Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Method in "Christ and Horrors"

I'm busy reading Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology in the Series: Current Issues in Theology (No. 4) by Marilyn McCord Adams. The blurb is as follows:
Who would the Saviour have to be, what would the Saviour have to do to rescue human beings from the meaning-destroying experiences of their lives? This book offers a systematic Christology that is at once biblical and philosophical. Starting with human radical vulnerability to horrors such as permanent pain, sadistic abuse or genocide, it develops what must be true about Christ if He is the horror-defeater who ultimately resolves all the problems affecting the human condition and Divine-human relations. Distinctive elements of Marilyn McCord Adams' study are her defence of the two-natures theory, of Christ as Inner Teacher and a functional partner in human flourishing, and her arguments in favour of literal bodily resurrection (Christ's and ours) and of a strong doctrine of corporeal Eucharistic presence. The book concludes that Christ is the One in Whom, not only Christian doctrine, but cosmos, church, and the human psyche hold together.
There is a wonderful quote in her section on method, which states:

My assumption is that human reason's best chance at truth is won through the effort of integrating our data with our many and diverse intuitions into a coherent picture with the theoretical virtues of clarity, consistency, explanatory power and fruitfulness.

Christ and Horrors, pg. 11

View Excerpt as PDF (but it only goes up to pg 10 on the first chapter of method). So far it's a good read, and she admits to universalism - the current topic of discussion. It's very philosophical, which is vastly different from this year's reading (however, I am also half-way through Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks, which is brilliant, but technical and quite a tough read for this biblical studies student).
I think that Adams' reflection on method is apt, and her emphasis on theoretical virtues helpful. It reminds me of The New Testament and the People of God by N. T. Wright. If the subject catches your eye, this book (Christ and Horrors) is a well thought out and well argued piece that should stir much theological reflection.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Around the Blogosphere

Here's a little summary of what's going down in the blogosphere at the moment.
First up on my blog-roll is a discussion on the gospel traditions by Michael Pahl [1 & 2]. If you're unfamiliar with the names of Bailey, Dunn and Bultmann with regards to oral traditions and written sources, then Pahl's brief intro's will serve you well.
Following that, Ben Witherington gives us a brief preview of what's to come in his book: Troubled Waters: Rethinking Our Theology of Baptism. Ben's got some fascinating thoughts here, but I wonder if his exegesis would be helped by some creative theological reflection. Of course, Ben is right on the money when he points to the paucity of evidence regarding this initiation rite, but is he correct about families and households and baptising children just because they belong to the family of faith? There is much to think about here, whether you're a paedo-baptist or not.
Mike Bird is still struggling with the Pistis Christou debate, and has some quotes by Mark Reasoner, which I think miss the mark. I'm not convinced that this discussion is decided by theological factors. Maybe I don't fully understand all the issues at stake, but Richard Hays dealt a decisive grammatical and exegetical blow to the objective genitive discussion in his paper "Pistis and Pauline Christology: What is at Stake?" In Pauline Theology Vol. IV, 35-60. Atlanta: Scholars, 1997.
Furthermore, I disagree with Reasoner's comment that: Proponents of the subjective genitive, who hold that Christ's faith is what saves, will not call for a distinct, conversion-constituting act of placing one's faith in Jesus. They will rather call people to join the church that lives out in a concentric pattern the faith that Jesus displayed. The fact that the faithfulness of Jesus is what accomplishes salvation, does not mutually exclude the need for trust on our behalf to participate in the salvation/victory that Jesus has accomplished. There is a false dichotomy here that I reject. As a proponent of the subjective genitive, I am still with Paul [and Jesus] in viewing them as calling for a decisive act of faith, trusting what Jesus has done.
Mark Goodacre describes how access to the internet interferes with writing, and I know all about this problem! He's not giving up blogging, just becoming more disciplined with time. A lesson I am trying to learn - and only partially succeeding at! My writing time has been halved lately, but I'm on a road that will get me back to my happy place soon... I hope! The trick for me is to have regular and set writing times when I can forget the odd jobs and just focussed. Working at home now on Thursday mornings gives me the perfect opportunity to pour in some good writing. It's quiet and I'm alone - no distractions from my black hole -> the office!
Ben Myers has a great article on apologetics that he discusses. He note the following concerning his piece: Against certain forms of apologetics, I suggest that “the task of apologetics is not one of rational coercion, but of imaginative invitation. It is the invitation to envision – or rather, to re-envision – the world through the lens of the gospel of Jesus Christ…. The fundamental mode of such apologetic discourse, therefore, is one of peace and freedom. This sound excellent, and right on track to me.
Alan Bandy re-opens the café, with an excellent series on faith and scholarship that must be read. Brant Pitre describes Walking in the Footsteps of the Messiah, which offers further confirmation on Brant's thesis developed in Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement. I think this is one of the best books on the historical Jesus that I have read. His arguments are coherent and insightful, as well as pretty solid. When I write my thesis one day, I hope that it can match this offering.
That seems to me to be the best blogging around, if you've got any other suggestions post them in the comments box. This month Stephen Cook has done a great job over at Biblische Ausbildung:Biblical Studies Carnival XIX. One should also note that the Biblioblogger of the month for July 2007 is Claude Mariottini.
Back to the books for me...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

What is GOD?

Chris Tilling has a thoughtful little blog-post on GOD IS LOVE. I would just like to supplement his post with two delightful quotes from C.H. Dodd's commentary on the Johannine Epistles.

1 John 4:8-10 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.
The great British scholar, C.H. Dodd notes the following about this verse:
To say “God is love” implies that all His activity is loving activity. If He creates, He creates in love; if He rules, He rules in love; if He judges, He judges in love. All that He does is the expression of His nature, which is – to love. The theological consequences of this principle are far-reaching. Verse 9 is a restatement of the great Johannine declaration of the love of God (Jn 3:16) in terms differing only slightly from the form give in the Fourth gospel. It reminds us once again that in speaking of the love of God we are thinking of loving action, definite, concrete and recognizable on the historical plane. Verse 10 underlines one point in this declaration which is of fundamental importance: the Christian religion starts not with man’s love for God, but with God’s love for man, and with God’s love expressed in specific action in history.[1]
The meaning of the word [agape] must in fact be understood from the Gospel itself; and the pit and marrow of the Gospel is this: God’s sending of His Son to be the propitiation for our sins… It means that the coming of Christ, and in particular His death ‘for our sins, according to the scripture’ (1 Cor 15:3), constitutes the means by which we are cleansed from the taint of sin, and enter into the sphere of divine forgiveness, with the newness of life that it brings. That God provided such means for us, at such a cost, indicates what is meant by the love of God.[2]
This is enhanced by Anthony Thiselton's discussion of love in his massive commentary on 1 Corinthians, where he writes: Love denotes above all a stance or attitude which shows itself in acts of will as regard, respect, and concern for the welfare of the other. It is therefore profoundly christological, for the cross is the paradigm case of the act of will and stance which places welfare of others above the interests of the self.[3]
While I'm not sure how to answer Chris' final question, I do take refuge in the love of GOD, and I do try and share that love with anyone who is interested.
[1] C. H. Dodd, The Johannine Epistles (Hodder & Stoughton, 1953) pg. 110 [2] Dodd, The Johannine Epistles, pg. 112
[3] A. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians NIGTC (Eerdmans, ), pg. 1035

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Will God Remember?

Still delving into a deep well of Hebrew theology, DanO has caused me to seriously think about some stuff. Dan has his own excellent blog: Poser or Prophet: On Journeying With Those in Exile. Be sure to check that out. He offers various thoughts, on some biblical topics as well as theological which have caused me to sit down and think deeply.
Back to God and Memory, Dan raises the interesting question of Exodus 2:23-25
After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.
This fascinating passage is followed by a tradition of questioning whether or not Yhwh will remember his covenant to Israel. Listening to Tom Wright's lectures on Romans, while driving into the city recently, I was reminded of his four-fold plan of studying and reading: Exegesis > Theology > History > Praxis. It's a very helpful model, but I find that I'm always mixing them up (in fact I think the biblical writers do this all the time, especially Paul), and actually struggling to separate them - I think because of my view that the Scriptures have authority over my life, that they speak beyond their intended audience and to me now, and that someone I must respond to them. But that's another story - Back to Yhwh.
Did Israel really think that GOD had forgotten them? Does God actually become unaware of situations? One can easily suggest the scenario of Gen 18. God has heard rumours of disaster on the earth, so he "comes down" to see if it's true. Is this all part and parcel of anthropomorphic language, or is this actually conveying something about how God has chosen to interact with humanity?
I'm getting Fretheim, Durham and Brueggemann's commentary on Exodus so that I can explore this further, but in my own life, I'm pondering about whether GOD has forgotten some. And is Jaques Ellull right that the task of the community is to remind GOD of his covenant with humanity? Have we succeeded in this task? Are we even aware of such a mandate? Does it even matter to us? SHA!
Much to think through...