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Archive for May, 2014

science-and-faithHere’s a link to a sermon on the relationship between science and faith (based on Psalm 104) I gave recently at Aletheia Church in Cambridge, MA:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQ8DmTRX8Kk

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History-of-the-World-Last-SupperHere’s a message I gave recently at the Ivy League Congress for Faith and Action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KJzDozau38

 

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Genesis“The statement about the image of God (vv. 26-27) must be understood in juxtaposition to Israel’s resistance to any image of God (cf. Exod. 20:4; Deut. 5:8)…Israel resisted every notion that things in the world resembled God…Therefore, God must not be seen as imaged in any of them (Cf. Deut. 4:15-18, in which imaging is linked to creation).  Within that critique of every religious temptation to idolatry, our text makes a surprising counter-assertion.  There is one way in which God is imaged in the world and only one: humanness!  This is the only creature, the only part of creation, which discloses to us something about the reality of God.  This God is not known through any cast or molten image.  God is known peculiarly through this creature.” (Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, pp. 31-32)

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hood“God repeatedly instructs Israel not to make images…Israel does, however, share many concepts and practices with its idolatrous neighbors—circumcision, a temple, sacrifices, hymns, pilgrimages, ritual feasts, a holy calendar, worship on mountains and many other practices are found among at least some of Israel’s neighbors.  So why the prohibition of idols?…The root of the prohibition lies here: God, it turns out, has already crafted his own images.  When God created humanity, he made us to be his image-bearing idols…God’s prohibition is not about his opposition to images but the creation and worship of a lifeless representation of God or false gods.  Instead, God makes image-bearers who reflect His glory.  After he creates them, God gives these royal image-bearers the mission of multiplying and filling the earth with living images of the living God.” (Jason B. Hood, Imitating God in Christ: Recapturing a Biblical Pattern, pp. 19-20)

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Exodus“A further matter of unclarity is, Why were images forbidden?  Insofar as this has reference to other gods or their images (no matter how god and image were thought to be related), the issue of disloyalty to Yahweh is at the heart of the prohibition…But why were images of Yahweh forbidden?  Wherein does the idolatry lie?  The usual answer is that this compromises Yahweh’s transcendence.  Yahweh is above and beyond everything in all creation.  But it seems more likely that this prohibition arises more out of a concern to protect God’s relatedness than transcendence…Unlike plastic images, which are static and immobile, deaf and dumb, unfeeling and unthinking, and fix God at a point in time, Israel’s God is one who can speak and feel and act in both nature and history (and in this sense is free)….Images imply that not only does God not think or feel or act in relationship to the world but that this is the very character of God.  To worship images is to deny some basic things about God’s very nature as well as the divine relationship to the world.  Thus, in the aftermath of the golden calf, God in Exod. 34:6-7 interweaves statements about the divine character and the divine activity…This is continuous with talk about human beings, with all of their capacities for interrelationships, having been created in the image of God.  It is also consonant with the New Testament claim that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15); the one who revealed God most decisively was a living, active human being.” (Terence E. Fretheim, Exodus, pp. 226-27)

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image“We may take the claim that humanity is created in God’s image as constituting an (implicit) critique of the meditation of the divine through cult images [idols]…This certainly fits the rhetorical portrayal of creation in Genesis 1 as a cosmic sanctuary, where humanity as imago Dei functions as a parallel to the role of the cult image [idol] in the temples of the ancient Near East.  Human beings as imago Dei are thus not only priests of the Most High, they are (if we may dare to say it) God’s living cult statues [idols] on earth.  Indeed, humans are the only legitimate or authorized earthly representations of God.  As Walter Brueggemann puts it, ‘There is one way in which God is imaged in the world and only one: humanness!’…If we interpret Genesis 1 against, on the one hand, the Old Testament’s pervasive idol critique and, on the other, the prominent role of cult images [idols] in [the Ancient Near East], the claim that humanity is created as imago Dei suggests a rationale for the prohibition of images beyond anything we find explicitly stated elsewhere in the Old Testament…Thus, beyond safeguarding the divine transcendence, the iconoclasm of the Scriptures may be interpreted also as protecting the integrity of the human worshiper.  The pervasive prohibition and critique of idolatry in the Old Testament may be read as part and parcel of the Bible’s distinctive emphasis on human flourishing and as integrally connected to the high status and calling of humanity that is articulated by the imago Dei in Genesis 1.” (J. Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1, pp. 207-09)

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Wright“Bearing the image of God, through the agency of the Messiah, thus emerges as one of the foundation themes of Paul’s vision for what we may call ‘new humanity.’  And this is what he tries to inculcate at the heart of the praxis of his communities…In a worldview where pagan images no longer have any meaning, Paul is not leaving the cosmos without images to mediate the presence of the one true God.  On the contrary.  The world, the cosmos, is already presented with the one true Image, the Messiah himself; and the symbolic praxis of the Messiah’s people is thus grounded, by the Spirit, in the vocation to be imagebearers, to be the means of participating in and reflecting the true divine life into a world whose iconography had been giving off either a radically distorted vision or a downright lying one.” (N. T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God, pp. 441-42)

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