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Archive for March, 2013

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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imagesBoth conservative and liberal churches, left and right, assumed a basically Constantinian approach to the issue of church and world.  That is, many pastors, conservatives and liberal, felt that their task was to motivate their people to get involved in politics. After all, what other way was there to achieve justice other than through [secular] politics?…People often complain that the political agenda of conservative Christians looks suspiciously like the political agenda of conservative secularists—the Republican party on its knees.  And it seems inconceivable that an agency of any mainline, Protestant denomination should espouse some social position unlike that of the most liberal Democrats.  The church is the dull exponent of conventional secular political ideas with a vaguely religious tint.  Political theologies, whether of the left or of the right, want to maintain Christendom, wherein the church justifies itself as a helpful, if sometimes complaining, prop for the state…That which makes the church ‘radical’ and forever ‘new’ is not that the church tends to lean toward the left on most social issues, but rather that the church knows Jesus whereas the world does not.  In the church’s view, the political left is not noticeably more interesting than the political right; both sides tend toward solutions that act as if the world has not ended and begun in Jesus.  These ‘solutions’ are only mirror images of the status quo.” (Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon, Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, pp. 28, 31, 38)

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exile“Historical criticism has become, in scripture study, a version of ‘modes of absolutism’ among the elitely educated.  It is increasingly clear that historical criticism has become a handmaiden of certain kinds of power.  This refers not only to the control of the agenda through academic politics, but it also recognizes that the rise of criticism is deeply related to the banishment of the ‘supernatural’ and to the dismissal of tradition as a form of truthfulness.” (Walter Brueggemann, Cadences of Home: Preaching Among Exiles, p. 25)

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A-Peculiar-People-9780830819904“It doesn’t take long, in the face of talk like this about the high ideals of the church, for questions and objections to occur. ‘What’s all this about the church being so special, so heroic?  Look at all the horrible things that happen in the church, the abuse and the pettiness.’  A popular Constantinian response to such objections was to dismiss the church and attention from the church in order to point to an acultural, asocial savior, to be known by individuals in their isolation: ‘Don’t look at the church, look at Jesus.’

But of course the argument of this book has been that this misconstrues the narrative logic of the Bible and the consistent political presence of a witnessing people that logic entails.  God the Father and God the Son are not fundamentally known privately and ethereally.  They are instead encountered through a holy people, a community set apart, a light to the world, a city on a hill, a tribe bearing promise to all other tribes.  Christians are inescapably called to the corporate witnessing of the coming of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ.  However beleaguered, however divided, however hateful we may sometimes be, still, as long as we remain the church in the slightest, that witness is our reason for being.” (Rodney Clapp, A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society, p. 109)

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“The three offices are so related to one another that Christ is Prophet in a priestly and royal manner; Priest in a prophetic and royal way; King, but King as priest and prophet.  The three offices can be distinguished; they cannot be separated.  At every moment Christ acts in all three capacities.” (W. A. Visser’t Hooft, The Kingship of Christ: An Interpretation of Recent European Theology, pp. 16-17)

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