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Archive for January, 2019

wimbush“There was no consistent or mass effort either to go out of the world or to participate in and affirm the world.  The world as seen as adiaphoron [a matter of indifference].  Salvation neither required the embracing of, nor flight from, the world…Paul does not speak to the issue of the rightness or wrongness of slavery, or any other issue or structure of society…In fact, most of the New Testament stands out in terms of its lack of attention to social and political problems…The reason most of the New Testament writers (including Paul) did not address the world in social and political criticism in the manner in which other writers in the Greco-Roman world did, was due to the construction of a different ‘world’…In effect, it took the ‘heart’ out of the Empire not only in its radical allegiance to another power, but also in its creation of whole new basic units of existence—the Christian oikos [household]…

What seems to have inspired Paul’s model of ascetic behavior was his concern that unity, edification, propriety, good order and missions not be frustrated.  As far as he was concerned, the goal for the churches of his mission should be the realization of a quality of human relationships…That Paul and his churches did not revolutionize the shape of social relationships in the larger world of which they were a part is clear enough…That many could and would interpret their perspective as legitimation of a social conservatism that would function to frustrate egalitarian aspirations is, sadly, history, but is due to a confusion of the force of the issues in the original context of debate and discussion.  Again, for Paul and for most of his churches, the central concern seems to have been the quality of social relationships in the churches…

Our contribution has been to help establish more clearly (Paul and) the Pauline churches not as a withdrawn ‘sect’ indifferent to the world around them, but as fledgling communities experimenting with a new mode of existence in the world, struggling to discover what concern for ‘the things of the Lord’ must mean in the world they knew…For those for whom Christian faith demands and is synonymous with a worldly agenda for aggressive social change, the way of Paul and the Pauline Christians will appear embarrassingly weak and irrelevant.  For those for whom Christian faith demands the development of interior piety first and foremost, the way of Paul and the Pauline Christians will appear to be substandard, a worldly compromise.  But the struggles of Paul and the Pauline Christians–and the dialogue that chronicles such struggles–will remain a challenge for every subsequent model of Christian spirituality.” (Vincent L. WimbushPaul the Worldly Ascetic: Response to the World and Self-Understanding According to 1 Corinthians 7, pp. 79-81, 91-92, 96-97)

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kasemann“Christ’s dethroning of the principalities and powers is primarily a heavenly event which has not yet become known everywhere on earth, not yet been everywhere verified, still awaits completion and, for this reason, obligates the earthly community to mission…This community must therefore answer the question as to what earthly reality corresponds to their message of redemption; indeed the more strongly it brings forward a present eschatology, the more urgent the question becomes…

We have to give a twofold answer.  In the first place, Paul distinguishes sharply between the Church as the redeemed and the world as the unredeemed creation and thus modifies the apocalyptic scheme of the two aeons.  For the Church is for him…an entity similar to the world: it is the world in obedience to God.  In the Church the powers, except death—note the eschatological reservation which is made even here—have lost the lordship to Christ, whereas they still reign in the world which surrounds the Church…Paul defines the Church as the company of the obedient who, as such, stand in the succession of the obedient Adam.  But in the obedience of the Christians the Church manifests itself as the new creation which is now restored to the state from which Adam fell.  In her obedience it is seen that the power of the Resurrection governs her and that the powers of the world—other than death—no longer reign in her…

In the bodily obedience of the Christian, carried out as the service of God in the world of everyday, the lordship of Christ finds visible expression and only when this visible expression takes personal shape in us does the whole thing become credible as Gospel message…His own are already engaged today in delivering over to Christ by their bodily obedience the piece of world which they themselves are; and in so doing they bear witness to his lordship as that of the Cosmocrator and thus anticipate the ultimate reality of the Resurrection and of the untrammeled reign of Christ.  The apocalyptic question ‘To whom does the sovereignty of the world belong?’ stands behind the Resurrection theology of the apostle, as behind his parenesis which centers round the call to obedience in the body…

Man for Paul is never just on his own.  He is always a specific piece of world and therefore becomes what in the last resort he is by determination from outside, i.e. by the power which takes possession of him and the lordship to which he surrenders himself.  His life is from the beginning a stake in the confrontation between God and the principalities of this world.  In other words, it mirrors the cosmic contention for the lordship of the world and is its concretion.  As such, man’s life can only be understood apocalyptically.” (Ernst Kasemann, “On the Subject of Primitive Christian Apocalyptic,” in New Testament Questions of Today, pp. 128-29, 134-36)

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kasemann“This state of affairs arouses the suspicion that history and interpretation have been secretly exchanging their proper roles; to be more specific, interpretation is no longer the servant of the history which has to be illumined, but is making the latter into a quarry for its own arbitrarily constructed buildings for homeless contemporaries.  Ultimate hermeneutical problems raise their heads here…

The supposed compulsion always to take up a position immediately, instead of first listening and waiting for what is being given or taken away by the ‘other’, is mostly the death of understanding, the stifling of the real question, the missed opportunity to learn and, learning, to grow.  How many of our students today grasp the truth that understanding is always in addition a process of personal growth and therefore demands time and patience right up to the limits of self-forgetfulness; that he who does not himself mature in the historian’s trade will shake nothing but unripe fruit from the tree of knowledge?  The principal virtue of the historian and the beginning of all meaningful hermeneutics so far as I am concerned is the cultivation of the listening faculty, which is prepared to take seriously what is historically alien and does not think that violence is the basic form of engagement.” (Ernst Kasemann, “On the Subject of Primitive Christian Apocalyptic,” in New Testament Questions of Today, p. 110, n. 2)

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kasemann“It was apocalyptic which first made historical thinking possible within Christendom.  Since for apocalyptic the world has a definite beginning and a definite end, the course of history therefore takes a definite direction and is irrevocable, articulated into a series of epochs clearly distinguishable from each other.  In this scheme the individual being receives its firmly established place, its particularity and co-ordinates, to which historical thinking appeals.  Hence also the necessity for the kerygma of Jesus not merely to be proclaimed, but to be narrated.  Thus it becomes possible to arrive at the construction of the incomparable literary form of the Gospels, which–in spite of all the quite proper objections which have been made ad nauseam to understanding them as biography–yet present us in a highly unique fashion with something like the life of a man, from an eschatological perspective and according to an eschatological interpretation…

Apocalyptic cannot dispense with the remembrance of salvation and catastrophe in past history if it is to keep hope and warning alive in the present.  Neither can it content itself with a one-for-one interpretation of the Gospels, because it is bound always to be narrating the sacred history in terms of a new situation and out of a new experience.  The Gospel cannot maintain its identity without the Gospels.  The kerygmatic proclamation becomes the proclamation of an idea only, unless it is narration as well: and unless it is always being grasped afresh in the very process of narration, it becomes a document of mere history.” (Ernst Kasemann, “The Beginnings of Christian Theology,” in New Testament Questions of Today, pp. 96-97)

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