think the question is aimed at Jesus. Jews in Samaria, Jesus deliberately going there, talking with a woman at a well, in a place where abuse and murder had locked the land up. This Jesus is not one that is easy to understand. Not then not now!

So maybe just to add this. We have no dealings with…. (fill in the blank). We will avoid journeying through that territory. And if we do Jesus will probably send us off to get some bread, i.e. so that we don’t mess things up for him; he will push to touch the land and all those enslaved by the land, and are marginal. It will leave us asking of Jesus – what on earth are you really about? What lies at the core of your being, Lord?

Reframing Salvation

The from and the for elements

First a little unfair summary of what I grew up with (though pretty much reflecting the image above the post… OUCH!!):

1) We are all sinners and therefore justifiably will be punished forever. 2) Jesus dies for our sins. 3) All who repent are forgiven, they will live forever in heaven… They are saved from future punishment.

Of course the above will be (thankfully) nuanced, but I think we get the gist.

A central NT text about the ministry of Jesus in the context of Israel is Matt. 1:21

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

His people from their sins. In the framework of the earlier verses (Matt. 1), where we read that Jesus is the ‘son of David’, ‘son of Abraham’, and has come to bring the exile to an end, salvation expectation is very historical and concrete. Israel needs saving, they need a deliverer to set them free, set them free from Rome’s rule. The promise is that in Jesus God is returning to Zion (Emmanuel = God with us), and the result will be salvation. The texts such as Isaiah 52 would seem to be echoed here:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices, together they sing for joy; for in plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.

Truly for Israel the ‘kingdom of God was at hand’. Freedom was just round the corner. This kind of salvation is common place in the OT texts, indeed that is salvation in the OT texts. A text then like this in the Gospels is about concrete and historical salvation, it is escaping the ‘wrath that is to come’ (Matt. 3:7; Lk. 3:7). We force Scripture if we try and make this a universally time-unrestricted text, I cannot make it in to a text that says ‘he will save ‘Martin Scott’ from his sins’ (leave that to other texts).

Likewise as I have pointed out in other posts we cannot do this with early texts in Acts – the context is Jerusalem and the Jews, who were warned to flee from this current generation – so many echoes here of the generation leaving Egypt, and of course resonating with Jesus’ prophetic discourse on ‘all these things taking place within a generation’, leading up to AD70 and the sacking of Jerusalem, the end of ‘that age’ (we should avoid conflating ‘end of the world’ with ‘end of the age’. The latter is used, the former not.)

There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

This is a Jewish-oriented message; salvation is not in the name of Abraham, nor David, nor anyone else, but solely through the name of Jesus. The crucified Messiah – the one condemned by Israel, God has raised up as Saviour and Lord – and only in him will salvation be found.

Salvation then does not have a ‘save me from hell’ angle, not in the NT nor in the OT. We can have (OT) an individual who prays to be saved from the hand of their enemy (not ‘get me to heaven when I die’); Israel needs salvation from Egypt’s bondage, from practical situations such as a lack of food in the wilderness; from the attack of the Assyrians; the domination of Babylon; and likewise in the post-OT period salvation from the Greek domination, particularly the religious persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes)… and so on.

There is a consistency of salvation being concrete and historic and is needed in order for Israel to be who they are meant to be. They are forgiven of their sins (released from the effects of their disobedience, the ultimate result being that of exile and coming under foreign dominion).

Now jumping forward the Gentiles did not have the same calling of God as did Israel, but the dividing wall was removed at the cross. The ‘good news of the kingdom’ was proclaimed also to them, and the gift of life also was granted to them. They were now offered on the same basis as Jews entry into the ‘people of God’ – via Jesus. Like the Jews they also needed to be saved, delivered. There is, not surprisingly, a historic and concrete context to this salvation also for them.

In the NT era the salvation was very sharply focused, so before jumping to my situation we should focus there. For the Gentiles also there was salvation in no other name… not the name of the one who claimed to be the saviour, whose kingdom (basileia) of peace (pax romana) extended throughout the entire civilised world (oikoumene); to be saved they had to repent (change of mind, metanoia used to mean a change of political approach by Josephus!), as a result they turned from idols, to be set free from the powers of this age. Scriptures such as:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age (Gal. 1:3-4).

extend the death on the cross to not simply deal Jewish sin, but Gentile sin, and with the same result, salvation, the result of salvation being set free. This was necessary for in the former era there was an enslavement:

you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods (Gal 4:8).

Freedom. Freedom from the divide of the law. Not now two peoples but one. Freedom from ruling powers, (not now Egypt nor Babylon, and more than simply freedom from Rome, but freedom from the very real spiritual powers that Rome / the world enforce. It was for ‘freedom that Christ has set you free’).

The powers of sin and death. The powers of Imperial domination that demand conformity, hence we are no longer to be conformed to the powers of this age (Rom. 12:2 – again the word is ‘age’, not ‘world’, though in this context ‘world’ could be an acceptable translation). Through salvation the mind of Christ is that which we have and are to be shaped by.

In the immediate the powers continue, sin and death continue but salvation is in the name of Jesus, repent, be forgiven (be released – we need to avoid putting our ‘getting over an offence’ into the meaning of forgiveness when we think of God as I am not sure forgiveness can be reduced to something personal when applied to God… the same word was used of releasing a ship to sail on the sea, the ship being released to her ‘destiny’), and to be joined by the Spirit of God to the shaping culture of heaven. That seems to be the salvation on offer, now offered to Gentiles and Jews alike. Yes there is a future – post-parousia (more than post-death) – aspect to this, but there is a very real present, historic and concrete element to it. Saved from… (but we should not quickly put the word ‘hell’ in there) and saved for, by being incorporated into the subversive-to-all-dominating-powers people of God.

For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming (1 Thess 1: 9-10).

The wrath that is coming is the judgement on all that opposes God… We are set free through our new allegiance. Set free now, justified (marked out as being in the right), and when these hostile dominating powers, including the final power of death are abolished, that justified verdict will sound so sweet. Saved through no other name to sail to her / his destiny.

First open Zoom date

I have set October 5th., 7.30pm UK time for the first zoom date where all are invited. I will take this first one, so it will have my bias, the bias that is reflected in the four books ‘Explorations in Theology’. It will not be necessary to have read (nor purchased!) the books. These zooms are open to anyone – it is not a requirement that you have been on the previous / current zooms that are going through the four books.

Not all the evenings will be of a theological bias, I plan for ones also to be practical and ethical. And this one, and any others that are more theological / biblical based will also push in to the ‘so what’ practical areas.

The first one will be on reading Luke’s two volumes politically – which is one of the strong underlying thrusts in his writings (my opinion!). It is not to do with political party politics.

On the home page https://3generations.eu is a form – simply fill this in to ‘enroll’. It means I will have an idea of numbers, also I have to send you a zoom link and also a document I have written up trying to plot the path of the political theme. I will not re-hash the paper on the evening. A short synopsis and then questions, elements that we can pick up for discussion – some of which could well be based on any suggestions that you have proposed having read / skimmed / scribbled all over the document.

Looking forward to seeing you!