[April 17, 2014]
Busy day but a quick thought. Why is it that we can sing Handel's Messiah with passion and meaning, even believing that the vision of Isaiah is true. We believe when we sing. We worship when we sing. The words about an "ambiguous" "Counselor," a "Mighty King," even the "Prince of Peace" are easy to hear.... But when we exegetically drill into the "heel" that will crush his head or the young maiden will bear a child, or the rock in the desert, we are more the doubter about the "One" referred to by the text. We want to see Jesus where it is traditionally "OK" to see him in the OT. But picture "him" wrestling with Jacob and that is another thing. How can we open our eyes and really see Him where he has walked with humanity as the covenant God from the very beginning? It is Easter and He was slain from the foundations of the earth. We have been on the road to Emmaus for way to long.....
[April 15, 2014]
Render today unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.....
Reading and thoughts lately are more and more focused on the OT and Jesus. I have been reading in NT Wright and G K Beale.... both wonderful writers and Wright even has a sense of humor in his work.
This from Wright about the last several hundred years of Jesus scholarship, "Authentic Christianity, after all, has nothing to fear from history. Rather, scholars of all backgrounds now have the opportunity, given us not least by the massive wave of discoveries about and research into first-century Judaism, to answer the questions raised by Reimarus, Schweitzer, Bultmann, Sanders, Crossan and the others, and even perhaps those raised by Luther and Melancthon. The opportunity is at hand to respond appropriately to the challenge of the Enlightenment, and in so doing to issue some counter-challenges from the perspective of a history which, however rigorous, has not abandoned theology, but rather rediscovered theological possibilities hidden under the pile of icons or behind the stack of silhouettes (about Jesus). History, even if bedraggled from its sojourn in the far country, may yet come home to a celebration." (Wright, 1996)
I would almost call that a clarion call to signal the END OF THE SEARCH FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS, that is, along non-historical lines. Still too often in the contemporary church there are the signs that the liberalism of the "searches" has rubbed off far too much faith in the faithful. The extension of this has also been found in the removal of the connection of Jesus from the OT. If Jesus can be shown (and it cannot) to have little by way of historical veracity and value, how much less must the OT have. But, as I have mentioned, if the patriarchs and prophets who are referenced in the NT by Jesus, Paul and others did not really exist, who then is the NT referencing. There is a domino theory at work here which strains faithful credulity. If now, the Enlightenment (see the April 2 comments on that] has in fact been addressed (and continues to be so) and the historical veracity of the NT is found sound, maybe, just maybe, we can take the OT references more seriously. For Jesus to be the second Adam, must there not be a first! This is not blind literalism rather a positive realism in the "storyline" (Beale) which stretches back to the moment of Creation when God said "Let there be..... and it was good."
Over the next several weeks I have the opportunity to prepare for a presentation on Jesus and the OT for a class at church. The class focus has been more on the differences between the OT and NT with I believe some breaks in the actual continuity which is there. My attempt will be to sew up the breaks and establish the serious singularity of the storyline and the threads which run through the whole Canon. If Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, there must be a way to find within the text the exegetical justification for that statement. Like the Sabbath being "made for man" and not vice versa, so the image of the lamb carries with it the historical and sacrificial intent and meaning behind the OT practice and its "shadow." Both the Sabbath and the Lamb present the mind and heart of God as the Savior who rescues us from the cosmic void and the self-inflicted righeousness of mastering our own darkness. That story has an Alpha and an Omega in history and as history.
[April 2, 2014]
I am currently reading "Karl Barth and the Strange New World within the Bible, Barth, Wittgenstein and the Metadilemmas of the Enlightenment" by Neil MacDonald. Well written, keenly insightful and a clear focus on the issues which support his thesis that Barth was the primary theologian to "rightly" carry on the work of the Enlightenment in the true Spirit of the Freedom by which our God challenges the religious shackles which keep his Word bound and opens avenues of human thinking to understand the "mind of Christ" as the Word which sets Free. It is an engaging thesis. His thesis explores the "glib" view on one "theological" side that the Bible's claims to historical-truth; i.e., they are what they directly claim to be and "will" hold up to the scrutiny of the historians, or will not, but nevertheless, that is the battlefield of the Bible. Or, on the other hand, just as "glibly," the Bible is not really "history" at all, but a "meaningful" and overtly redacted reflection of the Priestly (and other JEPD guys) tradition much much later with a goal to give Israel a place and role in the post-exilic world. For MacDonald, neither side has understood the Bible. He goes on to explore the Sermon Barth gave in 1917 entitled, "The Strange New World Within the Bible." Here is the key. Within this sermon, Barth places before his audience the "sui generis historicality proper to God", which is in the Bible. It is the world of "God" that we are entering here. It is not the "people" of the Bible who are "per se" meaningful. It is not the "historical" meaning which is found that is met there. It is not the legacy of writers and their finely tune art of editorship and weaving oral traditions which impresses us there. It is not the ceremonially celebrated religiosity or even moralism of life that is found there. To "measure" the Bible and God by some such set of methodologies is to impose upon God our own concepts of "measures" and thus miss the "otherness" of God as God's God-ness. The Bible will have none of that. It requires the same freedom of investigation after which the true "esprit" of the Enlightenment sought understanding. Each field of study, though ultimately interacting with others upon the field of knowledge, are investigate within the context of their own reality. "The object to be known determines the method of knowing it" as Torrance has said. So the "sui generis historicality" of the Bible must be investigated "on it's own terms." This is the "Strange World Within the Bible" that "stands" before us and will not leave us to say "now we know and have determined its meaning in this or that fashion." It presses us constantly to "go further and further in."
This Enlightenment sense of the work before us is daunting. To allow the text its own right of existence "before us" is never easy. It challenges our methods of Bible study to the core. What will we hear today? is no glib question to ask. The real question for us is do we believe there is God who will speak. The glory and majesty of God is found in the a priori assertion that even if we do not believe that does not stop God from speaking. Keep listening.......