Jan 6, 2022

Acts: Transitional Versus Programmatic

Patrick Schreiner does a good job showing why the book of Acts is canonically important here. But I am not sure his application drawn between Acts as "transitional" and Acts as  "programmatic" (terminology borrowed from B. Crowe) is altogether helpful. 

Schreiner notes that, "As a transitional book, Acts recounts non-repeatable events that establish the community of faith. For example, Pentecost is an unrepeatable event, but also not retractable. The reestablishment of the twelve apostles is exclusive to the period of Acts. The fate of Ananias and Sapphira is not likely to be seen requiring the immediate termination of liars in the church today."

All historical events are transitional (they take moving from one event to the next) and non-repeatable. But that is not to say that historical narratives lack applicational value. History is told to do more than inform. In speech act terms, what is the illocutionary and perlocutionary intention of the recounting of the historical event. So the issue is not simply that Acts records the demise of Ananias and Sapphira but that record is meant to be applied in some way. How one applies this event is open for discussion for discussion but not whether it applies. Second Timothy 3:16 reminds us that "all Scripture," including historical narratives, are "profitable" for life transformation.

Schreiner adds, "Acts also confronts Christians as a programmatic book. It provides guidance for the church in every age." I wholeheartedly agree, but it is not clear whether he views Ananias and Sapphira as programmatic and if so, how so. The fact is that if Acts is programmatic then it is also "transitional" since the book was written and the entire history it records took place in space in time (i.e., not chronologically static).

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