Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Theology for ALL

How disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theology is the business of a few theoreticians who are specially appointed for the purpose, to whom the rest, as hearty practical men, may sometimes listen with half an ear, though for their own part they boast of living “quite untheologically” for the demands of the day (“love”). As though these practical men were not continually preaching and speaking and writing, and were not genuinely questioned as to the rightness of their activity in this regard! As though there were anything more practical than giving this question its head, which means doing the work of theology and dogmatics! Again, how disastrously the Church must misunderstand itself if it can imagine that theological reflection is a matter for quiet situations and periods that suit and invite contemplation, a kind of peace-time luxury for which we are not only permitted but even commanded to find no time should things become really serious and exciting! As though there could be any more urgent task for a Church under assault from without than that of consolidating itself within, which means doing theological work! As though the venture of proclamation did not mean that the Church permanently finds itself in an emergency! As though theology could be done properly without reference to this constant emergency! Let there be no mistake. Because of these distorted ideas about theology, and dogmatics in particular, there arises and persists in the life of the Church a lasting and growing deficit for which we cannot expect those particularly active in this function to supply the needed balance. The whole Church must seriously want a serious theology if it is to have a serious theology.

—Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics I/1, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1975), 76-77.
[HT: David]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Events & Interpretation

Recent events of my sickness have kept me from posting much these days... Lying in bed with the evil flu has even prevented reading my new books. I found some odd sale in a random bookshop only to discover that what they were selling was BRILLIANT! I picked up volume 3.4 and 4.1 of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics (Brand new in soft cover) for 10 pounds. I then discovered a softcover of Barrett's ICC commentary on Acts 1-14 for 4 pounds (Brand new). I think I must have spent about 30pounds and found some BRILLIANT books, all brand new, and have now added them to my library. I can't figure out how or why they are so CHEAP, but I'm not complaining. I even found a copy of Paul and the Law by Thielman, for like 3 pounds. It was ridiculous.
More to the point of this post though: Michael Pahl has a little gem Event and Interpretation, which is well worth pondering. My Nemesis Eddie will love it...
I'm still trying to crack Gal 3:20, as well as the whole of 10-14, but I'll post more on that later. I think Richard Hays is one of the best commentators on Galatians, but I haven't read Martyn yet and Hays seems to be building on Martyn's shoulders.
On the other side of the field, before I got sick I was thoroughly enjoying Goldingay's Israel's Gospel, which I think is excellent. Not sure about Israel's Faith, because it's far more systematic, whereas I'm enjoying the Narrative approach. His section on Creation is superbly written, so that even my wife was enjoying it!
Anyway, back to bed... Hope to post soon. Take care...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Gal 3:20 - any clues?

Galatians 3:20 Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one.

I'm presenting a paper on Galatians 3-4 soon and I'm stumped. The most honest confession about this passage I can find is by F. F. Bruce.

The two statements in v 20 are completely intelligible if each is taken by itself. It goes without saying that a mediator requires at least two parties between which he is to mediate; he cannot mediate on behalf of one party only. That God is one is the theological basis of Judaism and Christianity alike… It is the relation between the two clauses that constitute the interpretive problem. In what way does the affirmation that God is one form an antithesis to what is said about the mediator? The number of solutions offered to the problem as been reckoned to exceed 300 – one might wonder, indeed , if this is Robert Browning’s ‘great text in Galatians’ with its ‘twenty-nine distinct damnations’ for the unwary exegete.

[Bruce, Commentary on Galatians, pg. 178]

Any other ideas? ANyone have a clue as to how this relates to the argument of Gal 3? Recommeded articles? Looking through Burton, Bruce, Hays, Longenecker, Witherinton and they don't seem to have much clue either... Desperation haunts this wary exegete...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Gal 3:2 - Translating

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by performing the works of the Torah or by trusting what you heard?
Richard Hays notes the difficulty in translating this verse and offers the various possibilities.[1]
The Meaning of ex akoēs pisteōs

If akoē means “hearing”: a) pistis = “believing”: “By hearing with faith”
b) pistis = “the faith”: “by hearing the faith (i.e., “by hearing the gospel)

If akoē means “message”: c) pistis = “believing”: “from the message that elicits faith”
d) pistis = “the faith”: “from the message of the faith” (i.e., “from the gospel message”)

Hays goes on to note that:

The noun akoē can sometimes mean “hearing,” but Paul’s use of it in a similar context in Rom 10:16-17 suggests that he understands it to mean “what is heard” – in other words, the proclaimed message… Here the interpreter of the letter is faced with a crucial fork in the road. Does Paul attribute the receiving of the Spirit to a human action (“hearing with faith”) or to divine initiative (“the message that elicits faith”)?[2]

I have translated this as “trusting what you heard” since ajkoh commonly referred to “the content of what is heard.”[3] I'm not convinced Hays has succeeded in demonstrating that the possible interpretations are mutually exclusive. If the Galatians trusted Paul’s message, it does not therefore negate the power of the message to provoke or elicit trust. It merely notes that by trusting what was spoken by Paul, and not by performing the various Jewish commandments, the Spirit descended upon them. Thus, I would still want to argue that this leaves open the question of divine initiative and human action.
[1] This table is found in Hays, “Galatians”, pg. 252 and further discussed in R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ (Scholars Press, 1983) pgs. 143-149
[2] Hays, “Galatians”, pg. 252
[3] Longenecker, Galatians, pg. 103

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Laconic Sages

The pressure is to much, so I'll quickly advertise this once, and never again. Some friends and I have started another blog: LACONIC SAGES to discuss church, discipleship and anything else that effects being a follower of Jesus in our post-modern world. There are no limits to what we will or won't discuss, so it's going to be interesting.
If you're interested or that way inclined, check it out...
ciao, sean D.