Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I love those early theologians

By offering himself as a sacrifice for us, Christ “built a wall of partition between human nature and sin” [Cyril] so that nothing might hinder our access to God and so that we might return to that original likeness we had at the creation. Just as sin separates us from God, righteousness creates a bond with God that brings us close to God’s side so that nothing can separates us from him for, as Cyril says, “We have been justified through faith in Christ.” In justification, the nature of humanity is entirely reformed and renewed enabling it through the sanctifying grace of the Spirit to once again ascend to its own first beginning about which Moses wrote in Genesis. This ascension can begin even now in this life...— Theosis, Volume 2, page 153

Real faith

As I said above, the more I have lived with this psalm [89], the more grateful I have become for it. It says to us that it is all right to ask questions, when things do not seem to fit in our faith. But it also says that present distress need not diminish the reality of our faith. The psalmist did not question that God really is the God of hesed and ’emunah, steadfast love and faithfulness. It was just the question that those did not seem to be present in the circumstances. By the same token, genuine faith does not require us to deny our pain and uncertainty.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 423

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


But his [Christ’s] sanctification did not consist in his becoming holy, since as God he was already holy. Rather according to the sense of how the term is used in the Old Testament, “That which is brought by any one to God by way of an offering or gifts, as sacred to him, is said to be sanctified according to the custom of the Law.” [Cyril of Alexandria] Sacrifices were set apart, offered and dedicated as holy to God. Therefore when Christ says he sanctifies himself for us, he means according to Cyril that, “he brought himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, ‘reconciling the world unto himself’ and bringing the human race that has fallen away back into a relationship with God.” This reunion occurs through communion in the Spirit and sanctification because the Spirit is the one who knits us together and unites us with God.— Theosis, Volume 2, pages 152-153

Thought readjustment needed

The verse [Isa 53:6] says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord [Yahweh] has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Now, I checked through every translation of that verse I could find, and it is translated that way consistently. But let me tell you what the literal Hebrew is for that last sentence in the verse. It says, “Yahweh has caused to meet in him the iniquity of us all.” For me, “to cause to meet in him” gives a totally different picture than “to lay on him.” When I think about “laid on him,” I see a judgment in a courtroom. The legal obligation of one person is “laid” on another person. But the word iniquity used here is the strongest word in the Old Testament for the evil that is within us, the wrong that is within us, the depths and the great extent of our wrongness before God. So the picture here is of all our wrongness before coming into this Mediator in whom is all the goodness of God and meeting that goodness there.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 404

<idle musing>
Can you tell he studied theology under Torrence? Shows, doesn't it? As I read that, I felt my brain doing a rewire—in a good way.

Kind of puts the popular versions of atonement in the trashcan (which is where they belong, anyway!)...
</idle musing>

Monday, July 28, 2014

Let's nuance that statement a bit

There is a limit to human knowledge. A finite created being never can fully apprehend the infinite reality of God, and therefore theological language ought to be careful and reserved. However, what can be a knowledgeable aspect of Christian faith and worship.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 129

<idle musing>
I like that, "careful and reserved." Too bad most of what passes for theology these days isn't...
</idle musing>

But maybe not

So clearly, from a human perspective this text cannot mean what it appears to. You see, we decide how God is supposed to act. Every people group decides how God is supposed to act, and the hardest problem that God has with us, I think, is to disabuse us of our wrong notions of who His is and what He is like. So here they are describing the way they think He must be. If He is going to win, and they are sure He will, He can only do so by power and by might.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 399

<idle musing>
I neglected to write down the passage he is referring to, but that's really immaterial to the argument. The point is that we think God is like us. And where he isn't, we're right and he's wrong! Oh, we don't do it consciously, bit it's there just the wonder we need repentance and new birth!
</idle musing>

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thought for the day—I think...

“All our notions of God,” he [Gregory of Nyssa] continues, “are nothing but idols forbidden by the Ten Commandments.” From this comes the rule: “If one who has seen God has understood what he has seen, this means that he has not seen God.” Or: “Words about God are the more perfect, the less comprehensible they are.”— Theosis, Volume 2, page 71

Who's on first

Reconciliation is not something wrung out of God against His will by some application of magic. The sacrificial system only has effect because Yahweh wills to offer reconciliation out of His own heart. That means that if we are to receive that reconciliation, there have to be corresponding personal overtures from us. There has to be something from within us that says we recognize what we have done and want to be reconciled.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 381

Thursday, July 24, 2014

About that command by Jesus...

Here, at the end of the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, perfection is commanded. By commanding perfection, Jesus suggests the necessity—and possibility—of human transformation, a profound correcting of that which is imperfect, even within this lifetime. This causes enormous difficulties for theologians who assume that all humans are thoroughly depraved and sinful, even after being saved.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 27

<idle musing>
Oh, that's simple, we just throw it away...after all, only the parts of the Bible that I agree with are inerrant and in the original autographs—right?! : (
</idle musing>

Take that, you monergists!

Intercession is not our attempt to persuade God to do something He would rather not do. Instead, God is looking for someone who will intercede. It is Yahweh Himself who wants to initiate the intercession. Why is that? Why is intercession important? I wish I could answer that question more fully than I can. It is not that we add something to the work of salvation; salvation is in God and God alone. But there is something in Him that causes Him to invite us to enter into that process, and that entering in seems vital to the completion of the process.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 373

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's start at the very beginning

Portraying God’s kenotic descent in Christ, and his acting in what can be seen as a shockingly ungodly manner for the common human perception of divinity, Paul elevates the significance of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, and proclaims Christ to be the Lord, in contrast to the typical Roman understanding of imperial power and honor.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 9

<idle musing>
I was given this book when it first was published—and it sat on my desk (thanks to my friends at Wipf & Stock for the book). One day, I started reading it, made some notes, and then put it down. For about 2 years. I had read the first book and loved it. For some reason, this one was not as easy to read. I struggled to get into it—I suspect because of Kharlamov's writing style. He wrote the first two essays and his style is very dense and doesn't flow well. Once I got through those, the rest of the book was a delightful read, as you will see from the extracts over the next few weeks.

So, if you chose to read this book—and I highly recommend it!—be prepared to struggle through the first two essays. But persevere, it is well worth the effort. Meanwhile, enjoy the snippets...
</idle musing>

About that list of qualifications...

Now, who would be the perfect ruler, and what would he be like? The Old Testament offers many snapshots in order to create a composite picture for them so they can conceive of who the perfect ruler and the perfect mediator would be. For instance, there is Moses. How would you describe him as the leader of Israel? What is his primary characteristic? Was he a priest? A political figure? A figure of power? The thing that impresses me the most is that he was a mediator, and more particularly, an intercessor.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 373

<idle musing>
When was the last time you saw that on the list of job requirements? Can you see it?
Wanted, top level executive. Must be experienced in spending hours interceding with God on behalf of a wayward group of people. Must be willing to sacrifice him/herself for the survival of that same group. Oh, and incidentally, they are more than willing to stone you if you don't do what they want.

Think there would be many takers? Me either...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thought for the day

In September of 1934 Bonhoeffer mentioned that he had heard that some in the Oxford movement were trying to convert Hitler. Bonhoeffer referred to this as “a ridiculous failure to recognize what is going on. We are the ones to be converted, not Hitler.” (emphasis original)—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 232

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from the book. What do you think? Do they make their case?

As I mentioned the other day, I don't think so. The whole time I was reading the book, I felt like Herod Agrippa listening to Paul, "Almost you persuade me." Almost—but not quite. The testimony of Bethge is too hard to discard.

That being said, those who blithely state that he was involved in the plots to assassinate Hitler need to nuance that. The authors are correct to point out that he couldn't have been actively involved. But, he surely was aware of the plans and might have been more active than that.

Actually, to me the most compelling evidence for a lack of active involvement comes from the testimony of Bonhoeffer scholar Sabine Dramm. She maintains—compellingly, I feel—that the main reason Bonhoeffer was involved with the Abwehr was to prevent being drafted. He knew that if he was drafted, he couldn't serve. In Nazi Germany, that meant automatic death.

So, in the end, we have a man who firmly believed in pacifism, but felt compelled by the extenuating circumstances of the time to take on the guilt of going against those convictions. Ethics is full of statements to that effect...

By the way, while getting the link Ethics, I see that there is a Supplementary and Index volume coming out this fall! Lust! Desire! Of course, I should finish reading the ones I already own...and complete the set as well. Book lust! Erasmus is my patron saint—"If I have money I buy books. If I have any money left, I buy food..." : )
</idle musing>

Deus ex machina? Hardly

When one takes the Old Testament from the beginning, God’s purpose is redemptive; God is never first a judge. Furthermore, salvation is not going to come from the throne. It originates there but it won’t be accomplished there. It is in time and space that redemption takes place. And redemption is not going to be done without us. Yet, although it is not going to be done without us, there is no salvation in any of us. All salvation is in Him and comes from beyond, but it takes place in the here and now and not without human involvement.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 363