Sunday, 29 June 2008

The content of the rule-of-truth: Irenaeus' take

In my last post I pointed out that for Irenaeus the regula veritatis, or rule-of-truth, refers to the divine reality itself and not to any one formulation of it. These formulations are true to the degree that they mediate the reality to which they witness. The formulations may vary, but the truth remains stable.

But what is this truth? In other words, what is the gospel?

Irenaeus' own formulation mirrors very closely the Roman baptismal formula, which is explicated as faith in God the Father, Christ the Son,and the Holy Spirit:

God is the Father is unique, omnipotent, uncreated, eternal, invisible, only true, creator of heaven and earth and everything within—seen and unseen. He accomplished the creation through the Son and the Spirit. He is the father of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the Word of God, the Son, a man amongst men, visible, corporal in order to overcome death and reveal life, and to bring about peace and communion between God and man. He became flesh, was born of the Virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilatus, died and rose again and was received into Heaven. He will return in majesty in order to reconstitute everything, to redeem and to judge. He has saved us by his blood, has poured his the Spirit of his Father upon us in order to unite us to God. As true Man he summarises the image Adam within himself.

The Holy Spirit is the spirit of God, through whom everything was created. He preached the way of salvation (τας οικονομιας). In the fullness of time he was poured out upon mankind in order to create them anew for God. He is the mediator of the knowledge of the truth, indeed, he is truth itself.

To summarise: for Irenaeus the term regula veritatis does not primarily refer to the formula of the baptismal confession, neither to the books of holy scripture, nor to the ecclesial doctrinal tradition, but rather to the truth itself, i.e. the way of salvation as revealed by the Holy Spirit.
I should add that in this interesting interview with N.T. Wright, Wright makes a similar statement about the nature of the Gospel as a reference to a reality that is the case (Jesus is Lord) and not the process of salvation (justification by faith). To quote: "The problem with us Evangelicals is that we use the word "Gospel" to denote the system of how someone gets saved. I really want to emphasise this: we are not justified by believing in Justification by Faith, we are justified by believing in Jesus." Great point! Wright's presentation of the content of the gospel, however, is very Pauline, whereas I think Irenaeus has the entirety of Scripture in view. Perhaps that is the advantage of reading Paul in his canonical, and not just historical context. On this, see Childs' latest book.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Irenaeus and the regula veritatis

For Irenaeus, the regula veritatis refers to that which was there from the beginning: an unshakeable, unchangeable truth, proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles and preserved by the church in Scripture. It is truth itself, revealed in the proclamation of the prophets and apostles and passed on to the Christian at baptism. It is this reality itself that is the unique, absolute norm for faith and practice. This reality is not to be identified with either scripture or tradition, it is rather the reality to which scripture and tradition witness. It lies behind the church's tradition, within which it finds its continual witness. The regula veritatis, then, is the “really real,” the actual content of faith, the revelation itself, the actual events of salvation history, and as such is universal, unitary, and self-consistent. The function of the baptismal creed is to to summarise this reality; the function of scripture is to witness to this reality; and the function of tradition is to preserve the teaching of the scripture concerning this reality. Hägglund says,

It is not dependent on the letters or the wording of the [Baptismal] Confession, but rather on the reality which is behind it, which is presented in the sentences of the Confession. It is evident that the various formulations can change, without the truth being changed in the process (12).
German: “Es kommt nicht auf den Buchstaben oder dem Wortlaut des Bekenntnisses an, sondern auf die dahinterliegende Wirklichkeit, die in den Sätzen des Bekenntnisses kurz dargestellt wird. Es ist selbstverständlich, dass die Formulierungen wechseln können, ohne dass damit die Wahrheit verändert wird.” (12).

Thursday, 26 June 2008

What did the regula fidei mean for the Church Fathers?

In short, according to Hägglund, when the Church Fathers talk of the rule of faith they are referring to the total doctrine of the church. This teaching was proclaimed by the prophets and apostles and has been preserved for us in Scripture. As such, the rule of faith can be associated with any attempt to formulate it, whether scripture, baptismal creed, or apostolic tradition.
In this thread, we will be following Hägglund as he attempts to determine the content of the regula fidei as it was understood by three key thinkers in the early church, namely Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandra. We will conclude by looking at the implications this analysis has for the question of the relation of the regula fidei for both doctrine and church history.

Tomorrow we will look at the meaning of the rule-of-truth for Irenaeus.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Existential faith and the regula fidei

About a month ago, Stephen and Doug had an exchange concerning the nature of "truth," especially within the Christian tradition. Doug's position is apparently the following:

The truth is objective; we’re just unable to agree on it.
Which for Stephen is a self-refuting question: "It boils down to, the truth is subjective."

This is hardly a post-modern issue. Ever since the Jews rejected Jesus and the Gnostics started doing their own thing, "truth" within the church has been a contested commodity.

Which provides the intro for my next thread, namely the nature of the "rule of truth" for the early church fathers and the implications that has for Christian dogmatics. My thoughts consist in my translation of a fascinating essay by Bengt Hägglund entitled, "Die Bedeutung der >Regula Fidei< als Grudnlage theologischer Aussagen," Studia Theologica 12 1958:1-44 ("The significance of the regula fidei as a basis for theological statements"). This article was recommended to Daniel Driver in an interview with Brevard Childs as one of the most influential for his thought. I have found it incredibly enlightening, especially given the directions toward allegory which took place in Childs' later thought.

So, for today, some opening thoughts:

What is the regula fidei? Writing in 1958 Bengt Hägglund noted that although this concept played a central role in the theology of the ancient church and continued to be seen as a fully appropriate and unproblematic category amongst the scholastics and old Protestants, within contemporary theology it has come to be seen as a “scrap of lifeless tradition” (Stück nicht mehr lebendiger Tradition). Though the concept of “faith” has received a central role, it has acquired a meaning that differs sharply to that of the ancient church. When the church fathers spoke of the regula fidei or regula veritatis, they were referring to a concrete doctrine, a reality fixed from the beginning onwards, on the basis of which one could distinguish between truth and falsity. Contemporary theology, on the other hand, sees “faith” as a personal, existential category which transcends all doctrinal norms. If the church is to be faithful to its apostolic and prophetic roots, it is necessary to ask just what the church fathers meant when they spoke of the regula fidei. What is the content of the regula fidei? How does it relate to dogmatic construction? Finally, how can this concept help us clarify the fundamental dogmatic questions concerning the relationship between Scripture and Tradition, Proclamation and Doctrine?

More on this soon ...

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

God: literal and metaphorical

Time is short, so I've not been posting much lately. I do intend to start a thread on the regula fidei and the concept of truth in the early church. Till then, a beautiful quote from the seventeenth-century Anglican priest John Donne:

My God, my God, Thou art a direct God, may I not say a literall God, a God that wouldest bee understood literally, and according to the plaine sense of all that thou saiest? But thou art also (Lord I intend it to thy glory ....) thou art a figurative, a metaphoricall God too: A God in whose words there is such a height of figures, such voyages, such peregrinations to fetch remote and precious metaphors, such extensions ... such Curtaines of Allegories ... O, what words but thine, can express the inexpressible texture, and composition of thy Word.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, XIX Expostulation

Israel interaktiv

For those who can understand German, the news agency Heute has posted an interactive map to Israel here. Click on one of the locations and watch an documentary clip about that particular location. They focus on both historical and contemporary issues and clearly intend to present Israel in the best possible light.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Quote of the Day: The shock of God's actuality

All the reasons given for crediting the proposition "God exists" cannot prepare one for the shock of His actuality. The Gospel administers this shocking mystery. Woe to theology [or historiography or hermeneutics] if it provide metaphysical insulation against it!
Julian N. Hartt, A Christian Critique of American Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 144.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Quote of the Day: Childs on the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus

One of the great ironies of the so-called third quest for the historical Jesus, which is presently a fad in many academic circles, is that the same old heresies raised first in the nineteenth century are again surfacing in dreary monotony
B.S. Childs, "Interpreting the Bible amid Cultural Change," Theology Today 54 (1997): 200-11, here 211.

Ethnography and Exegesis

In my post Heaven and Historiography I introduced a fascinating book by P. Minear on how the New Testament can challenge the categories the modern historian uses to read it. His book reminded of me of issues that were raised in my cultural anthropological studies. Seeing that the excellent Biblical Studies List, moderated by Jim West, Chris Tilling and Niels-Peter Lemche is primarily focussed on the historical, cultural dimension of the Bible I shared the following thoughts on how Minear's book relates to contemporary cultural anthropology:

Though Minear doesn't make the connection, I think his approach connects well with some modern developments in cultural anthropological methodology. In the 1986 Marcus and Fischer spoke of the "crisis of representation" in ethnography (Anthropology as Cultural Critique), where the ability of the ethnographer to represent "indigenous" cultures was questioned both on epistemological and ethical grounds. Fieldwork, for example, came to be understood as a complex dialogue between the ethnographer and "the natives," a joint venture out of which meaning and interpretation emerge. Amongst the various methodological implications (e.g. treatment of "ethnography" itself as a literary genre; a focus on interpretation and meaning reather than causality and behaviour; a trend away from grand theory and generalization; a renewed emphasis of relativism; author-saturated rather than data-saturated ethnography) was an understanding of ethnography as dialogue. An attempt is made for the objects of study ("natives") to become subjects in a dialogue with the ethnographer, who is herself as much a cultured being. Ethnographies became written in the first person and were accompanied by analyses of the anthropologist's own epistemology and subjectivity. As Nader has obeserved, "Anthropologists have moved from insisting that the anthroplogist stay out of the ethnography to having the anthropologist's presence dominate the ethnography" (1988: 153). Ethnography is no longer simply a vehicle for supplementing the West's knowledge of "foreigners," as if we can take their belief systems and simply integrate them into a pre-existing scaffolding that is assumed to be true. Rather, it has become a vehicle for critiquing the cultural prejudices of the West and thus hopefully lead to some form of renewal at home.

In the same way, Minear's collection of essays attempts to trace the disparities between the worlds of modern historians and biblical authors (New Testament, in this case). He uncovers the particular historicist metaphysic undergirding modern historiography and points out how it is not only different from but actually challenged by the "historiography" of the New Testament writers. He claims that,"The task of contemporary exegetes is to allow Scripture itself to criticize both the assumptions and the methods that are used in its study." If neither worldview is objectively grounded, what are the methodological implications for the historian who finds that the particular eschatology, ontology and cosmology which emerge from the New Testament texts are convincing? What categories of thought are required to get at the subject matter which these texts are talking about? How do our conceptions of "ultimate reality" either open up or mute the witness of these texts?

I've read the book far too quickly to summarize his complex and fascinating suggestions. I just wanted to share it with the list, as it is one of the most interesting, provacative and - dare I say - enriching books I've read in a long time.

Details of the book can be found here. You can read his obituary here.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Heaven and Historiography

I've just finished one of the most fascinating books I've read in a long time. Paul Minear traces the divergences in perspective between the modern historian and New Testament authors. He isn't so much concerned to argue for the superiority of the New Testament's views on eschatology, ontology, and cosmology (how could one do that anyway?) as to show the methodological implications for the historian if he or she were to actually hold this worldview. Faith and the academy are not as easy to separate as some would like to think.

I've read the book far too quickly to give an adequate introduction so I'll just post his overview of one of my favouriate chapters: "Biblical Ontology and Ecclesiology" (doesn't that title just send a shiver down your spine?).

These apostolic and prophetic attitudes toward time become the central concern in the fourth chapter, where I analyze the challenges presented to the historian by specific texts in the book of Revelation. The category of history does not appear in these texts and it becomes quite misleading when the texts are forced into conformity to the modern category. By contrast the category of the heavens, so absent from modern historical discussion, is assumed to be the ultimate reality. Historians are primarily concerned with placing all events within earthly time and the temporal process; biblical writers are essentially concerned with the eternal purposes and time-transcending activity of the creator of the heavens and the earth. Moreover, in sharp contrast to modern thought, which tends to reduce the heavens and the earth to spatial measurement, biblical writers assume the basic and continual interpenetration of the two realms, with the heavens providing the creative source, the daily sustenance, and the final goal of everything earthly. Because the categories of space and time are no longer of use in measuring heavenly realities, biblical thought makes dubious the modern scholar's reliance on those categories (23).

The Drama of Doctrine, free online.

I just accidentally came across this fascinating looking book by K. Vanhoozer while searching for something else. His comments on some of the complexities of Childs' approach are interesting and informed and his comment on situating the canonical process within in a "theo-dramatic context, that is, the context of God's own speech and action" (218) has caught my attention. I'm doubtful about his comments on the similarities between Childs and S. Fish ... but this is all the result of 5 minutes reading. I certainly intend to look at this book in more detail.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

British Religious Nationalism: "And was Jerusalem builded here ... ?"

This could be seen as visual representation of Barack Obama's recent comments.

My first thought was , "Wow, I'm glad we don't have anything like this in England or Germany."
On second thoughts, however, though no longer in currency, England does have a religious-national myth with quite a long history behind it. According to Meic Pearse (whose book I reviewed here), this myth has consisted of three elements:
  1. According to the Arthur legends, King Arthur was a faithful Christian whose battles against the pagan Anglo-Saxons were interpreted on a higher plane. This was encouraged by the myth of the Holy Grail, a cup containing the blood and Christ and brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, not long after the crucifixion. This enabled the English to claim that there was a strand of Christianity present in Britain stretching back to the apostolic period. The English Reformers were able to draw on this myth in order to answer the Catholic question, "Where was your church before Luther?" Apparently, it was the Synod of Whitby (663-664) that had eradicated the true faith that had been preserved by these Celtic Christians. The Celtic church became an early medieval Protestant institution, characterized by evangelical purity and wholly independent of Rome.

  2. This was picked up by William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536), John Bale (1495-1563) and the martyrologist John Foxe (1516-1587). Foxe's book gave the impression that God is concerned in some particular way with England. The message throughout is that God as always had his Englishmen who will stand for the truth and that Protestantism is to be identified closely with Englishness. Queen Elizabeth was hailed as a second Emperor Constantine in her battle against the Antichrist, identified with the Pope and thus foreign powers (mainly Spain). According to Pearse, Foxe's religious nationalism informed English people's understanding of the ongoing conflict with Spain and of the thread posted by remaining Catholics in England.

  3. Finally, there is the odd British Israel theory, first popularized by the Richard Brothers (1757-1824). Drawing on the Arthurian legends and the idea of English Protestant specialness, the theory holds that the British were and are the lost tribes of Israel. Their connection with biblical history therefore pre-dates Christ. This theory was widely credited in the 19th C. In World War I, Admiral Sir John Fisher,First Sea Lord of the British Navy advocated
"a great Commonwealth - yes a great Federation - of all those speaking the same tongue [English]. ... And I suppose now we have got [sic] Palestine that this Federal House of Commons of the future will meet at Jerusalem, the capital of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel, whom we are without a doubt, for how otherwise could ever we have so prospered when we have had such idiots to guide us and rule us?" (105)

Thanks to Halden for the image.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Pod-Cast Interview with James Kugel

Hadassah links to a one hour interview with James Kugel on his recent book, How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture then and Now.

From the little I've read of Kugel I've not been impressed. He made a lame critique of Christian confessional scholarship which I posted here, followed by my own critical response here and a suggestion here that a canonical approach could fill the gap a New York Times reviewer felt was left gaping.

Nevertheless, he seems to be popular amongst those wishing to embrace both modernity and Jewish orthodoxy so he will be an important dialogue partner for the future. I intend to listen to the interview at some point, whenever I can fit him around the mountain of other audio material I'm collecting (e.g. here).

Quote of the Day: Theopoetics

Before the message there must be the vision,
before the sermon the hymn, before the prose the poem.
The structures of faith and confession have always rested on hierophanies and images.
From Wilder's Theopoetics.

Reminds me of this quote on our contemporary poetry wilderness.

Monday, 16 June 2008

How to Read Paul

I linked to Childs' latest posthumous book on Paul lately, but didn't say anything about the content. Here's the blurb:

Brevard Childs here turns his sharp scholarly gaze to the works of the apostle Paul and makes an unusual argument: the New Testament was canonically shaped, its formation a hermeneutical exercise in which its anonymous apostles and postapostolic editors collected, preserved, and theologically shaped the material in order for the evangelical traditions to serve successive generations of Christians. Childs contends that within the New Testament the Pauline corpus stands as a unit bookended by Romans and the Pastoral Epistles. He assigns an introductory role to Romans, examining how it puts the contingencies of Paul’s earlier letters into context without sacrificing their particularity. At the other end, the Pastoral Epistles serve as a concluding valorization of Paul as the church’s doctrinal model. By considering Paul’s works as a whole, Childs offers a way to gain a fuller understanding of the individual letters.
I will be focusing my doctorate on the Psalms, but I think in some ways this collection of books parallels the Pauline epistles. Unlike the interwoven traditions that make up the Pentateuch, the Psalms are quite evidently individual units. Nevertheless, the canonical shape of the Psalter coerces a particular kind of reading that brings to light each Psalm's true theological content, while not sacrificing its particularity. I look forward to reading this latest book from the blesséd master (pbuh).
Daniel Driver lists the table of contents here.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

God/Jesus and God/Scripture

I'd like to draw attention to a helpful exchange on the function of Scripture in Barth's theology. Two Barth experts (Glen and WTM) kindly resonded to my question here on the meaning of Scripture's becoming the word of God in virtue of "the actuality of revelation." Particularly helpful is this summary of Barth's logic:

The relationship between Jesus' humanity and divinity is paradigmatic of but different in kind from any other relation between God and humanity. It is paradigmatic for this relation because it shows us how God relates to us; and it is different in kind because Jesus is the eternal Son incarnate.
Out of the question is anything that would make the biblical text another incarnation in any sense. So, any stability that we seek between the work of the Spirit and the biblical text must be different in kind than the relationship between God and humanity in the incarnation, which means that it is another case of that relationship paradigmatically demonstrated in the incarnation.
What is that paradigm? Conceptually speaking, Chalcedon: a unity in distinction of divine and human. Outside the incarnation, however, the fully human part is always true but the fully divine part never is. Instead, we have something like "fully human, use instrumentally by God."
Now, there can be degrees of this instrumental use. The special authority and stability of Scripture, which places it beyond the dead dog, is tied to the relation of God's activity to it.
This activity proceeds, accompanies and follows. It proceeds in that Jesus grants teaching authority to the disciples (NT at least, you need an account of prophets for the OT), teaches them, etc. It accompanies in the Spirit's inspirational and guiding work as the authors write. It follows in that the Spirit employs what the authors produced as an instrument to quicken us.
Now, it could very well be true - and in a sense it is - that the Spirit acts in analogous ways with our dead dog. But, what the dead dog lacks is Jesus' commission. Thus, it is on account of the authority granted to the apostles - ratified by the continual witness of the Spirit to the biblical text; what Calvin called Scripture's self-authentication - that it must have pride of place, and indeed sole normative status (Barth is a Protestant, after all) for church and Christians.
That is how I think Barth's logic goes.
Thanks guys!

Political narcissism

Scott Stephens has written an interesting analysis of Barack Obama's campaign approach, entitled: The dangers of Obamania: why Barack Obama is bringing out the worst in the American public. For me, as someone who isn't following current events in the U.S. as much as I should be, the following quote was both shocking and sickening ... I don't want to be overly apocalyptic, but it seems to me that with an attitude like this Obama is simply affirming a fatal blindness that caused Bush to plunge America into its current crisis. Not that I don't think America can't be a force for good in the world, but this ... ?

And notice the way Obama expresses himself in the closing paragraph of his speech on the night of the last Democratic primary (3 June 2008):
‘I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment ... when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment—this was the time—when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals.’
Doesn’t this demonstrate that, far from representing a seismic shift in the political landscape, Obama’s campaign is little more than a vulgar repetition of Reagan’s political narcissism? And to this extent, isn’t Obama’s message of change simply an appeal to latent antiestablishment sentiment among the public, and thus a craven affirmation of the status quo? No one has framed these concerns with more precision than Shelby Steele, who insists that Obama is ‘neither a revolutionary nor even a reformist’, but rather a gifted politician who is ‘simply infatuated with the possibilities of his own skin color within the world as it is’, and whose genius ‘is to know his currency within the status quo’. One can’t blame Obama for being such a politician; but neither should we confuse his campaign language with the kind of change that America so desperately needs.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Die Natur der >Regula Fidei< bei Irenäus

Die "regula fidei," oder mit dem bei Irenäus gebrauchten Terminus "regula vertatis," bezieht sich immer auf das Ursprüngliche, auf das, was von Anfang an feststeht und als eine unveränderliche, unerschütterliche Wahrheit in der Kirche bewahrt wird. Nicht eine im Kampfe gegen die Häresien erfundene oder formulierte Lehrzusammenfassung wird damit gemeint, sondern der Glaube selbst, die Wahrheit selbst, die in der heiligen Schrift, in der Verkündigung des Herrn und der Apostel, geoffenbart und bekanntgemacht worden ist, und in der Taufe einem jeden Christen übergeben und anvertraut wird.
Bengt Hägglund, "Die Bedeutung der "regula fidei" als Grundlage theologischer Aussagen," 4.

Friday, 13 June 2008

The War on Terror: How should Christians respond?

Halden posed the question recently, "What is the most pressing social issue of our time"? His massive response lists a number of concerns: torture, aimlessness, abortion, mammon, individualism, capatilism, paedaphilia, declining church, poverty, celebrity culture, ecological degradation ... I reckon pornography culture should get a mention.

Anyway, this provides me with the intro to the latest book review I posted on Chrisendom. Megoran clearly thinks it is the war on terror.

Nick Solly Megoran, The War on Terror: How Should Christians Respond? (Downders Grove, Ill.: IVP Books), 2007

Conservative Evangelicals have in recent years acquired a reputation for being so individualistic and other-worldly that they have lost sight of Church's obligation to be engaged in the pressing social and moral issues of the present. Whether true or not, Nick Solly Megoran can be seen as an example of a committed Evangelical, rooted in the tradition of Martin Lloyd-Jones and John Stott, for whom this is clearly not the case. His book is a plea to Christians to analyse their gospel and turn to their scriptures in order to face the most important challenge of our age: the War on Terror. His concern is not only to equip Christians to think about war, but also to build them up in their faith in Christ and enable them to witness to the gospel by talking sensibly to non-Christians in the context of discussions about war. This book has therefore a strong devotional and practical dimension. Each chapter opens with a discussion of a particular portion of the Bible and closes with concrete examples of how these biblical principles have been put into practice.

The War on Terror is divided into four sections with a final appendix. In Part one, Megoran gives an account of various responses to the War on Terror, both secular and Christian. The phenomenon of Islamic terrorism has been variously defined as either an “irrational evil” by those on the right or as the result of “government oppression” by those on the left. Both of the main protagonists, Bush and bin Laden, describe the war as one between good and evil. There is also diversity amongst Christians, depending in large part on whether they take up a pacifist or a “just war” position on violence in general. Megoran believes the former is the more biblical, which brings us to Part 2.

The chapters inPart 2 deal with the big questions raised by the war on terror. The first concerns the realism of Jesus' command that we should love our enemies (Mt. 5:9, 38-48). While not wanting to undermining the difficulty of this command, Megoran believes it is the only way to demonstrate the true nature of God and bring about genuine transformation. Just as God has reconciled to himself us who were once his enemies, so we are called to demonstrate the same grace to our enemies. We are liberated by the experience and empowered by the Spirit to do so. In other words, the key to the solution of war is the gospel of justification by faith (44). Reconciliation with God is good news for everyone: terrorists, superpowers, ourselves and the world.

The second question raised by the War on Terror is why God allows such violence to occur in the first place. Though the Bible gives us no answers, the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 4.11-27) represented war as the undoing of God's creation and thus contrary to God's will. Jeremiah promised a new age in which the kingdom of God would be established and there would be no war. The reality of this future kingdom was initiated by Christ, who has reunited us with God. This reality is demonstrated today, in anticipation of its final consummation, wherever his kingdom of peace, justice and righteousness is proclaimed and lived out. This is the task of the church in an age of terror, as illustrated by the early church in Carthage.

Part 3 turns to the practical issue of how the church can concretely “proclaim and live out” Christ's rule. A key concept here is that of “citizenship” (Phil 3:12-21; Jer 29:1-23). Christians have to negotiate between two allegiences: to the state and to heaven. We are to seek the peace and prosperity of the state, which has the divinely instituted role of promoting virtue and preventing vice. On the other hand, the fact that God is our true king means that we are ultimately answerable to a different set of rules. It is these kinds of citizens that the world needs for true peace to reign. Examples are given of Christian responses to U.S. support of Nicaraguan terrorists in the 1980's and the French priest André Trocmé.

Indeed, the gospel as the creation of a community of divinely reconciled sinners creates the conditions for overcoming the idolatry of nationalism. This reconciliation between different peoples is the outworking of God's plan for history, as can be seen in Acts 10.1-23, in the work of post-war Polish and German Bishops and in the movement Reconciliation Walk.

Before we can work for unity in the world, however, we need to work for unity within the church. This is our proof to the world that we have been forgiven and have peace with God. Phil 4:2-9 provides us with five principles for conflict management within the church, which can also be applied to the international scene, as demonstrated by the work of MRA and the LWF in Guatemala.

A role model for being a “citizen of heaven” is ironically provided by Jos 5:13-6.27: the battle of Jericho. This violent story, however, has to be interpreted within the framework of God's big plan. The invasion of Canaan was the task of Israel under the old covenant, where citizenship was understood in earthly terms and so violence was necessary. When it is understood that we are now under a covenant of grace rather law, we are free to spiritualize the story and draw the correct principles. The goal of invasion was to create holiness, a land devoid of whatever is contrary to God. The means for doing so was faith. Examples of these principles in practice are provided by John Paton and Tom Skinner.

The final question concerns hope in the face of the threat of death. On the one hand, Ps 116 assures us that God actually works to save us from literal death in concrete situations, with the result that the church in general is strengthened. Megoran gives examples of deliverance from terrorists, brutal regimes and weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, often the saints do die (see v 15). Even then, their knowledge that death has lost its sting enables them to be witnesses to Christian hope, as the Evangelical church in Beslan has been able to do.

Part 4 brings the baisc theme together. Like Jeremiah, who bought a field despite immanent exile (Jer 32-33), we need to engage in prophetic acts, pointing people to a reality that transcends what is visible now. The work of FFRME and CPT are held up as varied examples. We need to follow Paul's example (Acts 27:17-31), who despite his hopeless situation in prison preached the kingdom and taught Jesus, held as he was by his vision of God's great plan (as Horatio Spafford and Rev. Mehdi Dibaj did). Ultimately, war is nothing new. It is the manifestation of sin, and so the only solution is the gospel, which justifies us and thus brings peace with God and with neighbour. As we wait for the consummation of Christ's kingdom, our task is to prayerfully read our scriptures, think about the issues raised by war and sin, praise God for what he has done and proclaim it to the world.

Megoran has not written an academic treatise. Though one may question at times his theological argument, that is hardly the point of the book. It is an introduction to the key issues that are a matter of life and death, and as such provides an invaluable reference point in a complex area. Most significantly, it is a call for action, and to that end I found the abundant examples of concrete Christian witness in action helpful, inspiring and at the same time shaming for my own inactivity.

Childs' latest book

Biblische Ausbildung announces a new book by Childs, published post-humously of course. Like the ancient Israelite prophets, may his words outlive him and continue to do their magic.

Jim West adds his criticism of Childs here. I often wonder what it is that drives people to only read Childs' critics. You don't have to agree with him, but surely you should read his responses.

Or am I being unfair?

I don't mean to be. I just get exasperated sometimes.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

The Legacy of Xanth: an influential children's book

John Hobbins has recently started a blogathon dealing with children’s books that have influenced the way we see the world. These are the rules:

Each participant is expected to post on at least one children’s book (or series) that pointed him or her to some truth without which the world and what happens in it would be less transparent. Or perhaps the book simply taught you to ask the right questions. You get the idea.
I think the most important author for me was Piers Anthony, who wrote a science fiction series set in the magical land of Xanth. Xanth is a land of centaurs, dragons and basilisks, where every citizen has a special spell only he or she can cast. I had a vivid imagination and hunger for adventure, so this kind of multifarious reality provided me with ample food for inspiration. The way in which this land had its deepest effect on me, however, was not so much in the reading as in the enacting. I got together with a couple of other avid readers and we somehow managed to convince ourselves that this world actually existed, that one could access it if one had enough faith. Based on our star signs we were allotted an identity. As a Leo I turned out to be a griffin. I forget my particular magic capability, but we had plenty of adventures together, not so much running about reimagining the world in different terms as in closing our eyes and escaping into this alternative dimension of reality.

As time went by and we moved on (to be recently reunited 16 years later by Facebook!), “true reality” slowly got the better of me. I turned my interest to the concrete “imagined worlds” of other cultures and belief systems, which ended in a BA in cultural anthropology. Yet in hindsight I guess the feeling that I was part of something bigger, hidden from the grasp of my intellectual faculties, has never left me. I'm a Christian, so it is inevitable that I perceive reality as a place of intersection between heaven and earth. But given my doctoral studies in “canonical hermeneutics,” perhaps it is the legacy of Xanth that I should try to understand this reality in terms of Scripture's figural depiction of God, Israel and the world.

Tradition as "sunglasses"

I'm reading a beautiful book at the moment called Aufrichtige Erzählungen eines russischen Pilgers ("Candid Stories of a Russian Pilgrim"). Written in the 19th Century and preserved in a monestary, it is the personal account of a russian pilgrim on a quest to discover how to put St. Paul's command to "pray without ceasing" into practice. At one point he means a Starez, a Russian holy man, who introduces him to the teachings of the holy sages as preserved in a book called the Philokalia (The love of Beauty). The following dialogue shows the high respect for scripture in this tradition as well as its relation to tradition:

[The starez is speaking] "In this book we are going to read how one prays this prayer [The Jesus Prayer]. This book is called the The love of Beauty. It contains the complete and exact science of unceasing inner prayer, presented by 25 holy Fathers. This book is so grand and so useful that it is considered to be the most lofty and primary teacher in the contemplative, spiritual life."
"Is it really grander and holier than even the Bible?" I asked.
"No, it is not grander and holier than the Bible. Rather it contains all the luminous explanations of that which is mysterious in the Bible, but which, due to its sublimity and our limited intellect, is difficult to access. Let me give you an example: the sun is the biggest, most radient and most noble luminary; yet you are not able to look at and contemplate it with normal, unprotected eyes. A certain artificial glass is required, which is probably a million times smaller and darker. Through this glass, however, you would be able to gaze at this glorious prince amongst the stars, to delight in it, and absorb its burning rays. In the same way, the Holy Scripture is also a radient sun, the Love of Beauty, however, is the the requisite glass that gives you access to this most exalted of lights." [*]
[*] Translation my own; p. 30, 31.

Kevin Edgecomb gives a nice summary of the prayer in the comments section here.

Update: Kevin has written his own post in response to this here. He provides more background information, a proper English translation and a warning against the dangers of attmepting to practice the Jesus prayer outside of the context of the liturgical and sacramental tradition of the Orthodox church.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The NT as "witness to revelation": Some thoughts from P. Stuhlmacher

According to Peter Stuhlmacher (for German go here), this is what the New Testament writings claim for themselves (Biblische Theologie I, 4). For the verses go here.

Concerning 1 Cor 2.6-16 he says, "Biblical hermeneutics has to measure itself according to the Gospel and the conditions required for its understanding" (emphasis mine; original: "Biblische Hermeneutik muß sich am Evangelium und den Bedingungen messen lassen, die für sein Verständnis gelten"). This reminds me of an essay by Seitz on scriptural accordance, which I outlined here.

Whether Stuhlmacher is consistent here with his religionsgeschichtliche approach is another question. He got a bashing from Seitz in his essay, "Two Testaments and the Failure of One Tradition-History," in Figured Out. Seitz also critiques von Rad's theological use of traditionsgeschichte, which Stuhlmacher draws upon for justification of his approach (i.e. the New Testament just continues the process; there is a Traditionskontinuität), in his essay, "The Historical-Critical Endeavor as Theology: The Legacy of Gerhard von Rad," in Word Without End.

I love Seitz :)

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

C. Seitz, N.T. Wright and James Dunn lecture videos online

I am delighted that John Poirier recently pointed out this brilliant resource:

There are three videos per scholar, each an hour and a half long, free for your indulgence here.

Chris Seitz is one of the most creative thinkers in biblical studies as well as Childs' greatest interpreter. James Dunn and N.T. Wright need no introducing (unless you're on the theological faculty at the University of Bonn).
Having said that, this doesn't top Chris Tilling's awesome audio selection here.

Irenaus on the κανων της αληθείας

[Es ist] klar, dass der Ausdruck κανων της αληθείας (regula veritas) eigentlich nicht einen Text, auch nicht eine fixierte Summe von Lehrsätzen bezeichnet, sondern im Grunde das besagt, was Irenäus selbst hervorhebt, dass die Wahrheit als solche, d.h. die in der Offenbarung deutlich bezeugten Tatsachen der Schöpfung und Erlösung, die Richtschnur der Verkündigung sind. Der Begriff führt uns also nicht zu einer im Kampfe gegen die Häretiker gebildeten Kanon der kirchlichen Autorität sondern zu der hinter der kirchlichen Verkündigung liegende und darin fortlaufend bezeugten Offenbarung
Bengt Hägglund, "Die Bedeutung der "regula fidei" als Grundlage theologischer Aussagen," 9, 10.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Is religion a primary cause of war?

Many thanks to Chris Tilling for the following book. My review was first published on his blog here. Details: Meich Pearse, The Gods of War: Is Religion the Primary Cause of Violent Conflict? (Nottingham: IVP), 2007.

The current spout of religious warfare has generated a more vigorous secular critique of the religious worldview as inherently violent. Pearse reports that an opinion poll in Britain in late 2006 indicated that 82 % of adults “see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16 % disagree” (14). This is a sentiment expressed both in the media and amongst Western intellectuals such as Richard Dawkins, Anthony Grayling, and Sam Harris. In response to this misrepresentation, Meic Pearse has taken it upon himself to demonstrate historically that wars are multi-causal and complex, and are motivated by all ideologies, secularist as well as religious. His book attempts to substantiate four main arguments:

1.Irreligion has produced wars far worse and far bloodier than religion.
2.We must distinguish between belligerent and non-belligerent religion.
3.Cultures enshrine religion, and wars fought for one often appear as being fought for the other.
4.The global secularist campaign against religion and traditional cultures (as supposedly violent) is already and will continue to be productive of the most ferocious violence.

The first chapter opens with the truism that the 20th Century was the bloodiest century of all. The key question is whether this massive bloodshed was simply a result of more developed technology or whether it is connected with the prevailing secular ideologies of the time. Pearse illustrates how within the ideologies of the key thinkers of Communism, Fascism and the French Revolution, human life was considered expendable for the sake of the attainment of a particular abstract ideal, an understanding of “the grand scheme of things.” Within these secular creeds, the end not only justified the means of its attainment, it defined what it meant to be human. “People” had no intrinsic value grounded in the imago dei, rather they were a theoretical construct to which the “facts” must conform. This attitude, combined with technology, has had catastrophic consequences.

Not that religion can be excused. Chapter two looks at the question of religion as a cause of war. Religion is defined as “an interconnected system of beliefs and/or practices rooted in the numinous or spiritual world that gives meaning to the lives of those who embrace them or have been reared in them” (22). Yet when we try to analyse concrete historical examples, we are faced with the complexity of their causes. Were the Jewish revolts of the first century religious or political? How about the druids in Roman Britain? Christianity was peaceful for the first 300 years of its existence, and then became bloody from 330 A.D. An overview of the wars of the Greeks, Romans, Vikings, Mongols, French and Americans indicates that more mundane factors such as greed, security, booty, glory, territory and nationalism were the predominant factors rather than religion.

More clear cut cases are the subject of chapter three. Islam, in contrast to Christianity, was “cradled in war.” Pearce outlines its history of violence and notes that it shares a teleology or dynamic with communism: universal, this-wordly rule. In dividing the world between dar al harb (“sphere of war,” i.e. the non-Muslim world) and dar al Islam (“sphere of Islam”), the price of peace becomes submission to Islam. Christianity, on the other hand, had a different beginning and ideology. It has no equivalent of the Muslim ummah, the believers whose life must be expressed as a political entity. Though the Crusades were no less violent, Pearce argues that their causes are more “mixed.” Indeed, the undefined frontier of Europe has always been a source of war, regardless of the religious affiliation of each side. In a sense, war between East and West seems inevitable.

Chapter four offers an historical analysis of wars in which the situation is far more ambiguous. The English and American civil wars, the conquests of South America, the conflicts between the Orthodox church and the Ottoman empire. Often cultural identities are enshrined by a religion, so that a challenge to this identity leads to an increase in religious intensity. Often, religion functions as a morally convenient cloak for another cause. In the end, religion in inseparable from cultural, social and political issues.

The following two chapters look in detail and a particularly insidious mix of politics and religion: religious-national myths. In the cases of Serbia, Russia and England, the nation is deified and rendered immune to criticism.

So what causes war? Chapter seven offers a historical overview. In ancient times religion was hardly significant. The key issue was was access to property in the form of livestock, food, slaves, land and women. When religion was present, it often functioned as a restraint on war, as the fall of the Roman Empire, the medieval papacy and the Islamic umma indicate. For Pearse, it wasn't until the rise of popular rule that religion became a major factor in creating conflict. When loyalty to an absolute ruler is not enough to acquire popular support for a conflict, reference to an abstract principle that generates both group identity and enthusiasm is necessary. Religion becomes a handy framework of meaning to meet these needs.

This is, more or less, what Marxists have always said, and so Pearce draws on their arguments in chapter 8. Though for the first 300 years Christianity was spread by persuasion, the moment it was adopted as the meta-narrative of the state, the sanctification of that state's wars is inevitable. Marx helps us uncover the real aspirations that undergird a state's use of religious language: namely economics and politics. This can be seen in the transformation that Christian doctrine underwent from the time of Eusebius onwards, through the Middle Ages and into the Reformation, as various states adopted varieties of the religion for its own purposes. The same pattern, claims Pearse, can be seen in other religions.

Chapter 9 furthers these arguments by demonstrating that both historically and theologically the church was never intended to form the basis of a political order. When that has occurred, the church has strayed from its roots and a belligerent form of Christianity is the result. It wasn't until the Anabaptists, with their insistence on the split between the state and church, that a situation similar to that of the early church was rediscovered after the “Constantinian” development. In addition to this, the pluralistic political developments in the modern era have helped create a situation in which the church can stop trying to do that for which it was not designed—running society—and get back to it's original function: guiding individual lives. Today, though there is still an inner-ecclesial debate concerning pacifism, it is universally agreed upon that when war is waged, it cannot be fought to spread the faith.

So, can a Christian fight at all? Pearce doesn't provide an easy answer, as to do so is to sanitize war. War is an insoluble dilemma and neither pacifism nor theories of just war can adequately deal with it. Both arguments are analysed for their strengths and weaknesses, and Martin Luther King and Bonhoeffer are drawn on as role models. The solution: in war there is none, neither in theory or practice. The best we can do is take moral responsibility for our own actions and to keep those decisions conscious. No general or king can do that for us.

Pearse ends with a glance at our contemporary situation. In his final chapter, “The War Against Faith and Meaning,” he points out that apart from greed a principle cause of war is conflict over the shape of society. The principled irreligion of the West, spread through globalization, in which meaning itself is held to be the problem and thus must be banished, is an “absolutizing relativism” that is itself a cause of violence. Rather than being a universal pancea, the attempt to eliminate difference both inside and outside the West is just another unattainable utopianism which produces violence through its intolerance. The only real solution to world peace is genuine tolerance, which can accept different kinds of polity and the cultural spaces that make them possible. “And to that end, Christians, who know from Scripture and from their own painful, error ridden past that their faith is not a basis for governing society as a whole but a private choice and a transcendent calling, have far, far more to contribute than most” (207).

I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can recommend it to all. Whether one agrees with his construal of Christianity or not, this informative and eloquent book provides us with important categories for entering an important debate.

Update: Halden has posted a book review on a similar topic: Ramachandra's Subverting Global Myths. Looks well worth checking out. Here's an interesting quote:
“Consider the following analogy. Given the universality of sexual experience, it is hardly surprising that this powerful human drive should also be the site of rape, pedophilia, bestiality, genital mutilation and other grotesque acts. most of us woudl regard these acts as twisted perversions of a healthy and important part of our human identity and flourishing. (Indeed, we have been taught by feminists that rape is primarily about power, not sexual pleasure.) Why not apply the same reasoning to religious faiths? Given the universality of religious experience, it is hardly surprising that certain acts of grotesque violence should not only occur in religious communities but be imbued with religious meanings and justification.” (p. 79)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

The Struggle for the Scope of the Christian Canon

Childs summarizes the issue in terms of the early church’s intentions in canonizing the texts:

The . . . struggle to define the scope of [the church’s] scriptures during the next centuries was driven by several concerns. First, the function of establishing a canon was to preserve the truth of the apostolic witness upon which the faith was grounded. Second, the canon served to preserve the catholicity of the faith by establishing a parameter inside of which the church’s theological diversity was acknowledged (John, Paul, Peter), yet outside of which heresy threatened. The implication of the privileged status of scripture was that its witness was not primarily formulated in terms of a single doctrinal formula, but rather as a prescribed circle designating the accepted range of confessions transmitted in the worship of historic Christian congregations (Jerusalem, Rome, Antioch, etc.).

A Great Psalms Resource

I recently had the pleasure of discovering a new Internet resource: תהלים, a blog dedicated to the Psalms. Run by the author of an article on "The Psalms in Anglican Worship," its purpose is nothing more than "to provide directions to helpful resources on the Psalms." He has an extensive list of online articles and audio material (including two series by Waltke and Wenham) dedicated to the Psalms, which he updates regularly on his blog. Of particular interest on the right hand bar are links to online Christian commentaries (Spurgeon, Calvin, Augustine etc.) and various online Psalters.

Blogs like this are both a blessing and a danger: a danger because they are consistently interesting and thus tempt me away from my actual task of getting my doctorate done; a blessing, not only because of the useful info, but because it provides students working in an esoteric field with a living community that responds to questions, gives advice and basically gives one the feeling that theological students are not such a lone breed after all.
Here's his quote of the week, taken from H.-J. Kraus:
“If we approach the OT Psalms with the question where one should look for and find the God of Israel whom the hymns and songs of thanksgiving glorify, on whom the laments call, and whom all the songs and poems involve, the unanimous, never doubted, and ceaselessly expressed answer is: Yahweh Sebaoth is present in the sanctuary in Jerusalem. Zion is the place of God’s presence.”
Kraus, H-J. (1988) Psalms 1-59. Fortress Press p. 6

Saturday, 7 June 2008

A Question concerning the "threefold Word of God"

Taken from Theopedia:

Barth held to what is known as the threefold Word of God. In other words, preaching (or proclamation), scripture, and revelation are considered to be three different, yet unified forms of the Word of God. Barth's analogy was the Trinity (see CD I/1, 121). Futhermore,

There is no distinction of degree or value between these three forms. For to the extent that proclamation really rests on recollection of the revelation attested in the Bible and is thus obedient repitition of the biblical witness, it is no less the Word of God than the Bible. And to the extent that the Bible really attests revelation it is no less the Word of God than revelation itself. As the Bible and proclamation become God's Word in virtue of the actuality of revelation, they are God's Word: the one Word of God within which there can be neither a more nor a less. Nor should we ever try to understand the three forms of God's Word in isolation. The first, revelation, is the form that underlies the other two (CD I/1, 120-121).
If someone could enlighten me as to what the following phrase in italics means, I'd be grateful: "As the Bible and proclamation become God's Word in virtue of the actuality of revelation, they are God's Word" (German: kraft die Aktualität der Offenbarung, whereby kraft actually means "by means of which," rather than "in virtue of.") Does that mean that in the moment when Bible or preaching is able to personally, existentially confront us with the relevance and truth of the incarnation (the content of the revelation), they are themselves God's Word? What does the "actuality of revelation mean"?

I find the collapsing of external referent and verbal communication difficult to get my head around.

Unless ... the external referent is not a static object but a person. Barth does say that the content of the revelation is Immanu-el. In which case the actuality of revelation can't be the truth of the incaration, but what ever it is the Incarnate One wants to say to us. But then that would dissolve the "once and for all" quality of the incarnation as something that happened ...

Hmm, just thinking in public.

This blog has a nice series of relevant quotes on preaching as the Word of God, along with a helpful summary of an essay on Karl Barth and preaching.

[And before you jump on me for this John P., Barth does believe in an external referent to which the proclamation must correspond. The collapsing isn't exhaustive, the referent is mediated via Bible and preaching. The parallel is with the Trinity: separate yet united].

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Urinating and Christian Male Identity

Halden of Inhabitatio Dei has recently lambasted Mark Driscoll's insane comments on the identity of Jesus, analysing them as an expression of insecurity concerning his own male identity.

Well, Driscoll has nothing on this guy! Taking 1 Ki 14 as a manifesto for what it means to be a "man," he rails against all those who do not "pisseth" while they stand.

And what he says about Germany is all true: the men (sorry ... "males") here really do sit down when they urinate.

From a German perspective, this is one of the funniest clips I have seen in a long time!

The pain of 50's kitsch

an(Other) blog posted this fascinating photo. I'm not sure what those people in the queue are doing, but it looks like they are queing for food. This would make a nice contrast to the economic promises of the poster.
Whether the material promises have materialized or not, the now classic 50's style reminds me of the covers of a host of punk rock albums (e.g. Strung Out, Lagwagon). There the contrast is with the content of the lyrics. There's almost a sense of betrayal ...

Quote of the Day

It is simply not the case that the more historical and literary knowledge acquired, the better one is able to understand the biblical text. The issue turns on the use of proper discernment.
B.S. Childs, "On Reading the Elijah Narratives," Interpretation 34/2 (1980), 128-137

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Latest issue of Princeton Theological Review dedicated to "theological exegesis"

The latest edition of the Princeton Theological Review has taken the occasion of B.S. Childs' death to focus on the question of "theological exegesis." You can download it here. In the Prolegomena, Peter Kline succinctly indicates the challenge and promise of recent developments:
Recent scholarly and ecclesial discussions about Scripture have invigorated an interest in what has come to be called theological exegesis or theological interpretation. With no denominational, institutional, or departmental home, this movement (if it can be called such) is both elusive and full of promise. It has brought together circles that often remain apart: Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants, theological and biblical scholars, clergy and academics; yet the lasting impact on any of these circles remains to be seen. Many (even its advocates) are still asking, what is theological exegesis? As of yet, there is no uniform answer, but a minimal definition is possible. Rather than a particular method, hermeneutic, or doctrinal outcome, theological exegetes share a common conviction about the location of Scripture: the church. The Bible is not primarily the property of the academy, the culture, or the individual, but of the one Lord who gathers, upbuilds, and sends the people of God. Theological exegesis treats Scripture accordingly; it is discipleship in the mode of reading. [*]
I would hasten to add, as Murry Rae's contribution makes clear, that the key is attention to Scripture's subject matter. Not only does this accord Scripture its true function as vehicle of revelation, it provides us with the proper stance for working out how to go about the gritting business of actual exegesis.

Of particular interest is Daniel Driver's essay, which, according to the Prolegomena, promises to demonstrate the overarching continuity of Childs' career.

[*] PTR 38 (2008), 5.

Another Childs Quote: Constructive theology and Exegesis

Biblical scholars have generally prided themselves on their independence from systematic theology. Yet their greatest achievements have been accomplished in those periods when constructive theology was strong and verile.
B.S. Childs, "A Tale of Two Testaments," Interpretation 26/1 (1972), 20-29.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Which canon? Brevard Childs' response

I have outlined the "problem of the Christian Bible" here, with its "Protestant" response here and its "Catholic" response here. How does the father of the "canonical approach" respond?

Childs clearly prefers the former option. In his Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture he wrote

The threat which is posed by overemphasising the discontinuity between the Christian and Hebrew Bible is that of severing the ontological relationship between Christianity and Judaism. (671).
Nevertheless, he is aware that the issue remains unresolved and calls for respect of this diversity. A “kerygmatic,” i.e. christological, reading of Scripture leads to a view of the situation as a polarity between Word and Tradition, which find their analogue in the broader and narrower canons. The church’s task is to stand within this tension, struggling to continually discern the truth of God being revealed in Scripture while at the same time being aware that she stands within a fully human, ecclesiastical tradition which remains the tradent of the Word. To summarize:

the complete canon of the Christian church as the rule-of-faith sets for the community of faith the proper theological context in which we stand, but it also remains continually the object of critical theological scrutiny subordinate to its subject matter who is Jesus Christ. This movement from the outer parameters of tradition to the inner parameters of Word is constitutive of the theological task. [*]
[*] Biblical Theology, 68.

Monday, 2 June 2008

What is "biblical" preaching?

A sermon is not truly biblical unless the preacher moves through the text to engage its true subject matter. Only when one proceeds from, say, Paul's understanding of faith to Christian faith itself, can a bridge from the past to the present be made.
B.S. Childs, "One Gospel in Four Witnesses," in The Rule of Faith (Harrisburg: Morehouse Publishers, 1998), 51-62. Available online here (along with some other brilliant essays).

Sunday, 1 June 2008

The Scope of the Canon: The "Catholic" Solution

I outlined the "Protestant" trend towards a narrow canon in the history of the church here.

There was also, however, a more "Catholic" trend, in which there was a concern to emphasise the catholicity of the Christian faith. This was expressed in terms of an unbroken continuity of sacred tradition from the risen Lord to his church. The church Fathers used as a major criterion by which to determine a book’s authority the testimony of the most ancient congregations having a claim to historical continuity with the earliest Apostolic tradition and representing the most inclusive geographical testimony of the universal church. In addition to this, reference was made to the widespread use of the LXX in the New Testament itself and the amenability of the Greek rendering to Christian interpretation.
In my next post I'll look at Childs' take on this tension.