Friday, August 31, 2007
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, August 26, 2007
But does it really matter? Many faithful Christians find themselves disturbed and irritated by this emphasis on the historical, and on the vagaries and uncertainties of historical research. Is this what faith is all about? Does not faith move in an entirely different realm? Certainly it is not the case that we can be saved by the acceptance as true of certain historical phenonena in the past. Certainly it is true that Christian faith will not collapse, if this or that historical detail is shown not to be true. Certainly it is not the case that, if every single detail of the Gospel narratives was faithfully and exactly authentic as history, faith in Jesus Christ would automatically result.But having allowed all this, I still think that it is possible to gravely underestimate the significance of the historical in Christian faith. Theologically, history is important. If we believe that in Jesus Christ God did finally and definitively intervene in the world of men, we are committed to the view that history is the chosen sphere of his working, and that therefore history, all history, including the history of you and me today, is related to the process of revelation. But there is something even more important than this. Professor Bultmannand his colleagues inssit again and again, and rightly, on our encounter with God in Jesus Christ. But whom do we encounter? Is he, as Giovanni Megge has paraphrased the thought of Bultmann, one who is no more than the geometrical point, which has position but no magnitude?...When the believer comes to the Holy Communion, what does he imagine himself to be doing?Interpretation of the NT, 311
Saturday, August 25, 2007
What is the relation between Heilsgeschichte, salvation-history, the record of the mighty acts of God, and ordinary history, those banal things that happen from day to day? Some would answer 'there is no connection...'. (Luke's) answer to the question is perfectly clear; Heilsgeschichte and secular history are the same history; each from a different point of view is the story of God's providential government of the nations, all of which he holds in the hollow of his hand. It is for this reason that, at the outset of his gospel, he so carefully relates the ministry of Jesus to the rulers of the secular and religious worlds. For him, the world since Pentecost is the scene of the new mighty acts of God in history. History can be understood in no other way; it is the scene of the forward march of God among the nations, as God goes out through his Word to gather out from all the nations a people acceptable to himself. For this reason the Church is all-important, since it is only through the Church that the march of God among the nations can become manifest.
Interpretation of the NT, 287
Anyone interested in Jesus will want to know not only his story, but how we have come to read (or misread) that story.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
The basic elements in the Gnostic myth of redemption, the concrete features of which can very in details, are as follows: A heavenly being is sent down from the world of light to the earth, which has fallen under the sway of the demonic powers, in order to liberate the sparks of light, which have their origin in the world of light, but owing to a fall in primeval times, have been compelled to inhabit human bodies. This emissary takes a human form, and carries out the works entrusted to him by the Father; as a result he is not cut off from the Father. He reveals himself in his utterances ('I am the shepherd', etc.) and so brings about the separation of the seeing from the blind to whom he appears as a stranger. His own harken to him, and he awakes in them the memory of their home of light, teaches them to recognise their own true nature, and teaches them also the way of return to their home, to which he, as a redeemed Redeemer, rises again.
Bultmann, Article on the Fourth Gospel in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart
Of course, Bultmann thought the gnostic redeemer myth helped to explain John's Christology. But, as Neill points out, the evidence for a pre-Christian gnostic redeemer myth is non-existent...
In pre-Christian Graeco-Roman religion there was no redeemer or saviour of a Gnostic type...The most obvious explanation of the origin of the Gnostic redeemer is that he was modelled after the Christian conception of Jesus.
R M Grant, Gnosticism (1961), 18
April de Conick holds that there was no discrete gnostic 'religion' and that gnosticism developed first within Judaism in an attempt to reconcile it with Middle Platonism. Check out her views here. It's all interesting stuff.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
No matter how forgotten and neglected, there is a child in all of us who is not just willing to believe in the possibility that maybe fairy tales are true after all but who is to some degree in touch with that truth.Beuchner's casting of truth as the Way Things Are, as the TV news with the sound turned down is powerfully evocative. On the comedy of the gospel he says people are
prepared for everything except for the fact that beyond the darkness of their blindness there is a great light.
the kind of joke Jesus told when he said it is harder for a rich person to enter paradise than for a Mercedes to get through a revolving door...than for Nelson Rockefeller to get through the night deposit slot of the First National City Bank.
Monday, August 20, 2007
- yesterday, the Tenth Anniversary service, where Iain spoke on 'Ebeneser' from 1S7 and we all enjoyed lunch together after Donald MacDonald OBE had spoken of his support for the work in South Uist;
- tonight, a meeting with May Nicholson from the Preshal Trust in Glasgow. May is the author of Miracles to Mayhem, her own story of becoming a disciple of Christ after living life as a notorious alcoholic in her community.
Both Donald and May spoke of the need for faith to lead to works. This has been a feature of the Free Church work here from the beginning. Through setting up the Caladh Trust, creating community through the cafe and drop-in, through supporting those struggling with addiction and their families, through furniture recycling for low income families and assisting people in getting out of debt, the emphasis that Iain brought to the work here has always had a very practical component. This, I suppose is why we were excited about coming here ourselves in 2004. Organised social ministries have not been one of the strong points of Reformed churches, at least in recent history. In celebrating Ten Years of the Free Church work here in South Uist, our relatively new congregation can reflect on being a New Community seeking to proclaim the Gospel of new life in Jesus Christ and the Coming of His Kingdom, trying to live together lives of worship and witness through the power of the Holy Spirit, and trying to support and minister to the outcast, the stranger, the suffering, the orphan and the widow. Over the last Ten Years, many have come to faith here who have moved on, some now serving in ministry elsewhere in Scotland and the world. Over the last two days new people have come to the church for the first time. We are renewing our vision to be: A Church at the Heart of the Community, With the Community in its Heart. Glory to God. Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done On Earth.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
- Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Bucer all saw assurance as a normative component of faith - however, Calvin at least (and I assume the others) acknowledges that the level of assurance can vary. Reformed thought gradually diverges from this position: the Canons of Dordt and the Westminister Standards disconnect assurance from faith, putting the grounds of assurance additionally in the testimony of the Spirit and the doing of good works.
- Like the Imago Dei, the subject of assurance is conceptualised in systematics several degrees beyond its conceptualisation in the Bible. In Schreiner and Caneday's book, The Race Set Before Us - a Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance, the biblical warnings on 'falling away' are considered as a touchstone for a biblical doctrine of assurance. It's my view that Reformed dogmatics has struggled to reflect the biblical data in failing to maintain the distinction between the experience of the believer and (i) the secret elements of God's counsel, (ii) the salvific state of the soul. If these distinctions are maintained, the possibility of 'falling away', which seems a very real possibility in the NT epistles, causes fewer doctrinal problems.
- Berkhouwer highlights another much-needed challenge to systematic formulations around assurance: the NT emphasises salvation as a process, not a singularity in the experience of the individual. The future aspect of salvation is required for a correct formulation on assurance: faith as the assurance of things hoped for. So, for me, assurance is essential to faith since it is the conviction that 'I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him, until that day'.
- Rather controversially, I say this at one point: 'continuing in assurance of salvation is essential to faith, but not necessarily to salvation'. And also this: 'We need not baulk at McKnight's statement that final salvation is 'conditional, and that single condition is persevering faith', since this is the commanded pattern and normal expectation for the experience of the believer'.
- Basically, the conclusion is that Calvin was right in proposing that assurance is a component of faith and therefore essential to faith. No surprises there then. But wait...that means that the Westministers standards went a bit wonky...? What I do say is that 'attempts at systematising soteriology have falsely sanctioned the intrusion of the secret elements of the divine counsel into the experience of the individual.' Indeed.
Friday, August 03, 2007
- The striking thing about Imago Dei theologies is that they can become huge edifices built on a very small foundation. Many theologies begin with the Genesis 1 statements, but quickly launch into pretty uncritical linkages with 'image' statements in the New Testament, mainly in Pauline writings. A thorough biblical theological approach which recognises the gulf in salvation-historical terms between these two sources, let alone linguistic and cultural distances, is a rare thing, it seems to me.
- The Structural Paradigm for interpreting the Imago Dei (seeing the image as an analogy of God's being) is everywhere: the Fathers, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, to different degrees and varying formulations. However, this paradigm owes just as much to Platonistic paradigms as it does to any biblical structuring. The Functional Paradigm sees the image as the mediation of power or rule by man in the world, as it is delegated by God. Dominion is the function and the physical body (peripheral in the Structural Paradigm) becomes central. Ancient Near East parallels play a much bigger part in deriving theologies from the Genesis 1 data.
- How about this for a fascinating quote from Hendrikus Berkhof: 'By studying how systematic theologies have poured meaning into Genesis 1:26 one could write a piece of Europe's cultural history'
- So, after the exercise, my conclusions were: 'Structural Imago Dei theologies, including the classical Reformed position, are built on serious methodological flaws. The synthesis of prevailing philosophies with the biblical data in order to make headway has continued.'..Ouch! In the functional paradigm, man is created not in the image, but as the image (a position consistent with the Hebrew in Genesis 1).
Reflections on the Assurance essay will come in the next post, along with some other reflections on the module in general.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
The preaching of the gospel is a telling of the truth or the putting of a sort of frame of words around the silence that is truth because truth in the sense of fullness, of the way things are, can at best be only pointed to by the language of poetry - of metaphor, image, symbol - as it is used in the prophets of the Old Testament and elsewhere. Before the Gospel is a word, it is a silence, a kind of presenting of life itself so that we see it not for what at various times we call it - meaningless or meaningful, absurd, beautiful - but for what it truly is in all its complexity, simplicity,