Author Topic: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered  (Read 23274 times)

bmj

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #150 on: July 30, 2007, 03:06:35 AM »
This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected.

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

It is interesting read the words of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, who oversees 9 million Anglicans.

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6002

"The Bible cannot appear to us a cadaver, merely to be dissected, analyzed, and critiqued, as has been the practice of much modern higher biblical criticism. Certainly we engage in biblical scholarship and criticism, but what is important to us is the power of the Word of God precisely as the Word of God—written to bring transformation in our lives, our families, our communities, and our culture."

(Of course he says many other interesting things in the link.  I just found the contrast in language and differing views of scripture to be fascinating.)
« Last Edit: July 30, 2007, 03:15:58 AM by bmj »

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #151 on: July 31, 2007, 10:11:44 PM »
Yes, the creeds do limit the ways that the Scriptures may be properly interpreted.  It's one of their primary functions.  A lot of effort, courage and concern for the flock went into their formulation, and God has used them for thousands of years to properly form the members of His Church.  I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure.
I haven't said whether the formative function was good or bad. I'm stating that some of those later formulations are not included in scriptures as clearly as when formed later.

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Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.
Yes, the creeds need to be used.

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If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.
When Mark is read without the corrective of the creeds, it can be interpreted as promoting adoptionism. Whether or not Mark intended an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, we don't know.

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Here, James does need to be understood in his relation to Paul (and the rest of Scripture, too) in order to be understood rightly.  If you would rather claim that James teaches the divine doctrine that salvation is not by grace through faith alone but by works, you are denying the heart of the Gospel.
Why does James need to be understood in his relation to Paul? Why shouldn't James be understood as James -- probably in opposition to Paul. (Paul and Peter had their disagreements.)

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Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?

Now you are proving my point by imposing a doctrine: "justification by grace through faith" into biblical writings where they may not fit. This is not a denial of justification by grace through faith, but recognizing that, for instance, "Matthew," may not be as Lutheran we'd like him to be. (Roman Catholics tend to like Matthew.)

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Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture. 

Our confession of faith states that God inspired scriptures, not that God wrote them.

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This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.

I let scriptures interpret scriptures primarily through word studies. My Greek concordances is one of the most used resources I have. However, sometimes those word studies lead be to conclude that different authors use words in different ways.

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And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.
Jesus' teaching is not necessarily exactly the same as Matthew's story of Jesus or Mark's story of Jesus, etc. Each gospel presents Jesus in slightly different ways.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #152 on: July 31, 2007, 10:14:43 PM »
In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism.

St. Mark 1:1. 

I know, pick your ancient manuscripts; some do not include "the Son of God."  Yet even most modern scholars do, contrary to your bald assertion.

Hercules was a "son of God". After Julius Caesar was deified, his adopted son, Augustus, was called "son of God". Thus, the title "son of God" at the time of Mark did not indicate two natures.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Steven Tibbetts

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #153 on: August 01, 2007, 02:17:57 AM »
Hercules was a "son of God". After Julius Caesar was deified, his adopted son, Augustus, was called "son of God". Thus, the title "son of God" at the time of Mark did not indicate two natures.

Hercules was son of a god.  I suppose Octavian would have been, too.

Your original statement was, "In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism."  Calling him "Son of God" is a statement about his divinity.  By itself, it does not necessitate the doctrine of Christ's two natures.

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ptmccain

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #154 on: August 01, 2007, 07:29:37 AM »
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?

Charles_Austin

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #155 on: August 01, 2007, 07:34:48 AM »
Pastor McCain asks:
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?

I suggest:
Because for some of us, inquiry is not "anti-biblical," but "pro-Biblical," helping us to better understand the scriptures. It is your assessment that they are anti-Biblical, not mine.

ptmccain

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #156 on: August 01, 2007, 07:42:22 AM »
Denying the teaching of Scripture is an odd way of being pro-Biblical.

Are you being "pro-Biblical" when you deny what Christ our Lord and His Apostles taught and believed?

Once more we notice an approach to the Scriptures that regards it being more akin to Aesop's Fables than the God-breathed Word of the Living God.

ROB_MOSKOWITZ

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #157 on: August 01, 2007, 10:39:51 AM »
Denying the teaching of Scripture is an odd way of being pro-Biblical.

Are you being "pro-Biblical" when you deny what Christ our Lord and His Apostles taught and believed?

Once more we notice an approach to the Scriptures that regards it being more akin to Aesop's Fables than the God-breathed Word of the Living God.

Its the post modern interpretation shell game, hermeneutic of smoke and mirrors that allows church officials to make statements such as "I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God" and still consider themselves fellow lutherans and members of the body of Christ. 

But yes you are correct it is unconfessional.   

Next of course is the accusation that anyone who disagrees is committing "Biblio idolatry".   

Big tent vs church essentially.

Rob Moskowitz
« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 10:05:22 PM by ROB_MOSKOWITZ »

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #158 on: August 01, 2007, 11:10:48 AM »
I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure.
I haven't said whether the formative function was good or bad. I'm stating that some of those later formulations are not included in scriptures as clearly as when formed later.

That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.

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Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.

Yes, the creeds need to be used.

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If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.

When Mark is read without the corrective of the creeds, it can be interpreted as promoting adoptionism. Whether or not Mark intended an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, we don't know.

So the creeds need to be used, and if we don't use them, we come up with another teaching on who Jesus is.  That's true.

Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements.  

So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another.  

Like I've been pointing out, the question is not whether you will read using a doctrine or set of doctrines; rather, the question is simply which doctrine or set of doctrines you will use.

And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.

Otherwise, rather than being any type of an "ecumenical" Christian, you become a schismatic and encourage strife and dissension as you re-fight battles that were decided long ago (look at the controversy this spurs on this board if nowhere else).  This is not something that Christians should do -- start conflicts with each other based upon idle speculation or a desire to re-fight battles already decided.  Paul has something to say about such in Rom 16:17.

Why does James need to be understood in his relation to Paul? Why shouldn't James be understood as James -- probably in opposition to Paul. (Paul and Peter had their disagreements.)

Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?


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Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?


Now you are proving my point by imposing a doctrine: "justification by grace through faith" into biblical writings where they may not fit. This is not a denial of justification by grace through faith, but recognizing that, for instance, "Matthew," may not be as Lutheran we'd like him to be. (Roman Catholics tend to like Matthew.)

Like I've repeatedly said, it's not whether you read using doctrine, but which doctrine you use. 

You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.

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Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture. 

Our confession of faith states that God inspired scriptures, not that God wrote them.

What distinction are you making?  That the God who inspired (breathed) Scriptures is not considered their author?  My position is simply that God is 100% the author of Scripture and the human authors are 100% the authors of Scripture.  Here the analogy of the divine and human nature of Christ is appropos.  Christ is both fully God and fully human; the Scriptures are fully breathed / authored by God and fully human writings. 

Do note that I do not include "error" or "sin" as essentially part of what it means to be human; that's a later consequence of the Fall that has already been remedied and will finally be put to rest on the Last Day.

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This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.


I let scriptures interpret scriptures primarily through word studies. My Greek concordances is one of the most used resources I have. However, sometimes those word studies lead be to conclude that different authors use words in different ways.

Leaving aside the fallacies associated with only or principally using word studies, this brings up an important question -- that of the canon.  Christians have agreed that these particular writings definitively and sufficiently embody what it takes to properly understand what Jesus did and so what it means to be a Christian.  If you did not have the OT, Matthew and the entire NT would be, quite literally, incomprehensible.  That's why context is of such importance.  God gave us a lot of context to understand who Jesus is -- the entire history of Israel, in fact.  If He thought that this was necessary to be able to grasp what He was going to do to save the world through His Son, why should we think any differently?

Likewise, with the NT, we have a full picture of who Jesus was, what he did on our behalf, and how God now relates to us.  One gospel writing would not be enough to get this full picture.  That's why we have four.  Likewise, a single letter from Paul or James cannot properly give us this picture; that's why we have many.  It is in their interrelation and only in their interrelation that a full and not a partial or incomplete picture emerges.

This leaves us in a hermeneutical circle where the whole is always helping to understand the part even as the part is helping to understand the whole.  This is just a statement of how life works.

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And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.
Jesus' teaching is not necessarily exactly the same as Matthew's story of Jesus or Mark's story of Jesus, etc. Each gospel presents Jesus in slightly different ways.

Yes, each gospel does present Jesus is different ways.  That's why we do get neither a complete nor a sufficient picture of Jesus from any one gospel.  Rather, we do understand Jesus properly by inter-relating the four gospels along with the other Christian writings in the NT as well as through a proper understanding of the OT.


To return again to the main point, it is not if you will read with a doctrine but rather with which doctrine you will read.  Why you would want to eschew Christian assumptions (as found in the creeds, for example) and start from non-Christian assumptions is beyond me.  It is even stranger to think that doing so will help interpret the Christian scriptures.  However, doing so leads to dissension and strife because this leads to the proclamation and teaching of another Gospel.  The entire narrative changes; the entire set of doctrine changes.  And so the message that is to be proclaimed, the message by which we are saved changes.

Another Gospel.
« Last Edit: August 01, 2007, 11:25:41 PM by Scott._.Yaki mow »

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #159 on: August 02, 2007, 03:28:25 AM »
Your original statement was, "In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism."  Calling him "Son of God" is a statement about his divinity.  By itself, it does not necessitate the doctrine of Christ's two natures.
You are right about my statement. What I was thinking was Mark's narrative of Jesus' life, suffering, death, empty tomb. Mark 1:1 is the narrator's preface to the story, but not the narrative of Jesus' ministry.

I also note that in the Greek, there is no definite article. It could just as correctly be translated "a son of God". The same is true in 15:39 with the centurion's confession -- no article. As such, it could be interpreted as putting Jesus in the same category as Hercules or Augustus or other "sons of God(s)" in Greek and Roman mythology. The way the traditional developed into the creeds and the doctrine of the two natures, however, speaks against that interpretation, (even if it may have been what Mark intended).
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #160 on: August 02, 2007, 03:40:39 AM »
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?
Nothing is anti-biblical. It may be anti-doctrinal. The two are not the same. One can certainly read and interpret Matthew and James as promoting the necessity of works for salvation. Contrary to Lutheran doctrine, James says "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" in 2:24 (ESV!).

"Justification through faith alone" is a doctrinal statement. It is not found in scriptures.
"Justification by works and not by faith alone" is a biblical statement.

Which one should have precedence?

"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #161 on: August 02, 2007, 03:42:55 AM »
Its the post modern interpretation shell game, hermeneutic of smoke and mirrors that allows church officials to make statements such as "I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God" and still consider themselves fellow lutherans and members of the body of Christ.
Can you give a reference of a church official actually making that statement. If not, you are bearing false witness.

I have and will say that we are not saved by the Bible, but we are saved by God or God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #162 on: August 02, 2007, 04:36:20 AM »
That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.
I have said that I am sure that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. I am not so sure how accurate the stories about the resurrection appearances are.

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Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements. 

Not quite. I think that adoptionism was a trajectory that came out of studying the text -- primarily Mark. Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view. The trajectory that developed into the creeds considered what was in all of the gospels.

Let's take another issue that is not yet creedal among all Christians: theology of glory vs. theology of the cross. Those who maintain a theology of glory find that coming out of their study of particular scripture verses. A lead article in the July 20, 2007 issue of The Christian Century is called: "The Prosperity Gospel in Africa: Expecting Miracles," by Paul Gifford. His opening paragraph:

Though virtually all forms of Christianity in Africa are experiencing explosive growth, the churches growing most spectacularly are the ones that are Pentecostal or neo-Pentecostal or "Pentecostal-like." After 23 years of visiting African churches, I would venture another generalization: the growing Pentecostal churches have one thing in common -- a focus on achieving success. Discussing african Pentecostalism without discussing its emphasis on success is like discussing computers without mentioning software. (p. 20)

I am certain that this "success" gospel comes from reading particular texts -- and it sells well. I remember reading about Reverend Ike in the U.S. who promote a gospel of success as he rode around in his Rolls Royce. "If you truly believe, God will give you success." How many churches preach a less flamboyant version of that gospel -- which is backed up by scripture verse after scripture verse?

That is a biblical trajectory. It is one that Lutherans have denied as authentic to the gospel -- the way of Jesus is where the divine his hidden in its opposite, in suffering and death. That is another trajectory for which biblical verses can be found to support it.

Doctrines flow out of scriptures, and they then become a filter for scripture interpretation (at least for those who believe the doctrine).

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So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another. 

True, and some biblical trajectories held by believers in Christ, lost the theological battles, e.g., gnosticism, Judaizers.

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And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.
Yes, I use that doctrine; however, when exegeting a passage, there is an attempt to place all biases aside -- including those created by doctrines and creeds. I have said at times in my "gospel notes," this passage is not very Lutheran, because its meaning does not square with our Lutheran doctrines. This doesn't change my beliefs in our doctrines or our creeds; but I recognize that scriptures do not have a nice, neat systematic theology that developed later in the life of the believers.


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Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?
I'm saying that we have to honestly read what James is saying. He says very clearly that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24). I believe that we see tensions within scriptures between different schools of thought. Paul and James represent two different faith communities and theologies in the early church. We know that Paul and Peter disagreed (Galatians 2). We read about a strong disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (perhaps over John Mark) so that they part company. The Bible does not present one nice, coherent theology, but many theologies. Of those many that are found there, some have been deemed "orthodox"; some have been deemed "Lutheran". If one truly approaches scriptures with an unbiased attitude, one will find non-orthodox and unLutheran interpretations.


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Like I've repeatedly said, it's not whether you read using doctrine, but which doctrine you use. 

I'm saying that a particular doctrine may not fit a particular passage of scriptures.


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You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.
Yes it is. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't say that scriptures will not contradict itself, but that it is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Those who over-emphasize God's actions in our salvation, so that we can just sit back and do nothing, probably need to be taught and corrected by James and Matthew, so that they are better equipped and motivated to do good works. Those who only define Christianity as living good, moral lives, need to be taught and corrected by Paul about the futility of good works and the necessity of grace.

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What distinction are you making?  That the God who inspired (breathed) Scriptures is not considered their author?  My position is simply that God is 100% the author of Scripture and the human authors are 100% the authors of Scripture.  Here the analogy of the divine and human nature of Christ is appropos.  Christ is both fully God and fully human; the Scriptures are fully breathed / authored by God and fully human writings.

And I frequently ask, who is the author of your sermons? Are they inspired writings/proclamations? If you do not believe that God breathes life into your sermons, why bother with them? They would be no different than a high school student reading a paper in class.


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Leaving aside the fallacies associated with only or principally using word studies, this brings up an important question -- that of the canon.  Christians have agreed that these particular writings definitively and sufficiently embody what it takes to properly understand what Jesus did and so what it means to be a Christian.  If you did not have the OT, Matthew and the entire NT would be, quite literally, incomprehensible.  That's why context is of such importance.  God gave us a lot of context to understand who Jesus is -- the entire history of Israel, in fact.  If He thought that this was necessary to be able to grasp what He was going to do to save the world through His Son, why should we think any differently?
We have the OT as a gift. However, when Paul preached to the Greeks, he didn't quote the OT at all. Rather he quoted writings familiar to the Greeks. Luke makes very little use of the OT in his story of Jesus. One can read it, understand much about Jesus without knowing the OT. Similarly with John. Most people probably don't recognize the parallels in John 1 with wisdom literature. (There we have a problem about which canon should we use. There are writings that are considered (deutero-)canonical by some Christians and not by others.)


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Likewise, with the NT, we have a full picture of who Jesus was, what he did on our behalf, and how God now relates to us.  One gospel writing would not be enough to get this full picture.  That's why we have four.  Likewise, a single letter from Paul or James cannot properly give us this picture; that's why we have many.  It is in their interrelation and only in their interrelation that a full and not a partial or incomplete picture emerges.
But if one tries to make them all say exactly the same thing, the interrelationship is lost. If the whole body were a foot, where would the body be? It's their differences, I find, that make synoptic studies so interesting. It is the tension between Paul and James that make them both come alive. It is seeing how Revelation adapts literally hundreds of OT images that help us make sense of that book of symbolism.

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To return again to the main point, it is not if you will read with a doctrine but rather with which doctrine you will read.  Why you would want to eschew Christian assumptions (as found in the creeds, for example) and start from non-Christian assumptions is beyond me.  It is even stranger to think that doing so will help interpret the Christian scriptures.  However, doing so leads to dissension and strife because this leads to the proclamation and teaching of another Gospel.  The entire narrative changes; the entire set of doctrine changes.  And so the message that is to be proclaimed, the message by which we are saved changes.
To repeat, the aim of the biblical critic is to approach scriptures as unbiasly as possible. It is precisely when I find a biblical text challenging me, that the bible really fulfills its God-breathed functions. If all I find are truths that I already know, the Bible hasn't taught me anything. It hasn't rebuked or corrected anything. A statement in the introduction of The Five Gospels is: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you" (p. 5). Such a Jesus is likely to be your own projection of Jesus rather than the one actually found in scriptures.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #163 on: August 02, 2007, 10:40:16 AM »
That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.
I have said that I am sure that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. I am not so sure how accurate the stories about the resurrection appearances are.

You still have not caught or responded to the force of my critique yet.  The force of my critique comes from quoting someone like Borg positively on the issue of the empty tomb.  According to your positive quotation of him, Borg says:

[Brian quoting Borg positively:]As I conclude this exposition of Easter, I return once more to the question of history or parable. As is apparent, I find these stories to be powerfully true as parables of the resurrection. it does not matter to me as a Christian whether any of them describe events that you or I could have witnessed. It does not matter to me whether the tomb was empty.

To Borg, and apparently to you as you seemed to be quoting him in order to support your point, the actual resurrection seems to be a "take-it-or-leave-it" occurrence.

Here comes the point that I started with in this thread and which I'm still not sure if you have caught because you have not yet reflected it: that is, the resurrection cannot be approached as a "take-it-or-leave-it-event" and have your theology still remain Christian.  Downgrading the central importance of this historical occurrence from something critical to Christian theology to a "take-it-or-leave-it" teaching betrays a doctrine whose very structure is no longer Christian.

Earlier, you said that you do agree with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith is in vain.  If this is true, do you agree that Borg is here both mistaken and misleading in that he does not appear to place any central importance upon the fact of the physical resurrection for the Christian faith (which is different from Paul, and as you said before, apparently yourself)?

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Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements. 


Not quite. I think that adoptionism was a trajectory that came out of studying the text -- primarily Mark. Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view. The trajectory that developed into the creeds considered what was in all of the gospels.

Actually, your first and third full sentences are just repeating what I said.  I said that it was one doctrinal trajectory "that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts."  The key point is that it's an errant trajectory because it cannot do justice to Mark's message.  That is, again, unless you are saying that Mark does teach Adoptionism and that such a teaching is God-breathed and so divine.  Are you saying that?

To go even further, Mark is also easily read in a non-Adoptionist manner which is one reason why orthodox, creedal Christianity never felt the need to jettison or "speak against" its canonicity, unlike books like James which are part of the "anti-legoumena" (those books spoken against yet ultimately accepted).  In fact, reading Mark properly (in a creedal, non-Adoptionist manner) results in increased meaning and profundity, not less.  The juxtaposition of the "Son of God" passages with the "Son of Man" passages becomes more powerful, as does Jesus' address to God as "Abba".

Now, I said that the first and third full sentences of yours were simply repeating what I said.  The second full sentence ("Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view") is not nuanced enough.  The notioin of a person being "adopted" as a "Son of God" was not foreign to the times.  This would actually have been a pre-existing category into which the story of Jesus could be shoehorned if someone wanted to; and obviously, such happened.

So your statement needs greater nuance to note the heremeneutical circle (or spiral) that is interpretation.  Adoptionist categories were present before Jesus, and the interplay between what Jesus did and these categories led to misinterpretations of who Jesus is.  That's one reason why it took so long and such careful study of the entire corpus of Christian Scripture to arrive at a right understanding of who Jesus was.  And I dare say that the categories they did finally arrive at were much less popular than those of Adoptionism and much more difficult to defend rationally -- after all, how can anybody be 100% God and 100% man united in a true personal union where he remains both God and man yet truly one person?  Chalcedonian Christology isn't exactly a stunning example of shoehorning biblical data into rationally defensible categories; rather its very structure reflects the existing biblical data as it is full of paradoxes.


Let's take another issue that is not yet creedal among all Christians: theology of glory vs. theology of the cross. Those who maintain a theology of glory find that coming out of their study of particular scripture verses.

<snip>

I am certain that this "success" gospel comes from reading particular texts -- and it sells well. I remember reading about Reverend Ike in the U.S. who promote a gospel of success as he rode around in his Rolls Royce. "If you truly believe, God will give you success." How many churches preach a less flamboyant version of that gospel -- which is backed up by scripture verse after scripture verse?

That is a biblical trajectory. It is one that Lutherans have denied as authentic to the gospel -- the way of Jesus is where the divine his hidden in its opposite, in suffering and death. That is another trajectory for which biblical verses can be found to support it.

Doctrines flow out of scriptures, and they then become a filter for scripture interpretation (at least for those who believe the doctrine).

Here, we are closer to agreement.  Add to your last statement the role of the proclamation of Christ and you have yourself a winner.

However, you do need to be stronger in pointing out how such "Gospels" (like the prosperity "Gospel" that is preached all over Africa [and here]) are really no Gospel at all.  I've seen people give all of their money to these "preachers" and descend even further into the depths of poverty than they ever were before, living in horrific slums like Kibera outside of Nairobi.  And when they come asking the preacher why God hasn't blessed the financial "seed" they sowed, the preacher invariable accuses them of lacking faith, even as he purchases a car for himself.  This needs to be identified for what it is -- another Gospel, one preached by a person who is only interested in their bellies and used to steal money from people.

So I'm glad that you agree with me that the point is not that you can back up your statements with particular Scripture passages but rather must have your message conform to what is truly the Christian message -- i.e., creedal Christianity (and I would add the Book of Concord, but that would complicate the discussion right now) -- or otherwise it is simply another Gospel, one which falls under Paul's condemnation in Galatians.


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So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another. 

True, and some biblical trajectories held by believers in Christ, lost the theological battles, e.g., gnosticism, Judaizers.

It's not just a matter of "winning" or "losing" a theological battle, unless you mean to say that the errant positions did not reflect the deep logic (or "depth grammar") of the Christian proclamation.  Creedal Christianity doesdo  justice to the Christian proclamation and the Scriptures; other doctrines do not.  That's why they "lost".


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« Last Edit: August 02, 2007, 11:02:00 AM by Scott._.Yaki mow »

scott3

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Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
« Reply #164 on: August 02, 2007, 10:40:28 AM »
[Post continued from above...]

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And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.
Yes, I use that doctrine; however, when exegeting a passage, there is an attempt to place all biases aside -- including those created by doctrines and creeds.

Major fallacy here -- you cannot be unbiased, and if you actually attained your goal of being unbiased, you would have lost all your reason to read and interpret in the first place.  If you were truly unbiased, reading this particular set of writings (the Bible) would no longer have any interest to you because what they had to say would become unimportant.  You only read the Bible because you are biased to think that you might learn something from it and that God might be speaking to you through it.  These are already powerful biases, and if you jettison these OR EVEN WANT TO JETTISON THEM you are misunderstanding what it means to be a Christian interpreter of Scripture.

We read the Bible because we are Christian.  We are biased because our lives have been grasped and transformed by Christ, and we want to learn more about who it is that did that and grow in our love and trust of him.  We also read the Bible so that the joy which we found in the Christian proclamation can overflow to others in a message that properly reflects what Jesus did and is doing. These are biases that should be embraced and reveled in, not eschewed or downplayed.

But in no case can you ever actually be unbiased.  To be so would be to think that you can achieve an even more-or-less situated position in life.  You are situated where you are as a created, finite human being and cannot escape that situatedeness.  You are not God; you are God's creature.  God has placed you in a situation where you see and understand based upon the categories that you already have, and most of the time, you don't even recognize what you see as a particular category but simply "the way things are".  It's like being a deep-sea fish that never comes to the surface and doesn't even know that it's living in the ocean -- rather, the world is simply what it is, and to think that there might be a terrifying place where there is no water doesn't even occur to you.

The "unbiased" approach is simply a cover for the will-to-power.  Rather than being honest and forthright about biases, such an approach attempts to deceive the hearers that your particular set of biases have some privileged position to which they do not have access.  As such, it is a rhetorical power-play and nothing more.

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Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?
I'm saying that we have to honestly read what James is saying.

I see that you did not answer my question.  If you are contending that James is really teaching that salvation is not by faith alone but by works as well, please come right out and say it.  Assuming that you accept James as inspired by God, that would mean that you believe that this is divine, God-inspired teaching as well.  Do you or don't you?

He says very clearly that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24).

If you're saying that James does teach that the central tenent of the Gospel is wrong -- that is, if you think that he is denying that we are justified by grace through faith -- you are misreading James.  Quite simply, James is speaking of something that Luther and Christians have always taught -- that faith is a living, active, powerful thing that issues forth in good works.  It is inconceivable that such a faith would not help the neighbor.  Of what benefit or advantage (ophelos) would that faith be?  Rather it would be dead.

I believe that we see tensions within scriptures between different schools of thought... The Bible does not present one nice, coherent theology, but many theologies. Of those many that are found there, some have been deemed "orthodox"; some have been deemed "Lutheran". If one truly approaches scriptures with an unbiased attitude, one will find non-orthodox and unLutheran interpretations.

<snip>


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You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.
Yes it is. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't say that scriptures will not contradict itself, but that it is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

If you are saying that Scripture is in fact God-breathed and it "contradicts" itself, then you are saying that God contradicts Himself.  Is this your contention? 

Rather, speak of complimentary doctrines, or if you want to sound more technical, speak of irremdiably vague governing doctrines (such as properly distinguishing Law and Gospel) that find their specificity in their actualy application.  There is nothing contradictory about such governing doctrines that take into account the situation and needs of the person being addressed.  Rather, governing doctrines like being a theologian of the cross or properly distinguishing Law and Gospel feed off of this encounter and help us to address the right Word of God to a particular person for that time.  It doesn't mean that the doctrines are contradictory or really even in tension; rather, it means that doctrine is a complex whole (that is why I sometimes use the word "narrative" to refer to this complex whole) out of which application flows.


And I frequently ask, who is the author of your sermons? Are they inspired writings/proclamations? If you do not believe that God breathes life into your sermons, why bother with them? They would be no different than a high school student reading a paper in class.

I am the author my sermons, and insofar as they agree with the inspired Word of God, my sermons are the proclamation of that Word as well.  So in this sense, yes, I agree that they are inspired.  But they are not written by an apostle or by a follower of one, neither have they been set apart by virtue of their universal usage in the Christian congregations of the Church and so are not paradigmatic instances of the proclamation like the Bible is and neither do they carry that authority. 

This is an easy, non-mysterious distinction to make.  God's Word is to be preached, to be proclaimed, and if I proclaim my words while purporting to proclaim God's Word, I put myself in a situation where I need to make sure that there aren't any millstones near at hand.  So yes, in a sense you can speak of the spoken Word being inspired, but this does not thereby make it equal or on a par with the biblical witness.  Rather, the biblical witness functions as a norm over the spoken Word, even as the spoken Word is privileged above the written Word in the order of salvation (ordo salutis) in that it is principally through the spoken Word (which includes the Sacraments) that God creates and nurtures faith.  The written Word (the Bible) is the source of the proclamation and norms it.  But both are the Word of God, even as Jesus himself is, in fact, the Word of God incarnate and so the one from whom the others "forms" of the Word derive.

If you understand this, it is easy to see how a sermon is, in fact, the spoken Word of God as long as it proclaims the same message that the written Word proclaims.  You also easily understand how what is normed (the sermon / spoken Word) does not itself become the norm (the written Word).  My sermons do not norm the Bible.  Neither does my practice of baptism or the Lord's Supper serve as a norm to judge the Bible's teaching on the issue.  Rather, Scripture is the source and the norm of the spoken Word even as the spoken Word is that which is principally used to bring salvation to folks.

Pretty simple, really.


We have the OT as a gift. However, when Paul preached to the Greeks, he didn't quote the OT at all. Rather he quoted writings familiar to the Greeks. Luke makes very little use of the OT in his story of Jesus. One can read it, understand much about Jesus without knowing the OT. Similarly with John. Most people probably don't recognize the parallels in John 1 with wisdom literature. (There we have a problem about which canon should we use. There are writings that are considered (deutero-)canonical by some Christians and not by others.)

Yet Paul did not settle for only using "writings familiar to Greeks" in the long run.  Look at the book of Romans.  There you find Paul engaging in scriptural exegesis (and basing his whole argument on that exegesis) to a Gentile congregation.  If you want to fully and sufficiently understand what God did, you need the entire corpus of Scripture.  Even basic Christian proclamation requires a knowledge of the biblical God of the OT.  That's one reason why, at the Aeropogus, when Paul gets to the resurrection of the dead (a biblical concept), the discussion breaks down.  They didn't buy it because they didn't have the proper categories.

But if one tries to make [the Scriptures] all say exactly the same thing, the interrelationship is lost. If the whole body were a foot, where would the body be? It's their differences, I find, that make synoptic studies so interesting. It is the tension between Paul and James that make them both come alive. It is seeing how Revelation adapts literally hundreds of OT images that help us make sense of that book of symbolism.

One doesn't have to adopt non-Christian categories of interpretation -- like Adoptionism, for example -- to properly understand the variety in the Scriptures.  Yes, like I said earlier, we have four Gospels because we need all four to give us a full and sufficient rendering of the life of Jesus.  But this is easily done without importing in non-Christian perspectives and assumptions as if these would somehow help us read our own Christian texts.

To repeat, the aim of the biblical critic is to approach scriptures as unbiasly as possible. It is precisely when I find a biblical text challenging me, that the bible really fulfills its God-breathed functions. If all I find are truths that I already know, the Bible hasn't taught me anything. It hasn't rebuked or corrected anything. A statement in the introduction of The Five Gospels is: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you" (p. 5). Such a Jesus is likely to be your own projection of Jesus rather than the one actually found in scriptures.

Why do you adopt the bias of desiring to be a "biblical critic"?  I agree that such would try to approach the Scriptures "as unbiasly as possible".  Of course, like I said above, this is a fallacy and really a cover for the will-to-power; it is simply a rhetorical power-play.  By maintaining such a myth, "biblical critics" do regularly deceive the people to keep their chairs in universities and other places even as the results of their work -- by your own admission -- do not serve the Church, the very people for whom the Scriptures were given in the first place.  Rather, their efforts serve themselves (many times out of a good, though misguided, heart!) frequently allowing them to maintain their academic "respectability" and so their chosen livelihood, or serve an idle speculation about what might have happened rather than engaging people with the message of redemption in Christ.

Why would you want to adopt the bias of a biblical critic?

As to finding where the text actually challenges you, that's easy.  It doesn't require a PhD or an MDiv or a BA or even a GED.  A child can find that out.  I read the 4th commandment to my kids from time to time, and they get the point.  My 6 year old son and I had a long conversation about baptism, our eventual deaths due to sin, but the hope of the resurrection as being the great hope.  He understood that he, too, will die, and he understood that is true because "the wages of sin is death".  But he also understood the greater hope that we have in what Jesus has done for us -- that even death will be overcome on the Last Day.

It is easy to be challenged by the Bible.  There is no reason to make it sound so mysterious or difficult.

As to finding a Jesus' congenial to yourself, hmmm.  My online observation of your apparent desire for ambiguity and your corresponding projection of such ambiguity upon God and His Word seems to correspond to your injunction.  Physician, heal thyself.

Though I will also agree that, being sinners, we all do this.  None of us want to let God be God and remain "merely" as His creatures.  But this is how we have, in fact, been created.  And we do praise God for it, and we will always praise God for it as we live with Him in eternity.
« Last Edit: August 02, 2007, 11:12:58 AM by Scott._.Yaki mow »