Thursday, March 31, 2005
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
This book first arose out of a passage in Borges, out of the laughter that shattered, as I read the passage, all the familiar landmarks of my thought — our thought, the thought that bears the stamp of our age and our geography — breaking up all the ordered surfaces and all the planes with which we are accustomed to tame the wild profusion of existing things, and continuing long afterwards to disturb and threaten with collapse our age-old distinction between the Same and the Other. This passage quotes a ‘certain Chinese encyclopaedia’ in which it is written that ‘animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) innumerable, (k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush, (l) et cetera, (m) having just broken the water pitcher, (n) that from a long way off look like flies’. In the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.This introductory passage from Foucault’s The Order of Things came to mind this morning as I was listening to Michael Horton and Doug Wilson debate the relative merits of the ‘Federal Vision’. A considerable portion of the conversation was occupied with attempts to clearly articulate the manner in which the threefold uses of the Law were understood and with attempts to rigorously distinguish Law from Gospel. I have heard this sort of thing hundreds of times before. However, this morning I was suddenly struck with how totally bizarre this way of speaking about the Law now sounds to my ears. Whether we are talking about the careful classification of the Law into ‘three divisions’ (moral, civil, ceremonial) or the discernment of the correct use of the Law (having already outlined the three uses and their relative positions of priority) in bringing it to bear upon the individual or the dividing practices whereby we maintain the Law-Gospel distinction, this entire conceptual structure seems quite ill-suited to actually getting at the heart of what the Apostle Paul was on about. Even if one were able to successfully divide up the Law into three distinct parts, completely distinguish Law from Gospel and identify three different uses of the Law (which I doubt), this entire structure seems doomed from the outset to enshroud the text of Scripture in a deep fog. Operating in terms of such a scheme one will continually be interrogating the text with the wrong questions. I recall an occasion when I sat in on a seminary lecture on the subject of Galatians, where such a manner of treating the text was very much in evidence. Almost no single point of exegesis escaped its effects. The validity of the scheme was taken as self-evident, but I doubt that they realized how powerfully such an understanding of the Law can skew your reading of the text. Wilson seemed happy to grant Horton the validity of such a framework for speaking about the Law, but I sometimes wonder whether it would be best to challenge the framework directly. Wilson was also willing to grant ‘stipulated definitions’ of such things as ‘grace’, which differed from his own. I see no reason to resist such differing definitions entirely. However, these ‘stipulated definitions’ quickly pile up and, after a while, you find that when you start trying to operate using scriptural categories and definitions you get condemned as an unconfessional heretic. The 'stipulated definitions' also tend to encroach into areas where they do not belong. The problem is that the Law (as this term is employed in Scripture) is not some timeless and universally applicable set of moral principles contained in the Decalogue. The Law came at a particular time in history (e.g. Romans 5:13-14), it was given to a particular nation and it included a system of sacrifices and many other commandments (but not just commandments) besides those in the Decalogue (even the Decalogue is not some static deposit — compare Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5). When the Law is spoken of in Scripture, it is generally spoken of as a particular covenant document (or set of Scriptures) and a particular covenant order. If we persist in speaking of the Law in the manner that many Reformed people are inclined to do we will only confuse ourselves when we read Paul. The Gospel is essentially the declaration that Jesus is Lord, not the mere promise of grace and forgiveness through Christ. By its very character the Gospel summons us to believing allegiance — the obedience of faith. In some sense one might speak of sharp distinctions between the Law and the Gospel, but they are not where most people think that they are. The Law-Gospel antithesis (if we dare speak of such a thing) in Scripture is between two gracious covenant orders, one of which has been rendered defunct by the other. Is it not a timeless opposition between two principles, one of promise and one of command. It seems to me that, if we really desire to understand Paul correctly, it is high time that we take this bull by the horns. This may be traditional Protestant language, but when applied to Paul it is terribly misleading. Whilst it is important to keep faith with the tradition, keeping faith with the Scriptures is far more important.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Chalk up another terrible critique of Wright. It looks as if Johnson has done very, very little reading in Wright. Of course, such study of Wright is not really necessary if all that you intend to do is churn out the same tired criticisms, gross misrepresentations and lies. It seems to me that the aim of such articles is not really to inform people, but to create a paranoia about Wright within Reformed churches. The intensity of the sectarian (and consequently, heretical) spirit of many leading writers in Reformed circles continues to astonish me.
The following are my notes from a recent Wright lecture I attended in Nottingham. I thought that I would share them with you all.
[These two lectures are a condensed form of a more extensive series of lectures that Wright has given elsewhere]. Within the two lectures Wright will attempt to combine reflections on Pauline scholarship with thoughts regarding the application of the theology of the apostle Paul to the contemporary Church situation. The first lecture will treat the subject of Creation and Covenant; the second will deal with Gospel and Empire. Wright is concerned to explore how larger themes that appear to be in tension can settle down comfortably within a larger framework in Paul’s theology. We will take a bird’s eye view of Paul’s theology in order to examine this.
Paul lived in a world in which the hope of Israel was understood in terms of a story. If we are to arrive at the heart of Paul’s theology it will be by means of an appreciation of the controlling stories that he worked in terms of.
This issue of narrative is one of the key dimensions of the NPP. The work of Richard Hays in particular (The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1—4:11) served to bring narrative to the forefront of theological debate. Once the narrative genie has been let out of the bottle, it is impossible to get it back in again. Since Hays countless theologians have been unearthing implicit narratives that underlie fragments of texts in Paul and elsewhere.
The whole narrative always hovers ‘somewhere’ in the background of each allusion. A number of people have wondered how far an allusion can be away from the surface of a text before it drowns, but we must resist the charms of ‘cautious minimalism’. The minimalists do not fully appreciate the manner in which narratives functioned in Second Temple Judaism. When a first century Jew used the biblical narrative there was something far more revolutionary going on than the minimalists can do justice to.
Narratives were used by those who believed that they were actors within them. We still have this to some extent within our own day. People will come out with statements like ‘now that we are living in the 21st century’. Such a statement situates a person within a narrative and implies the shaping of that person’s moral responsibility by the narrative situation in which they presently find themselves. Of course, this contemporary narrative is a very thin and watery controlling narrative when compared with Israel’s. It is also stupid and we should have the courage to name it and shame it as such.
The narrative of Israel could be used piecemeal, but was more generally used as a continuous implicit narrative. The allusion to OT events was not perceived primarily in terms of just providing some bare ‘typological’ pattern; the main function of such allusions was to remind the hearer (or reader) of key moments within a single continuous narrative in which they now found themselves. The Jewish use of the narrative — to boldly mix two radically different illustrations — functions less like a lonely young girl reading Jane Eyre and hoping for typological parallels and more like a cricketer going out to bat in a match that is in its final day and is delicately poised.
When we look at a Pauline example like Romans 4, should we read it merely as an example of justification by faith? Was Paul merely using a prooftext to prove his point? No: in Romans 4 the entire story of Genesis 15 is in Paul’s mind.
AD70 and 135 brought the implicit narrative of Judaism to a grinding halt; from that point it was replaced by a de-historicized approach. However, in Paul’s day, people still acted in terms of this thick and powerful implicit narrative. Creation was fundamental to this underlying narrative, as was covenant. We should always beware of substituting other controlling narratives for that of Paul. Many of the problems in the interpretation of Paul arise from the imposition of such alien narratives on Paul, whether they are the narratives of the 16th century or more contemporary narratives.
The Theological Underpinnings of Creation and Covenant
There are many biblical relationships drawn between the themes of creation and covenant. Psalm 19 is one example. This psalm divides into two separate halves. Verses 1-6 speaks of the glory of creation, giving particular attention to the place of the sun. Verses 7 to the end are concerned primarily with the Torah. What the sun does in creation is done by the Torah in the midst of Israel. This psalm proclaims that Israel is the unique people of the Creator God. In Psalm 74 we find a lament. When everything is crashing around, the Israelites look back to Genesis 1 and also meditate upon God’s power exercised on Israel’s behalf in the past.
Further connections between the themes of creation and covenant can be seen when we observe that the promises to Abraham echo the commands given to Adam. Abraham’s family is both part of the problem and its solution. In Deuteronomy we see the convergence of themes of creation and covenant in terms of the land. Blessings and curses are promised on the land when Israel is obedient or disobedient. Once again, in Isaiah 40-66 we see these themes together. The foundation for the section is seen in chapter 40 where God is set forth as the Creator. Throughout the chapters the themes intertwine. For example, when we look at the language of Isaiah 55:10f. we see connections between covenant and creation imagery.
The Creator God is the covenant God and the covenant God is the Creator God. All other parts of the biblical narrative take their roots in these two themes. The covenant is there to solve the problems of creation. God will sort out the world through Israel. Interestingly, when problems occur within the covenant, it is often creation that is evoked to sort them out. Something is amiss both with the creation and with the covenant. We could arrive at the same account by a study of Paul’s contemporaries. God must engage in a showdown with the forces of evil in the world.
Paul’s reuses of Israel’s literature bears a ‘family likeness’ with others of his own day. The ‘righteousness of God’ — dikaiosune theou — is central to Paul’s approach to the problems within the covenant and the creation. The Creator God can be relied upon to set things to rights. Wright admits that he ‘comes and goes’ between understanding the righteousness of God primarily in terms of ‘justice’ and understanding it primarily in terms of ‘covenant faithfulness’.
The covenant is the ‘hidden presupposition’ of Israel’s literature. A number of scholars have failed to recognize the controlling role of covenant in biblical thought. Much of this problem arises from the fact that the word ‘covenant’ is seldom deployed in Scripture. We should always remember that although exegesis needs the concordance, it cannot be governed by the concordance.
Creation and Covenant in Paul
The themes of creation and covenant in Paul will be examined through a study of three key passages.
We should accept Pauline authorship of this passage and for Colossians as a whole. The arguments raised against Pauline authorship are generally specious and unconvincing. In Colossians 1:15-20 we can see the combination of the themes of creation and covenant. The passage falls into two halves, much as Psalm 19 does. In the first half it is creation that is focused upon; in the second half it is redemption. The Creator God is also the redeeming covenant God.
Paul plays on the meaning of Genesis 1. The many dimensions of the words ‘in the beginning’ are explored in terms of Christ’s headship, priority, resurrection, pre-eminence, etc. Jesus is the point at which creation and covenant come together. They come together in the form of an event — the death of Christ. This is what lies at the heart of the radical position of the Apostle Paul’s theology.
1 Corinthians 15
In this passage Paul appeals to Genesis 1-3 in the light of Christ’s work. He speaks of the relationship between Adam and Christ and alludes to other creational passages, like Psalm 8. Paul also draws on parts of Genesis 1 to explain the character of resurrection physicality; he speaks of stars, dust, grain, beasts, fish and birds (vv.35-49). Paul points out that the resurrection body is not merely in the image of God, but is in the pattern of the resurrected Messiah. Once again we witness the convergence of themes of creation and covenant.
When one is well into the last quarter of a lecture it is daring to bring forward a large passage, but the third passage is Romans 1-11. We can divide this into a number of sections. Romans 1:18-4:25 — Wright remains convinced that this is the first major section as opposed to 1:18-5:11, as some others have argued — shows that sinful mankind have failed to give God his due. At this point Saul of Tarsus would point to the covenant. However, in 2:17 Paul turns this argument on its head. A crisis is created for God Himself. How is God going to be faithful to His promises? In 3:21 onwards we see that God has unveiled His solution to the problem of sin in creation and in the covenant people in Jesus Christ.
In Romans 4 Abraham is not used as a prooftext, nor as an example of a ‘Christian before Christ’. Abraham was the head of the covenant and it is for this reason that Paul speaks of him in Romans 4. [Wright recalls the ripples of laughter than occurred among his students in Oxford when he expressed this position. He found out that they had just come from Sanders’ class. Sanders had argued that the use of Abraham in Romans 4 was merely a result of Paul’s use of his ‘mental Septuagint concordance’.] Genesis 15 is foundational for Romans 4. In this chapter we see the implicit renewal of creation. The faith of Abraham is presented as the reversal of the problem of the Fall, as seen in Romans 1. Abraham’s faith is the ‘advance sign’ of creation’s restoration. Abraham’s faith points forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Significantly, Paul broadens the promise to Abraham (4:13). This is then explored in the next four chapters. Both the problems of the creation and the problems of the covenant have been taken up in Jesus Christ.
Christ’s obedience has more than reversed the sin of Adam. We see this in Romans 5. The question of the Law then comes up within this covenant/creation context. Through the Torah, Israel has recapitulated the sin of Adam. The Torah shows up one’s secret sins. However, in Romans 8 we find the answer to Romans 7. The fulcrum of Paul’s argument is found in Romans 8:3-4; through Jesus Christ God has accomplished the goals of the covenant. Covenant renewal must result in new creation. The theme of new creation is prominent in Romans 8.
In Romans 9, Paul begins a lament (this might remind us of Psalm 74). In thinking about the problem of Israel, Paul retells the covenant narrative, seeking to give an account of the dikaiosune theou. Israel was ignorant of the righteousness of God and was seeking to establish itself in the right. In Romans 10 Paul articulates covenant renewal. He expounds Deuteronomy 30. The message shows that the whole world has become the holy land, claimed by the gospel. Surprise, surprise, in verse 18 Paul quotes Psalm 19: covenant renewal reclaims creation order. In Romans 11 we see the connection again. After Paul has dealt with the great problem of Israel he erupts into praise of God (11:33-36). The themes that he focuses on are themes that are particularly associated with God’s work in creation.
In the light of these three passages we see that we are justified in reading Paul in terms of covenant and creation. For Paul creation goes on to new creation and covenant to new covenant, but these fundamental categories are not abandoned.
If we have grasped the import of all of this we will see the folly of those who divide up Paul in terms of the themes of sin and forgiveness and the problem of Israel. This sort of approach is seen in Westerholm who provides a ‘splendid statement of the wrong point of view’. The NPP has often been at fault for failing to demonstrate the manner in which the issue of sin and forgiveness and the Jew and Gentile issue are integrated within a larger narrative for Paul. We can briefly outline this narrative as follows:—
First. God makes a covenant with Abraham in order to deal with the problem of evil in creation and in His image-bearers.
Second. Abraham’s descendents, who share both in the evil and the image-bearing task of the rest of humanity, nonetheless begin to think that they have some exclusive claim on God.
Third. When God fulfils the covenant, this has the effect of dealing with evil, providing forgiveness, renewing creation and bringing together Jew and Gentile.
Justification in the present is God’s declaration that people are in the right in advance of, and as a means towards, His putting the whole of the creation to rights.
Paul operates in terms of a far larger narrative than most of his readers. The two emphases that are so often torn apart [Jew/Gentile issue and sin and forgiveness issue] are really part of the same thing. God’s dealing with the problem of individual sin and His creation of a worldwide family demand to be thought of together and spoken of in the same breath. So much of contemporary theology has taken Paul apart through a failure to appreciate the story that underlies his theology. Appreciating the narrative of creation and covenant can help us put him back together.
Are you speaking of creation or humanity being put to rights? What about tsunamis and volcanoes? What shape will this all take?
Just read Polkinghorne! Wright claims not to have a particular blueprint. There is much that is unknown here. We must appreciate that the fate of creation as a whole is mysteriously bound up with the fate of humanity — God’s image-bearers. Some cutting edge physicists have spoken of strange interrelations between mankind and the cosmos. [Wright points out that he doesn’t know enough about this research or about the field in general to be able to say much on this issue. He merely tossed it in as something of interest.] When humans are put to rights, creation will share in this. We must beware of the dualism that infects many forms of the faith.
Are the signs concerning Jesus’ Second Coming being fulfilled in our own day? Do you expect Jesus to come back soon?
No. Presumably passages such as Matthew 24 are underlying this question and Wright says (graciously!) that he would take a different approach to interpreting them.
John Milbank: Is Wright merely attempting to reconcile a Lutheran perspective on justification with an account of justification as creating a new political order (bringing together of Jews and Gentiles)? Why not take a more ‘Catholic’ approach — justification as participation in the body of Christ, focusing on Baptism, the Eucharist and the Church as the new society — bringing together these themes within a greater synthesis?
Yes. Justification cannot be isolated from other themes such as participation, the Church, Baptism, etc. Many of Paul’s interpreters have tried to isolate the various themes in Romans and have ended up with their fingers burnt when they bring the same approach to Galatians, where such isolation of themes is far less easy. We should, however, beware of overloading the word ‘justification’. A number of contemporary scholars have taken the approach that we can make words do whatever we want, so long as we pay them extra on Fridays! We must remember that, when Paul uses the word ‘justification’, he uses it with quite a definite meaning.
When interacting with opposing views, should we engage at the level of ‘bird’s eye views’ or at the level of exegetical method?
Most biblical scholars are ISTJs. Many of them love to reduce something to its smallest elements, without much thought of how they are ever going to put it back together again. Wright is an ENFJ. Although some might dismiss the Myers-Briggs test as mere popular psychology, it does point to real differences between personalities. These personalities can be reflected in the manner in which we approach the text. Romans was not written to be cut down into ever smaller parts and analyzed that way. Of course, such scholars are needed, but it is important that we appreciate the relationship between the whole and the parts, the forest and the trees. Some scholars have so atomized such books as Galatians that they forget that it is a single coherent argument. When engaging with opposing views a constant to and fro is necessary.
Creation and CovenantUniversity of Nottingham 5:30p.m., 2nd March 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
A lot has been said on the blogosphere since I last checked in. I don’t have the time or patience to trawl through everything, so I have just checked a handful of my favourite blogs. The following are just a few of the highlights that I have come across. Andrew Stager’s post, The Semi-Pelagian Narrower Catechism, on Manila Drive made me laugh. A number of the posts from Peter Leithart’s blog that I could access through Google cache were fantastic. Unfortunately, although I was able to read the first few tantalizing lines of a number of his posts on Bloglines, I was not able to access a number of them. While I was offline, Kevin Bush (who runs one of the most useful websites I have ever come across — it gets a plug in Wright’s latest book) e-mailed me one of Leithart’s posts on the subject of “Yahweh’s Field of Battle”. Here is the Google cache of the post. It helps to clarify some of the issues surrounding the concentration of sin in Israel, which Wright has argued for. Much, of course, still remains to be explained. There are many other dimensions of this gathering together of sin. I am convinced that this process operates on many different levels. One of the crucial things that need to be articulated in more detail is the manner in which the giving of the Law is constitutive of an entire new world order, even beyond the boundaries of Israel. The nations must be redefined around Israel in a manner that makes the nations and Israel mutually constitutive — the problem of the world becoming focused in the problem of Israel and the solution, as it is worked out in Israel, impacting upon the nations as a whole. Of course, this is just the ‘one and the many’ problem again. Reading The Eucharist Makes the Church has given me some new idea to play with on this subject. I asked Wright about the manner in which the problem of the world becomes concentrated in Israel and the role that the sacrificial system might play I this after his lecture on “Covenant and Creation” a few weeks ago. He didn’t really have much to say on the issue, largely due to the fact that he needed to leave quickly. I have touched on this issue on a number of occasions in the past (in my posts on the atonement — I, II, III, IV, and in other posts like this and this), but I am still trying to work towards putting flesh onto the bones of Wright’s claims. Matt Colvin has some cool stuff from David Daube on the Passover (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). He also has a useful post on the character of the Pharisee’s legalism and some interesting comments on 2 Corinthians 3. Michael Pahls has some helpful things to say on the subject of “Hermeneutics, Ecclesiology, and the Perspicuity of the Scriptures” (1, 2, 3, 4). Joel Garver has some excellent postings: Forgiveness and Time; No Shadow of Turning, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Alex Arnold has written some great material over the last few weeks. The following are some of his particularly interesting posts: Osteentatius; Evangelicalism’s Idolatry; Two Sides of the Wrong Coin. Dennis Hou’s blog, Smilax has just been exalted to the pantheon of ‘Favourite Blogs’. One more thing: I tried to comment on Dave Armstrong's response to my material on transubstantiation just before I stopped blogging for Lent but it didn't work for some reason. My comments can be found in 'post 3' here. I have also started to get spam in my comments — very annoying.
Many days have passed and now I return to the blogosphere. Much has transpired in the last few weeks and casting my mind back requires considerable effort. I have grown quite accustomed to being offline. In some senses returning is almost a disappointment. I would not be surprised if my blog will take a subtly different form from now on. I trust that, by God’s grace, I will be able to harness it more effectively, making it subservient to deeper aims and principles, no longer a master of my use of time and energy. The last few weeks boasted the particular highlights of a weekend spent with some Polish friends in Wales and a visit to Nottingham with Elbert to attend an N.T. Wright lecture. I will post extended notes from the lecture sometime in the next couple of days. We also had a very enjoyable church visit to Llandudno (north Wales) just over a week or so ago. While I was visiting my friends in Wales for the weekend I took the opportunity to reread Wright’s doctoral thesis, The Messiah and the People of God. I will probably post some quotes from the thesis some time in the next few weeks. Observing the consistency of Wright’s position in 1980 with his present position was interesting. More than once I was struck by the thought that Wright has been thinking along these lines for longer than I have been alive. I sometimes wonder how far my theology will move in the next twenty years. Will there be any seismic changes in my approach, or will I be primarily concerned with honing a position that I have already pretty much settled upon? I had to give a number of talks over the last few weeks on various subjects. It is hard to fit reading, studying and detailed preparation into a week in which most evenings after work are occupied with meetings or social activities of some type or other. My Greek and Hebrew revision has suffered somewhat. At present I have over 200 pages of a PhD thesis to check for spelling and grammar. My grammar leaves something to be desired; unfortunately, grammar did not seem to be on the curriculum in the schools that I attended. The limited grammar that I now possess was gained by a process of osmosis. I also have to give some thoughts on the theology of the thesis — a task for which I feel more equipped. This afternoon I will most likely be checking an essay for a Korean friend. Tomorrow I return to work. I had been hoping to start into the second year of a BA course in theology in the University of Durham in September. I received a rejection letter a couple of weeks ago. I visited the city in December and got to meet Jeff Steel and Kevin Bywater. I fell in love with the city and was also greatly anticipating the opportunity to get to know Jeff and Kevin better. Unfortunately, it was not to be. I am now thinking more in the direction of an MA course in Divinity in the University of Edinburgh or the University of St. Andrews. I have unconditional acceptances for second-year entry into either of these courses (the courses are four years in length, which is a little daunting). Please pray for wisdom for me as I consider which way I ought to go. I would also appreciate any advice that people can give me that would aid me in my decision. I want to be of use in our Lord’s service, but I still don’t even have the vaguest idea of the place where He would have me to be (long term or short term). I have been greatly held back by illness and various false starts over the last few years and on occasions I feel as if I have already missed the boat somehow. I have watched a few good films over the last few weeks. I enjoyed Lost in Translation. Watching The Incredibles again was fun. I was a little disappointed by Luther. I felt that the film gave an airbrushed portrait of the man. As far as I remember, Luther didn’t drink once in the entire film. I also did not feel that the film presented us with much to go on regarding the thought of the man, that which makes him so significant. He even thumped his Bible on one occasion. I wondered whether someone was trying too hard to make Luther palatable to a Southern Baptist audience. The film ended by mentioning the huge number of people who follow the Christian faith as Luther understood it; one imagines that Luther himself would feel that his name is being taken in vain. I have mixed feelings about Amelie: there was much that I enjoyed, but I felt that it was far too amoral in places. I read a number of books. I finished reading Gene Wolfe’s The Fifth Head of Cerberus. The book deserves a number of readings and I imagine that I will return to it some time in the future. I also finished reading Marva Dawn’s Unfettered Hope. I often disagree with Dawn, but her books and lectures are always stimulating and thought-provoking. I highly recommend Unfettered Hope. Gaines Redd has started a review of the book here. Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is a very well-written book, when one has got beyond the language. I would imagine that contemporary British literature is more expletive-ridden than contemporary American literature. This certainly seems to hold for films. The Curious Incident is a very moving story, told from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s Syndrome. I read The Name of the Rose for the first time. I can’t remember being so absorbed in a book for some time. Baudolino is also an immensely enjoyable read. Although it is not as good as The Name of the Rose, it still provides the reader with much to ponder. I was quite sorry that I had to finish both of them. Reading Eco’s Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation alongside these two books was interesting. There are points in Mouse or Rat? where Eco reflects on William Weaver’s translation of his works and the things that were lost and gained in the process. Guy Waters’ Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul is terrible. The bulk of the book is devoted to a descriptive account of the teaching of various NPP authors. This descriptive account is probably the best part of the book. It is fairer than most and relatively well-informed. However, when Waters begins to express his own critical thoughts on the NPP, the book quickly goes downhill. A number of his charges against Wright in particular are patently ridiculous to anyone who has studied Wright on his own terms, rather than reading him through the lens of 16th and 17th century debates. I was disappointed as I was honestly hoping for a fairer and more insightful critique. Such a critique would be a welcome addition to the current debates. Ralph Smith’s Trinity and Reality is a helpful introduction to the Christian worldview. It is ideal for teenagers who want to explore the claims of the Christian faith. I will probably buy a number of copies of this book to pass on to other people. Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization is a great read. Having lived in Ireland for most of my life, I have a deep love for the country and its people. It is inspiring and encouraging to read of God’s superintending of crisis points in history and the manner in which He powerfully used the people of one tiny nation. I reread James Jordan’s Through New Eyes for the second or third time. The world would be a better place if everyone read Jordan. I also read his booklets Crisis, Opportunity and the Christian Future and his Theses on Worship. I highly recommend both of these, particularly Theses on Worship. Although I still have to be convinced by certain of the positions that Jordan presents in Crisis, Opportunity and the Christian Future, I felt that it was attempting to do something that really needs to be done. I would appreciate any recommendations for more reading on Christian ways of discerning patterns in history. Reading this booklet has encouraged me once again to get into the work of Rosenstock-Huessy, an author I have yet to become acquainted with. I read Wright’s most recent book, Scripture and the Authority of God a few days ago. Whilst there is a lot of great material in it, I am not sure that it delivered on the promise of his earlier article, “How Can the Bible be Authoritative?”. I will probably post some comments on the book over the next few weeks. Wright’s formidable gift of illustration is still much in evidence here and much of what he has to say is insightful and useful, but one feels, when one ponders the basic premise of the book, that there is a lot of unfulfilled potential. Paul McPartlan’s The Eucharist Makes the Church: Henri de Lubac and John Zizioulas in Dialogue is a stunning book. Anyone who appreciated Being As Communion should get their hands on it. I will probably post quite a bit on this book in the coming weeks. Now that I have finished reading it, I intend to brush up on my French while reading Zizioulas’ L’être ecclesial. Catholicism and Catholicity also contains some interesting essays on the Eucharist, although it is not as good as I had originally hoped. The contributors include Fergus Kerr, Catherine Pickstock, William T. Cavanaugh and Mary Douglas. At present I am working through Essays on the Lord’s Supper by Oscar Cullmann and F.J. Leenhardt. There are a number of areas in which I disagree with them, but I might post some thoughts from my reading in the next few weeks. Some time in the next few days I might comment on some of the outstanding posts that others have blogged while I have been offline. I still have to catch up on them though.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?