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It is necessary to be disengaged from all we feel and do in order to walk with God in the duty of the present moment.
Jean-Pierre De Caussade, The Sacrament of the Present Moment, p. 15
'Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination.'
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations
...it is clear that man cannot have practical intelligence unless he is good.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, 1144a37
Resurrection, not progress, not evolution, not enlightenment, but what the word means, namely, a call from heaven to us: 'Rise up! You are dead, but I will give you life.'
Karl Barth, Jesus Victor, from A Chorus of Witnesses
Were all sin now visited with open punishment, it might be thought that nothing was reserved for the final judgement; and, on the other hand, were no sin now openly punished, it might be supposed there was no divine providence.
Augustine, De Civitat. Dei, lib i.c.8
Grace is grace despite of all controversy.
Shakespeare
Desire in itself is movement
Not in itself desireable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and the end of movement,
Timeless and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between unbeing and being.
TS Eliot, Burnt Norton, in Four Quartets
There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barracading a human's mind against the Enemy. He wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them.
C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters, p.28
There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; Another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.
Proverbs 13:7
For Christians, interpreting Scripture is a difficult task...because it is, and involves, a life long process of learning to become a wise reader of Scripture capable of embodying that reading in life.
Stephen Fowl and Gregory Jones, Reading in Communion, p. 29
I don't believe that God is a fussy faultfinder in dealing with theological ideas. He who provides forgiveness for a sinful life will also surely be a generous judge of theological reflections. Even an orthodox theologian can be spiritually dead, while perhaps a heretic crawls on forbidden bypaths to sources of life.
Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians, p. 37
In preaching the gospel, it is our business to show, in so far as our knowledge and experience equip us to do so, how the Christian story enables us to understand and deal with the whole range of human experience in both public and private life.
Lesslie Newbigin, Proper Confidence, p. 96
A man's true glory consists in gentleness, humility, and unfeigned charity.
John Chrysostom, from Golden Mouth, p.97
...the knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation, only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived and rooted in the heart.
John Calvin, The Institutes, bk 1, ch 5
'The writer must face the fact that ordinary lives are what most people live most of the time, and that the novel as a narration of the fantastic and the adventurous is really an escapist plot; that aesthetically the ordinary, the banal, is what you must deal with.'

John Updike BBC.com, January 27, 2009

Wirkungsgechichte: Key People

23rd October 2012

R.G. Collingwood

Wittgenstein

H. Gadamer

H.R. Jauss

Anthony Thiselton

David Lyle Jeffries

 

I.  Work on Fuchs, Wittgenstein, and Austin (1964-70)

a)  Gadamer and Wittgenstein = dissatisfied with traditional textbooks on biblical interpretation.

b)  Fuch’s major works and Gadamer’s Truth and Method.

1.  Projected “worlds” into which the reader is drawn

a-pre-cognitive value systems into which readers seduced or  enticed, only to find world and reader’s expectations subverted or reversed.

1)  Fuchs on reveral of expectation in Mt. 20:1-16

2)  “worldhood” in Heidegger’s Being and Time to which Fuch’s was indebted.

c)  Problems in Philosophy of Language

1.  Wittgenstein and J.L. Austin:  peformatives which presupposed institutional states of affairs and specific contextual conventions improvement on Heidegger and Fuchs.

2.  Pannenberg on Hermeneutics also alerted him to devaluing of assertions in Heidegger and Gadamer.

3.  Concerned to draw equally on Anglo-American tradition and Continental Philosophy with Wittgenstein as a key figure with incisiveness and rigor (analytical phil in Britain) and Continental suspicion of exclusively rationalist methods and deeper concern with human subjectivity in life-worlds.  In Wittgenstein is forms of life and language-games.  (p. 5)

II.  Teaching Hermeneutics as an Interdisciplinary Course  (Sheffield, 1970-85)

a)  Course combining bibilical studies, theology, philosophy and literary history.

b)  public lectures on Wittgenstein.

c)  writing articles applying Austin to specific biblical issues.

d)  continued developing a course on hermeneutics and theorists which need to be included.

III.  The Two Horizons (Sheffield, 1980)

a)  The Two Horizons:  How do the two horizons of the ancient text and of modern readers actively engage with each other creatively without merely bland, passive, domesticating assimilation?

1-Heidegger’s “pre-cognitive worlds” developed by Ricoeur as narrative worlds of possibility.

2-Gadamer:

a-fundamental stance of respect for the otherness of the horizon of the other.  The need to listen and question rather than to seek to master the other on one’s own terms  (imperialism associated with the “general method” of science (with later Wittgenstein as well)).

b-unlike postmodern perspectives, “…Gadamer acknowledges a degree of stability in the role of communal judgments, and in the corporate transmission of traditions.  Even if a ‘classic’ yields a plurality of actualizations, it belongs to cumulative traditions of acknowledged wisdom (phronesis).  p. 8  Thiselton on Hermeneutics.

1.  “These aspects laid the groundwork, first, for respect for the horizon of the other as other, and then for a disciplined movement and progress towards a fusion between the two horizons (Horizontverschmelzung) of past (or text), and present (or readers).  This could be achieved not by a universal scientific method at the level of rational reflection alone, but by hermeneutically trained judgement.”  p. 8

2.  dialectic between tradition at level of ontology and variable, finite, contextually conditioned contingencies of plural actualizations of the past in the present.  Gadamer develops this in modified form from Hegel.

a.  Georgia Warnke on continuity and rational coherence

b.  Joel Weinsheimer on contingency and plural actualizations (Univ of Minnesota)

3-Fourth part of Two Horizons:  similarities between “hermeneutically trained judgment” in Gadamer and patterns of regularity in the public domain of inter-subjective life in the later Wittgenstein.

a-Witt yields public criteria of meaning

1.  regularities of language-uses may count as performing this or that intelligible action or function, within given traditions or forms of life.

2.  Witt an account of particularities of context-variable meanings that simultaniously presupposed stable anchorages within this intersubjective public world.

b-specific cases where explication of conceptual grammar in NT would influence and clarify interpretations of the text.  “Faith”, “flesh”, and “truth” as polymorphous concepts , as issues of stance or action rather than mental states.”

IV.  Further Collaborative Research (1982-1985)

a)  Reader response theory valuable, but one-sided.

b)  reception theory and speech-act theory remain, in Thiselton’s mind, far more effective tools than reader-response theory.

V.  New Horizons in Hermeneutics (1992)

a)  An attempt to write a systematic volume setting out Thiselton’s herneneutic theory and practice; overall theme of transformation.  “How does biblical material interact with readers in such a way as to effect a transformation of stance, without itself undergoing change and distortion in the process?”

1- assess the role of 10 different models of hermeneutics

2-convinced that “the hermeneutics of self-involvement” including speech-act theory sheds a floodlight on the subject.

a.  John Searle’s phil of language to explain transformation  of bibical texts as promise.  Follows Austin. “the logic of illocutionary speech-acts, including acts of promise, direction and commission, presuppose states of affairs rather than either eliminating or describing them.  I argued that this insight is essential for a hermeneutic of the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels.  The status of Jesus as Christ is presupposed but not declared in such effective illocutionary acts as forgiving, liberating, promising, commissioning and commanding.”  p. 12

3-  Show uses of ten models in different aspects of Bibical writings in relation to different aspects of human life today.

VI.  On Speech-Acts, and Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self. (1992-1996)

a.  Majoring on role of speech-act theory for hermeneutics.  Read more widely and deeply in Speech-act theory.  “Authority and Hermeneutics”, in PE Satterthwaite and DF Wright (eds), A Pathway into the Holy Scripture, Eerdmans, 1994)

VII.  Some Possible Prospects and Agendas after 1996

a.  2 major paradigm shifts have occured in history of Biblical interpretation, each one breaking spell of previous controlling model.

1-Quest for freedom from dominance of ecclesial and dogmatic concerns associated with J.S. Semler and background of enlightenment rationalism.

2-This freedom hardened into a second paradigm; the historical method becomes institutionalized into a universal paradigm.  (threw off dogmatic theology to sell itself into bondage to history.)

3-A new, reactive quest for freedom in which recognized that “Interpreter’s choose their aim.”  Rapport with text’s author and factors which led up to first communication gives way to “success” as defending a specific area of modern or postmodern ideology, or in textual effects like reader-response theory or pietism, or undefined “edification” (social pragmatism of Richard Rorty?)  Threat of hermeneutical anarchy; manipulation that hermeneutical inquiry first sought to avoid.  (threw off history to sell itself to “literature” or to “politics”…the politics of gender, race, and class.)

a)  The dilemma of postmodernism is that no single value-system can be priveleged without ceasing to be “postmodern”, including any dogmatic version of postmodernism.   p  14

b)  best to engage more seriously with problem of manipulation.

1-  William O’Neill (Jesuit school of theology at Berkeley)

2-Richard Bernstein:  Beyond Objectivism and Relativism:  Science, Hermeneutics and Praxis

3- Read p 15-16 (starting 3rd paragraph) and summarize for notes.

 

 

 

 

 

Wirkungsgeschichte flows of of philosophical hermeneutics through Gadamer.

Rezeptionsgeschichte flows out of Husserl-Roman Ingarden= Wolfgang Iser and reader-response theory which is then developed by H.R. Jauss into rezeptionsgeschichte.

“Jauss, no less than Gadamer, perceives texts of literature as “existing” in the process of their collective interpretations of successive generations of readers, and in the textual effects or actualizations, of hitherto potential meaning by these successive generations.  Each generation (or more striclly, each “audience”) interacts with the text in terms of a different “horizon of expectations” (Erwartungs-horizont).  Like Gadamer, Jauss regards the text as “potential” until it is “performed”, like a script or score that finds its “reality” in the play or concert that perofmrs it interactively with an audience as an event.”  Thiselton, Thiselton on Hermenutics, p. 293.

 

Palmer’s point in writing:  “…an introductory treatment of hermeneutics in a nontheological context which will be directed at clarifying the scope of the term.”  p. 4

His book helps with the mapping out of

Three main origins of hermeneutics in the West:

1)  Greek background

2)  Hebrew/Biblical Approach

a)  Here I add Brevard Child’s “Canonical Approach”

3)  Western church development of issues “flowering” in hermeneutics as a philosophical, literary and theological issue.

4)  The non-Western work on hermeneutics, even if not so-called, has yet to be identified and added to the discussion.

a)  perhaps this work could be started with African ownership and actualization of the Western gospel it rec’d.

I.  Greek background

a.  seeks root meaning of “hermeneutics” by going back to its Greek linguistic roots:  Ηερμενευειν and Ηερμενεια.

“An exploration of the origin of these two words and the three basic directions of meaning they carried in ancient usage sheds surprising light on the nature of interpretation in theology…and will serve in the present context as a valuable prelude to understanding modern hermeneutics.”  p. 12

Robertson then cites Aristotles’ work  Peri Hermeneias or On Interpretation.

(Thiselton says:  “On Interpretation remains less useful for hermeneutics, since his main concern is abou the logic and rhetoric of propositions.  In biblical studies the significance of Aristotle’s work regained recognition only with the advent of narrative theory and reader-response criticism in biblical hermeneutics around the later 1970s.”  Thiselton on Hermeneutics, p. 18)

Robertson then limits his approach by focusing on the association of hermeneutics in its Greek form to the god Hermes and upon the three basic directions for the meaning of those terms.

He seems dependent, in connecting Hermes and hermeneutics, upon Heidegger rather than any original sources.

He also seems dependent upon Ebeling’s “Hermeneutik” for the direction of meaning.

I would like to work from the original sources rather than assume correct associations by those who have gone before.  My hope is that I might find a new way (which may really be a pre-modern way) of discussing hermeneutics and possibly find much that was lost in the interpretation of those works.

Therefore, I need to become familiar with:

1)  Aristotle’s work and early interpretation.

2)  Heidegger’s sources for connectin Hermes and Hermeneutics.

Unterwegs zur Sprache (Harper translation from Fuller)

On the Way to Language  P106.H3613 1971

3)  The sources of Ebeling’s 3-fold direction of meaning.

Hermeneutik in RGG (doesn’t seem to be available in translation)

 

 

 

 

This review is from Ebeling’s book Word and Faith.  Word of God and Hermeneutics is chapter XI.

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I.  Ebeling begins the chapter with a review of the history of hermeneutics.  His retelling is narrowed  in relation to the rise of the problem of the Word of God in relation to hermeneutics.

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1)  Before the reformation, Roman Catholic tradition had an answer to the hermeneutic question though it was not yet asked in its contemporary (to Ebeling) form.  The revelation testified in Scripture, they believed, cannot be correctly understood without the tradition of the church.  (305)

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2)  The reformers’ response, “sola scriptura” was also a hermeneutical theory.  It held that the tradition of the church was not required to understand the scripture.  Scripture has an illuminating power which shines, even on church tradition.  (307)

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3)  But the lack of clarity of this position led to problems and errors.

a)  Luther himself recognized the distinction needed between meaning   (res) and word (verba).  This led to problems between the Word of God and Scripture.  Later reformers attempted to safeguard their position.  This led to the Orthodox identification of scripture with the Word of God.

b)  The result was that exegesis found itself, once again, under the domination of a dogmatic tradition which was decisive in the case of doubt.

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4)  The theology of the modern age used hermeneutics to undo these safeguards.  They brought out the  tension between exegesis and dogmatics, between scripture and the Word of God.  Eventually the concept of Word of God itself was called into question.  (308)

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5)  The theology of the Word of God attempted to regain the reformation theme of the Word of God but seemed in danger of overlooking the hermeneutical problem.

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a)  Barth:  passionate wrestling with the hermeneutical problem.  Sought a necessary corrective to critical historical hermeneutics:

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The historical critical method of research into the Bible is right enough:  it aims at a preparation for understanding, and that is never superfluous.  But if I had to choose between it and the old doctrine of inspiration, I would definitely take the latter:  it has the greater, profounder, more important right, because its aim is the work of understanding itself, without with all prepration is worthless.  I am glad not to have to choose between the two.  But my whole attention has been directed to seeing through the historical to the Spirit of the Bible, who is the eternal Spirit.” (Romans, 1918, p.  xii)

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I have been called a ‘declared enemy of historical criticism‘…But what I reproach them with is not historical criticism, the right and necessity of which on the contrary I once more explicitly recognize, but the way they stop at an explanation of the text which I cannot call any explanation, but only the first primitive step towards one, namely, establishing ‘what is said’…” (Romans, 1921, p. x.)

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6)  Barth vs. Bultmann

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a)  In common:

1-both address specific “matter” of theology (not historicism or psychologism)

2-both not return to hermeneia sacra and hermeneia profana.

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b)  In contrast:

1-Barth’s passion for the Word of God tends to disparage hermeneutics while Bultmann’s interest in the hermeneutic problem appears to jeopardize what is said of the Word of God.

2-Barth begins with the hermeneutics of the Bible which he argues is valid generally, while Bultmann starts with a general hermeneutic which he then applies to the Bible.

a-“Where does the theory of hermeneutic principles just sketched come from?…It was with the only possible exposition of holy scripture in mind that we laid down the principles of exposition just given.  Certainly not in the belief that they are valid only for the exposition of the Bible, but fully believing that because they are valid for the exposition of the Bible they are valid for man’s word in general, that they have a claim to general recognition…valid hermeneutics must be learned by means of the Bible as the testimony to revelation.”  (Barth, Church Dogmatics I/2, pp.465 f) (310-311)

b-  “The interpretation of the biblical scriptures is not subject to any different condition of understanding from any other literature.”  (Bultmann, Glaube und Verstehen II, p. 231)

3-Barth takes an objective approach to the problem, while Bultmann sees the understanding itself as belonging to the matter.  Thus for Bultmann much time is spent on preliminary understanding.

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7)  According to Ebeling, the debate is now bogged down, without even getting to the final alternatives.  One could move forward by a detailed analysis of Barth and Bultmann.  But he opts to focus on the structure of the problem our subject involves.

II.  The second section of Ebeling’s lecture focuses on the terms “Word of God” and “Hermeneutics”.  The emphasis is on the former as proclamation, even as event, with the latter, as helping move from holy scripture to proclamation, being the initial discussion which is the focus of part III.

“Word of God”, according to Ebeling, is “something that happens”, the movement which leads from the text of the holy scripture to the proclamation.  This is a decisive starting point for defining the phrase, regardless of ones position in terms of a precise theological definition.

The criticism of Orthodox doctrine of the Word of God is that it identifies scripture and the Word of God without distinction.  But according to Ebeling, the decisive shortcoming of the Orthodox view is that “holy scripture is spoken as the Word of God without an eye to the proclamation…”  (p. 312).  Though Orthodoxy was aware of the Word of God as the living voice of God (viva Vox) but “…too little attention was paid to the tension that exists between the verbum Dei as spoken word and the character of writenness.  (Palmer)  He notes that this is a divergence from the Reformation.

“Luther…insisted that the Gospel is really oral preaching:  ‘…in the new Testament sermons are to be spoken aloud in public and bring forth in terms of speech and hearing what was formerly hidden in the letter and in secret vision.  (Palmer)  “That, too, is why Christ did not write his teaching, as Moses did his, but delivered it orally, also commanded to deliver it orally and gave no command to write it…For that reason it is not at all the manner of the New Testament to write books of Christian doctrine, but there should everywhere, without books, be good, learned, spiritually-minded, diligent preachers to draw the living word from the ancient scriptures and constantly bring it to life before the people, as the apostles did.  For before ever they wrote, they had preached and converted the people by word of mouth, which also was their real apostolic and New Testament work…That books had to be written, however, is at once a great failure and a weakness of spirit that was enforced by necessity and not by the manner of the New Testament.'” (Kirchenostille 1522, Weimarer Ausgabe (Complete Works of Luther), 10/I, I, pp. 625.12-628.8.)

Ebeling notes that the distinction between the spoken word and scripture not only depended upon the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, but, as a presupposition of that issue, the relation of Gospel and law.

The essence of the Word belongs to its oral character, ie., as an event in personal relationship, that the Word is thus no isolated bearer of meanings, but an event that effects something and aims at something. (p 313)

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The Earth is The Lord’s

23rd October 2012

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…so David asserts in Psalm 24.  He then supports this assertion with God’s action as creator of the world.  The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.

At first glance, this passage seems to be archaic, a warrant which renders itself invalid by associating God’s ownership of all things with an outmoded cosmology.  But we must understand what is begin done here.  The Psalmist is using the very words of Canaanite (?) cosmology to assert a monotheistic view of all things.  The God the Israelites have come to know in Jesus Christ is the one God who is over all things considered to be gods by others.  David’s warrant is also an assertion of their God upon the common worldview of the day.

Every follower of God must engage in this conversion of world view.  We all come as human beings who have participated in a culture which is more or less influenced by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Some aspects of our life in this culture aligns easily with God.  Other areas do not acknowledge this God.  And becoming godly is a process of converting these attitudes and ways of life to the God we have experienced.

David was convinced of God’s supremacy by God’s actions in battle.  “Lift up your gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle.”  Going back to the story of David and Goliath, David came to understand God as the key player in battle.  Not strategy, not armor, not the strength of the soldier, but the presence of God.

From this experience, David has has now come to understand that this God is not just a “war God” but a God who created all things, the God who is over all things.  God is the one who makes the world go ’round.

What makes your world go ’round?

In the Western world, of which we are a part, we have rejected theocracy, rule by God.  It is tough to blame us.  We have seen this “kingship” of God abused inside our borders.  We have seen it move us to oppress others.  And now we have had our aversion to theocracy reinforced by radical Islam and 9/11.  It isn’t religious rule that makes the world go ’round!

Is it the economy, then?  It has become apparent how much this is the belief of the West.  And those of us who follow God in the West have a schizophrenic approach to the economy.  We believe in God, yes, but in our debate about the economy we argue over whether the market should be free from constraints to do what it is going to do (trust the market) or whether to have governmental intervention in the market (in government we trust).  Neither side considers God’s relationship to the market.  When we say, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it…” do we include the market as well?  We focus instead on policy to give us some sort of confidence (and ward off our insecurity and fear) as we build our hopes and dreams on the consistency and generosity market forces.

Politics is the other clear option in our day.  It is politics, especially who our President is, that makes the world go ’round.  The way we approach election day makes it clear that many of us believe deeply in politics making the world go ’round.  Whether or not the political structure is in God’s hands is a question that raises fears of theocracy.

All three of these approaches to what makes the world go ’round share a basic assumption.  That assumption is that power is what moves things forward.  The power of God, the power of money, the power of politics…Power moves things.  Power is the Lord’s!  That is something that is easier for us to proclaim.

But then we encounter Christ and the claims of Christianity.

Jesus was born into a poor family.  They could not afford the standard sacrifices and had to use the sacrifice allowed for the poor “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”.  Jesus lived in Nazereth…a place off the radar screen of power and prominence.  And Jesus’ ministry ended in his death, according to the capital punishment method of the day, in a way that, according to the Bible, meant one was accursed by God.  As Jesus was led to his execution, what was left of his followers were scattered.

And yet Christianity says this is event is the center of human history.

Christianity asserts that love trumps power.

For those of us who have come to faith in Jesus Christ we have experienced God at work in our lives through him.  As David saw God work in the battles of Israel we have seen God work in our personal battles.  Somehow, through even the smallest faith in Christ, a connection is made with God who hears our prayers and works in our hearts and our lives.

In David’s day the question of who experience a relationship with God took a distinctly moral turn.  Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?  Those how have clean hands and a pure heart, who do not put their trust in an idol or swear by a false god.  They will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God their Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.

In the coming of Christ there is a despair of humans becoming moral according to their own will.  Centuries of sacrifice for sin, after sacrifice for sin, generation of struggle with doing what we don’t want to do and never getting beyond the grip of sin in the lives of the Israelites as given way to a new way to experience relationship with God.

“…we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  (Heb 10:10b)

“…by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”  (Heb 10;14b)

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to th ehope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  (Heb 10:19b, 22-23)

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?  Who may stand in his holy place?  Those who have received the gift of God in Jesus Christ.

As the early Christians related to God through Jesus Christ they found their world view changing as well.  Jesus, who is the center of human history, was understood to be at the beginning of all things as well.  “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” became words that speak of the Lord Jesus.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created:  things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him…For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood.  (Col. 1:15-16,19-20)

Application:  So where are you in your conversion to Jesus as the one who owns all things?

Has your relationship with politics been converted to Christ?  Has your relationship to economics been converted to Christ?  Have you given up the pursuit of power and focused your life on laying down your life for others?  Is your worldivew fully Christian?

Conclusion:  A story that has a particular relevance for us in our present situation:

Luke 12:13-21

Jesus tells us the truth of where such an approach to life leads.  Let us give up this way of life to Jesus and share in the joy of David.

Lift up your heads, you gates; life them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in.  Who is he, the King of glory?  Jesus Christ, the Lord Almighty-he is the King of glory.

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The Parables of Jesus

23rd October 2012

“This queer situation can be cleared up somewhat by looking at an example; in fact a kind of parable illustrating the difficulty we are in, and also showing the way out of this sort of difficulty:  We have been told by popular scientists that the floor on which we stand is not solid, as it appears to common sense, as it has been discovered that wood consists of particles filling up space so thinly that it can almost be called empty…Our perplexity was based on a misunderstanding; the picture of the thinly filled space had been wrongly applied.  For this picture of the structure of matter was meant to explain the very phenomenon of solidity.”  Wittgenstein, The Blue Book, p. 45.

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;

3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;

4 for giving prudence to those who are simple, [a]
knowledge and discretion to the young—

5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—

6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise. [b]

7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools [c] despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1

Let’s consider Jesus’ parables as a means of clearing up the difficulty we are in, of showing us the way out of our difficulty.

The difficulty in many of the parables is hiddenness…it is the contrast between what is seen now and what will ultimately be.

Mt. 13 on seeds:  Meaning of parable itself…majority of seeds do not bear fruit.  We see this and fear ineffectiveness.  But the one that does bears much fruit.

Mt. 13 on Jesus use of parables:  parables are means of understanding to a few and to the many they are means of revealing their callousness and blindness…in their not understanding.  Parables function like Jesus in John 3:17ff.  Meaning is hidden to reveal who is who.

Mt. 13 on wheat and tares:  again hiddenness in sowing of tares, hiddenness of the progress of the wheat because of the presence of the tares, hiddenness in way tares will be dealt with.

Smallest seed, yeast in dough.  Hidden, hidden.

Treasure hidden in field.  Pearl purchased by merchant (kept?)

net let down doesn’t seem to fit, but then bringing out new and old (revealing what was hidden)

*are there other parables in the Bible?  Psalm 78:2, (Mt. 13:34 connects Jesus use of parables as fulfillment of Psalm 78:2) Proverbs 1:6, Ezekiel 17:2, 20:49, 24:3, Hosea 12:10

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Primarily from “The Missional Church in Perspective”…

 

 

 

1)  During the Protestant Reformation newly forming churches, established or persecuted, were concerned with clarifying what they believed and justifying the legitimacy of their historical experience.  Resulted in a variety of confessions, including the Belgic, Continental Reformed, 1561/Heidelberg, Continental Reformed 1563/Westminster Confession, English Reformed, 1646.)  Mission was defined in these confessional documents within a worldview of Christendom.  Here the church was established by the state.  The church was assumed to be responsible for the world.  It’s direct involvement was defined by the magistrate’s obligation to carry out Christian duties on behalf of the church in the world.

 

2)  Modern missions emerged largely from outside and to some extent from inside the established churches.  (insert Andrew Walls approach here)  A new organizational structure designed to function beyond the Christian duties of the magistrate was required.  One such structure was the mission society. (R. Winter “The two structures of God’s redemptive mission” and Cody Watson, Mission Orders and the Presbyterian Church)

 

3)  First immigrants to American colonies brought their existing ecclesiology and structures with them.  (notes from Presbyterian history) Their diversity led to the division between church and state.  This resulted in the denomination becoming the primary organizational structure of the church (first change in organizational life of church in over 1,400 years.)  (Niebuhr on Denominations)The denomination quickly became the norm for the church in the United States and through missionary efforts was spread throughout the world.  Aspects of free-church ecclesiology (Anabaptists etc) were incorporated into US church polities.

 

4)  Numerous interdenominational mission societies developed in 19th century. (Again, Walls) Then, because of internal church politics, increasing number of denominations withdrew from these cooperative agreements in order to form their own internal denominational boards and agencies.  Now two forms of mission societies formed:  (1)  independent of denominational churches (faith missions or parachurch orgs) and (2)  structures within denominational structures.

 

5)  The peak of foreign mission movement from West was at Edinburgh world mission conference in 1910, (Walls yet again) gathered to complete the challenge of the Student Volunteer Movement:  “the evangelization of the world in our generation.”  World War I dramatically disrupted the plans developed here.  Following WWI two critical developments.  (1)  The “younger churches” developed in the colonial system and with them the question of the relationship between the older and younger churches.  (2)  Move in West to clearly define the relationship of church to mission through three organizations which grew out of Edinburgh:  the International Missionary Council (IMC) formed in 1921, the Life and Work Movement formed in 1925 and the Faith and Order Movement, formed in 1927.  Life and Work and Faith and Order came together to form the World Council of Churches.  in 1948.  In 1961 WCC merged with IMC which became the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism (CWME).  Many evangelicals then withdrew from the IMC/CWME.  The IMC was assigned to commission status within the WCC making it effectively a subset of the church.

 

6)  By mid twentieth century the division between ecclesiology and missiology insufficient to resolve question of how church and mission related.

a-  Ecclesiology is a theological discipline which seeks to understand and define the church.  This has come primarily from historical creeds and confessions formulated in the past twenty centuries.  Few have an explicit awareness of the church’s responsibility for engaging in ministry in the larger world, apart from responsibilities assigned to the magistrate.  On mission field two options:  (1)  denominations transposing their ecclesiastical systems including confessional understanding of church as well as most of their Western-shaped practices including things like programs, music, organization and architecture.  This was challenged by many younger churches [I was taught the impotence of such an approach in places like Honduras].  WCC formed in 1948 because of this and focused on unity in midst of such diversity.  (2)  Misson societies and parachurch orgs which had no confessional understanding of the church became pragmatic in their development of churches in various contexts.  “Restoration tradition”, using NT to find patterns of church life to emulate, but diversity of practices in the NT plagued efforts to find common ground in this way.  But this still forms the primary approach to church planting and mission for many evangelicals.

 

b-Missiology is a theological discipline which seeks to understand and define the creating and redeeming works of God in the world.  These have traditionally come from organizational entities – monastic orders, mission societies, parachurch organizations, denominational boards and agencies – which developed alongside the church.  Few developed any meaningful interaction with the creeds and confessions of the church.  Schleiermacher, in his 1811 proposal for a theological curriculum, designated mission as a practical discipline dealing primarily with mission practice.  Fulfilling great commission major emphasis of movements working outside of or alongside denominations.  Church primarily responsible for activity of mission.  Just as discipline of missiology gaining viability in the academy, the climate related to foreign mission shifted.  By 1950’s validity of foreign mission called into question.  Missiology became marginalized as it was becoming institutionalized.  Alternative mission theologies developed primarily by Orthodox and Roman Catholic, but two strains of evangelicalism as well:  (1)  McGavran and church growth through school or World Mission at Fuller and (2) Focus on world evangelization through Billy Graham Association which morphed into the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE).  All are still very much at work in the world today.  Each movement continues to show high levels of suspicion toward the others.  Introduction of the Missional conversation has done some to form a bridge between the two.

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Asking the Right Question

07th November 2011

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:28

 

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Ephesians 2:14-16

 

If you do not ask the right questions, you do not get the right answers.  Edward Hodnett  (American poet 1841-1920)

 

 

 

“What is your church’s policy on gays and lesbians?”

 

I have been asked that question a number of times.  The direct answer to this question is,  “We don’t have policies on certain demographic groups in our community.  We exist for people who are seeking a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  All are welcome to join our community and to be transformed by the love of Christ.”

 

But this answer does not satisfy.  The problem is that the question being asked by our society is not a question that the church can answer.  This is because the church is asking a different question.

 

Christians believe that Christ came to destroy the divisions society constructs between human beings (Galatians quote above).  We believe that God’s purpose through Christ s to create one new humanity in Christ (Ephesians 2, above).  This means that we don’t buy into the divisions of our culture.  It means that we are challenged to understand ourselves and each other in a new way.  We are a people whose sense of self is being redefined as our relationship with God through Christ becomes more and more central to our existence.

 

This is particularly challenging for us to embody given our society’s project.  We can agree on one thing.  There has been a division in our society between heterosexuals and homosexuals which harms many and has justified violence against the marginalized.  Sadly, Christians have been a part of the problem.  We need to repent and stand against this division.  But many of those who have worked for gay rights have also sought to develop sexuality as an identity; as an immutable part of who we are as human beings.  We are either homosexual or heterosexual or something inbetween.  This does not solve the problem of division and injustice in our society.  It simply moves the walls of division from one place to another.  It merely shifts the power to dictate what is right and wrong from one group to another.

 

The church is called to be radical.  To be truly radical is to change the question which is the root of the problem.  We cannot choose one of the two pre-made answers that our society allows us.  We cannot choose to be liberal or conservative and thus define ourselves over/against the other option.  This simply layers division upon division. The past division which caused the injustices toward homosexuals are only shifting to a new power group.  It is now the “tolerant” (meaning those who ascribe to particular “doctrines” and “dogmas) who are increasing in power while the “intolerant” (meaning those who used to have power to define right and wrong but who continue to give validity to views contrary to the “tolerant”) receive increasing ridicule.  The scarlet “A” became the scarlet “H” has now become a scarlet “I”.  As Christians we must stand against the very idea of division among human beings.  We must ask a different question.

 

How do we create a new community without division?  How do we create a community of service and love which heals those wounded by the divisions of our society?  This is the right question.  This is the question we should always keep before us.  This is the question that will lead us to the right answer.

We exist to create a community of faith who welcomes anyone who truly seeks a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  This community is committed to radically transforming their identity in such a way that we no longer support the ideological divisions of our culture, speaking instead to the transcendent reality of the new humanity formed in Christ.  As such, the question we are asking is:

 

 

“How do we create one new humanity in Christ?”

 



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