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Archive for March, 2013

luther“Faith is not that human notion and dream that some hold for faith.  Because they see that no betterment of life and no good works follow it, and yet they can hear and say much about faith, they fall into error, and say, ‘Faith is not enough; one must also do works in order to be righteous and saved.’  This is the reason that, when they hear the Gospel, they fall-to and make for themselves, by their own powers, an idea in their hearts, which says, ‘I believe.’  This they hold for true faith.  But it is a human imagination and idea that never reaches the depths of the heart, and so nothing comes of it and no betterment follows it.  Faith, however, is a divine work in us.  It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God; it kills the old Adam and makes altogether different men, in heart and spirit and mind and powers, and it brings with it the Holy Spirit.  Oh, it is a living, busy, mighty thing, this faith; and so it is impossible for it not to do good works incessantly.  It does not ask whether there are good works to do, but before the question rises; it has already done them, and is always at the doing of them.  He who does not these works is a faith-less man.  He gropes and looks about after faith and good works, and knows neither what faith is nor what good works are, though he talks and talks, with many words, about faith and good works.  Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man would stake his life on it a thousand times.  This confidence in God’s grace and knowledge of it makes men glad and bold and happy in dealing with God and all His creatures; and this is the work of the Holy Spirit in faith.  Hence a man is ready and glad, without compulsion, to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer everything, in love and praise to God, who has shown him this grace; and thus it is impossible to separate works from faith, quite as impossible as to separate heat and light from fire…Therefore, all that is done apart from faith or in unbelief, is false; it is hypocrisy and sin, no matter how good a show it makes (Romans 14).” (Martin Luther, Preface” to Romans)

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“Does the Bible then contain all things necessary for the Christian life in the world?  It does, in the sense that it gives us the basic insights concerning God’s design for man, for society, for the state which we need to arrive at Christian decisions in these realms.  That does not mean that the Bible presents us with ready-made recipes.  The picking and choosing of single texts and the literal application of such texts is a denial of the untiy and historicity of the revelation.  If I isolate a Bible text from the whole, I act as master rather than as servant of God’s Word.  And if I copy the actions of Biblical persons, I deny that God’s Word is a living Word, which reaches me here and now.  The danger of biblicism in its various forms is that the specific historical situations in the Bible are absolutized and become a wall between God and ourselves instead of a window through which we see God’s work among men.” (W. A. Visser’t Hooft, The Kingship of Christ: An Interpretation of Recent European Theology, pp. 142-43)

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“The world is not half as dangerous for the Church as the Church is for itself. The mortal danger for the Church is that it should cease to be the Church, not that it should be oppressed from the outside.” (W. A. Visser’t Hooft, The Kingship of Christ: An Interpretation of Recent European Theology, p. 129)

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Church and Kingdom

“It is, then, highly dangerous to blur the frontier between the Church and the Kingdom of God…When Karl Adams says, ‘The Church is the realization of the Kingdom of God on earth,’ we can only answer that a Church is to be pitied which does not hope for the manifestation of something more and better than its own life…A Church which does not know that the Kingdom is its promise and its vis-à-vis becomes a Church in monologue.  It is so at one with its Lord that it confuses its own voice with the voice of the Lord.  It is so much at home in what it conceives to be the Kingdom that it no longer expects the Kingdom.  No, the Church serves the Kingdom.  It lives by the ‘dynamis’ [power] which the Kingdom has brought into the world.  But it is not the Kingdom…It is the pioneer, the advance guard of the Kingdom of God.” (W. A. Visser’t Hooft, The Kingship of Christ: An Interpretation of Recent European Theology, pp. 98-99, 119)

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cross_01“The Church is the concrete, visible manifestation of the crucified and risen Christ in the world.  The Church is that aspect or part of Jesus Christ which is tangibly present in the world…The Church, according to the teaching of the New Testament, is so related to Christ that he is embodied in it.  The risen Lord continues to work in the world and the way in which he is present is in and through the Church.  To be ‘in Christ’ or to be a member of the body is to be drawn into the sphere of his action, which is no less than the re-creation of the world.” (W. A. Visser’t Hooft, The Kingship of Christ: An Interpretation of Recent European Theology, pp. 94-95)

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images“Jesus’ ethic was so thoroughly eschatological—an ethic bound up with his proclamation of the end of history.  Ethics is a function of telos, the end.  It makes all the difference in the world how one regards the end of the world, ‘end’ not so much in the sense of its final breath, but ‘end’ in the sense of the purpose, the goal, the result…[That is,] Christian ethics depends upon the Christian story.  Christian ethics makes no sense apart from [this story]…If our society has lost good reasons for getting married and having children, we appear even more so to have lost good reasons for staying single.  About the best we can muster, in regard to staying single, is that we do not want to be ‘tied down,’ or we want ‘to keep our options open.’  Yet for those who are on the adventure called discipleship, singleness becomes a sign that the church lives by hope rather than by biological heirs, that brothers and sisters come not through natural generation but through baptism, that the future of the world and the significance of our future is ultimately up to God rather than us.  The telos, the end, gives meaning to our choices.  Ultimately, there is for us only one good reason to get married or to stay single, namely, that this has something to do with our discipleship.” (Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, pp. 61-63, 66)

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adam“In 1 Kings 4, Solomon is described as a wise king (see 1 Kgs. 4:29-34) who has ‘dominion over’ (1 Kings 4:24; see Gen. 1:26-28) a territory that is bounded by the same rivers originally surrounding the Garden of Eden (1 Kgs. 4:24; Gen. 2:10-14).  Solomon’s wisdom includes knowledge about ‘trees,’ ‘cattle,’ ‘flying creatures,’ ‘creeping things,’ and ‘fish.’  This language unmistakeably echoes Genesis 1-2, where Adam is granted wisdom to name the animals (Gen. 2:19-20) and given authority to rule over them (1 Kgs. 4:21; Gen. 1:26, 28, 29; see also Ps. 8:7-9).  In 1 Kgs 3:9 Solomon is also given the ability to discern between ‘good’ and ‘evil,’ again echoing key themes in the Garden Narrative (Gen. 2:9, 17).  Solomon is depicted as a ‘new’ Adam fulfilling the creation mandate.  There are parallels linking Solomon’s construction of the temple [1 Kgs. 7-8] to the creation account as well…Solomon is described as a ‘new’ Adam who has reestablished creation worship in an Eden-like sanctuary.  Once the author places Solomon’s reign and building accomplishments in the context of the ancient glories of Genesis 1-2, the stage is set for the recapitulation of Adam’s fall as well.  First Kings 9:6-9 warns Solomon and his people about the dangers of being led astray by the worship of false gods, and the possibilities of being cast away from the land and the Lord’s presence (1 Kgs. 9:7; see Gen. 3:23, 4:14). In light of what has been said, the description of Solomon’s fall in 1 Kings 11 is likely patterned after Adam’s fall in Genesis 3.” (Seth D. Postell, Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and Tanakh, pp. 132-33; the verses cited in 1 Kings 4 have been changed to reflect modern English translations)

Postell helpfully points out that this pattern is not limited to Solomon’s story in the Old Testament.  It dominates all the other stories as well (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Israel, Joshua, David, etc.):

“Every ‘new Adam’ in Israel’s Primary History fails to fulfill Adam’s mission.  At the conclusion of the Primary History, the creation mandate remains unfinished business.” (Seth D. Postell, Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and Tanakh, p. 133)

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imagesCASY2M19“[The New Testament often employs] the image of God’s people as exiles among the nations.  The image, of course, originated in Old Testament Israel’s experience of deportation and exile.  Luke’s account of the movement of the gospel from Jerusalem outwards depicts a literal diaspora of the Jerusalem church, driven by persecution from Jerusalem, some as far as Antioch, where the Gentile mission first began in earnest.  With the loss of a sense of physical center of the Christian movement in Jerusalem, the way is clear for writers like the authors of Hebrews and 1 Peter to represent Christians anywhere as aliens and exiles among the nations, sojourning like the patriarchs in lands that are not their own, awaiting their homecoming to the heavenly Jerusalem that will come down to earth in the future.  In modern times this image has sometimes suffered from association with a non-biblical kind of otherworldliness, but its positive significance for mission is its call to the church to be a counter-culture movement, living for a different God in a different way and with a different future in view.

It may be that this image will come into its own again as the church in the postmodern west reconceptualizes its missionary relationship to a post-Christian society.  The church in the west may have to get used to the idea that its own center in God, from which it goes out to others in proclamation and compassion, is actually a position of social and cultural exile or marginality.  This may improve its witness to the Christ who was himself so often found at the margins.” (Richard Bauckham, Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, pp. 80-81)

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dunn“The ‘already here’ motif [in the Gospels] is nowhere more obvious than in the difference marked out in the tradition between John the Baptist and Jesus…The point is clear: something has happened between the mission of John and that of Jesus, something which has lifted possibilities onto a new plane; even the least on that new plane is superior to John.  The explanatory word is, once again, ‘kingdom.’  It is the kingdom of God which marks the difference, which constitutes the new plane…In other words, between the missions of the Baptist and Jesus a decisive ‘shift in the aeons’ had taken place…The relation between the two was conceived in terms of a significant transition having taken place.  There was a note of fulfilled expectation, of long-desired blessings now happening, of the celebration that was consequently appropriate…It would hardly distort the evidence to sum up the emphasis in terms of the kingdom being already active in and through Jesus’ mission, in contrast to that of the Baptist…The change of emphasis was perceived by Jesus in earliest Christian memory as a change like the dawning of a new day following the darkest hour before dawn.” (James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, pp. 445, 451-52, 454-55)

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wenham“Memorization goes hand in hand with religious reading.  This is quite different from modern reading styles.  Most modern readers approach texts in what Griffiths terms a consumerist fashion.  You read what you like, read when you like, and accept what you like in what you read.  Then you discard what you have just read and move on to read something else.  In Griffith’s opinion this characterizes our approach to reading everything, from newspaper articles to academic monographs.

The approach of religious readers is quite different.  They see the work read as an infinite resource.  ‘It is a treasure-house, an ocean, a mine; the deeper religious readers dig…the greater will be their reward.’  The work read is treated with great reverence.  Griffith explains: ‘For the religious reader, the work read is an object of overpowering delight and great beauty.  It can never be discarded because it can never be exhausted.  It can only be reread with reverence and ecstasy.’  Psalm 119:97 gives expression to this outlook.

Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day.

Griffiths continues, ‘For [religious] readers the ideally read work is the memorized work, and the ideal mode of rereading is by memorial recall.’  As a reader memorizes a text, he becomes textualized; that is, he embodies the work he has committed to memory.  ‘Ezekiel’s eating of the prophetic scroll…is a representation of the kind of incorporation and internalization involved in religious reading: the work is ingested, used for nourishment, incorporated: it becomes the basis for rumination and action.’

Further, ‘A memorized work (like a lover, a friend, a spouse, a child) has entered into the fabric of its possessor’s intellectual and emotional life in a way that makes deep claims upon that life, claims that can only be ignored with effort and deliberation.'” (Gordon Wenham, The Psalter Reclaimed: Praying and Praising with the Psalms; the work he cites by Paul J. Griffiths is Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Reading)

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