Sunday, November 24, 2013, 6:17 PM
Charles Krauthammer isn’t the only one who says the fiasco of Obamacare threatens liberal social policy. Franklin Foer thinks so too. In sounding the alarm in TNR, Foer gives this forthright precis of liberal faith in the transformative power of the state:
“Back when Woodrow Wilson was a professor at Bryn Mawr, he published a seminal essay extolling ‘the science of administration.’ His case was characteristic of the times and the ideology he helped shape. Wilson imagined technical experts, the new breed of social scientists emerging from the universities, who could help steer the economy. He would come to see these experts as a bulwark against the predations of corporations and protectors of the ‘man on the make.’ Government efficiency became something of a slogan for the movement. When Teddy Roosevelt thumped his fists before the Progressive Party convention in 1912—the moment he pandered hardest to the nascent liberalism—he invoked efficiency 22 times, rallying the throngs of reformers behind what he called the ’cause of human rights and of government efficiency.’”
It’s a little amusing to see “man on the make” used of businessmen rather than lobbyists and other DC hangers-on.
Sunday, November 24, 2013, 4:57 AM
When John joins the heavenly liturgy (Revelation 4), he sees three main items of temple furniture – the throne (4:2-5a), the lambs that are the seven Spirits (4:5b), and a sea of glass (4:6a). In the temple, these were all in separate rooms: The ark-throne in the Most Holy Place, the lamps in the Holy Place, and the sea in the court. In heaven, they are all part of a single throne-complex, since both the lamps and the sea are said to be “before the throne” (vv. 5-6).
There’s a message in that: The different temple zones were separated by doors and curtains, and they gave architectural embodiment to a divided world. Between the Gentile sea and the heavenly light of the Spirit was a closed door; between the lamp and the throne was a door that only one man could pass through each year. The heavenly sanctuary is a world reintegrated: The sea of nations is immediate to the throne and the lamp, “before the throne.” And since heaven is not just “up there” but “ahead,” John’s vision is one of the world to come, the world that comes to be after the world that then was is burned away.
It’s our world, now that the Spirit has been poured out and Jesus’ disciples have been sent out as fishermen in the Gentile sea. It’s our world, immediate to the oversight of the One like jasper and sardius who sits on the throne. The God who was once screened off in His house has brought the barriers down.
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 8:42 AM
William Riley examines the Chronicler’s brief account of Saul in 1 Chronicles 10 (King and Cultus in Chronicles: Worship and the Reinterpretation of History). Why does the Chronicler include Saul at all, why place Saul’s story at the beginning of the narrative section of the book, and why tell the story this way? Riley argues that the account sets up the Chronicler’s peculiar theology of king and cult. Saul is the “non-cultic king” whose failures set the backdrop for David’s faithful liturgical presidency.
Saul’s failure is a result of his ma’al, his “trespass” (10:13), which is further specified as a failure to seek the Lord (v. 14). Riley comments, “Elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible the root ma’al is linked negatively with habitation of the land; the Chronicler has retained this association in his usage and also used both noun and verb to indicate cultic offences elsewhere in his work. The probability is that the term is meant to have the same associations in the Chronicler’s judgment on Saul. The cultic overtone of this term is significant, since it immediately brings into this paradigmatic passage that vision which was common to the ancient Near East of the king as one who had responsibility and accountability in relation to the cultus” (43).
Other references to Saul and Saul’s house reinforce this theme of cultic trespass.
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 5:35 AM
Cyril of Alexandria lays out a coherent Christological-Eucharistic position in his Third Letter to Nestorius: “We proclaim the fleshly death of God’s Only-Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, we confess His return to life from the dead and His ascension into heaven when we perform in church the unbloody service, when we approach the sacramental gifts and are hallowed participants in the holy flesh and precious blood of Christ, Saviour of us all, by receiving not mere flesh (God forbid!) or flesh of a man hallowed by connection with the Word in some unity of dignity or possessing some divine indwelling, but the personal, truly vitalizing flesh of God the Word himself. As God He is by nature Life and because He has become one with His own flesh He declared it vitalizing; and so, though he tells us ‘verily I say unto you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,’ we must not suppose that it belongs to one of us men (how could man’s flesh be vitalizing by its own nature?) but that it was made the personal possession of Him who for us has become and was called ‘the Son of Man.’”
Ezra Gebremedhin (Life-giving Blessing: Inquiry into the Eucharistic Doctrine of Cyril of Alexandria), who quotes this passage notes the implicit contrast between an understanding of the incarnation as union to the “Antiochene” view that the incarnation is primarily an indwelling (34).
Saturday, November 23, 2013, 5:00 AM
Nicholas Thompson (Eucharistic Sacrifice And Patristic Tradition In The Theology Of Martin Bucer 1534-1546) stresses the importance of the second great commandment for Martin Bucer’s Eucharistic reforms: “love of neighbour necessarily implied the communion of believers with one another and with Christ in the fellowship of the one body. In Grund und Ursach Bucer noted that Paul had called the sacrament Gemeinschafft; a name that remained among the Greeks [as Synaxis] and among the Latins as ‘Collect.’ The antichrists with their sacrifices had seen to it that the memory of this latter title had almost disappeared” (106).
For Bucer, restoring the liturgical rule of love had practical and theological import.
Friday, November 22, 2013, 12:03 PM
In a 1984 article in the journal Mid-Stream, Leslie Newbigin insisted that the basis of the demand for church unity is “the triune nature and action of God.”
He gave this stirring explanation: “Because God the Father has given his Son to us, and in the incarnate Lord Jesus Christ he both freely declared his nature and effected his purpose, and because he continues by the work of the Spirit to disclose that nature and effect that purpose from generation to generation, from race to race, by drawing men and women to him, we are under the obligation of love and faithfulness to bring every thought, every activity, and every visible form or organization into subjection to him. There is one God and one mediator between God and human beings in whom he wills to reconcile all things to himself. Therefore those who are the bearers of his mission must themselves be reconciled” (4).
At the same time, he rejected any hint that this Trinitarian account of unity could be set against a Christocentric account: “It is only if Jesus is indeed supreme above every other name or power or principle or program that the unity of his people is really essential. He is, in simple fact, the one in whom the Father purposes to unite all people, all nations and all created beings, making peace by the blood of his Cross. Because this is so it is of the very essence of the Church that it should be one—a sign and firstfruit and instrument of that unity” (5).
“The Basis and Forms of Unity,” Mid-Stream 23 (1984) 1-12.
Friday, November 22, 2013, 11:54 AM
In his contribution to Ecumenical Theology in Worship, Doctrine, and Life, a Festschrift for Geoffrey Wainwright, Telford Work argues that ecclesiology is the proper setting for the ordo salutis. In what he admits is something of a caricature, he describes American evangelical ecclesiology in this way: “Churches are mainly holding bins for people who are already saved. But parachurches are salvation machines, the ultimate wineskins of salvation. They save the world by evangelizing, training disciples and ministers, renewing families, furthering social action, and lobbying governments. Their work of mission, sanctification, and cultural transformation makes perfect sense in terms of salvation. In fact, under the definition of the visible Church as ‘just’ an external means of saving grace for souls, parachurches make better churches than most churches. And they mediate all this saving grace without baptizing, disciplining, gathering to worship, or celebrating communion!” (184).
He thinks the ordo salutis itself bears some of the blame for the situation:
Friday, November 22, 2013, 4:13 AM
It’s often said that Job’s friends don’t speak falsely or foolishly, but simply misapply wisdom.
The problem is, Job doesn’t agree with this assessment. “I do not find a wise man among you” (17:10). And, “your answers remain falsehood” (21:34).
Their folly and falsehood is exposed especially in the way they assess prosperity and calamity.
Friday, November 22, 2013, 3:17 AM
I make a case for the surprisingly neglected thought that Revelation is a book of the Bible at Firstthings.com.
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 4:00 PM
Kilby isn’t content to say that some social theories of the Trinity may project human ideals onto God. She says it’s inherent in the whole effort to tease out a social model of the Trinity. Her argument moves in several stages:
First, we don’t have much of any information about what makes the three Persons one. There are “a few proof texts in the Gospel of John,” and that’s it (441).
Second, that sort of unity is beyond our experience, since in our experience three Persons are always three individuals.
Third, we give this unknown something a label – perichoresis.
Fourth: What do we mean by “perichoresis”? Since God’s life is outside our ken, we fill in that term with “those things which do to some degree bind human persons together . . . interrelatedness, love, empathy, mutual accord, mutual giving, and so on” (441).
So, fifth, God’s inner life must be like that “only of course, unimaginably more so” (441).
Kilby admits that some of this is virtually inescapable:
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 3:20 PM
In a 2007 New Blackfriars piece on perichoresis and social Trinitarianism, Karen Kilby suggests that social theories of the Trinity necessarily project current ideals onto God. She cites the work of Patricia Wilson-Kastner to support the “suspicion of projection.”
She observes that Wilson-Kastner’s views on “the mutuality of the Trinity” would contradiction “the strand in feminist thought which holds that what women need is not to be urged toward mutuality and interrelatedness, but to learn to reclaim their own autonomy, to become more aware of themselves as something other than wife, mother, sister – one might have thought in other words, that it would be problematic to hold up for women an image of God as persons who are so utterly bound up in and defined by relationships that they lose even their numerical distinctness” (439).
Wilson-Kastner recognizes the problem, and adjusts her Trinitarian theology to address it:
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 8:05 AM
In the Bible, bones are not merely structural features of the human person. Shattered (Psalm 42:10) or scattered (Psalm 53:5) bones are signs of defeat. When bones are scattered at the edge of Sheol, an army has been massacred (Psalm 141:7).
Bones can waste away (Psalm 31:10), be out of joint (Psalm 22:14), and be sick (Psalm 38:3) or rotten (Proverbs 12:4). But these afflictions are more interpersonal than medical: Bones get out of joint because of the attacks of an enemy and become rotten because of a spouse who brings shame. Kin are “bone of bone, flesh of flesh,” one skeleton-and-body with one another, so when brothers attack it breaks the common bones.
Bones have personality.
Thursday, November 21, 2013, 7:17 AM
In yesterday’s post about Isaiah 58, I failed to take into account several other uses of nephesh in the chapter, which are needed to get a full grasp of what the chapter is doing.
Nephesh first appears in verse 3, in Israel’s complaint that Yahweh pays no attention to their fasting: “Why have we humbled our nephashot and You do not notice?” Yahweh responds that the fast He wants is not “a day for a man to humble his nephesh” (v. 5). Fasting is not just afflicting one’s nephesh, but giving it away to the hungry and oppressed, so as to fill them (v. 10). Expending nephesh for others is the true fast.
But when Israel fulfills this true fast, their expended nephesh is not exhausted but replenished. If they keep the fast, Yahweh will guide them and “will satiate your nephesh in scorched places” (v. 11). Nephesh is not the sort of thing that diminishes when it is expended, because Yahweh fills those who empty themselves. Those who give nephesh become unfailing springs of living water.
So Jesus in emptying His soul to death, feeds the hungry and delivers the oppressed, and so is Himself satiated with life, so as to become a living, breathing Eden in the scorched places of the earth.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 2:40 PM
Isaiah 58:10 begins with a chiastic clause that centers on the repetition of nephesh:
A. If you give
B. to the hungry
C. your soul
C’. and the soul
B’. of the afflicted
A’. you satiate. . .
The text goes on to promise that the light of Israel will rise and become like the noonday sun, if they fulfill the conditions of the conditional clause.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 2:15 PM
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Job dismisses Zophar’s comfort with a “with you wisdom will die” (12:2). Job has heard wisdom before, and his ear is attuned to it. His ear tests words “as the palate tests its food” (v. 11).
It’s a pregnant analogy. It suggests that hearing is active rather than merely receptive. The ear doesn’t simply take in what comes, but sifts and judges it.
It suggests that the ear is not merely taking in vibrations, but that it is taking in words, which are meaningful. And, following the typical Hebrew anthropology, Job locates the alertness to meaning not in the brain but in the ear itself.
It also suggests that the ear can be trained. Even an untrained palate is repulsed by certain tastes, and an untrained ear recognizes obvious falsehood. But as a trained palate can recognize nuances of flavor, a trained ear can hear find gradations in what it hears. A trained ear can hear pseudo-wisdom when it comes.
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