God’s Wisdom, the Law, and the Good News (Romans 10:4-10)

This essay on Romans 10:4-10 was originally intended to be included in my book Wisdom Christology but was dropped due to the publisher’s space limitations.  I am posting a slightly revised version of it here as a pdf file via this link.

In Romans 10:6-8 Paul appropriates and interprets Deut 30:12-14 in a way that may sound strange to our modern ears. If we proceed carefully, however, Paul’s exposition will give us insight into God’s wisdom in Christ.

I had also drafted an essay on Gal 4:1-7 which I intend to post here in the future.

The original book, without the Romans and Galatians chapters, is available on Amazon.

The first chapter of Wisdom Christology is available as a pdf file at the Westminster Theological Seminary bookstore site.  You can find it here.  Click on “sample pages.”

ISIS Seeks a Stronghold in the Philippines

Many have asked about the stability of the Philippines in light of the conflict between government forces and a puritanical Muslim coalition. At the moment the problem is isolated to an area on the southern island of Mindanao. But more than 300 people have died in fighting with the Islamic State-linked group which seized Marawi on May 23. The attack by a group known as “Maute” (the name of an important Muslim family in the area) and its allies on the island of Mindanao is a warning that the Islamic State seeks to build a base in Southeast Asia.

Government Forces

It is important to recognize that Islam is not just now coming to the Philippines. It has been in the southern areas for many centuries (long before the Americans or the Spanish arrived). Notice the mosques with their minarets in the picture.

Marawi Mosques

The beginnings of Islam in the southern islands actually goes back to the seventh century when Arabic traders and Sufi mystics arrived.. When the Spanish landed in 1521, and the islands became part of “the Philippines” (after King Philip) the explorer Magellan found the thirteen (!) Islamic people group already established, each with their own geographical location, language, culture, and aristocratic leadership. For the next four hundred years, the Spanish colonizers remained at odds with the Muslim Filipinos. By the time the Americans came at the end of the 19th century, and a new republic was established, the Muslim clans were an impoverished minority.

The cultural divide between Muslim Filipinos and what has been essentially a Roman Catholic majority intensified in the 1970s. The global rise of a politicized and puritanical form of Islam, combined with local political problems, led to an Islamic separatist movement. The various factions of this movement have at times engaged in armed conflict with government forces. So in the period leading up to the present crisis Filipino Islam has been a unique mixture of at least seven elements:  Orthodox Islam, folk beliefs, a datu (chief or aristocrat) led tribal social structure, a sense of marginalization from the majority, and a growing separatist aspiration.

What is new is the radicalization of the Filipino Muslims by the forces of such groups as Al-Qaida and ISIS with their extremely violent ideology.  Unfortunately fertile soil (both metaphorically and literally) has been found. It is against this background that the battle for the City of Marawi is taking place. It is part of a much larger challenge.

We need to be praying for peace and safety for all the people in Mindanao area. Pray also that the Church will be ready to endure hardship and compassionately share the love of Christ in the long years that now lay ahead for the Southern Philippines.

Here is a helpful article that explains the military situation.

Here is an important analysis from 2016 that should have warned government authorities of the imminent danger. 

Amazing Grace

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Salvation by grace alone is an essential doctrine. Sola gratia (by grace alone) was a great watchword of the Reformation. God’s people rediscovered the wonderful truth that God saves us not by our works, but by his redeeming grace alone. Perhaps no passages captures this truth like, Ephesians 2:8–9. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works.”

In recent history the truth has been celebrated by songs like: “Amazing grace! How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!” “Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt.” “Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin; how shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?”

The other day I heard someone explain salvation using the acronym for grace as “God’s gift at Christ’s expense.” This captures much of the truth.

Here is another definition: “Grace is the effective presence of the triune God to save and empower.” Grace involves the powerful, personal, relational presence of God. Grace enables us to call God “our Father,” to have union with the resurrected Christ, and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. At the end of 2 Corinthians Paul declares, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.”

This amazing grace freely given to us in the gospel saves us from sin, Satan, and death, and it also empowers us to live for Christ. Rejoice in God’s saving grace today.

Hermeneutical Humility

“My theological understanding will be inadequate to the eschatological fullness of God’s truth, to be sure, but it will be adequate to this time and place that I occupy, by the Spirit’s own promise to lead to truth, if my Spirit-given intention is in fact sentire cum ecclesia (thinking with the church).” (Hinlicky, 241, n. 116).

Thinking about God’s Name

R. Kendall Soulen’s book The Divine Name(s) and the Holy Trinity: Distinguishing the Voices (2011) is an interesting, provocative, and helpful study of how to think Christianly about God’s name(s).  It is not for the theological novice, but is well worth a careful read. 

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In this work:  “a fresh map of Trinitarian language that is simple, yet profound in its implications for theology and practice. Soulen proposes that sacred scripture gifts us with three patterns of naming the persons of the Trinity: a theo-logical pattern characterized by oblique reference to the Tetragrammaton (the divine name); a christo-logical pattern characterized by the kinship vocabulary of Father, Son, and Spirit; and a pneumato-logical pattern, characterized by the open-ended multiplicity of divine names. These patterns relate in a Trinitarian way: they are distinct, interconnected, and, above all, equally important. The significance of this thesis resides in its power to map the terrain of Trinitarian discourse in a way that is faithful to scripture, critically respectful of tradition, and fruitfully relevant to a broad range of contemporary concerns.”