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Archive for January, 2015

Spohn“The imperatives of the Gospel have a radical quality that forces us to consider the distance between our ordinary motives and the revolutionary novelty of the Reign of God…These practical mandates are radical because the gift of God in Christ is radical. They connect the Christian with the historical person of Jesus Christ and the specific way of life that remains a surprise and a scandal. David Tracy describes the effect on Christian moral reflection that this challenge of the historical Jesus produces: ‘The memory of Jesus confronts all sentimentalized notions of love with the intensified extremity of the actual thing in the remembered life of Jesus Christ.’” (William C. Spohn, What Are They Saying About Scripture and Ethics?, 2nd ed., p. 125)

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Spohn“Ephesians 4 stresses that the ‘new humanity’ being formed in the world is identical with the communal Christ. While individuals are given different gifts of the Spirit to serve, it is the community as a whole that is called to image forth the contemporary reality of Christ. Murphy-O’Connor writes, ‘As the community deepens its commitment to the ideal, the existential attitude of Christ (cf. Phil. 2:5) becomes progressively more manifest, primarily in the community and derivatively in the individuals who constitute it. To the extend that the community exemplifies the authentic humanity manifested by Christ, it judges from the standpoint of Christ. It is in this sense that it can be said to possess ‘the mind of Christ.’’ The community internalizes the values of Christ through the Spirit of Jesus so that, as it matures, it comes closer to following the fundamental norm of Christian morality, the person of Jesus Christ. To the extent that the community is faithful to the Spirit, it mediates to its members this ‘mind of Christ’ as normative for their own formation of character and moral decisions.” (William C. Spohn, What Are They Saying About Scripture and Ethics?, 2nd ed., pp. 118-19)

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Spohn“Jesus is the ‘symbolic figure’ which the Christian uses to test ‘the spirits to see if among all the forces that move within him, his societies, the human mind itself, there be a uniting, healing, a knowing, a whole-making spirit, a Holy Spirit. And he can do so only with the aid of the image, the symbol of Christ. Is there a Christ-like spirit there?’ I interpret Niebuhr to mean that the values of Jesus Christ are linked together by the gospel narratives into a set or constellation which can function as a complex affective norm. The maturing Christian gradually incorporates this set of values into his or her affectivity in such a way that it can function as a ‘sounding board’ for discerning the values in a particular course of action. Does it resonate with those qualities which together constitute what we call the ‘spirit’ of Jesus? Or does the basic affective tone of a situation or action clash with those values so that one concludes, ‘No, a Christ-like spirit is not present here.’” (William C. Spohn, What Are They Saying About Scripture and Ethics?, 2nd ed., p. 114)

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Spohn“[Jesus] shapes or informs Christian action which conforms to, corresponds to, or embodies aspects of his life. All these verbs express the activity of patterning, of extending to new material the shape which was inherent in an original. The response is guided by the original. The distinctive arrangement of elements in the religious original serves as paradigm, exemplar, prototype, and precedent to guide the actions and dispositions of Christians in new situations. Because biblical patterns combine a stable core with an indeterminate, open-ended dimension, the moral response can be both creative and faithful. We extend a pattern by analogy since we move from the recognizable shape in the first instance to novel situations within certain limitations. Mark Twain remarked that history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme. Catching that rhyme is the business of analogical reflection.” (William C. Spohn, What Are They Saying About Scripture and Ethics?, 2nd ed., pp. 99-100)

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Spohn“[Christianity] answers the moral question, ‘What ought I do?’ by replying, ‘Love others as God has loved you in Jesus Christ.’ Christian moral life has the character of response because God’s love comes to us first and our actions correspond to the character of that love. Christian love finds the motive and norm for loving others in the story of Jesus which defines the way God continues to love each of us. Christian moral reflection moves from patterns that are central to the biblical narrative by analogy to discern appropriate ways of being and acting in the present situation. The love which is the central norm for the Christian life is not an abstract principle but an experience that has a definite pattern. That pattern is specified in the story of Jesus…Christians experience God’s distinctive way of loving as manifested in the history of Jesus Christ and continued through his Spirit in the believing community.” (William C. Spohn, What Are They Saying About Scripture and Ethics?, 2nd ed., p. 94)

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Sittler“In Christ, the believing lover of men-in-Christ now stands with his Lord and supreme Lover precisely in his crucifixion. ‘I am crucified with Christ’ is a term expressive not only of the Christian recapitulation of the Christ-life in the large, but a symbol of the inner content of numberless ethical decisions in their actual heartbreaking character.” (Joseph Sittler, The Structure of Christian Ethics, p. 84)

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Sittler“The will of God, for instance, declared to be supremely revealed in Jesus Christ, cannot now be identified with the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are now seen to be disclosures of the Creator-creature structure of existence, of the holy Source of all that is, of the requirements that inhere in the human situation simply by virtue of its source in God and the structure which he has given it.  Because God is Creator his reality is not to be denied by idolatrous substitution of any earthly source, good, value or purpose as ultimate. (I am the Lord Thy God, thou shall have no other gods before me.) Because God is the Creator the given structures of dual sexuality, marriage, family, the reality and needs of child-life are to be honored and protected. (Honor thy father and mother.  Thou shalt not commit adultery.) The integrity of personal life is not to be violated.  Because God is the Creator, men’s lives and those things which they fashion and use for support and delight are to be respected. (Thou shall not kill; thou shall not steal; thou shall not covet.) The Ten Commandments, as the law of God, are a verbalization of the given structures of creation. They stand above all men, believers and non-believers alike, as an accurate transcription of the facts…The deed of God in Christ, however, occurred in a world which had and knew the Ten Commandments. If the deed is redemptive in intention and fact, that does not deny or abrogate the revelation of God the Creator, but rather fulfills in the strategy of redemption what man regularly fractures in the structure of creation. Redemption does not destroy creation but fulfills it. This fulfilling and realization is generated in men who by faith in God’s new beginning with them in the Second Adam, Christ, are given what the New Testament calls a ‘new being.’ This faith, this ‘new being’ in Christ, is not only a restoration to fellowship with God in the forgiveness of sins, but an entirely new placement and activity in the midst of the world.” (Joseph Sittler, The Structure of Christian Ethics, pp. 70-71)

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