If one imagines the community reading Paul’s words as a group of artisans linked by common vocation and workspace, is one able to understand this text more clearly? I believe so. The passages related to work, to community living, to physical labour have much more meaning when the community is visualised as a working community of manual labourers… The social world of artisans creates a new backdrop for understanding these letters. As I read Paul’s words, I see a community of skilled artisans who have gathered in their workroom to hear his letters read. They pause from their task, wipe the dust from their hands, and listen to their artisan-colleague, Paul, who in earlier days shared their same tools and workspace. In that context of dust and death, craft and faith, the members of the community learn how to live more closely in relationship to God and to one another.
See McKinnish Bridges, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 8, 10.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
It says something terrible about the state of the discipline [contemporary theology] that it is utterly objective and scholarly, that one can be successful without ever having to pray, meditate upon Scripture, participate in the life of the church, serve the poor, counsel the downtrodden or just repent of one’s selfishness and become more loving. It is a blight against contemporary theology that the mark of success has to do with argumentation or even conformance to some tradition, intellectual or confessional, not holiness. That one can be considered a knowledgeable theologian without ever really having to be affected by the knowledge they have is at the very least curious for a discipline concerned with knowledge of the ultimate ontologically reality, God... Knowing God entails personal change, for one cannot truly know God without coming into active, transformative relationship to him. Theologians thus do not know various doctrines, even if they can argue compellingly for them, if their selves are not conformed, not taught by the content. Calvin thus recognized that theology is not only plagued by false gods or idolatry, but by false selves as well. For him, it is impossible to retain a false self and yet know God in truth. In this way, what makes for a successful theologian is not simply good intellectual traits, but, more fundamentally, virtue and piety. Theologians are those who do not simply pontificate and speculate about the truth for others, but above all those who have been personally taught by Truth, who have been grasped by the content of their task to the point of being conformed to it. True theologians do not fool themselves into thinking that theological problems are solved conceptually (in other words, enough babbling about the perils of capitalism and more getting on with providing relief to those who suffer from its oppression). True theologians don’t master their discipline, but are mastered by it, being moved not simply intellectually by thoughts, but personally by realities shorthanded by doctrines.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
In the end, Jesus Interrupted can be best summarized as a book filled with ironies. Ironic that it purports to be about unbiased history but rarely presents an opposing viewpoint; ironic that it claims to follow the scholarly consensus but breaks from it so often; ironic that it insists on the historical-critical method but then reads the gospels with a modernist, overly-literal hermeneutic; ironic that it claims no one view of early Christianity could be “right” (Walter Bauer) but then proceeds to tell us which view of early Christianity is “right;” ironic that it dismisses Papias with a wave of the hand but presents the Gospel of the Ebionites as if it were equal to the canonical four; and ironic that it declares everyone can “pick and choose” what is right for them, but then offers its own litany of moral absolutes. Such intellectual schizophrenia suggests there is more going on in Jesus Interrupted than meets the eye. Though veiled in the garb of scholarship, this book is religious at the core. Ehrman does not so much offer history as he does theology, not so much academics as he does his own ideology. The reader does not get a post-religious Ehrman as expected, but simply gets a new-religious Ehrman–an author who has traded in one religious system (Christianity) for another (postmodern agnosticism). Thus, Ehrman is not out to squash religion as so many might suppose. He is simply out to promote his own. He is preacher turned scholar turned preacher. And of all the ironies, perhaps that is the greatest.