Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Trinity, Offices of Christ, Theories of Atonement: An Integral Model.

One of my major arguments in my book is that each person of the Trinity corresponds to each office of Christ.  Also, all three major atonement motifs are valid (read Luther's Catechisms!) and correspond to each office of Christ.  Here's my suggestion about how to work it out.  Tell me if you think this makes sense.

Person: The Father                     Office: King                              Atonement motif: Christus Victor

Person: The Son                          Office: Priest                            Atonement motif: Substitution 

Person: The Holy Spirit             Office: Prophet                        Atonement motif: Revealer (commonly called moral example)

I identify the Father with king because he is he fount of divinity and therefore divine sovereignty which the other two persons of the Trinity derive from him (obvious, by this I am not suggesting subordinationalism here!).  The Son is the priest, because just as the High Priest/Adam received all things from the God their vocation was to return them to God through a vocation of sacrifice.  So too the Son from eternity receives all things from the Father in an act of eternal begetting, in order return his being to the Father in the form of the breathing forth of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the agent of prophecy- so that one pretty much self-explanatory.

Update: To clarify the last view of atonement, I call it "Revealer" because I don't want to suggest that Christ's role as prophet primarily has to do with the law (as moral example implies). It is correct to say that Christ preached both law and gospel, but Christ's primary function is to reveal and deliver the gospel.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Modern Theologies of the Cross= Theologies of Glory.

Bethany asked me to expand on the comment I made regarding modern appropriation of the theology of the cross. Here's my response regarding Moltmann and Jungel. It's funny that she should have asked when I was working on the footnote:

"The major problem with recent so-called modern theologies of the cross is that they want to claim that the knowledge of God given in the cross can form a basis for the criticism and revision of classical theism. This is particularly true of Moltmann who insists that we can predicate suffering, passion, and mutability to the divine being because of the cross. In turn, Moltmann argues, we can then correspond to this suffering and solidarity with the oppressed through secular leftist political activism (what Gerhard Forde has referred to as a "negative" theology of glory). This entirely misses Luther's point, in that contrary to these thinkers, he is claiming that the divine attributes posited by classical theism are valid. The cross conceals these attributes of power and glory in order to humble us. If we could see the divine being through the cross, then for Luther the cross would lose its contradiction and paradox. It would be a matter of vision and not faith. In the same way, our proper response to the cross should not be the animation of political activism (though in the kingdom of the world this is certainly not bad), but rather the passivity of faith. In other words, Luther's point is exactly the opposite of these modern appropriations."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Luther's Theology of the Cross and the Theology of Glory: A Summary.

From chapter three of my book.

In his early work, The Heidelberg Disputation (1518), Luther distinguishes between two different sort of the theologians: a theologian of glory and a theologian of the cross.[1] Regarding the theologian of glory, Luther writes:

That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the "invisible" things of God as though they were clearly "perceptible in those things which have actually happened" (Rom. 1:20; cf. 1 Cor 1:21-25). This is apparent in the example of those who were "theologians" and still were called "fools" by the Apostle in Rom. 1:22. Furthermore, the invisible things of God are virtue, godliness, wisdom, justice, goodness, and so forth. The recognition of all these things does not make one worthy or wise.[2]

In other words, the theologian of glory looks to God apart from his Word and speculates about him through the created order. There are two aspects to this. First, epistemically speaking, this knowledge is a sort of knowledge that comes from vision, rather than hearing. According to Aristotelian epistemology (which Luther was trained in and mentions derisively in passing[3]) all human knowledge is described as a kind of intellectual vision. A person knows a thing because a sort of intellectual vision of a thing is imprinted on one's intellect.[4] Logically speaking then, from the perspective of this epistemology, the more one would contemplate God through the visible creation, the more one would become like God in that God's own reality would imprint itself upon one.

Generally speaking, this is how many medieval theologians described the divine human-relationship as actualizing itself. For Thomas Aquinas, creation and revelation together stand as an analogy to the divine being. By the power of grace, they become transparent to the human intellect. The human subject is made up of the faculties of memory, intellect, and will.[5] These correspond to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[6] The created habitus of faith augments intellect,[7] whereas memory is augmented by the habitus of hope[8] and will by the habitus of love.[9] These augmentations of the human faculty came about by an act of divine grace.[10] As these habitus become virtues when exercised and feed by divine grace.[11] They are divinely created qualities that make it possible for us to be pleasing to God and thereby finally participate in God's eternal act of self-knowledge.[12] God is best described by Aquinas as a desiring subject. He knows himself and loves himself because of his superabundance of being.[13] The more human become like him, the more pleasing they are and thereby can ascend to him. We can therefore see exactly what Luther means by the theology of glory. The human subject who knows God and thereby becomes like God in his majesty, can ascend to God because of his or her similarity and desirability to God. Luther condemns all of this.[14]

Note that there is no suggestion here on Luther's part that this does not constitute (from a purely epistemic perspective) a valid knowledge of God ("Yet that wisdom is not of itself evil, nor is the law to be evaded; but without the theology of the cross man misuses the best in the worst manner"[15]). Luther's point is that one who tries to interact with God through creation and law will ultimately enter into an unending project of self-deification and justification. [16] One will try to become like God to make a claim on God, as we can observe in the case of medieval theologians like Aquinas. This is, the essence of sin, namely the failure to be a receptive creature.

By contrast, the theologian of the cross holds to the flesh of Jesus where God hidden to vision in sufferings:

The manifest and visible things of God are placed in opposition to the invisible, namely, his human nature, weakness, foolishness. The Apostle in 1 Cor. 1:25 calls them the weakness and folly of God. Because men misused the knowledge of God through works, God wished again to be recognized in suffering, and to condemn "wisdom concerning invisible things" by means of "wisdom concerning visible things," so that those who did not honor God as manifested in his works should honor him as he is hidden in his suffering (absconditum in passionibus). As the Apostle says in 1 Cor. 1:21, "For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe." Now it is not sufficient for anyone, and it does him no good to recognize God in his glory and majesty, unless he recognizes him in the humility and shame of the cross. Thus God destroys the wisdom of the wise, as Isa. 45:15 says, "Truly, thou art a God who hidest thyself." So, also, in John 14:8, where Philip spoke according to the theology of glory: "Show us the Father." Christ forthwith set aside his flighty thought about seeing God elsewhere and led him to himself, saying, "Philip, he who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). For this reason true theology and recognition of God are in the crucified Christ, as it is also stated in John 10 (John 14:6) "No one comes to the Father, but by me." "I am the door" (John 10:9), and so forth.[17]

Luther's point here is clear. Whereas the theologian of glory becomes like God through activity and vision, the theologian of the cross becomes a receptive creature by faith and hearing. There is nothing attractive about the crucified Jesus. In his weakness and condemnation, he does not seem like God, who as we know from the created order, is glorious, powerful and righteous. In the same way, the person of faith does not look attractive as the person who does works. They admit their sins and appear guilty. Nevertheless, they are receptive as true creatures should be.[18] First, they see that their works are of no avail in light of cross.

Secondly, their knowledge of Christ comes by hearing and not by vision. God is not transparent in the cross (a mistake commonly made by modern proponents of the theology of cross[19]), but is rather "hidden in his suffering"[20] and therefore believe in on the basis of the Word. What this all appears to be a rejection of the Aristotelian concept of knowledge and virtue as being the basis of the divine-human relationship. The human being relies on the Word. The Word is not an analogy for a hidden invisible reality which thereby makes God's being transparent. Rather it tells us that all righteousness, glory, and power are hidden in Jesus and perceived only through hearing of faith. Later on in the Bondage of the Will (1525), Luther refined and expanded on this point by stating that God always acts under the form of his opposite: "“[t]hus when God makes alive he does it by killing, when he justifies he does it by making men guilty, when he exalts to heaven he does it by bringing down to hell.”[21] The creature does not, as in the Aristotelian epistemology, have a partial intellectual vision of God made transparent by revelation. Rather, one has a Word and promise which stand in contradiction to which is visible, namely the condemnation of the law. This contradiction humbles reason and destroys our ability to use it or our moral agency to ascend into the hidden divine life.[22] By this realize Luther comments that "I myself was offended more than once, and brought to the very depth and abyss of despair, so that I wished I had never been created a man, before I realized how salutary that despair was, and how near I was to grace.”[23] For this reason faith and receptivity to the divine Word are the proper stance of the creature in relation to divine hiddenness: "“Thus God hides his eternal goodness and mercy under eternal wrath, his righteousness under iniquity. This is the highest degree of faith, to believe him merciful when he saves so few and damns so many, and to believe him righteous when by his own will he makes us necessarily damnable.”[24]

In harmony with his instance that God only comes to us in a redeeming manner in the flesh of Christ and the reception of his tangible Word, is his condemnation of Enthusiasm. This particular emphasis that the Spirit only comes through the means of grace began in with his debates with Karlstadt and also Thomas M√ľntzer in the early 1520s.[25] Much as Luther had insisted earlier on finding God hidden in the tangible flesh of the crucified Jesus, he now emphasized the need to not look for God in utterance of those who claimed the intangible Spirit but rather in the external means of grace. Later in the Smalkald Articles (1537) Luther would comment that he saw very little daylight between the Enthusiasts, the Pope and the Serpent in the garden of the Eden. [26] All claimed the ability to know God's hidden will and drew people away from external Word. In this, Luther posits that Enthusiasm and unbelief (as we will see further below) are the original sin. In a sense, the "Heavenly Prophets" as Luther referred to them[27] were essentially of the same stripe as the theologians of glory that he had mentioned in 1518. Through the Spirit, without visible means, they claimed to have bridged the gap between themselves and the hidden divine will.[28]

We may go a step further than Luther and observe that Enthusiasm is a logical development from the theologian of glory's attempt to bridge the gap between themselves and God through the law. In other words, as we observed earlier, the act of promising is always an act of self-donation. If I promise to do such-and-such, then I give myself over to you in order to fulfill the terms of that promise. Promising always involving giving of the self to the other in a tangible way. If we understand the underling logic of Luther's position in this way, the gospel goes hand-in-hand with a strong concept of the Incarnation (God's surrender of his very being to humans) and a tangible means of grace. God by making promises surrenders himself in the form an external sign to human beings. Receiving his self-donating promise through these means is to receive his tangible presence in, under, and with them.

By contrast, the law goes hand and hand with divine intangibility. This does not mean that God does not act through visible means as law, but it does means that God acts and present himself not "bound"[29] to his gracious promises. As unbound by his promise of self-subjection and self-donation in the gospel, God is utterly threatening and unpredictable.[30] In this situation, God is not my tangible object, rather I am his. Consequently, the Enthusiast who has chosen look for God in the sphere of the intangible, where God is not bound by his promise self-donation, must enter into a project of self-justification. He must now use the law a means of self-defense against the hidden God. This exactly mirrors the self-justification project of the theologian of glory. In order to bridge this gap between God and humans, the Enthusiast must set himself up as an alternative mediator. An alternative mediator is necessary to reveal the secret truth of God and thereby offering an opportunity of self-justification. Being able to make a claim over against the God effectively means that one is greater than that God. Therefore self-justification goes hand-in-hand with self-deification.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Dialogue with Dr. Gregory Jackson: Let's talk about Universal Objective Justification.

Dr. Gregory Jackson's is a pretty remarkable fellow. He has degrees from Yale and Notre Dame and has been a pastor in the LCA, LCMS, WELS, and some other Lutheran denominations (I think). Some of you might find this jumping around a bit odd, but one of course must follow their conscience.

You can read his blog here:

On his blog, he has criticized a doctrine he refers to with the letters UOJ or "Universal Objective Justification." What he means by this is the idea that the whole world has been forgiven by the objective work of atonement. Subsequently, people receive this forgivenness by faith and therefore are subjectively justified. All this Dr. Jackson describes as a "second justification."

So, sound OK to most of you, right? Here's a brief summary of the reasons that Dr. Jackson has problems with this concept. I will make a running commentary. Obviously these are merely talking points and therefore these are only my preliminary response to his arguments. They should therefore only be construed that way. Also, I should say that I greatly respect his learning and critique his position in the most humble way.

Jackson writes:

"This is a brief summary explaining why Universal Objective Justification is anti-Scriptural, anti-Confessional, and anti-Christian.

UOJ teaches that the entire world has been forgiven of sin, without the Holy Spirit working through the Word (Objective Justification) and that people must believe this weird idea in order to be really forgiven. Those who deny this are not forgiven."

OK. I'm not following.

Christ's work is objectively true whether or not I believe in it. It is received by faith. Now, I will grant that talking about the world being "forgiven," but not really, really forgiven until they receive it is a awkward way of speaking- but Christ's sacrifice is something real and complete. John tells us that Christ died not only for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. Luther was insistent that Christ was the "only sin and only righteousness." Both of these statements make clear that because Christ has born all sin, redemption and forgiveness are something already actualized before we receive it.

"Some obvious Biblical errors are:
Abraham was justified by faith. Was he again justified universally? Ditto for all the Old Testament figures who believed in Christ and it was counted as righteousness."

No- Abraham received Christ's universal work of redemption which had occurred in the future. From God's perspective it had already happened "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" and all that.

"No account in the Bible reveals that God declared the entire world forgiven the moment Christ died or the moment He rose from the dead. UOJ contradicts itself on that point, which should be so clear."

I refer you to the statements referring to Christ's universal work of redemption. Yes, you've made your point, it's an awkward way of speaking. Obviously people who don't receive the world of Christ by faith remain in their sins and God still judges them. That's what Walther, Pieper, Hoenecke, and everyone else who uses the language of universal forgiveness means by this. You've admitted that this isn't universalism by stating those who don't receive it by faith aren't forgiven.

"Jesus said the Holy Spirit would convict people of their sin – their sin of unbelief. UOJ convicts people against faith. They fall all over themselves condemning faith."

Not following. Are you suggesting that faith is precluded by UOJ? But you've admitted that that's not the conclusion that proponents of the this way of speaking draw from UOJ. So, whom are you criticizing? A misreading of Barth?

"The relationship between Law and Gospel is erased with UOJ."

But not really, because when people say "God forgave the whole world" what they in fact mean is that in Christ God's redemptive work is complete and wholly fulfilled- Christ has born the whole price and paid for every sin. You can enter into Christ by faith and become, (to use one description of Luther's teaching on justification) "a single subject with Christ" or remain in the old creation under wrath. If you deny that Christ as a redemptive agent has not brought about redemption as something full and complete, then you end up saying that the gospel is only potentially saving and therefore our preaching would de-evolve into "if you believe, then you will be forgiven and redeemed" (which is preaching the gospel as law!) opposed to "you are redeemed."

"The sacraments are meaningless with UOJ."

I refer you to the last observation.

"Confession and absolution are turned into – “You were forgiven before you walked in the door” counseling. I am not kidding."

Or if you don't use this language, one ends if saying "God forgives you, if you believe" rather than "you are forgiven for the sake of Jesus."

"All the terms—General Justification, Objective Justification, Universal Objective Justification—are modern, post-BOC, the earliest example coming from the era of Pietism. The term justification, whether in the Bible or BOC, always means justification by faith."

This very well may be true. This question is of purely historical interest- I would like to investigate it more. In any case, the Confessions and Creeds of the ancient Church use theological terminology in various ways and often add terminology not found in the Bible (for example the Confessions use the term "Gospel" more losely in the AC than in the FC- Trinity or homousia is not in the Bible). This is not really a problem if the same conceptuality is there. Frankly, I don't see how you can argue that this is an idea that arose in the era of Pietism just because certain Pietists authors used the terms this way.

"Dr. Robert Preus stated this with great clarity in the last book, Justification and Rome, in spite of his sons having a role in editing it posthumously."

I'd need to re-read the book in question to respond. I don't remember anything about this in that book.

"UOJ comes from the era of Pietism and was promoted by Pietists."

Again, a historical question that I'm not competant to respond to as of now.

"UOJ comes from Pietism using the Calvinistic concept of salvation first, apart from the Means of Grace, so UOJ is pure Enthusiasm."

But salvation happens in the concrete medium of the flesh of Christ and then is channeled through the Word and sacraments. All the authors you're talking about would admit that. I'm failing to see how you get here. Furthermore, we should also always be careful about claiming historical influence. It is one of the most difficult things to demonstrate by carefully use of historical investigation.

"Woods’ translation of Knapp established the double-justification scheme before the Missouri Synod pioneers landed in America. Knapp was a famous Halle University professor, and Woods was a non-Lutheran theological celebrity in America. The text had widespread use in German and English throughout the 19th century."

Interesting- but again, I have no basis upon which to judge this claim.

"The double-justification wording did not establish itself at once in the Synodical Conference. Missouri did not have it in its German language 1905 catechism."

OK. Perhaps- I have no idea. But that the work of Christ is a done deal prior to it's proclamation to me in Word and sacrament is both biblical and confessional, and has always been taught in the orthodox Lutheran Church.

My summary judgment is as follows: What it sounds like has gone on is this. In order to express the biblical and confessional concept that God in Christ has actualized redemption before we receive it by faith, some confessional theologians in Germany and the US in the 19th century starting using the language of universal, objective justification. They would say things like "God has already forgiven the whole world" by which they meant that God in Christ had made a sacrifice for everyone's sins and that he bore everyone's sins and that all of this is a done deal. They didn't mean that God would overlook sin if someone did not receive Jesus' redemption through faith or that people who received Christ by faith in the OT were not saved or something. Rather they just meant that our sins are paid for on the cross prior to us receiving such redemption by faith. They got this terminology from the Pietists and it was a kind of awkward way of talking, since obvious people could still go to hell- but it safe guarded talk of justification by faith from the equally problematic misunderstanding that faith was a work.

Enter Dr. Jackson, who correctly observes the awkwardness of this way of speaking and then draws out the weird implications this way of talking if we take the statement "God in Christ forgives the whole world on the cross and the empty tomb" in certain ways. Of course, the whole critique comes off as a little bit strange because he of course admits that the people he's critiquing aren't taking the words to mean what he finds conceptually objectionable.

With all due respect, my initial judgment is that this is a bit of a straw man.

Perhaps I'm wrong though. I invite Dr. Jackson or anyone else to challenge my critique. Also, feel free to give your two cents about any of my points.

"Zombie Feeling" has ceased- Book coming along well again.

I was telling my wife the other day about how difficult it is getting back "into the zone" of writing/editing a book after a hiatus. Over the last few weeks I was grading finals/working on unrelated book reviews/going to a funeral/visiting my parents-in-law.

So, last week, when I came back to work on the third chapter of my book, I was got this sort of weird feeling, like a zombie, and just couldn't make much progress. I know it sounds very much like a sitcom character circa. 1996 would say, but I couldn't get "in the zone." Nevertheless, I'm out of it and I've been making excellent progress today. I should be posting a few excerpts from the third chapter soon.

I've also been reviewing material sent to me by Dr. Gregory L. Jackson regarding his objections to what he calls "Universal Objective Justification." I'm going to write a post on this within the next day or so.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Exodus-Joshua's Chiasm.

I'm into Joshua now.  Check this out- there's a chiasm running from the Exodus through Joshua.


1. Moses sees the Angel of YHWH: "Take off your shoes you are on Holy ground."

2. Circumcision- Moses' son.

3. Passover

4. Parting of the Red Sea.


1. Parting of the Jordan

2. Passover Celebrated

3. Circumcision of the second generation (the fact that it was with flint knives is also mentioned, like the case of the circumcision of Moses' son).

4. The Angel of YHWH appears to Joshua: "Remove your shoes, you are on Holy ground."

Greg- I think you are correct that the point is that Moses and Joshua have the same authority. The parallel events means that Joshua is a new Moses. The reversal comes from the historical fact that although they are parallel figures, their function is the reverse of one another in the plan of settlement. Whereas Joshua causes Israel to settle down, Moses uproots them. We can observe that they play the same role in salvation history as law and gospel do in the existential experience of the Christian. Moses uproots us from our pretension through the proclamation of the law. Joshua (who has the same name and therefore prefigures Jesus) gives us rest and fulfills God's promises.

The Music of Bishop Stephan's descendants.

I think this topic is getting a little stale, so here's the last post on it. Pr. McCain also showed me another link. Here's the actual music and lyrics of Stephan's descendant:

Read the lyrics. Also, imagine them sung in style of medieval polyphony or chant.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jesus and Deuteronomy 24 on Divorce.

Only Leviticus (as John Kleinig showed us) is more under-rated than Deuteronomy.  I've been reading it again as part of my six-month Bible reading cycle. 

An interesting piece on divorce.  Chapter 24 states that the ground for divorce are a man "finding some impurity" in his wife.  "Impurity" in this context seems to mean sexual sin.  It can't be ritual impurity, since this can be done away with and in many cases isn't blame-worthy.  If it is sexual sin, then it is adultery, since that's really the only sexual sin that a married woman can commit.  

Hence, Jesus is not actually intensifying the OT as many exegetes seem to suggest, but rather interpreting what "impurity" means.  The question of "why did Moses allow us to divorce our wives" and Jesus response because "your hearts were hard" is really not a problem to this interpretation.  Non-fallen human (ones without hard hearts) wouldn't have divorce for any reason, much less adultery, since they wouldn't sin.

This is a major point for the Reformation understanding of Jesus' mission over against the Latin tradition's interpretation.  Beginning with Tertuallian, it was claimed that Jesus came to give a better and tougher law than Moses.  Later this was softened into the distinction between normal, regular law for the laity and "evangelical counsels" for mendicants.

The Reformers (both Lutheran and Reformed) emphasized that Jesus did not come to give a better law, but merely clarify the existing natural law as summarized by the Ten Commandments.  Even the prohibitions against looking at persons of the opposite sex with lust or anger being as bad as murder (in the Sermon on the Mount) are in fact found in the Ten Commandment's prohibitions against coveting and in God's admonish throughout the OT to love one's neighbor.

On a side note: When I read the passages in the Gospels where Jesus argues with the Pharisees about the law, I'm always impressed by his patience with his creatures.  He actually argues with them, and patiently refutes their claims.  He could very well say: "Hey, who do you think Moses was talking to on Mt. Sinai?  It was me!  I should know what I intended to say!  So knock it off!" But he of course doesn't.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bishop Stephan's Descendant.

This link was given to me by Pastor McCain earlier:

Interesting stuff. It's the descendant of Bishop Stephan who is trying to rehabilitate her ancestor. Let us say that when here profile is read in its entirety, she does not strike one as an orthodox confessional Lutheran.

Rehabilitating Martin Stephan? Really?

Check these out these links:

One of the more odd theological projects I've seen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Luther's marriage metaphor: Not as helpful to the Finns as they seem to think.

The Finnish Luther scholars often point to the fact that Luther's primary metaphor for justification is marriage.  Christ marries the Church and takes on himself her punishment, whereas it receives his infinite holiness.  Since the Finns conflate mystical union with justification, the idea of "union" of Christ and the person excites them.  If man and wife do have union and that's what justification is, then should it not follow that mystical union and justification are really the same thing?

What does not occur to them it seems, is the "union" or one might say "consummation" of marriage comes after the forensic declaration of the minister: "I pronounce you man and wife."(At least it does in Christian marriage and most traditional cultures!).  This is true both in our time and Luther's.  So, even with the use of the marriage metaphor, the forensic judgment must come first.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Response to George- Some notes on creationism prior to the 20th century.

In response to George- I'm not entirely certain why exegetes prior to the Enlightenment thought that animals died before the Fall- but here's a couple of suggestions.  

1. It never occurred to them that anyone other than humans would subject to death because of Adam's sin. The works I'm referring to don't spend any time arguing the point, they just assume it and assume that their audience will do so as well unproblematically. 

2. The influence of Aristotle. Aristotle taught that all earthly bodies were inherently corruptible. Hence, death and corruption were nature to animal bodies.  

3. The natural instability of created being. Athanasius remark in the On the Incarnation of the Word, that humans and all other created beings are inherently unstable due to the fact that they come from nothingness. Therefore they have just as much a possibility of returning to nothingness. Therefore, he argues, had Adam not fallen, the would have bee deified to preserve his immortality, but he would not naturally have been immortal.  

George also brought up Augustine and therefore raised the point of how creationism was understood prior to the 20th century. A couple of points about this.  

1. Augustine thinks the days of Genesis are figurative because he wanted to solved an exegetical problem. Eccleasticus in the apocrypha says "Oh Lord, you have made all things at once." But if that's the case, Augustine said, how is it that Genesis says seven days? His solution was that the days were figurative and represented a period in which "seeds" of life which God had planted all at once, had unfolded. In other words, God did make all things from the seeds "all at once" and then figurative seven days were just an unfolding of them. So, when modern theologians want to use this to justify allergorizing Genesis 1, it doesn't work, because Augustine's problem isn't the desire to reconcile science with religion, it's to solve an exegetical problem (one which Protestants don't have, being that we don't have the Apocrypha!). 

2. It should be noted that prior to the mid-20th century, most conservative Protestants in America and Britain were either evolutionary theists or old earth creationists. B. B. Warfield for example supported theistic evolution. Most of the people who wrote the "Fundamentals" which the word fundamentalism is based on, were old earth creationists. In Britain, C.S. Lewis was a theistic evolutionist as well.  

3. What happened? Specifically the change is due to the Seventh Day Adventists and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (two groups that have almost nothing in common with one another). The Seventh Day Adventists were committed to young earth creationism for two main reasons: 1. They believed in literal obedience to the Sabbath (which wouldn't work with a figurative seventh day of creation!). 2. Ellen White, their founder, claimed to be a prophet. In one of her visions, God had taken her back in time to see each day of creation. Hence, since she saw seven literal days and because they didn't want to admit that she was a false prophet, they were very insistent on young earth creationism. Therefore Adventist scientists set about inventing modern creation science, along with flood geology and what not. 

Enter the LCMS. The LCMS was also committed to young earth creationism because of Luther's commitment to it in the Genesis commentary (Luther was actually the first exegete since about Irenaeus to take the account completely literally). As we are all well aware, the LCMS has an extensive school system. Therefore, a group of LCMS science teachers developed materials for use in Christian schools promoting the creation science developed by the Seventh Day Adventists, which was eventually picked up by other Protestant denominations.

Of course, Conservative Christians gradually became more and more suspicious of theistic evolution and old-earth creationism because of its associations with secularism. There remains a conflict of world views (between theism and evolutionism) to say the least. What many seems unaware of is that it all goes back to the debate in Antiquity between various forms of theism and Epicureanism. I find it quite annoying when it is discussed as a question of "science vs. religion" (as the media does frequently) because really it's a philosophical question between two types of causality and therefore two different scientific paradigms. Commitment to either is rooted in a prior worldview- though I would argue that in analyzing the different world views, Theist creationism is inherently more rational.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kitchen's suggestion regarding the Philistines in Genesis.

One of the problems that has vexed biblical scholars is the presence of the Philistines in Genesis.  The major problem with this is that we know from Egyptian records that the Philistines didn't come to Palestine until some time in the 1100s BC.  In fact, they invaded Egypt and only settled in Palestine when the Egyptians pushed them back.   

Now, of course, liberal scholars just assume that since the Bible is one big fantasy, of course the authors of the Bible were just making things up and we can tell this especially here because in reality there were no Philistines at the time of Abraham or the other Patriarchs.  One of the difficulties with this explanation is the fact that Abraham looks rather bad in his encounter with the Philistine king, since, yet again, he lies to him about his wife being his sister.  So, why would later Hebrew authors make up stories that made their ancestors look bad (actually this is a question for most of the Bible- Gospels included)?

Kitchen points out that it is not necessarily the case that there were no Philistines back at Abraham's time.  Philistine probably for the Hebrews is simply a general term for "Sea People" name, the Myceaneans, the forerunners of the Greeks.  Now, archaeologically speaking there is considerable evidence that these people were in Palestine at the time of Abraham.  There have been Palaces found and also a lot of pottery showing their presence specifically in the area later occupied by the Philistines, as well as in Galilee.  Furthermore, the Philistines that Abraham encounters live in one city and not five. They are friendly to him, rather than hostile.  So, it is very unlikely that a later Hebrew author is projecting later historical reality back on the time of Abraham.

Ultimately, the presence of the word "Philistines" to describe the sea peoples that the Patriarchs encounter most likely have their origin in the later transcription of the Pentateuch at the time of David.  Remember Kitchen makes the suggestion (which I think is correct) that the Pentateuch was originally written in a common western Semitic alphabet and then transcribed at the time of David into Paleo-Hebrew script.  At that time, certain aspect of the vocabulary and grammar would have been updated.  Being that at the time of David the Sea Peoples were specifically Philistines, what was originally (probably) "Caphtorites" was transcribed into "Philistines."

Thanks for the responses.

I'm always interested in what people feel passionately about.  Lots of responses to the last post.  Thanks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Question: Did animals die before the Fall?

My wife and I were just having a discussion: Did animals die before the Fall?

Now, I won't tell you what stance I took- I'm just interested, what do you think?

Couple of arguments:

Paul says in Romans- death entered by Adam.  So, that means all death, even death at the cellular level.  So, animals didn't die either.

Counter argument: Cats (such as my cat Eleanor Aquinas) and other animals have fangs- so they were built to kill.  So there must have been death in terms of animals (though of course not humans!) before the fall.

Also, Luther, Gerhard, and Aquinas all agree that a unique part of the imago dei is that fact that human were deathless- that is, immortal like God.  Now, since animals are not made in the imago dei, then of course they would die.

Lastly, it is not certain that Paul means death for all creation, since he says death entered through sin- but of course animals don't sin (as far as we know!).

So, put in your two cents- I'd be interested in what argument you buy more.

Twenty-Something Gnostics.

My wife and I went to the graduation of the college where we teach on Saturday.  Despite some of the difficulties I had with some of the lyrics at the Mass in the morning, the ceremony was pretty good.  I particularly enjoyed the speech given my David Van Andel, a wealthy Dutch Calvinist who has given a lot to the school.  The speech was about vocation- very Reformational!  Luther could have written it (probably with more cursing).

Anyways, one interesting phenomenon was that as they gave out the diplomas about a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the people on the program didn't come up.  Why?  Answer: They failed some of their final classes and couldn't graduate after all.  Now, I know and people I know, know some of these students.  One student (who will of course go unnamed) told me coming into my class that they had failed it several times and now were going to try to pass so that they could graduate.  To make a long and complex story shot, this person failed the class simply because they choose not to take the final or turn in the final paper.  They were also doing very well.  They probably would have received an A/B.  In any case, these other people who didn't graduate did so for the same reason- they just didn't turn things in when it was just that close for them!  Furthermore, many of them have been here for 7 or 8 years- so what's the deal?

My wife and I were talking it over and I think I have something of an answer.  I think this is tied up the phenomenon that other commentators have noticed.  That is, the fact that childhood gets longer and longer.  Students, for whatever reason, don't want to grow up and leave the college.

Why is it so?  What it comes down to is the essential Gnosticism of American culture.  

Allow me to explain.

Gnosticism (for those unfamiliar) is an ancient form of paganism/an early Christian heresy.  Scholars are still undecided whether or not it was pre-Christian or not.  In any case, the basic Gnostic myth goes like this: We are all divine children of the divine God/Father in heaven.  Being divine we aren't really creatures.  We have no beginning or end, merely an origin in the divine, spiritual, transcendent Father.  Now eventually, because of an accident or because of punishment or something, get sucked down into the inferior realm, of an inferior material God.  This God is punishing and violent.  He places us under his rules and his rulers the Archons, astrological deities.  In the versions of this that are Christian, this is YHWH.  Now, to escape this, a divine savior (Jesus) comes from the higher realm and tells us who we really are- namely divine.  By shucking off our situatedness in creation (that is, the realm of the evil God) and becoming pure spirit, we thereby become free.

I can see all this playing out in how my students think about their lives.  First, (as I've noted in the past) they don't believe in protology- in other words, they don't believe they are determined by anything and therefore can't really stomach the idea that they are creatures- this being merely a ploy of the evil, lesser deity!  For Christianity (as for Judaism before it) we are determined in our essence by what happens in Genesis 1-3, but they think that they just make up their own beings as they go long.  They believe in autopoesis.  Secondly, they don't believe in eschatology.  If the self is free and self-creating, then any final judgment about its rightness or wrongness is destructive to that free play of autonomy- again, law comes from the evil, lesser God.  Therefore, there must be an infinite provisionality.  In other words, the self, for my students, is groundless.  It's suspended in mid-air, undetermined by its situatedness.  It is divine- it has no past, no future.  It is utterly undetermined.  Any claim otherwise is a ploy by evil forces (modern culture has all kinds of names for these, but usually religious or political conservatives are given the role occupied by the Demiurge or the Archons in the earlier myth).

Now what does that do for one's view of vocation, family, and marriage?  Well, let's think about it this way.  If one buys into the idea that our essence as creatures is determined by Genesis 1-3, and that in those passages, the centers of human existence are established (Luther's "orders of creation") and that one's being is determined by how one fulfills their purpose by existing within these as God decided at the beginning of time- then one is likely to embrace marriage, work, government and the like.  Why?  Because it is precisely in one's situatedness in these created institutions that one's finds their being as God's creature.  We are not divine, but situated, created beings, who find ourselves in our determinateness.  We lose it by trying to escape it- because we are nothing but what God has determined us to be!

Now, if you hold the Gnostic view of the self, as divine, undetermined, and absolutely free for self-creation, then what?  One will hold onto the indeterminacy of childhood and early adulthood as long as possible.  Since the self is most authentic the less encumbered it is by things that impede it's own self-determination, the more one grows up and takes on responsibilities the less authentic one is.  When I decided on a career, a wife and have child- then provisionality is lost.  I'm now determined.  My life has gone in such-and-such a way, and there's no going back!  Growing up then, effectively means the lose of the self.  So, childhood gets longer and longer as people try to hold onto the Gnostic, divine self.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The desiring and the promising subject: Aquinas vs. Luther on the Doctrine of God

Patristic and medieval Christianity was heavily influenced by the eudaimenism of the ancient Greeks. The main way that the Greeks conceptualized the human person was as a desiring subject. As a desiring subject, the question of ethics is whether or not the desiring subject desires the right sorts of things. Namely, temporal or eternal- spiritual or earthly?

In medieval Christianity from Augustine onward this is projected onto God. God is the supreme being and goodness, therefore he desires being and goodness. He's hungry for it in a sense. As Aquinas puts it (following both Aristotle and Augustine) God comprehends and enjoys himself in his Son, the divine intellect. The love of God's intellect for himself and his love for his intellect is Holy Spirit. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are Desirer, Desirered, Desiring.

We can observe how this relates to the doctrine of grace as well. To be loved is to be desirable. God can't love things that aren't like him in his goodness and being. Therefore the goal of all grace is to make us desirable- i.e. our moral renovation. Also, we can see why for the Roman Catholic it is love and not faith that justifies. Love is right desire- it is to be like God, because God as the supreme good desires himself. Consequently, it also makes us desirable to the supreme desirer.

Enter Ockham. Ockham rejects Realist ontology of Aquinas and Augustine and their concept of God as the supreme good. Rather, God is a willing subject. He doesn't do things because he's the supreme good and the supreme good just does good things because he has to- that is it's part of his nature. He does things becaue he agrees to do them in the form of a "pactum" or covenant.

This entirely shifts the doctrine of God. God is no longer conceived primarily a desiring subject, but a speaking or promising subject. How do I get saved? By doing what is within me. Why is this a valid path to salvation (according to Ockham) is becuase God promised it is! There's nothing inherently attractive about your works or your love. God's has simply decreed and promised that they are valid before him.

I think that this then explains why Luther can think of divine agency in the way that he does. God is, following his master Ockham and Biel, a speaking subject. God is always speaking through the mediums of the created order. He speaks words of either law or gospel. The creature then is considered inherently passive in relationship to God. He (to use Bayer's term) "suffers" God's words. In the sphere of law, the human subject's flesh is restrained by the created orders and his conscience is driven to despair and/or repentance. In the sphere of the gospel, he is justified and sanctified by the promise of justitification.

In the end, if God is a speaking subject, one can simply passive receive what he says. All the desire flows from one's determination as a creature- which in turn results from suffering God's Word in its various forms.

This also explains Luther's Trinitarian metaphors in his later disputations on that subject. According to the old Luther, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "speaker, speaking, hearing." Again, God as the speaking, promising subject is defined by his Word, not his abstract desiring as the supreme good.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A primer on ecclesiastical warfare.

Check out the interesting piece here:

A very bright British Church historian gives the history of the modernist/fundamentalist debate in the PC USA.

To those of us going throgh our own Church conflicts, we can learn some lessons from this.

1. Never tolerate liberals. Conservatives in the PC USA pleaded for toleration of liberals for the sake of mission. Also, they believed that they could convert them to truth. This simply allowed liberal power to grow and then when they had enough, they simply stopped tolerating conservatives.

Conservatives can always come up with reasons to tolerate liberals- they believe that they have the truth and in time, maybe the liberals can be converted back to it. Isn't that what the Chuch is called to do with a sinful world?

Liberals never have a reason to tolerate conservatives. They hold a progressive worldview. They are on the cutting edge of history and conservatives are just holding things up. Because of this, in their worldview, conservatives don't deserve toleration. They are evil and intolerant biggots. They must be purged so that human freedom and progress can abound. Sound familiar? They need to be purged because they think that they way their ancestors did it is the only way and its holding up mission to an increasingly secularized world- sound familiar?

So, in the end, no toleration is possible. It's really purge or be purged. Remember, Scripture tells pastors and congregations to purge the wicked and heretics. We need to apply this biblical principle consistently. Also, when we are beat within a particular institution, we need to follow Paul and Isaiah and come out from among the wicked and be separated. This is good solid biblical teaching. (I say this in opposition to the sentiment expressed here:

2. Liberals took over in the PC USA because they took control of education and missions. Let this be a lesson to us. We must block any attempt at liberals controling mission and education. I would emphasize the particularly the education aspect, some of you might follow why.

In the end, it's important to learn from the lessons of history. Nothing is inevitable. We can always be successful where others failed.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Literal Religion

All through my higher education I've had professors distain what they call "literal" religion.  In other words, when they would get up at the lectern and say "well, none of this is literal kids, because X event didn't really happen" and then go on to say it was OK and didn't effect faith because only "literal" religion needed the events of the history of salvation to be true.  If one protested and even used evidence to refute their claims, they would smile condescendingly and say something like "well, when you grow up a little bit more you'll see that it doesn't matter after all."  

Now I think that this says something very interesting about how most liberal/mainline Protestant perceive religion.  According to them, lower forms of religion need real things to have happened in the real world.  Even if these literal religionists can prove their case to a certain degree using historical evidence, the fact that they even try (and believe me I've heard this over and over again!) shows immaturity.  Grown up religion, according to these people, means a "spiritual" and "ethical" religion.  In other words, if the religion is about telling us general ethical truths and not particular promises God has made and fulfilled (Abrahamic covenant, exodus, crucifixion/resurrection, etc- all which would demand literal historical truth on the part of the Bible.), then who needs anything to have really happened?  The ethical principles are still good even if their was no Abraham and no conquest by Joshua.  Also, these presupposition would also suggest that God is spiritual and therefore doesn't do real stuff in the real world.  In other words, Incarnation is out- or if they accept it, then a series of contradictory principles are accepted along side it.

In the end, "literal religion" is not childish religion.  Rather it is evangelical and incarnational religion.  It's about God fulfilling real promises, in the real world, through a real imparting of himself in Israel's history and in Christ.  The other kind isn't more mature, it's simply moralizing and spiritualizing- the religion of our first parents, as Luther would say.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Another interesting point on the destruction of Sodom.

Here's another interesting point.  There appears to be two destruction layers in what some archaeologist consider to be Sodom and Gomorrah.  Note that Abraham was involved in a military conflict when the cities were raided and Lot was captured.  Kitchen also points out that military involvement of people living near the Euphrates (where Genesis says the kings who attacked the cities came from) didn't occur until the time of Abraham- neither did it occur afterwards.

The city of Numeira, as we conjectured, possibly Sodom, is the better preserved of the two excavated sites. Numeira shows signs of two devastations. The latter was the catastrophic fiery event that utterly destroyed the city. An earlier event shows less sign of such a catastrophe, but rather more like the result of a war. Dr. Bryant G. Wood, an expert in Syrio-Palestine archaeology, formerly of the University of Toronto, has examined the two layers of destruction. He concluded that the two events probably occurred a little more than 20 years apart. [10] His estimation is in line with the Talmud's time frame of 26 years.


The below is an image from the site which is located around the Dead Sea which many archaeologists consider to be the site of the Biblical Sodom.  Interestingly enough, the names of Sodom, and the other destroyed cities were discovered by an Italian archaeologist among the Ebla letters in the same order as they are in the Bible (though some dispute this).  As you can see (though it is some what obstructed) there is a black layer from the time of Abraham that the archaeologist is pointing to.  Apparently what happened, according to the latest research is that there was an earthquake and natural gas came up from the ground.  It caused an explosion which would have rained down burning sulfur down on the city.  In fact, the evidence suggests that most of the inhabitants were burned alive- there have only been a few burnt bodies discovered.  This of course directly corresponds to what the Bible says- mainly that the cities were "overthrown" (suggestive of an earthquake) and that burning sulfur rained down from heaven.  God can of course work through nature phenomenon as well.

The Destruction Layer from Sodom

destruction layer