Interview with Joel B. Green on “Reframing NT Theology” Series (Gupta)

JBGreenA few days ago I mentioned a new series from Abingdon Press called Reframing New Testament Theology. Dr. Joel B. Green, the editor of the series, was kind enough to answer some questions about this. Can’t wait to get my hands on some of these volumes!

Nijay: Can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in this series and its aims?

​Dr. Green: Actually, the initiative came from Abingdon Press​. The idea was for a series concerned with theological contributions to central questions raised by study of the New Testament. The point of departure would be questions raised among New Testament students, and the analysis would bring students into active, theological engagement with the New Testament and related materials. That was our beginning point, anyway, and we developed the series more fully from there.
On your blog, you mentioned the “themes” books that Word produced some years ago, but our thinking went back further, to such precursors as John A.T. Robinson’s The Body, and Oscar Cullmann’s Baptism in the New Testament. Those books suggested to us something of the aim and level of writing anticipated, even if those older books were shorter than expected in this series, and their coverage of the New Testament books was generally more limited.
Nijay: This series is obviously not aimed at producing advanced scholarship, but more focused on offering helpful explanations for the church. And yet there is a stigma attached to the word “theology” as in “New Testament Theology.” Instead, popular Christian literature uses words like “formation” and “discipleship” and “spirituality.” What would you say to a layperson who wouldn’t pick up a book in your series because “New Testament Theology” sounds too academic?
​Dr. Green: We assumed a readership with little or no familiarity with New Testament scholarship generally, and didn’t want New Testament scholarship itself to set the agenda for the volumes. So you won’t find a lot of critical interaction with scholar A or scholar B. ​Even so, we weren’t thinking of the ever-elusive education layperson when we imagined the series. Such people do exist, of course, but we wanted to produce textbooks first and foremost, as well as books that would be good reads among pastors and study groups.
One of the hallmarks of the series is that we don’t try to define for our authors what it means to use “New Testament” and “theology” in the same sentence. We want books in the series to promote theological engagement with the New Testament, but we don’t try to specify for our authors how best to introduce and invite that kind of engagement.
Nijay: Why Salvation? Many Christians believe that either the focus of the New Testament is on “saving souls for heaven” or on “having Jesus fill the hole in my heart.” In a way, both of these have a grain of truth, but I am guess you think there is more. Tell us about how you view “salvation” according to the New Testament.
Dr. Green: ​In Why Salvation? I try to ​ground salvation deeply within God’s work in the world, and I try to define salvation as broadly and wholistically as possible. I work to show how our understanding and experience of salvation is tied to creation and kingdom; persons and communities; the past, present, and future; and so on.As I urge in the book’s introduction, our understanding of salvation builds on a number of related concepts, including, for example, anthropology, theology, Christology, ecclesiology, missiology, and eschatology. Throughout the book, then, I argue that, if our exploration of the theme of salvation is to be faithful to the New Testament, it must be account for the human cry for healing in personal, communal, and even global terms; and it must provide a vision of salvation that can be heard and communicated genuinely as good news.
Nijay: You’ve done work in recent years on science and faith, body and soul. How does that factor into your perspective on “salvation”? 
Dr. Green: ​I’ve already hinted at this, I think. You will know that my work on “humanity in Scripture” emphasizes the irreducible wholeness of the human person, the relational character of humanity, and humanity’s inseparable tie to the earth God has created. This means that we are ever in danger of promoting an anemic gospel of salvation, when what is needed is an invitation into a salvific journey that encompasses all of life and entails transformed commitments and fresh practices.
Nijay: Donald Senior is writing on the cross, and Rob Wall on the church. What other topics do you want to see covered? Who else is writing for this series?
Dr. Green: ​The series is open-ended, and I’m on the lookout for potential authors. You’ve mentioned the first three volumes. A fourth will follow: Dean Fleming on Why Mission? Other volumes I have in mind are Why Jesus? and Why the End of the World?

Culpepper: What It Means to Take Up One’s Cross (Gupta)

CulpepperI have the wonderful privilege of teaching on the theology of Mark’s Gospel this evening. I had to stop and write down these powerful words from Alan Culpepper to share with you (from his Smyth & Helwys commentary on Mark). This is Culpepper’s comments on the meaning of Mark’s Jesus enjoining his followers to “take up their crosses” (Mark 8:34).

The cross was the result of of Jesus’ opposition to the corruption of religion, the oppression of the poor, and the perversion of justice. It was precisely Jesus’ challenge to these evils and his identification with the outcast, the forgotten, and the oppressed that led the coalition of religious and political powers to put him to death. From this perspective, to take up the cross means to step forward, regardless of the sacrifice required, to join in the work of confrontation of the powers and identification with the excluded and persecuted. Taking up the cross means being at work where God is at work in the world to relieve suffering and injustice, to rescue the weak, and to bring peace and justice to bear in the human community. Each person has a unique opportunity to participate in God’s redemptive work in the world–Jesus said not just ‘the cross’ but ‘his cross’ or ‘her cross’ (p. 288)