Friday, April 30, 2004

Peer Pressure
OK, just about everyone else has done this already, so I might as well do it too, so as not to be the odd one out!
The whole letter is permeated by the conviction that this holiness—the form taken by life led in the "priestly community"—finds its material first of all in a specific relationship with others, even non-Christians.
This is from Flesh of the Church, Flesh of Christ: At the Source of the Ecclesiology of Communion by J.-M.-R. Tillard. Yes, you can do this too! Here's how: 1. Grab the nearest book. 2. Open the book to page 23. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther
I received this book this morning and greatly look forward to having the time to explore it in more depth. From what I gather, a central part of its argument is that, in the theology of Luther, Christ is not merely the object of faith, but is 'really present in faith itself', even to the extent of being properly called the subject of faith. Of course, this ties in nicely with some of the recent positions that have arisen in the pistis Iesou Christou debates and also with the doctrine of theosis.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Pet peeve #1 Older generations for whom the attainment of youth is the highest aspiration. Particularly in churches. Now I have shared that with you, I will return to my labours...

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The power here has switched on and off three times in the last hour or so, destroying about 500 words of one of my essays with it. Somewhat irritating.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Doug Wilson is right, this sort of argument should only be read by those with a morbid fascination for the equivalent of theological car crashes.
Uisce Beatha
Danny has a great quote from St. Brigid on his blog, concluding with the words:—
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings. I would like to be watching Heaven's family drinking it through all eternity.
On reflection, it makes perfect sense for an Irish saint to say this. In Irish Gaelic uisce beatha (ish keh ba ha) is the term used to describe distilled liquor. However, it literally means 'water of life'.
And he showed me a pure river of distilled liquor, clear as crystal...

Peter, myself, Monika, Jonathan and Mark at the wedding

Monday, April 26, 2004

Some Tentative Thoughts on Election 

Just before going on my internet fast, I thought that I would post some tentative thoughts on the subject of election that are essentially verbatim copies of some comments that I made recently on the Wrightsaid list. I have discussed this subject a number of times on my blog before and actually started a somewhat abortive series on the issue a few months back. As I am going to be gone for a while, I thought that I would give you all something to chew on. I have lots of material in quite an unfinished state, so I thought that, for lack of anything else, I would post this. Sorry to those of you who have read it before. I would appreciate having people’s thoughts on the issue.
I have a number of problems with many of the common ways in which Reformed people handle the doctrine of election. I think that we need to iron out our language in a number of areas and refocus the doctrine upon Christ Himself. I have become persuaded that the final goal of God’s electing purpose is that of forming a new humanity in Christ, not that of saving a particular group of individuals and damning the rest. I feel that the elect/reprobate distinction is best understood as a distinction between the old cursed humanity in Adam and the new redeemed humanity in Christ. My election is found in the fact that my life is hid with Christ in God. The Son of God eternally loved by the Father is the One in whom I find my true life. I guess that I am supralapsarian to the degree that God’s determination to form a new family in His Son preceded any other determination. I sense some dangers in seeing the doctrine of election as the choice of a particular set of individuals. Firstly, it obscures the fact that we are chosen in Christ. Just as God’s election of Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldeans included Abraham’s seed in that election, so God’s eternal election of His beloved Son includes all who belong to Christ in that choice. We are not chosen as abstract individuals but as those who belong to Christ. The fixed character of election is not found in a choice of a particular fixed number of people, but in the fixed unity that exists between Christ Himself and His Church in history. I suppose that I would be more prepared to associate election primarily with Baptism than with anything else. Secondly, it can become anthropocentric. Ultimately, God is all about saving particular men and damning other particular men. This, in my mind at least, draws our attention away from the centrality of Christ Himself. Christ becomes a mere means to an end, rather than the end Himself. It can also make the doctrine of election appear arbitrary. Thirdly, it can be a killer for assurance. If election is ultimately a hidden decree about me as an abstract individual in eternity past, I will live my life in the shadow of that decree. I will easily despair because I do not have any easy way of discovering whether I am elect or not. However, if Christ is the ‘content’ of the electing decree then I can see my own true life revealed in Him. I can be assured of my election because He is elect and I live in Him. Of course, I am not the first person to say this (Institutes III.xxiv.5). Fourthly, I fear that if we think of election as the choice of abstract individuals we fail to recognize the scope of God’s saving purpose. We begin thinking in terms of the salvation of individuals alone and not in terms of the salvation of a whole humanity (I don’t mean to suggest universalism by this expression). We also can fail to see the importance of the deliverance of the creation from bondage and the necessity of the Church. Such a doctrine of election can easily dehistoricize salvation. The men envisaged in such a doctrine of election are generally looked upon as men abstracted from their particular families, communities, nations, people and language groups, historical eras and identity in Adam. I believe that man’s identity is formed in relationship to others and so a doctrine of election that abstracts man from all of these relationships is not really left with man at all. Such a doctrine of election (which is commonly, though not universally held) can easily leave us with the notion of the Cartesian individual. Fifthly, I feel that such a view of election can make it difficult to think in terms of historical changes. We can easily view the whole world in terms of eternally elect and eternally reprobate and try to shoehorn everything into these categories. If someone apostatizes they were obviously never saved in the first place. We may even start to think in terms of some ontological difference between elect and reprobate. Although this most certainly is not the Reformed doctrine, it is commonly held. Sixthly, the doctrine of union with Christ can easily be butchered. For many, people are seen to be united with Christ before they ever repent and believe. John Murray, for example, argues that our union with Christ was effected before the foundation of the world and that it is necessary to believe this to explain how we were united to Christ in His historical work. Murray seems to maintain that a union with Christ effected by a decree of election before the foundation of the world is necessary to account for the fact that we were ‘in Christ’ when He died on the cross. I think that this gets things backwards and leads to very narrow form of the doctrine of limited atonement. I am convinced, furthermore, that our union with Christ is not ultimately a bare, external, decretal union, but is from the very outset a living, personal union by the Spirit. Seventhly, such a conception of election leads us to think in a particular way about the decree of reprobation, a way that I don’t believe is helpful.
Election in the Bible
I am further persuaded that many common Reformed ways of expressing the doctrine of election do not take sufficiently into account the way that the Bible speaks about the doctrine. The doctrine of election is not a purely NT doctrine. Nor is election so much about ‘going to heaven when you die’. Israel was a chosen nation from all the nations of the earth. Nevertheless, Gentiles were not consequently damned. The ‘Jewish’ nature of election is frequently ignored. A number of references to election in Scripture cannot bear the sense that is often given to that word (e.g. Romans 8:33). The Scripture also speaks about a far more ‘revealed’ form of election than most Reformed people do (e.g. Ephesians 1). Election is at the same time a comfort and a spur to action. The doctrine of election as it is preached in many churches today (admittedly a departure from the position of Calvin and others) can paralyze people. I am persuaded that no event takes place outside of the will of God. I am persuaded that when anyone is saved, it is because God has predetermined it. I am also persuaded that when someone is damned it is also because God has predetermined it. I am persuaded that no one has the power of ‘contrary choice’ in opposition to God’s will. However, all of this granted, I am not left with the form of election held to by most of the Reformed church. Paul: An Outline of His TheologyRomans 9 is, in my mind, an example of a passage that has been misused by many Reformed commentators. I find the treatment of this passage by such as Ridderbos (Paul: An Outline of His Theology, pp.341ff.) to be a good antidote to the manner in which this passage has been abused by many. Romans 9 is describing the manner in which God formed His people Israel over history. Ridderbos writes:
Paul is not guided here by an abstract concept of divine freedom, but by the freedom of God’s grace as this has revealed itself in the history of Israel.
The purport of Paul’s argument is not to show that all that God does in history has been foreordained from eternity and therefore, so far as his mercy as well as his hardening is concerned, has an irresistible and inevitable issue. Rather, it is his intention to point out in the omnipotence of God’s activity the real intention of his purpose.
Election in Romans 9 is about the omnipotent and sovereign nature of God’s work in history, not about its deterministic character. These two things should never be confused. Eternal decrees about individuals are simply not the issue in Romans 9; God’s historical dealings with Israel are. Election is decidedly ‘temporal’ in Romans 9. Furthermore, the casting away of Israel is done with the intent of bringing salvation to the Gentiles. God’s election was always done with the intention of spreading His salvation to others. Israel was elected to be the priestly nation, not the only nation from which people would ‘go to heaven when they died’. Election and reprobation are not equal and opposites. The reprobation of Israel is the means by which salvation will be brought to the Gentiles. The election of the Gentiles is the means by which the Jews will become jealous and be saved. God has a redemptive purpose for humanity as a whole (again, I am not holding to universalism here) and historical reprobation and election is the means by which He will achieve it. This article is helpful on some of these issues.
Some might wonder how the terminology of ‘the salvation of a whole humanity’ avoids the charge of universalism. By speaking of the ‘salvation of a whole humanity’ I do not merely refer to the salvation of individuals from ‘every race, tribe and tongue’, although this certainly enters into it. What I am trying to convey is the fact that the redeemed in Christ constitute a whole humanity in Him and not merely a fraction of a humanity. This new humanity in Christ has a clear connection to the old humanity in Adam. It is not so much a ‘replacement’ for this humanity as a ‘fulfillment’ of it. I find N.T. Wright’s treatment of issues related to this in ‘Adam, Israel and the Messiah’ in The Climax of the Covenant quite helpful. The danger that I see in many Reformed forms of the doctrine of election is that the division within humanity is not as carefully formulated as I believe that it should be. The problem, I suppose is even better expressed as the failure to recognize that the division is not a division within humanity so much as it is a division between two humanities. In creation God had a purpose for humanity. Humanity fell in Adam, but God did not abandon the world. As Wright points out, God’s purpose for humanity finally devolves upon Abraham and his seed. They become God’s true humanity through whom God’s purposes for the world and mankind will be achieved. God promises that they will be fruitful and multiply, fulfilling the creation mandate. They are associated with the seed of the woman against the seed of the serpent. Those that oppose Israel are described in prophesy as sea serpents, beasts and other such creatures. Israel is the new Adam that must take dominion over these. Humanity outside Israel is not the true humanity in the sense that Israel is. To cut the story short, the purpose of God for humanity is finally drawn onto the Messiah Jesus, the true Son of God. Christ is the true humanity over against the false fallen humanity. All of those in Christ constitute a full humanity in Him. Adam was given the task of being the true humanity; Abraham was given the promise that through him the true humanity would come; in Christ the true serpent-crushing humanity is realized. The Church is now the true humanity that is fruitful and multiplies.
Separation in Humanity?
Reformed treatments of the doctrine of election have tended to speak of a separation within one whole humanity, which, to my mind, clouds a number of issues. Firstly, it fails to adequately express the asymmetry between election and reprobation. Secondly, it fails to take redemptive history seriously enough. I believe that we should be prepared to think more in terms of election working ‘through’ rather than ‘upon’ history. There is an eschatological thrust of the doctrine of election that I believe has frequently been betrayed by the Reformed tendency to allow the doctrine to slip from its historical moorings. Election in Scripture seems to be focused on God’s sovereign forming of a people through history. Such a perspective on election will enable us to take apostasy more seriously without undermining the sovereignty of God. It will also take the sacraments far more seriously than many Reformed people have been able to. Thirdly, it fails to fully account for the points that Wright and others have made regarding the relationship between the original humanity in Adam, Israel and Israel’s Messiah. What we see is not God’s decision to pick up some of the fragments that remained after Adam’s fall, but His sovereign determination to completely fulfill His purpose for humanity despite Adam’s fall. Fourthly, it is far too individualistic. In my mind, many Reformed doctrines of election seem to overlook God’s determination to fulfill His purpose for humanity by focusing primarily upon the election of individuals, rather than following a more redemptive historical reading of the doctrine. The ‘elect’ becomes a mere sum of discrete individuals rather than the fulfillment of the human race in Christ. Elect individuals become more like marbles in a bag than ingredients in a cake (for want of a better way of describing it). God’s desire to form a people for His glory is far bigger than the desire to merely save individuals. God’s people is to perfect humanity in relationship — with Him and with each other. It is the whole world that God is putting to rights. God’s restorative justice is also working upon humanity. God’s purpose for humanity will be achieved. Whilst it is very clear that this does not mean that every descendant of Adam will be saved, it does mean that humanity will be restored and that this restored humanity will be characterized by wholeness — it will not be seen as only half a humanity. The fact that some descendents of Adam will be eternally punished will not constitute a deficiency in the humanity in Christ. I would be more comfortable were we to focus more upon the divisions ‘seed of serpent/woman’ or ‘humanity in Adam/Christ’. Here we deal with the division that exists between two wholes, rather than between two parts of a whole. It is important for me that humanity in Christ is portrayed as a whole and as a complete fulfillment of God’s purposes for Adamic humanity. Otherwise redemption starts to sound like an only half successful salvage operation. Such an approach, I suggest, does more justice to the universalistic language of Scripture without denying its clear particularistic emphases. Fifthly, it does not adequately protect the unitary wholeness of God’s eternal decree. Herman Bavinck writes:—
Accordingly, neither the supra- nor the infralapsarian view of predestination is able to do full justice to the truth of Scripture, and to satisfy our theological thinking. The true element in supralapsarianism is: that it emphasizes the unity of the divine decree and the fact that God had one final aim in view, that sin’s entrance into the universe was not something unexpected and unlooked for by God but that he willed sin in a certain sense, and that the work of creation was immediately adapted to God’s redemptive activity so that even before the fall, i.e., in the creation of Adam, Christ’s coming was definitely fixed. And the true element in infralapsarianism is: that the decrees manifest not only a unity but also a diversity (with a view to their several objects), that these decrees reveal not only a teleological but also a causal order, that creation and fall cannot merely be regarded as means to an end, and that sin should be regarded not as an element of progress but rather as an element of disturbance in the universe so that in and by itself it cannot have been willed by God. In general, the formulation of the final goal of all things in such a manner that God reveals his justice in the reprobate and his mercy in the elect is too simple and incomplete.… His decree is a unity: it is a single conception. And in that decree all the different elements assume the same relation which a posteriori we even now observe between the facts of history, and which will become fully disclosed in the future. This relation is so involved and complicated that neither the adjective “supralapsarian” nor “infralapsarian” nor any other term is able to express it. It is both causal and teleological: that which precedes exerts its influence upon that which follows, and that which is still future already determines the past and the present. There is a rich, all-sided “reciprocity.” Predestination, in the generally accepted sense of that term: the foreordination of the eternal state of rational creatures and of all the means necessary to that end, is not the sole, all-inclusive and all-comprehensive, purpose of God. It is a very important part of God’s decree but it is not synonymous with the decree. God’s decree or counsel is the main concept because it is all-comprehensive; it embraces all things without any exception: heaven and earth, spirit and matter, visible and invisible things, organic and inorganic creatures; it is the single will of God concerning the entire universe with reference to the past, the present, and the future.… Briefly stated, God’s decree together with the history of the universe which answers to it should not be exclusively described — after the manner of infra- and supralapsarianism — as a straight line indicating a relation merely of before and after, cause and effect, means and goal; but it should also be viewed as a system the several elements of which are coordinately related to one another and cooperate with one another toward that goal which always was and is and will be the deepest ground of all existence, namely, the glorification of God. As in an organism all the members are dependent upon one another and in a reciprocal manner determine one another, so also the universe is God’s work of art, the several parts of which are organically related. And of that universe, considered in its length and breadth, the counsel or decree of God is the eternal idea.
A while back I tried to express this in my own words and made a real mess of it. For this reason you will have to content yourself with a long and rich Bavinck quote! My position does need to be balanced out by a more traditional Reformed understanding. Whilst I am concerned that perspective has been lost in a number of areas, in the final analysis, I would identify myself as someone who is essentially Reformed on this point. My comments are ultimately intended to supplement and refocus the Reformed doctrine, not to replace it.
Internet Fast
I am going to be ridiculously busy over the next week or two. I have around five essays to write and a dissertation to finish off. I also have to act as the equivalent of the best man for Jonathan and Monika's second celebration of their wedding (on this side of the Atlantic for the European friends and relatives). This, of course, involves preparing a speech and other things for May 8th. To top everything off, I woke up this morning with a mean cold and my mind is presently about as clear as pea soup. I think I'll have to go back to bed if I am to achieve anything today. Due to all the work that I have to do I will not be posting on my own blog, commenting on other people's blogs or even accessing the internet at all (except for the purposes of my work) for about two weeks. After that time you can expect a flurry of posts. I may well even get to finish off my series on Baptism.
...and do remember to take a good look at this site. I have just added it to my links.
John Halton on one reason why 'words of Christ in red' Bibles are a BAD IDEA.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Many people have claimed that those who appreciate the writings of N.T. Wright and are essentially persuaded of his position (among whom I count myself) will dismiss every critique of him as issuing from an ignorance of his writings. Lamentably, most of the critiques I have come across to date have tended to be unbalanced, mean-spirited or misinformed. These seem to be a noteworthy exception. Whilst I do not agree with a number of things that are said, I commend these speakers for the even-handed, gracious and considered manner in which they critique Wright. I hope that, in the future, we see far more critiques of this kind and far less critiques of the former kind.

Criticism of N.T. Wright 

I have never been overly impressed with N.T. Wright's characterization of historic evangelical Protestantism. It seems to me that Wright often deals with evangelical Protestantism in its more popular forms rather than engaging more rigorously with theological source texts (as he generally does with more liberal scholarship). I have witnessed most of the errors that he refers to in his writings. However, many of them tend to be found not in confessional documents or works of leading theologians but in the confused understandings of preachers and people in pews. New Dictionary of TheologyI came across this quote from Wright yesterday in his New Dictionary of Theology article on justification:—
In reacting against [the medieval view of God's righteousness as iustitia distributiva], Luther never totally avoided the risk of making faith a substitute for works, and hence itself a meritorious performance on man's part.
I feel that this is quite a daring statement from someone who is hardly a Luther scholar. I far prefer Richard Hays' position in The Faith of Jesus Christ where he attributes this error to more popular understandings of the doctrine. Hays goes on to at least partially exonerate Luther by reminding his reader of Luther's argument against the Anabaptists: that believers' baptism turned faith into a work. Faith does not make Baptism; it receives it. For Luther faith is our response to the grace of God objectively given in the Word and sacraments. Luther's chapter on Baptism in his Larger Catechism, which Hays quotes from, is well worth reading on this point. Wright's interaction with historical Protestant theology is one of the points where he is at his weakest, in my estimation. I feel that Wright would be well advised to interact with the best of Reformed theology if he is avoid confusing many of his readers. Wright is not ignorant of the Reformed tradition and it is clear that he has read widely in it (I would be surprised if someone with limited knowledge of the Reformed faith would have had his work published by the Banner of Truth as Wright has! — see my December 15th entry). He certainly has read Herman Ridderbos and others. I would appreciate if Wright would interact more with their readings of Paul, rather than battling with misconceptions held by many evangelicals, which are rejected by virtually all leading theologians. Wright is at his strongest when he is interacting with concrete scholarship, rather than vague generalizations (some of which, not least on the subject of politics, I find embarrassingly simplistic). For example, Wright says that he denies the concepts of active obedience and imputation. However, when one probes Wright's works a bit more closely it seems that Wright is rejecting a popular distortion of these doctrines and not the positions held by leading Reformed scholars. Many Reformed and evangelical readers will be confused by Wright's denials of these doctrines and will be put off from reading him more closely, failing to recognize what exactly he is reacting to. I would be surprised and concerned were Wright to strongly reject the doctrine of imputation as held by someone like Richard Gaffin, for instance. On active obedience, Wright writes:
Nor is his "faith" a kind of meritorious work, an "active obedience" to be then accredited to those who belong to him. [NIB Romans commentary (3:22a)]
Of course, this is quite far removed from the understanding of active and passive obedience proposed by such Reformed theologians as Berkouwer (e.g. The Work of Christ) and Murray (e.g. Redemption—Accomplished and Applied). Berkouwer, for example, firmly roots Christ's obedience in His Messianic vocation. Both Berkouwer and Murray make clear that the distinction between active and passive obedience is not a distinction in periods. On occasions Wright attacks the idea of imputation as if its proponents believed that the judge's righteousness was given to the acquitted party. This is not helpful when the proponents of the doctrine are understanding it in a differing framework. On many other occasions Wright seems to understand imputation as involving the abstraction of Christ's merit from His Person — resulting in a legal fiction. Of course, some do hold this, but very many firmly reject the idea. When Wright comes out and actually expresses his understanding, it becomes apparent that he is not as far removed from the best of Reformed scholarship as one might expect:—
The first of these [the status of being ‘in Christ’] is particularly important, and is the theme of verse 9, which sums up a good deal that he says at more length in Romans and Galatians. Paul draws out the contrast, the same contrast he’s been talking about throughout the passage, between those who are regarded as members of God’s covenant people because they possess, and try to keep, the Jewish law, the Torah, and those who are regarded as members of God’s covenant family because of what the Messiah has done. In 2:8 he described the Messiah’s achievement as his ‘obedience, even unto death’; here he describes it as his ‘faithfulness’; but the two mean substantially the same thing. And the way we share in ‘the Messiah’s faithfulness’ is by our ‘faith’. Our belief that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Messiah, the Lord of the world, and our loyalty to him, are the sign and badge that we have a credit balance consisting simply of him, over against all the debits we could ever have from anywhere else. This is Paul’s famous doctrine of ‘justification by faith’, which continues to be a comfort and a challenge to millions around the world. [Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters (SPCK 2002) pp.120-1]
On another occasion he writes:—
As far as I can see, Paul's central statements of something that I might be prepared to say 'imputation' about are in a passage like Romans 6, where the logic runs: by baptism, you are 'in Christ'; therefore what is true of Christ is true of you; therefore, specifically, his death and resurrection are true of you; therefore you must calculate this, do the sums, work out who you actually are — and then live accordingly. But I think this provides a somewhat different grid of understanding to normal 'imputation' theology. The 'reckoning' thus takes place within, and as part of, incorporation into the people of the Messiah.
Compare these two statements with Gaffin:—
At the same time, however, various considerations already adduced point to the conclusion that Paul does not view the justification of the sinner (the imputation of Christ’s righteousness) as an act having a discrete structure of its own. Rather, as with Christ’s resurrection, the act of being raised with Christ in its constitutive, transforming character is at the same time judicially declarative; that is, the act of being joined to Christ is conceived of imputatively. In this sense the enlivening action of resurrection (incorporation) is itself a forensically constitutive declaration. This does not at all mean that Paul qualifies the synthetic character of the justification of the ungodly. The justifying aspect of being raised with Christ does not rest on the believer’s subjective enlivening and transformation (also involved, to be sure, in the experience of being joined to Christ), but on the resurrection-approved righteousness of Christ which is his (and is thus reckoned his) by virtue of the vital union established. If anything, this outlook which makes justification exponential of existential union with the resurrected Christ serves to keep clear what preoccupation with the idea of imputation can easily obscure, namely, that the justification of the ungodly is not arbitrary but according to truth: it is synthetic with respect to the believer only because it is analytic with respect to Christ (as resurrected). Not justification by faith but union with the resurrected Christ by faith (of which union, to be sure, the justifying aspect stands out perhaps the most prominently) is the central motif of Paul’s applied soteriology.
If Wright would interact with someone like Gaffin, whose position is quite close to Wright's own position, people would be more inclined to give him a sympathetic hearing. By tending to interact with more popular evangelical misunderstandings of doctrines, Wright leaves himself wide open to misinterpretation. Popular misunderstandings of doctrines are very easy to attack, but introducing them into the debate can often merely muddy the waters. Needless to say, Wright is not the first person to do this — I myself have done it on plenty of occasions — but I do think that it is important to try to avoid such things. I am essentially convinced of Wright's position on imputation and believe that it has much to teach us. For this reason I would love to see Wright's work receive a wider readership in Reformed circles. Were he to interact more sympathetically with the various Protestant traditions he would be more likely to receive one.

Dikaiosune Theou 

At the moment I am trying to identify some of the various positions that have been held regarding the meaning of dikaiosune theou in Romans 1:17; 3:21-22 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 in Protestant history. I was wondering if anyone can add new ones to this list. Of course, most of the names here are merely representatives of bigger parties. Martin Luther — (a) subjective genitive (God’s activity by which he reckons us righteous), (b) genitive of origin (a righteousness from God). Philip Melanchthon — ‘the acceptance by which God accepts us’ (subjective genitive) Martin Bucer — ‘the incomparable goodness revealed in Christ by which he forgives sins and imputes righteousness and bestows eternal life; and he initiates it by inbreathing a new mind and a devotion for godliness’ (subjective genitive). Bucer also quotes Origen’s interpretation of the ‘righteousness of God’ as Christ Himself. John Calvin — the righteousness that is ‘approved at [God’s] tribunal’ (objective genitive, not the same thing as genitive of origin) Karl Barth — ‘the just verdict of God the Judge’ Ernst Käsemann — Apocalyptic righteousness, ‘salvation-creating power’ (form of subjective genitive). I get the impression that Peter Stuhlmacher holds to a subtle variant of this, but do not know enough about it to accurately describe it. F.F. Bruce — a ‘twofold sense’: (a) God’s personal righteousness (possessive genitive, seemingly understood more as covenant faithfulness than as distributive justice); (b) ‘the righteousness with which He justifies sinners on the ground of faith’. William Hendriksen — A conflation of the objective genitive and genitive of origin. Quite a common position. John Stott — speaks of three combined aspects of the meaning of the phrase (a divine attribute [possessive, seemingly understood more as God’s intrinsic righteous self-integrity], activity and achievement or gift), not wishing to choose any one over the others. N.T. Wright — ‘Covenant faithfulness’ (both possessive and subjective genitive, arguing against maintaining any great distinction between the two aspects). Also carries law court and apocalyptic overtones (but opposes Käsemann’s supposed detaching of the concept from its covenantal moorings). There also seems to have been those who have held some form of a possessive genitive sense of God’s righteousness (understood more as God’s intrinsic moral uprightness than His relational righteousness) alongside both the genitive of origin and objective genitive senses. However, I cannot put any names to this group at the moment. If anyone can add to this list, or help to clarify at any point, I would be very appreciative.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

How the Mighty have Fallen! 

Web loggers, or bloggers as they are called, set up nifty websites, with cool graphics and interactive gee-whizzery, all of it calculated to... let us read their diaries. This is occasionally interesting when an interesting or challenging person does it — but in many cases the only people who want to read the diaries are those who want to have their own diaries read. This is the same reason why Hollywood actors or Nashville recording artists, when talking about one another, always use the word "genius". What goes around comes around. Asinus asinum fricat. So chalk up another one to technological capacity driving what we do before we understand it.
And now Doug Wilson has his own blog. At least he had the courage to remind us all of these comments in his second post.

Friday, April 23, 2004

But I can’t see Jesus as the Messiah we Jews are waiting for. And nor, as the Gospel accounts themselves make clear, could the disciples who knew him once he was executed. After the crucifixion, the disciples did not sit around calmly and reassure each other that all was going according to plan. They were instead understandably devastated. This was not the messianic plan. Nothing in Jewish teaching had suggested the execution of the Messiah. Not one of them was able to come up with the idea that this was all as it should be. It wasn’t. They had invested their faith in this man and he was now dead. And this is the fresh mystery at the heart of the Christian story – and one which raises no echoes or meaning for Jews. Something happened back then that first Easter that persuaded those disheartened followers that what they’d been expecting and waiting for, what they believed Jesus was about despite – or because of? – their years of living in his company and hearing his teachings - wasn’t the point after all. It was all entirely different to the way Jews had understood the idea of the messiah for centuries... and still do. And fair enough. But you’ll have to understand when we Jews look at the claims made about Jesus with incomprehension and remain true to our own tradition. After all, Jesus did.

Well worth a read. Thanks to Jim West for this.
Church of Fools
Happy St. George's Day! St. George is the patron saint of England and he slew the dragon, which, I'm guessing, must have been Welsh. The English, being a somewhat boring and reserved people, don't really do anything much to celebrate this day. Ask the vast majority of us and we would not even know that it was St. George's day, or who he actually was. Sad really. You have to go to Ireland to find a good patron saint's day. April 23 is also traditionally identified as William Shakespeare's birthday, although it is unlikely that he was really born on this day.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Things that you come across through other people's ad-bars...
Omnitheism is the belief that God is The Creator, and that all religions are designed to praise The Creator. In Omnitheism all religions are respected but none are recognized as the only path towards appreciation of God. Omnitheism is a fresh path to deep and pure appreciation of The Creator.

The word Omnitheism is a combination of Latin and Greek. Omni is Latin for “all or every” and theism derives from Greek meaning “belief in God”. I chose to combine these two words to represent my belief that all religions were developed to praise God for Creation. The creed of Omnitheism is to accept that part of all religions that praises God for Creation.


You know the feeling when you roll down the car windows to smell the pine trees during your Sunday drive or the goose bumps you get listening to a fine musician? Take that feeling one step farther to recognize that it is appreciation that you feel, appreciation towards God for creating what we perceive. The shiver of joy that we feel when we realize the beauty of Creation is the goal of Omnitheism.

In the same way that Hindus say “Namaste” to each other to recognize the God in each person I honor the Creation in each person.

In my spiritual path I have found that the feeling of joy that I feel when I consider Creation is a goal unto itself. As an Omnitheist I want to reach a state of constant appreciation of Creation. I will struggle to sustain my feeling of spiritual joy in every moment of my life. That is my devotion to God. I devote myself to appreciating God’s gift to us.

Funny, this. The God that I worship revealed Himself most fully in One whose face was 'marred more than any man'. The world turned away in disgust at this Man and yet this Man is my God. This Man had no form, comeliness or beauty that we should desire Him. When bystanders looked at the bloody mess that His body was reduced to I'm sure that they didn't go all gushy and emotional about the beauty of creation. The God that I worship provokes the world to nausea, not goosebumps. All that the world sees in the cross of Christ is failure, death, weakness, shame, despair and condemnation. For the Christian the cross is victory, life, God's power, glory, our hope and righteousness. As our lives are also lives moulded by the cross we will find that we provoke the world's revulsion, just like our Master. The world should look at us and see the same failure, death, weakness, shame, despair and condemnation that it saw in Him. The aesthetic beauty of the creation in which we live is a poor place to look to find the Creator. The face of creation is fundamentally inscrutable and we can study it for as long as we like and still fail to see the face of the Creator. The beauty of the Creator is the beauty of holiness that is revealed in the cross. Those who construct a god out of the nice feelings they have about creation and toss it up into the heavens are foolish. Such a god could never be revealed in Jesus Christ. The truth about God cannot be read from creation, God must reveal Himself. Those to whom God has revealed Himself do not judge things by their surface appearance. They know too well that the truth about God is hidden until it is made manifest in Jesus Christ. Even the truth about our own lives as Christians can only be understood as we look to the One who makes them manifest (Colossians 3:3-4). Omnitheists may have to start each prayer with 'to whom it may concern' but as Christians we know full well who we worship — the resurrected crucified One.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I arrived back from America this morning after a journey of approximately 19 hours. The journey went very smoothly, but now I have a huge amount of work and sleep to catch up on. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time away. My brother's wedding could not have gone better. We even had six people there, apart from my family, from our church here in Stoke-on-Trent. I might post some pictures sometime over the next week or so. Life TogetherI managed to do a bit of reading while I was away, which was quite pleasing. I was half expecting to be too occupied with other activities. I read my first book by Bonhoeffer (I don't know why I didn't get around to reading him sooner). Bonhoeffer was clearly steeped in the thought of Luther and the parallels between the two are quite pronounced on occasions. It should be no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed reading him. I have been doing some thinking in spare moments over the last few weeks on the subject of forgiveness as that which constitutes the community of the Church. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Bonhoeffer made quite a number of the same points. I might blog on the issue some time in the future when I have the time. Once again I am going to have to delay completing my Baptism posts. I have so much work on at the moment that I can barely do anything else. However, I will probably post something on Wright and imputation in the next two weeks. I would also like to give a run down of some of the issues raised in the recent Lord's Supper debate that has been raging on a number of blogs over the last month or so. I have found the debate very helpful and would like to crystallize my thoughts on it sometime in the not-too-distant future. I have added Pontifications and All the Fulness to my blog roll.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

I have arrived safely in the US. The journey was relatively uneventful and I am not too tired after all of the travelling. Unfortunately I have a lot of work to do while I am here. I am hoping to start and finish at least a couple of essays whilst I am over. I was not expecting to have internet access, but am quite relieved to have it after all. From my limited contact with the American media, they are not always the best at conveying what is happening in the rest of the world. This historic event, for example, has probably passed without mention in most American papers. At least they do not seem to be as obscene as the British press. Within the States there seems to be less exposure to other cultures. In British cities like Stoke, one is always meeting with people who have moved in from outside, people with very different cultures and values. When war occurs in Europe or the Middle East we will have many immigrants from those societies. Islam probably has a far more visible presence in the UK than in America. It is harder to be a patriot in Britain than in America. Flying the flag is often interpreted as a provocative act and so you do not see that many flags except when soccer is being played (personally, I am far more interested in playing football than watching it). After the fall of the Empire we seem to have a guilt complex that plagues us. It is hard to be proud to be English. We have lost our innocence and the colour seems to have drained from the once glorious flag. I have only been to the US once before, but this time, as last time, the first thing that strikes you is the space. In the States you realize how cramped Britain and Europe actually are. The roads, the shopping centres, the houses - everything is so much bigger. The wealth strikes you as well; the standard of living for many seems quite a bit higher than that which exists where I live in the UK. One gets the impression that travelling is much easier; the roads seem less congested than those in the UK and fuel is very cheap. The cities can seem very strange. One is struck by an absence of history, something that we can so easily take for granted in Europe. Everything is so new that I can understand why many Americans might struggle to appreciate the degree to which cultures can live in the shadow of their past in the 'old world'. I would find it hard to live with this. The cities can often feel more like mechanisms than organisms - they do not feel as if they have grown over many hundreds of years from small settlements. It may just be me, but this can leave me wondering where the soul of the planned city actually lies. Parallel streets and houses arranged in blocks may be good for navigation, but it can leave one feeling cold and removed in some sense from humanity. Life is separated into its various component parts and these parts are separated from each other into various areas of the city. Rather than interpenetrating each other the various elements of our lives become detached from each other and the human soul dies with the soul of the city. Life is segmented into religious and secular, business and pleasure, etc. I have found it interesting that, in certain cities in the world (Britain included), people have begun to respond to this by seeking to appropriate the urban landscape as a form of playground. I think that this might well prove to be very healthy thing in the long run both for us and for our cities. I sometimes wonder whether we have failed to realize the degree to which city planning is a religious endeavour. Perhaps the Scriptural teaching on geography, architecture and sacred space has something to teach us in this area. The areas in which we live can have great impact upon our ways of thinking. The soulless modern city which often lacks a clear public square, where anonymity and rootlessness prevail can often be man's attempt to escape God. I don't believe it to be a conincidence that many sins that thrive in cities do not take root in other areas in the same way. Man is seeking to create an environment that does not force the fact of God upon him. The patterns of nature are muted and man's providence replaces that of God. A mechanistic structure can serve this purpose far more than an organic structure. For one, the mechanistic structure fails to understand the soul of man, which cannot be atomized into constituent elements like a machine without killing it. I am sure that the feeling of the death of the soul is integrally related to the loneliness that one can feel in many modern cities. The mechanistic structure also fails to confront man with history, something greater than himself to which he is to some degree accountable. Living without concern about the past or future is far harder in a city with a castle and cathedral in the centre than in one without. Of course, living in Stoke-on-Trent, I am hardly the person to be talking about all of this! I'm not sure that this should necessarily reflect bad on Americans in general. My picture is somewhat onesided. Many Americans that I have come across place a far higher premium on history than we do in the UK. The mere fact that American cities are younger than European cities is hardly something to hold against them. Furthermore, the things that I have mentioned above can be observed in many European cities as well. Many European cities are cold and soulless. However, the presence of the work of our forefathers from the past can serve to curb our generation's nihilistic tendencies from achieving fuller expression. Despite all of these things, I do like America a lot. Americans are often far nicer people than us Brits. You might call us 'reserved'; I think that the correct word, all too often, is 'unfriendly'. There is also a 'buzz' in America that does not quite exist in the same way in Britain. One feels that there are still open possibilities, frontiers to be explored, etc. Perhaps this has something to do with the issue of space that I mentioned above. Horizons are far less cluttered in America. Again, if America can be faulted for naivete in its youth, Europe must be blamed for cynicism in its age. One wonders how things will change in the coming decades. The threat of terror on domestic soil is well known to many Europeans and has affected us in a number of ways; one wonders what it will do to America. These are some somewhat disjointed thoughts from my very limited impressions of America. Given more exposure I will probably recant pretty much everything that I have said here, but at the moment these are my thoughts, for what they are worth. I would love to hear what others think on this.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
I will be away for the next week or so in America. Lord-willing I will be back on the 20th.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Land speed record smashed.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

A radio interview with N.T. Wright on the resurrection.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

A helpful resource.

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