Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Creation, Worship and Life

Here is a typically thought-provoking excerpt from Brueggemann's Theology of the Old Testament (p532). Even without his particular assumptions on the dating of the Genesis account, his point still stands. This particular strand of interpretation of the Temple was introduced to me in my first year Pentateuch class and has been one of many abiding and fruitful insights from the time here at HTC. Anyway, here's Brueggemann...
Creation as Counter-Experience in Worship

One other peculiar practice in Israel’s worship life bears on our theme. It is evident in Gen 1:1–2:4a that creation and its gift of blessing are understood to be accomplished through (a) utterance, (b) separation of day from night and the waters from the waters, and (c) in the culminating practice of Sabbath.
It is widely held that creation became a crucial claim of Israel’s faith in exile, when Gen 1:1–2:4a is commonly dated. This setting for creation faith suggests that affirmation of creation as an ordered, reliable arena of generosity is a treasured counter to the disordered experience of chaos in exile. If this critical judgment is accepted, creation then is an "enactment," done in worship, in order to resist the negation of the world of exile. As a consequence, creation is not to be understood as a theory or as an intellectual, speculative notion, but as a concrete life-or-death discipline and practice, whereby the peculiar claims of Yahweh were mediated in and to Israel.
This assumption has led a series of scholars to notice that the Priestly construct of the tabernacle in Exodus 25–31 has an odd and seemingly intentional parallel to the creation liturgy of Gen 1:1–2:4a. That is, the instructions for the making of the tabernacle, given by Yahweh to Moses, consist in seven speeches, matching the seven days of creation, and culminating, like Gen 2:1–4a, in the provision for the Sabbath (Exod 31:12–17). Moreover, the assertion that the tabernacle is finally "finished" (Exod 39:32, 40:33) corresponds to the "finish" of creation in Gen 2:4.
This parallelism suggests that while creation may be an experience of the world, in a context where the world is experienced as not good, orderly, or generative, Israel has recourse to the counter-experience of creation in worship. Such an exercise, we may suspect, permitted Israelites who gave themselves fully over to the drama and claims of the creation liturgy to live responsible, caring, secure, generative, and (above all) sane lives, in circumstances that severely discouraged such resolved living.
Thus creation, in such a context, has concrete and immediate pastoral implication.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Final Semester at HTC

The final semester of my theology degree at HTC has just started. Modules for this semester are as follows:
  • Biblical Theology II The follow-up to Biblical Theology I (no surprise there), this module builds upon the methodologies studied previously and applies these to themes within the canon. So, during the semester we will discuss Marriage, the City, the Spirit and the Nations, developing biblical-theological approaches to analyses in each of these areas. All of this under the expert guidance of Dr Jamie Grant.

  • Reformed Apologetics My degree up to now has been dominated by Biblical Studies, Biblical Theology and the Languages. Nothing wrong with that! In this final semester, I will be bringing some systematics to the table in the form of two modules (reflecting my Gablerian conviction that Biblical Theology must form the basis for Systematic Theology). The first of these looks at Reformed approaches to apologetics. Dr Rob Shillaker teaches the module.

  • Reformed Theology Dr Rob Shillaker is also the tutor on this module, the second of my brace of systematics subjects. The module was written by Rev Professor Andrew McGowan, former principle of HTC, and addresses the development of Reformed theology up to the modern day. Along the way, we will analyse Westminster theology as a development of Calvin's thought, and bring things up to date with a consideration of current trends in semper reformanda, including the federal vision.

  • Dissertation As for last semester, 25% of my study time is to be spent writing my dissertation, the working title of which is 'The Heavens Opened: Intertextuality, Function and Meaning in John 1.51.'
So, it's head down for the next 14-ish weeks!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

God's Divine and Gracious Word

The final post here (for now) on the nature of Scripture is two quotes from the WTS Hermeneutics Field Committee report.

Concursus warns us against playing the humanity of scripture off against its divinity and vice versa. To the extent that one stresses the foundational role of God as primary Author, to that same extent the question of His determination to use real human authors (and not mere amanuenses) becomes more insistent. The fact is that the Bible that we have presents us with the amazing fact that God chose to use human beings well beyond the minimum threshold required for communication. The tell-tale signs of such an activity in Scripture are, therefore, not principial problems to be explained away or denied but rather wonderful marks of its origin and perfection. Kuyper did not drive home the power of the disanalogous aspects. The depth of divine condescension in the Incarnation is incredibly greater than his condescension in inscripturation, and was strictly necessary, given God’s decision to redeem a people. By comparison, the divine condescension in inscripturation, though less costly, is surprisingly much deeper and pervasive than was necessary! It is the wisdom of this surprising condescension in which I&I and HFC wish to exult, 86.

The phenomena that our tradition has labeled "the humanity of scripture" is, therefore, a signature mark of the character of its divinity. This divinity, if we may paraphrase Pascal, is not the abstract divinity defined by the philosophers; it is the divinity of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Yahweh, the covenant God! As such, these "troublesome" phenomena of Scripture are one of the important revelatory burdens of the Bible, providing us a unique view into the nature of our God, of his relationship with his people and the concerns of his heart. As a set, then, these phenomena are of immense moment for our understanding of the Bible, the Christian walk and calling. We dare not minimize this dimension of scripture in the slightest. It is an integral part of a biblical "doctrine of Scripture." I&I drives this point home to an audience that needs to hear it, 87.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

God's Infallible Word

To round off a series of post on the nature of scripture, perhaps I can quote Ridderbos and also (in the next post) a section of the WTS Hermeneutics Field Committee paper. Both are very much in line with my own position. First, Ridderbos:
[W]hat we are confronted with in Scripture is not just human beings in their human faith and human efforts to witness to what they understood of God's revelation; it is God himself, addressing himself to us by men...But at the same time we must always be aware that it is God's speaking in his condescension to men, wonderfully adjusting himself to human language and human possibilities of understanding, Studies, 33

To attempt a theological definition of the Scripture is no easy matter. This results from its unique origin and character. All Scripture is God-breathed. Therefore all our human definitions will remain inadequate. Just because it is divine, it arises above our knowledge, and we shall never fully realize 'what is the breadth and length and height and depth' (Eph 3.18). This applies also to its authority and infallibility. Its authority is much greater than we are able to express in human words. But at the same time we have to acknowledge that this Word of God has entered so very much into the human and has so identified itself with it that we shall always again stand before the question as to what the unassailably divine and what the relativity of the human in Scripture mean concretely, Studies, 34.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Ridderbos, Jannes and Jambres

In Inspiration and Inspiration, Peter Enns questions whether the actual names of Pharoah's magicians in 2 Tim 3:8 were Jannes and Jambres, or whether this in fact represents a Second Temple tradition. It's interesting to find Ridderbos coming to the same conclusion as Enns.

...In some respects, the Jewishness and Rabbinical background of New Testament writings are clear enough. If the second letter to Timothy speaks of Jannes and Jambres as men who withstood Moses, we cannot recognise in them the Egyptian magicians of the court of Pharoah, until we come across these same names in certain late Jewish writings with a plain reference to those magicians. Elsewhere, when Paul speaks of the mediation of angels in giving the law on Sinai (Gal 3.19), or when, wishing to indicate Christ's exaltation above all other spiritual powers, he list a whole series of kinds of angels (Col 1.16); or says that the promise was given 430 years before the law (Gal 3.17) - these are all expressions whose background we are not able to find in the Old Testament or elsewhere in the New Testament, but which only become clear to us from the late Jewish writings. How must we now view this? Must we say that because Paul, the apostle of Christ, who was led by the Spirit, calls the magicians of Pharoah Jannes and Jambres, these must have been their real names? Although there may have been those in times past who would have answered this affirmatively, it would not be easy to mention anyone who takes this standpoint today, at least among those aware of the way these names were probably brought into vogue in Jewish literature.

Now, of course, the concrete significance of this last example is particularly slight. From the point of view of faith no one is interested in the names of Pharoah's magicians. Nevertheless... [this example] is not without importance. It lets us see that inspiration can also mean connection with certain Jewish or non-Christian elements, without these elements at the same time being brought under the sanction of inspiration and thus belonging to the normative character of Scripture.

Studies in Scripture and Its Authority, 31-32