I am in San Francisco this week for the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Today I spent most of my time in papers in Luke / Acts and Pauline Theology. I heard some good papers and some less-than-good ones, but even the bad ones stimulate my thinking, Even if it is mentally re-write the paper “the way I would have done it.” Here is a brief summary of two papers which I thought were intriguing.
Carl Sanders, “Rethinking Conversion in Acts.” Sanders questions the common assumption that the purpose of Acts is to provide a model of mission or to provide a manual for evangelism. He examined two key “conversion” stories in Acts, Pentecost and Cornelius. He pointed out that the sermons preached are not particularly evangelistic, at least from a modern, systematic theology perspective. In fact, the only sin that Peter has in mind in Acts 2 is the execution of Jesus, and Cornelius received the Spirit before the sermon was even over (no call to repent, not altar call, etc.) For the Jewish “converts” in Acts, they do not so much move from one religion to another as “upgrade” from the Old covenant to the New. Obviously Saul’s conversion is a hotly debated topic, but I really did appreciate Sanders’ perspective on Pentecost and the idea of conversion. I thought his point that the proclamation of the gospel in Acts is far from the “Romans Road” style evangelism we are familiar with was good, although it seems to me that was the main point of Scot McKnight’s book, The Gospel of King Jesus.
Matthew Yates Emerson gave a paper attempting to do canonical criticism on the Synoptics and Acts. This immediately struck me as strange, since Canon Criticism as I understand it is more or less an Old Testament discipline. There was more to his thesis than this, but essentially he said that the fact that John interrupts the sequence of Luke and Acts some theological emphases come to the foreground. He has in mind new creation theology in John anticipates a “new mandate” in Acts to fill the world, be fruitful and multiply (evangelism and church growth). I do think it is obvious that John has a new creation theology, but I was less than convinced that there was a conscious decision by some unnamed canonical collector who placed Acts after John to highlight the “new mandate” language in Acts. In fact, I remain unconvinced there is a “be fruitful and multiply” in Acts. That part of his paper sounded contrived to me. I asked if he had an idea who might be the one who placed the books intentionally to highlight this theology, but Yates sidestepped the question because the interest of Canon criticism is entirely descriptive.
I am off in a bit to attend the Logos Bible Software seminar. I am hoping for a free Portfolio Edition for all in attendance, but I will settle for fresh coffee.