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Archive for November, 2012

C. Kavin Rowe, commenting incisively on the theological implications of Luke 10:21-22:

“Thus, almost within the same breath Luke speaks of Jesus ho kurios [‘the Lord’, in 10:1-2], portrays the disciples as addressing Jesus as kurie [‘Lord’, in 10:17] and Jesus as addressing the Father as kurie [‘Lord’, in 10:21]…Yet, within this shared identity as kurios, they are and remain pater [Father] and huios [Son]…The possibility of this relational notion of identity–unity and distinction–depends on a third presence, the Holy Spirit.  That the Spirit is mentioned as Jesus addresses the Father in prayer as kurie is of substantial importance.  It recalls the Spirit’s vital presence in the conception of Jesus and continued activity through his baptism, temptation, and programmatic scene in Nazareth.  There is no moment of Jesus’ life as huios or kurios when he exists apart from the Spirit, or when his relation to the Father is not made possible by the Spirit.  The Spirit is the Power between the Father and his Son that constitutes the Father-Son relation itself…The identity [of God] is that of a relation.  The Father is not specified as Father apart from the Son, nor the Son as Son apart from the Father.” (C. Kavin Rowe, Early Narrative Christology: The Lord in the Gospel of Luke, pp. 137-39)

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The Bible as Literature

“To study the Bible as literature is to recognize, not prove, that it is in fact literature.  I do not argue for its literary status any more than I would argue for the literary character of the Illiad, the Odyssey, the Bhagavad Gita, the Divine Comedy, or Shakespearean plays.  Instead, I explore the literature to discover its vitality.  This artistic pursuit is neither isolated from nor opposed to a religious interest, neither superior nor subordinate…In the totality of interpretation, their visions fuse.  Thus, the Bible as literature is the Bible as scripture…And conversely, the Bible as scripture is the Bible as literature…

Form and content are inseparable.  On the one hand, the text is not a container from which ideas or substance can be abstracted to live an independent life.  On the other hand, the text is not a subject matter from which stylistic and structural wrappings can be removed to exist autonomously.  How the text speaks and what it says belong together in the discovery of what it is.  To convey content is to employ form; to convey form is to employ content.  Though these two phenomena can be distinguished for analytical purposes, their inseparability is the very life of literature.” (Phyllis Trible, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, pp. 8-9)

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My latest talk for Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA) on how to read the book of Revelation is now available here.  I’m not sure if I mention it during the lecture or not, but the finest introduction–by a landslide–to this topic is The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham.

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Sex: The Total Package

Christians must “emphasize the tightness with which the different strands of our sexual design are woven together.  Mutual and total self-giving, strong feelings of attachment, intense pleasure, and the procreation of new life are linked by human nature in a single complex of meanings and purpose.  For this reason, if we try to split them apart, we split ourselves.  Failure to grasp this fact is more ruinous to our lives, and more difficult to correct, than any amount of ignorance about [sexually transmitted diseases].  It ought to be taught, but it isn’t.  The problem is that we don’t want to believe that these things are really joined; we don’t want the package deal that they represent.  We want to transcend our own nature, like gods.  We want to pick and choose among the elements of our sexual design, enjoying just the pieces that we want and not the others.  Some people pick and choose one element, others pick and choose another, but they share the illusion that they can pick and choose.  Sometimes such picking and choosing is called ‘having it all.’  That is precisely what it isn’t.  A more apt description would be refusing it all—insisting on having just a part—and in the end, not even getting that.” (J. Budziszewski, On the Meaning of Sex, pp. 29-30)

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“Modernity is a world populated by people who define themselves as gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, bi-curious, exhibitionists, submissives, dominatrixes, swingers (people who engage in partner exchange), switchers (people who change from being gay to being straight or vice versa), traders (gay men who have sex with straight men), born-again virgins (people who have, technically, lost their virginity but pledge to renounce sex until marriage), acrotomophiliacs (people who are sexually attracted to amputees), furverts (or furries–people who dress up in animal suits and derive sexual excitement from doing so), or feeders (people who overfeed their, generally obese, partners).  The important point here is that we draw on these categories in order to make sense of who we are: we define ourselves in part through our sexuality.  How have we come to believe that sex is so important to who we are?  As we shall see in this volume, this linking of ‘sexuality,’ understood as the way in which people experience their bodies, pleasures, and desires, with sexual identity is in fact a modern phenomenon, which has emerged only in the course of the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe.  That is not to say that people did not engage in sexual activities before modernity.  Rather, the way in which people made sense of their erotic experiences was radically different from contemporary understandings of sexuality.” (Veronique Mottier, Sexuality: A Very Short Introduction, pp. 1-2)

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“The ruin that the fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in his losing the nobler and more benevolent principles of his nature, and falling wholly under the power and government of self-love. Before, and as God created him, he was exalted, and noble, and generous; but now he is debased, and ignoble, and selfish. Immediately upon the fall, the mind of man shrank from its primitive greatness and expandedness, to an exceeding smallness and contractedness; and as in other respects, so especially in this. Before, his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love, whereby it was enlarged to the comprehension of all his fellow creatures and their welfare…But so soon as he had transgressed against God, these noble principles were immediately lost, and all this excellent enlargedness of man’s soul was gone; and thenceforward he himself shrank, as it were, into a little space, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of all things else. Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away.

But God, in mercy to miserable man, entered on the work of redemption, and, by the glorious gospel of his Son, began the work of bringing the soul of man out of its confinement and contractedness, and back again to those noble and divine principles by which it was animated and governed at first. And it is through the cross of Christ that he is doing this…Christianity restores an excellent enlargement, and extensiveness, and liberality to the soul, and again possesses it with that divine love or charity…whereby it again embraces its fellow creatures, and is devoted to and swallowed up in the Creator.” (Jonathan Edwards, “The Spirit of Charity the Opposite of a Selfish Spirit,” in Charity and Its Fruits)

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“All worship in early Christianity was considered an anticipation in the present of the Kingdom of God.  What will become an enduring reality at the end already happens in the assembled Church now.  This connection between present and future reality…represents the peculiar character and greatness of the early Church’s worship.” (Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, p. 211)

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