Category: KEDS Essays

In this section you will find all the essays I write for my theology degree.

KEDS Essays — Introduction to Philosophy and Apologetics

The problem of evil is not a defeater for the Christian faith. Discuss. 

Introduction 

The epistemic question posed by evil is whether the world contains unfavourable states of affairs that provide the basis for an argument that makes it unreasonable or outright inconsistent to believe in the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God (Tooley, 2019). It is customary to quote Hume’s formulation of the atheistic argument from evil: 

    â€œIs [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (Hume, 1779, p. 186)

Scholars such as Mackie (1955) and McCloskey (1960) concurred with this traditional understanding of the problem, arguing that all forms of theism holding to the omnipotence and omnibenevolence of God succumb before the Epicurean trilemma cited above (Feinberg, 2004, p. 17). The problem of evil allegedly exposes an unsolvable internal inconsistency of the theistic beliefs; in other words—says the atheist—theists must believe not that which cannot be proven, but that which can be disproven by their own beliefs (Mackie, 1955, p. 200).

In contrast, we maintain that not only does evil not constitute a problem for the Christian faith, but it provides a positive case for it.

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KEDS Essays — Biblical Exegesis: Theory and Practice

Application of Exegesis Methods to Disputed Biblical Passages

Matthew 24:15

Text. Modern English translations (ESV, HCSB, NASB, NET, NIV) as well as major modern Italian ones (CEI, LND, NR2006), reveal no significant variation in the rendering. NET provides extensive translations notes, and no particular dispute in translating this passage is reported. Davies & Allison (2004) agree. 

Paralles are found in Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20.

Historical BackgroundChrist’s discourse is set around forty years prior to AD 70, during His final week before the crucifixion (Kostenberger, Stewart, & Makara, 2018). In Roman-controlled Israel, the messianic expectation was that “Messiah would lead the nation to throw off Gentile domination” (Myers, 2006, p. 42). Thus, Jesus’ statement in 24:2 puzzles the disciples, who then ask for clarifications in 24:3 regarding three things: the events about to happen; His coming into His Kingdom; and the end of the age (Walvoord, 1971).

Literary AnalysisSimilar to ancient Greco-Roman biographies, Gospels uniquely combine teaching and action in a preaching-based document (Carson & Moo, 2005), whilst still comprising of various familiar genres: parable, discourse, dialogue, biography, etc. (Magnum, 2020). In Matthew’s chiastic structure, the Olivet Discourse is situated at the antipodes of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5-7), the latter laying down the qualifications to enter the Kingdom, and the former explaining when it will actually come (Derickson, 2006).

The word for “standing” is neuter (጑στ᜞ς) in Matthew, whilst in the Marcan parallel it is masculine (጑στηÎșότα), suggesting a personification of the abomination, lending support to the “future Antichrist” view (Davies & Allison, 2004). See also 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; Dydache 16; Apoc. Elijah 2:41; 4:21. 

Theological Analysis. The crucial theological element is the explicit reference to Daniel and his ‘abomination of desolation’ (cf. Dan 9:27; 11:31; 12:11), thus it is interesting that no references to the ‘abomination’ or the prophet Daniel are found in the Lucan parallel, whilst the Marcan parallel does not mention the ‘holy place’ explicitly, and does not directly attribute the ‘abomination of desolation’ to Daniel.

Interpretation. The verse is part of the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24-25). Some scholars rightly observe that Daniel’s prophecy seems fulfilled in history by Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC (1 Maccabees 1:54, 59; 6:7; 2 Maccabees 6:1–5), yet Jesus clearly intends a future fulfilment for it. This first puzzle is solved by noting that not all of Daniel’s abomination passages refer to the same event. Daniel 11:31 (11:20-35) is about Antiochus (Walvoord, 1971), but 11:36-45 refer to an eschatological future (so Daniel 9:27), the one Jesus refers to (also Paul in 2Th 2:3). The debate regarding whether Matthew 24:15 refers to a historical future or an eschatological one (Theophlos, 2009) is resolved similarly, through the early Jewish hermeneutical idea of ‘patterns of fulfilment’ (Haug, 2003), though we favour the “law of double reference” rather than that of “double fulfilment” (Fruchtenbaum, 2003, p. 4-5). Preterists (Bigalke, 2008) use the Lucan parallel to support the idea that the siege of Jerusalem (AD 70) was the historical fulfilment of the passage, since Luke explicitly mentions Jerusalem surrounded by armies and its desolation being near. However, we must observe that Luke (21:7) only reports the first of the disciples’ three original questions that we find in Matthew (24:3); and that first question is what is answered in Luke 21:20-24. Christ’s prophecy, as a whole, contains multiple references, some to the events of AD 70, some to an eschatological future; the latter is what is addressed in the Matthean account, which links the ‘abomination’ to Daniel and to the ‘holy place’. This agrees with Matthew’s chiastic centre being the postponement of the Kingdom (Derickson, 2006, p. 429).

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KEDS Essays — Exegesis and Bible Polemics: Free Will

Do Christians exercise free will? 

Introduction 

The nature of free will is “the most contentious question of metaphysics” (Hume, 2007). Without free will—Kreeft (2012) argues—all moral language would become meaningless, and justice with it. Meaningless justice would frustrate mercy, grace and love, and ultimately render human life itself meaningless (p. 113-114).

The matter does indeed have repercussions on how adequately we are able to address issues such as God’s goodness (Flowers, 2019), moral responsibility (Moreland, 1988), the problem of evil (Scott, 2015), the origin of sin (Crisp, 2017), the tension between foreknowledge and free will (Swartz, 2020)and between God’s sovereignty and free will (Lemke, 2013), the function of evangelism (Packer, 1961), the roles of man and God in salvation, sanctification, and works (Hankins, 2012; Harwood, 2012; Horn, 2013; Reynolds, 2012; Rogers, 2012).

The topic is vast, thus we shall focus on the question “do Christians exercise free will?” by looking at the most controversial issue: are all men free to believe the gospel? and are believers free to forfeit eternal life? We shall select relevant texts for exegesis, with a more detailed focus on the first of the two questions.

Free will: a definition

Views on free will stem from the answer to the question: if determinism were true, could we still have free will (Timpe, 2020)? Incompatibilism[1] answers in the negative, compatibilism[2] in the affirmative. 

We shall define “free will” as an individual’s ability to make self-determined choices that select one option out of genuine alternatives. This is a form of libertarianism that stands in contrast to all forms of determinism.

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KEDS Essays — Exegesis and Bible Polemics: Apologetics

How central was apologetics to the teaching and preaching of the early apostles? Discuss, with reference to both Acts and any one of the Pauline epistles.

Introduction

Modern apologetics may be defined as the rational justification of Christian truth claims against relevant questions, objections and alternatives (Dahle, 2002, p. 313); it encompasses topics such as arguments for God’s existence and the reliability of Scriptures, as well as refutations of unbiblical worldviews. However, biblical apologetics seems primarily concerned with the defence of the Gospel (Bruce, 1981) in response to unbelievers slandering and persecuting Christians (Boa & Bowman, 2006). Is this apologetics at the heart of apostolic preaching and teaching? Prophets of old defended the faith (Bennetch, 1941), Jesus Himself employed apologetics (Bruce, 1981),[1] thus it is only natural that apostles such as Peter (Barnard, 2014), Paul (Comfort, 1984), and John (Geisler, 1979), for example, did too.

Though many today draw various distinctions between apologetics and evangelism (Hanegraaff, 2016; Howe, 1978; Montgomery, 2004), we agree with McGrath (1998) that apologetics is integral to evangelism, and shall argue from the book of Acts that this is indeed the case in the apostolic era. We shall then use the epistle to the Romans to show how apologetics was part of the teachings, too.

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KEDS Essays — History of Hermeneutics

Briefly describe and discuss the distinctive hermeneutical features of Paul the Apostle and The Reformers, and highlight and discuss any hermeneutical similarities and/or differences between the two.

Introduction

Biblical interpretation as we know it begins in the intertestamental period (Bray, 1996, p. 47) and history is witness to a conspicuous number of hermeneutical approaches that have characterised different schools of thought as well as different ages (Reventlow, 2009). In this work, we should like to describe the distinctive hermeneutical features of both the Apostle Paul and the Reformers, to then move on discussing the similarities and differences between the two. To achieve our objective and better highlight the contrast between the Pauline and Reformed approaches, we thought it reasonable to narrow down the Reformed camp to a specific reformer, namely John Calvin. Though there is a variety within the views of the reformers, we believe Calvin provides us both with a sample of features that are common to the Reformers in general and with specific beliefs that will aid our work.

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KEDS Essays — Biblical Exegesis: Theory and Methodology

Given the inevitable presuppositions and subjectivity of the exegete, is it really possible to establish the intended meaning of the original Bible authors?

Introduction

Exegesis: the science and art of interpreting a text, so to bring out its meaning. However, who or what is the depository of meaning: the author, the text or the reader? We shall seek to determine whether authorial intent is where meaning indeed resides, and whether it can in fact be established by the exegete; and we shall embark on this journey as we look at closely related matters, such as the nature of Scripture, hermeneutics, the role of the text according to Scripture, dual authorship in light of the divine inspiration, and the reader’s presuppositions. 

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KEDS Essays — Exegesis and Theology

Romans 9-11 as a proof-text for the Calvinist doctrine of election. Discuss.

Calvinist soteriology is perhaps most widely known for the doctrine of unconditional election, a divine choice concerning mankind’s eternal destiny, where both “election and reprobation are individual, personal, specific, and particular” (Enns, 2008, p. 510). In the words of John Calvin himself:

God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. (Calvin, 2017, p. 407)[1]

Chapters nine through eleven of the Epistle to the Romans are foundational to Calvinism. Palmer (2010) calls chapter nine the “finest statement of all” about election (p. 39); Boice & Ryken (2002) deem it “the most important passage” (p. 92); Moo (1996) says it “gives strong exegetical support to Calvinistic interpretation” (p. 587). However, the debate throughout history has been fierce at times (de Villiers, 1981), and many still think “the apostle says nothing about eternal life and death” (Sanday & Headlam, 1908, p. 258).

We shall begin with a more detailed analysis of Romans 9, to then overview chapters 10-11 briefly, and conclude with the purpose of these three chapters; since modern Calvinist interpretations are virtually the same as John Calvin’s, we shall refer primarily to his commentary on Romans. Finally, we shall attempt to account for the origin of both the Calvinist doctrine of election and the usage of Romans 9-11 as its prooftext.

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KEDS Essays — The Synoptic Gospels

Complete three gobbets (short comment questions). Chosen texts: Matthew 2:14-15; Mark 4:38-39; Luke 8:48.

Matthew 2:14-15

This is a notoriously difficult text (Beale, 2012). Luke, the only other synoptic recording Jesus’ early life, provides no parallel;[1] but once we understand Luke and Matthew differ in their primary purpose and audience, it becomes clear that the text’s role is unique to Matthew’s intent. The latter, however, seems to be subject of debate, too (Carson, 2017), with some suggesting we should never look for a single audience and purpose (Blomberg, 1992). Blomberg, Carson, and many others seem to believe Matthew does not state his purpose clearly, though Blomberg does conclude that Matthew’s theological emphasis points to the primary purpose being apologetics directed to a Jewish audience.

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KEDS Essays — New Testament Survey

The Epistle of James and the First Epistle of John

The Epistle of James

Introduction. Scholars have proposed dozens of disparate solutions to the most basic questions regarding the epistle of James (Edgar, 2001). It is indeed difficult to assess genre, audience, message, purpose, and social, historical and cultural setting of this epistle. This is specially so when faced with the challenge of dating this book; though out of scope for this essay, we must at least acknowledge that opinions ranging from mid 30s (Hodges, 2015) to mid second century (Allison, 2015) must be taken into consideration.

Popular views that see James as mere wisdom literature (Bauckham, 1999, as cited in Baker, 2002), as paraenesis (Dibelius, 1976 as cited in Moo, 2015), or as diatribe (Ropes, 1916 as cited in Edgar, 2001), and generally lacking logical structure, have been challenged in the past few decades (Jackson-McCabe, 2003; Reiher, 2013; Moo, 2015). James cannot be taken as a discourse in a vacuum without neglecting the socio-historical background and impacting our understanding of message and purpose. However, Moo’s (2015) suggestion that James is a homily then transcribed in epistolary form allows to retain both exhortation and wisdom characteristics, now underpinned by a historical setting providing us with occasion, motive, audience, and social situation, and thus shedding new light on the message.

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KEDS Essays — Old Testament Survey

Introduction to the book of Exodus and the book of Haggai

Exodus

Until the 19th century the historicity and traditional authorship of the Pentateuch was widely accepted. Nowadays, however, Exodus is a controversial book (Seiglie, 2003). The Documentary Hypothesis constituted the first substantial shift, rejecting Mosaic authorship (Allis, 2001). The biblical minimalists went much further, denying archaeological evidence exists in support of biblical Israel (Thompson, 1999). Yet Exodus is “the most significant historical and theological event of the Old Testament” (Merrill, 1996, p. 57-58), thus of critical importance (Hayes, 2009).

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