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

Interview with Joel B. Green on “Reframing NT Theology” Series (Gupta) September 25, 2014

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?

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