Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Synthesis Of Luther And Barth's Trinitarian Metaphors

Jack Kilcrease on Luther and Barth's Trinitarian metaphors:

Barth's metaphors have to do with seeing, Luther's with hearing. This makes sense in light of how they understand divine revelation. Barth views divine revelation as the unfolding of a single subject (God) in an act of revealing himself in time. He does this by echoing his eternal decision to be "one who loves in freedom" in the temporal narrative of Jesus. This temporal narrative is "unveiling" is further echoed in "Jesus, Bible and proclaimed Word" which echoes the Father, Son and Spirit, as "revealed, revealer, revealing." Barth's view of revelation is essentially analogical. Analogy has to do with a kind of visible similitude between things and therefore envisions human knowledge (following Aristotle) as a kind of intellectual vision.

Luther's theology works on the basis of hearing. In other words, God's agency manifests itself through the law which is present and visible through all creation. Human can observe how the world works and see what God's legal will is. They can also see this in the horrific act of judgment that God causes to take place in salvation history. Nevertheless, God promises his grace and enacts under his act of judgment and under act of weakness. The supreme one is the cross. We are told that Jesus is God and that the cross is an act of grace. Nevertheless, all we see is weakness (a weak, beaten and dying Christ) and condemnation (i.e. a symbol of Israel's sin and continuing exile). Contrary to this, we hear "surely he was the Son of God" and "today you will be with me in paradise." Consequently, revelation's hiddenness is transcended only by hearing the Word. Proper knowledge of God is set against analogical and visible knowledge of God, and placed in the realm of hearing.

Interesting stuff---I'd have to say that these two views are easily reconciled as the human experience with God's revelation of God's self has always been both visual and audible. And as we know God's fullest and final self-revelation was in Jesus Christ Himself---who was both seen and heard as the Word of God Himself. The Trinitarian implications of both of these views can be seen in these ways: Jesus Christ as the Word of God actualized, the Bible as the encounter in which we realize that Jesus Christ is the One True and Living Word of God and the Kerygmatic preaching of Jesus Christ the One True and Actual Word of God in which our Divine Election of and by God is revealed. This Election is most fully realized in the Cross and can only point to Jesus' self-sacrificial death upon the Cross. In this sense also the Word of God, God's revelation of God's self in Christ is both seen and heard as God in Christ is both the subject and object of our faith: the whole content and character of the Christian revelation.

Karl Barth also said in Credo: Volume IV of his Church Dogmatics:
It can be asserted and proved with the utmost definiteness and accuracy that the great theological-ecclesiastical catastrophe of which the German Protestantism of the moment is the arena, would have been impossible if the three words Filium eius unicum ["his only Son"] in the properly understood sense of the Nicene trinitarian doctrine had not for more than two hundred years been really lost to the German Church amongst a chaos of reinterpretations designed to make them innocuous. This catastrophe should be a real, final warning to the evangelical Churches, and, especially to the theological faculties of other lands, where, so far as trinitarian dogma is concerned, no better ways are being trodden. Christian faith stands or falls once and for all with the fact that God and God alone is its object. If one rejects the Bibhcal doctrine that Jesus Christ is God’s Son, and indeed God’s only Son, and that therefore the whole revelation of God and all reconciliaion between God and man is contained in Him—and if one then, in spite of that, speaks of ” faith ” in Jesus Christ, then one believes in an intermediate being, and then consequently one is really pursuing metaphysics and has ready secretly lapsed from the Christian faith into a polytheism which will forthwith mature into further fruits in the setting up of a special God-Father faith and a special Creator faith, and in the assertion of special spiritual revelations. The proclamation of this polytheism can most certainly be a brilliant and a pleasant affair, and can win continuous and widespread approbation. But real consolation and real instruction, the Gospel of God and the Law of God, will find a small and ever-diminishing place in this proclamation. (49-50 – emphasis mine)

And with that I close---so what are your thoughts?

Is Evolution A Type Of Election?

Jack Kilcrease a Lutheran Blogger has a post that suggests that Evolution is a type of Election:
Monday, February 22, 2010
Evolution as election?

My favorite seminary prof. at Luther Seminary Steven Paulson gives a lecture to be found here:


(it's the one on sexuality) where he suggests that evolution is a doctrine of election. Since animals compete to see who will survive, it is a doctrine of election based on the law. I make a similar point in my upcoming article on vocation- new creation occurs like old creation, purely by grace.
Posted by Jack Kilcrease at 4:58 AM

It is an interesting view---however since there is more than one theory of evolution---I'd have to point out that the theory above is more or less the theory of natural selection rather than evolution itself. Natural selection of course is just one way of understanding the way evolution works but not the only way. There are other ways of understanding evolution but anyways what are your thoughts?

Exploring Our Matrix: Is "The Bible Alone" an Oxymoron?

Exploring Our Matrix: Is "The Bible Alone" an Oxymoron?

Interesting post and interesting points. What are your thoughts? Is "the bible alone" an oxymoron? As Dr. McGrath's points out:
Doug Chaplin made [the following statement] recently (even though he called it "a cheap shot"):

“the Bible alone” doesn’t tell us which books should be in it.

Indeed the bible doesn't---in fact, the bible doesn't really have much to say about it's authors though we've deduced them for the most part. One example is the alleged "Mosaic" authorship of the Torah which isn't even supported by the Torah itself but the theory of the supposed authorship of the Torah by Moses comes to us by way of the Apocryphal Book Of Jubilees. It is clear however that Moses wrote some part of the Torah at least as some evidence suggests but the large majority of it was written by scribes through the remembrance of "Oral" tradition.

Wis. Presbytery Approves Ordination of Openly Gay Man

Here is part of an article about this:
In a closed meeting, a regional body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Saturday voted to ordain a partnered homosexual. John Knox Presbytery commissioners voted 81-25 to approve the ordination of Scott D. Anderson, who set aside his ordination in 1990 when he was outed.

Anderson was ordained in the PC(USA) by the Sacramento Presbytery in 1983. He pastored Bethany Presbyterian Church for seven years until two members of the congregation publicly announced that he was gay.

In 2006, Anderson sought to be ordained again as a PC(USA) minister after the General Assembly – the denomination's highest governing body – approved an authoritative interpretation of the church constitution that would allow gay and lesbian candidates for ordination to conscientiously object the ban against partnered homosexuals. The local ordaining body would discern whether the declared objection is disqualifying.

What great news for Progressive Christians everywhere! The tides seem to be turning in the favor for full inclusion into the church of gays and lesbians for the most part. We still have obstacles to face though as John Shuck and Ken Meunier astutely point out:
The presbytery of John Knox voted that Scott's scruple was just fine with them. According to the executive presbyter of John Knox, Rev. Ken Meunier:
"Not everyone is on the same page with this issue, but a great number of people have been very impressed with Scott Anderson's gifts for ministry. I believe the vote reflects a desire of persons within the Presbytery to make room for a variety of voices and opinions within the church, and to exercise biblical forbearance toward persons with whom they disagree."

Apparently some busybodies think forbearance is not very biblical and will challenge the decision.

John Knox could not be reached for comment.

We can only hope that the issue will someday be resolved.

Baptist Diseases

Courtesy of Pastor I. Todyaso and his band of discerners.

It's funny though clearly whoever wrote the accompanying article doesn't understand what being a Baptist is all about as not all Baptists are alike. Here are the main distinctives that all Baptists hold in common in some form or fashion:

One way of classifying Baptist Distinctives is called the "Four Freedoms," articulated by Baptist historian Walter B. Shurden:[1]

Soul freedom: the soul is competent before God, and capable of making decisions in matters of faith without coercion or compulsion by any larger religious or civil body
Church freedom: freedom of the local church from outside interference, whether government or civilian (subject only to the law where it does not interfere with the religious teachings and practices of the church)
Bible freedom: the individual is free to interpret the Bible for himself or herself, using the best tools of scholarship and biblical study available to the individual
Religious freedom: the individual is free to choose whether to practice their religion, another religion, or no religion; Separation of church and state is often called the "civil corollary" of religious freedom

Or in another form:

[edit] "B-A-P-T-I-S-T-S" acrostic
Another popular list of beliefs shared by most Baptist traditions is expressed in the form of the following acrostic backronym, spelling BAPTISTS:[2]

Biblical authority (Matthew 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Autonomy of the local church (Matthew 18:15–17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3)
Priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5-9; 1 Timothy 5)
Two ordinances (believer's baptism and the Lord's Supper) (Acts 2:41–47; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32)
Individual soul liberty (Romans 14:5–12)
Saved church membership (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 5:23–32; Colossians 1:18)
Two offices of the church (pastor and deacon) (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1–2)
Separation of Church and State (Matthew 22:15–22)

While Baptists for the most part are Credobaptists not all Baptists are closed-Baptists. The SBC of course are closed off to Credobaptism as being the only valid mode of baptism but remember it's not really the mode of baptism that's really the most important thing but the confession that Jesus is one's Lord before or after baptism at some point. The confession is the most important part because whereas faith is individualistic to some degree; it's meant to be lived out in a communal setting in other words the church. The Baptist tent is big enough to embrace both those who practice Credobaptism and Paedobaptism. In fact, most Moderate Baptist churches accept both Credobaptism and Paedobaptism as valid modes of baptism for the sake of our former Catholic, Lutheran and Presbyterian brothers and sisters who join our fellowship and come into the Baptist fold. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Is Gnosticism Still Alive Today?

John H. Armstrong on Gnosticism:

What made Gnosticism so powerful in the earliest era of the church? It was seductive in its appeal. Put seduction with creedless modern evangelical Christianity and you have the breeding ground of modern Gnostic errors. And you have few teachers who recognize this since the Gnostics always insist that they are Christians. Philip J. Lee concludes: "Despite the vast cultural differences between North American Protestantism and ancient Gnosticism, the parallels between the two innovations can no longer be ignored."

American churches adopted an anti-intellectual stance in the nineteenth century. Evangelicals took this to a whole new level of expression. The result has been little concern for carefully thought out orthodoxy married to little or no concern for love and for real people in community. We have majored on saving the soul of a person without making real disciples. The fruit is bittersweet, even heretical at many points. You hear it routinely when we denounce the physical world as bad when Christ came to live in this world and redeem it precisely because the God who created it as good still deeply loves it.

Welcome Back Fred!

First, I would like to welcome back my friend Fred H. Anderson to the Blogosphere with his new Blog: Neoorthodoxology. Secondly, I'd highly recommend reading his Lenten post: The Desert Will Blossom. Here is a snippet:
Jesus will have as his center God alone.
What Jesus insists on is remaining in relationship with God.

Thus it is appropriate that Jesus does not answer on his own terms alone.
Jesus refutes the devil each time by quoting scripture.
Jesus answers every temptation by a reminder of his relationship with God.
Jesus answers in terms of that relationship.
The desert forces the question,
but Jesus will not isolate himself from God.

The desert where we sometimes find ourselves forces the same question on us:
Will we be faithful
or will we not?

Of course, the question comes to us in more attractive wrapping than that.

The first temptation is to turn stones into bread:

“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

This is to satisfy our hunger at any cost,
to shrink to become nothing more than appetites,
a partial self
living a distorted existence.

Jesus knew that and responded with Deuteronomy 8:3:

"It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone.'"

The second temptation is to replace God with something else.

"Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, 'To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.'”

Jesus knew that was a lie, and he responded:

"It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'"

You see, what we put at our center,
if it is not God,
can never give us satisfaction,
but leaves us open to disintegration and despair.

The words of the Barmen Declaration show us our center:

Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death

Lastly, I'd like to say Amen! At the center of Jesus is God as Jesus is both fully human and fully God and Jesus is the one Word by which we were created by God and by which we were Elected to New and Eternal Life in Him.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Are You Emerging? Why Or Why Not?

Thanks to Iggy and Bruce Reyes-Chow for this interesting challenge:

Bruce Reyes Chow sent out this challenge on Twitter: ""I am emergence" post coming today. Want in? In 140 WORDS or less, blog/FB about it WITHOUT defining by what you are NOT and I'll link back."

I am emerging because I believe:

*theology shouldn't be systematized but experienced and lived out
*God is beyond the boxes that we try to contain Him/Her in
*God requires mercy and not sacrifice
*Jesus wants us to live in peace and unity with one another
*the Kingdom of God is here and now but not yet
*God repairs broken communication lines through the Cross
*we were created in the image of God yet through the fall of man that image has been fragmented but through the living example of Christ we have a way of reflecting the image of God again
*there is unity in diversity as God created individuals that experience Him/Her differently and therefore individuals have their on unique ways of expressing their experience with God
*theology is for the Church and the Church is for community/fellowship
*just as Jesus is the Incarnation of God---the Church is to be the incarnation/the Body of Christ to the world
*God's love is beyond the borders, dams and fences we try to build around it
*Jesus should be at the center of all our words and deeds
*we should seek justice everywhere for all God's creatures regardless of culture, class, sexuality, gender, economies, geography, etc.
*at the very root of God is love so that His/Her love should flow through us as we live amongst others
*God is imaginative, creative in His/Her goodness which bears reckless promises and limitless possibilities
*God will not abandon us---His/Her wayward Pilgrim Church---no matter what issues or challenges of the day we may face---God through Christ is always with us

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα And The Apostle's Creed

1 Peter 3:18-22--- 18For Christ also suffered* for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you* to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight people, were saved through water. 21And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for* a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him. (RSV)

Tonight in our Wed. Night group the subject of The Harrowing of Hell came up in our discussion. The Harrowing of Hell of course being:
a doctrine in Christian theology referenced in the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian Creed (Quicumque vult), which states that Jesus "descended into Hell". His descent to the underworld has been termed the most controversial phrase in the Apostles' Creed.[1]

The Greek wording in the Apostles' Creed is κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, ("katelthonta eis ta katôtata"), and in Latin descendit ad inferos. The Greek τὰ κατώτατα ("the lowest") and the Latin inferos ("those below") may also be translated as "underworld", "netherworld", or as "abode of the dead". Thus, sometimes this phrase is translated as "descended to the dead." The first use of the English harrowing in this context is in homilies of Aelfric, ca. 1000. Harrow is a by-form of harry, a military term meaning to "make predatory raids or incursions"[2]. The term Harrowing of Hell refers not merely to the idea that Christ descended into Hell, as in the Creed, but to the rich tradition that developed later, asserting that he triumphed over inferos, releasing Hell's captives, particularly Adam and Eve, and the righteous men and women of Old Testament times.

D. Bruce Lockerbie states of The Harrowing of Hell:
The final clause in this sequence, "He descended into hell," is the most controversial in the Apostle's Creed. Indeed, some denominations consider it optional or refuse to include it at all. The problem with this phrase begins with what it connotes. To some, the descent into hell represents the physical agony of death upon the Cross. It was hellish in its pain. To others, the word hell means Hades or Sheol, the collective abode of the dead, divided into Paradise or Abraham's Bosom--the state of God-fearing souls--and Gehenna, the state of ungodly souls. Thus the descent into hell may suggest that the Son of God carried the sins of the world to hell; or the Son of God carried Good News of deliverance to the godly dead such as Lazarus the beggar and the repentant thief. A third-century Syrian Creed speaks of Jesus, "who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and departed in peace, in order to preach to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the saints concerning the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead."

Still others believe that the descent into hell account for the problem of God's justice by providing an opportunity for all mankind--in eternity as well as in time--to hear the message of redemption from the Word Himself. But whatever interpretation one accepts, the scriptural passages upon which this teaching is based must be studied closely. Some of the standard texts are Job 38:17, Psalm 68:18-22; Matthew 12:38-41; Acts 2:22-32; Romans 10:7; Ephesians 4:7-10, 1 Peter 3:18-20, and 1 Peter 4:6.
Also Apocryphal sources formed Early Christian opinions on the Doctrine such as the Gospel of Nicodemus/Acts of Pilate. The phrase has theological significance considering:
2 Corinthians 5:21 (New King James Version)
21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him and Romans 6:23 (New King James Version)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In light of the above verses and the Christus Victor theory of Atonement for Protestant thought the phrase is understood as:
The Formula of Concord (a Lutheran confession) states, "we believe simply that the entire person, God and human being, descended to Hell after his burial, conquered the devil, destroyed the power of Hell, and took from the devil all his power." (Solid Declaration, Art. IX)John Calvin expressed his concern that many Christians "have never earnestly considered what it is or means that we have been redeemed from God's judgment. Yet this is our wisdom: duly to feel how much our salvation cost the Son of God." Calvin's conclusion is that "Christ's descent into Hell was necessary for Christians' atonement, because Christ did in fact endure the penalty for the sins of the redeemed." [10] On the cross, Christ suffered hell, being separated from His Father and enduring God's wrath for the sins of humanity, but after He died He went to Paradise (Heaven), just as he told the criminal next to Him.

I distinctly remember reading in an edition of The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden that because of the controversy surrounding the phrase: "he descended into hell" that Queen Victoria had the phrase removed from the Apostle's Creed in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer though it is still in some editions. However mention of this is not in the older edition that I have now. It should also be duly noted that:
Apparently the phrase descended into hell offended someone’s sensitivities early on in American Methodism and that clause got left out. The phrase into hell in older translations and the phrase to the dead both translate the phrase into hades in the original Greek of the creed.