Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
1. The Son eternally receives himself and all his glory from the Father's act of begetting. The anhypostatic humanity of Christ therefore participates in his event and this is what makes him Lord of all. Hence, the exercise of the kingly office is simply the incorporation of the human nature in the eternal event of generation of the person of the Son.
2. The Son eternally returns himself to the Father by the procession of the Holy Spirit. In time, this return of the Logos to the Father takes the form of offering of Christ to the Father. Because of the genus majestaticum and apostelestamaticum, the humanity is incorporated into the eternal action of the Logos in it's own temporal self-giving to the Father.
3. The Father's eternal love and approval of the Son, along with the Son's eternal return of him to the Father constitute the procession of the Spirit. So too, the gospel (content of the prophetic office) is the product of the Son's self-giving through his humanity to the Father and the Father's approval of it (active and passive righteousness).
Sound good or not? Tell me what you think.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Monday, September 20, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Thursday, September 16, 2010
It is interesting to observe that, at least according to Oswald Bayer's reconstruction, Luther came to his realization of the nature of the gospel (the "Reformation Breakthrough" as it is called) by way of the recognition of God own self-donating presence in the words "I absolve you" (ego te absolve!). In other words, just as the flesh of Jesus is identical with the presence of God (genus majestaticum), so too the word of absolution that Jesus entrusted to the Church is identical with his own presence forgiving the sinner. In this, election and the question of what the attitude of God is to the sinner thereby ceased to be an issue. God's own electing power and forgiveness are identical with the word of absolution. Thereby the certainty of faith and Christian freedom are grounded in the sacramentality of the Word.
If Bayer's reconstruction is to be believed, then Luther's Reformation breakthrough was rooted in Jesus' own self-understanding and activity in his ministry as we have described it in chapter two. As it should be recalled, Jesus' own designation as the Son of Man was a significant one in light of the use of the term in Second Temple Judaism. Though there was of course much debate about the term's usage,a significant amount of the literature of period, as well as the Gospels themselves (particularly Mt. 25) identify the Son of Man with a cosmic judge who will come at the end of time in order to meet out judgment regarding both salvation and damnation. What is peculiar about Jesus as the Son of Man is that he comes in the midst of history rather than at its end. As Matthew 25 shows, this present advent in judgment does not exclude a future one. Rather what this does suggest is that Jesus' own present judgment is a proleptic realization in the midst of history of what his judgment will be at the end of time. Just as Luther had realized that he could rely on the word of absolution in the present, so people who believed in Jesus' Word came to realize that they could be certain of God's final verdict on them in the present.
Jesus made his verdict known in a number of ways. In some cases we have recorded for us in the Gospels, he simply tells people that their sins are forgiven. In others, he combines his Word of absolution with a common meal or healing. Ultimately though, he uses his redeeming Word to indicate his fellowship and solidarity with sinners and thereby establishes a community of those whom will be vindicated in the coming kingdom (the Church), of whom he is the messianic agent. Hence, Jesus' own presence and word are identical with God's own presence. There is no “likeness and unlikeness . . . a partial correspondence and agreement” between God's eternal Word and his human word. Rather his human word is identical with the divine Word, because he is God in the flesh. Being in contact with the man Jesus is identical with being in contact with God. This fact stands in complete coherence with his own claims of special access and perfect knowledge of Father (Mt. 11:25-7, Jn 10:15), as well as ultimately of divinity (Jn 8:58, 14:9-10).
Jesus himself passes on this Word of grace to his disciples. In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus gives his Word to the apostles and commissions them to preach eschatological salvation and judgment to the regions of northern Palestine. Contained in the word of proclamation is the presence of his very being. He himself acts through their word, as both judge and comforter: "Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me" (Mt 10:40). Because of his sacramental presence in the Word, there is no ambiguity where one stands in relationship to him: “one who hears you hears me” (Lk 10:16). Rejection of Jesus' redemptive Word causes one to stand under divine judgment: "And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town" (Mt 10:14-5).
This continues in the life of the Church. Later in the Gospel history we are told that the presence of Jesus' Name in the midst those gathered together (the Divine Service) is identical with the presence of Jesus himself: "where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them" (18:20). In this, Jesus' Name takes on the role God's own Name, and each liturgical gathering in it makes the gathered community the new eschatological Temple/Tabernacle ("house for my name" 2 Sam 7:13).
By the end of the Gospel histories, how this Name among the "two or three" is to be spoke becomes clear. Not only are the disciples given the ability to forgive in the Name of Jesus, but they are given Jesus' Name in the form the sacraments. In Matthew 28:19, they are commissioned to baptize in the Triune name (which includes that of Jesus). Before his death, Jesus confirms his new testament of forgiveness, by offering them his own body and blood to consume (26:26-9). As we observed earlier, Jesus' presence at common meals mediated directly the divine presence of forgiveness to those who he ate with him. This is now fulfilled in Jesus' giving an even greater share in himself than was possible in the common meals. He does so by literally giving the sacrificed substance of his being for them to masticate on. This flesh and blood is something living (Jn 6:53-8). It is not a dead sign, but a living divine promise of that this sacrificed flesh and blood pleads for them before the Father. By this saving bodily presence, they know that they are truly forgiven, for they have tasted the Lord and known that he is good (Ps 34:8). Conversely, much like Jesus promises that those who rejected his presence in the preaching of the apostles would be destroyed (Mt 10:14-5), so Paul tells us that those who disbeliever his promise and as a result treat the Eucharist as ordinary food (to be gobbled up or swilled) will suffer divine judgment (1 Cor 11:27-32).
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Historically, one strategy that Reformed theology has used to combat the exegetical arguments of Lutheranism is the philosophically based maxim that the "finite is not capable of the infinite" (finitum non capax infiniti). It goes without saying that as a result Lutherans have frequently charged the Reformed with a certain degree of crass rationalism. This principle has no basis in Scripture, and demonstrably contradicts the teachings of Scripture. That this later difficulty attends the Reformed insistence on this maxim has been made abundantly clear from exegetical arguments made above.
One cogent explanation for the Reformed’s easy acceptance of philosophical rationalism relates to the theological antecedents of the southern Reformation in the philosophical frameworks they inherited from the earlier scholastics. It should not go unnoticed that Zwingli was a student of the Thomas Wyttenbach at the University of Basel. Richard Muller has also shown that the majority of the Reformed theologians of the first generations were trained in the via antiqua, which taught that there was a definite continuity between human and divine reason. By contrast, Luther matriculated at the University of Erfurt where the theological soup du jour was via moderna, with its characteristic emphasis on the discontinuity of human and divine rationality.
On another level though, it is rather surprising that for all their rationalism the Reformed would adopt such a clearly self-contradictory argument. In other words, simply taken from the perspective of human reason, the argument that the finite is not capable of the infinite is a blatant absurdity.
In order to see this, it is important to observe what is meant by the Lutheran capax. As the Swedish Lutheran theologian Gustaf Aulén notes, the Lutheran argument is not that the finite has some sort of inherent capability of containing the infinite, but rather that the infinite God is capable of communicating himself to the finite. Seen from this perspective, the Lutheran teaching does not entail positing a sort of intrinsic capacity of creation for infinite self-transcendence, in the manner that we might find in later German Idealism. Rather, the accent falls exclusively on the capacities of the sovereignty and power of the infinite creator God. Hence denial of the Lutheran capax does not somehow keep creaturely capacities within their own proper range, but rather openly denigrates divine capacities. As David Scaer has noted, if the infinite were not capable of communicating itself to the finite, it would by definition not be infinite. That is to say, if the infinite is truly infinite, then it must logically contain an infinite number of possibilities and one of these possibilities must be being contained by the finite. Seen in light of this, that the Reformed would make this argument, especially with their emphasis on the infinite power and glory of God is extremely puzzling.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Calvin attempted to counter this argument uses the following ad hoc argument. Yes, he's serious about this:
"They object that Christ went forth from the closed sepulcher [Matt. 28:6] and went in to his disciples through closed doors [John 20:19]. This gives no more support to their error. For just as the water, like a solid pavement, provided Christ with a path as he walked on the lake [Matt. 14:25], so it is no wonder if the hardness of the stone yielded at his approach. Yet it is more probable that the stone was removed at his command, and immediately after he passed through, returned to its place. And to enter through closed doors means not just penetrating through solid matter but opening an entrance for himself by divine power, so that he suddenly stood among his disciples clearly, in a wonderful way, although the doors were locked."
This sort of defeats the entire purpose of these texts. The point the Evangelists are trying to make is that Jesus as one triumphant over death had a body that had moved past the dominion of the limitations of the old creation- hence Paul's description of the resurrected body as a "spiritual body." Calvin's ad hoc argument violates the rhetorical purpose the texts. Beyond that, this is mere filmsy speculation and hardly a basis to refute the Lutheran position.
Post Script: Define irony. I'm writing this from the library of Calvin College!
Monday, September 6, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Beyond this being a tired argument, I think I should make a couple observations:
1. Even if you were to buy into big-bang cosmology (this is questionable), big-bang cosmology cannot be explained by reference to natural laws. According to those who advocate it, the laws of the universe were created by the big-bang. Consequently, the big-bang cannot explain the existence of the laws of the universe by the admission of those who advocate it.
2. Hawkings argument regarding the instrumentality of natural laws is irrelevant. As Aristotle would put it, instrumental causes are fine and dandy, but for instrumental causes to function, there must be a formal cause. This is something that the new Atheists don't get and I've said about evolution as well. Macro-evolution is, as modern genetics shows, pretty much impossible. But even if you bought into it, you couldn't escape design. Why? Because evolution is a process that has laws, structure and a goal. Consequently it has a design and therefore requires a designer. Similarly, all the natural laws that function as causes, are in fact designed and therefore need a formal cause and a designer.
3. In other words, put in the form of Aristotle's concept of cause, Hawkings wrongly views God as a single instrumental cause along with others. Since all instrumental causes are accounted for, then God is not necessary. The point I would make is that the whole thing doesn't make any sense without divine causation. God is the formal and final cause of everything. Each instrumental and material cause is designed and sustained by God the creator.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
In any case, his doctoral dissertation was about the historical origins of the Dispensationalist theology. He's been really thorough in his study. He's traced the Rapture concept back to the 15th century. Also, he discovered that Hal Lindsey's weird identification of "Rosh" with Russia in the later chapters in Ezekiel came from some obscure German scholar in the 19th century.
Any way, what I find most interesting is his theological critique of what's going on in Dispensationalism. The question is not really if they make bad exegetical arguments (they obviously do), but rather why they would make them in the first place. The guys who came up with this stuff are really smart people and so, you've got to explain why someone so bright would want to believe in a bad argument.
Espinosa's argument is that the problem lies in Reformed Christology. In other words, being that for the majority of Reformed-Evangelicals (all of whom share the same Calvinistic Christology) do not believe that Jesus is here on earth with us in the Eucharist and the Divine Service, but is rather trapped in heaven, they miss and long for his real presence. Hence, they remain disinterested in what goes on in the divine service (apart from the need to have a weekly personal finance/marriage seminar/bad gospel-music stage show) and are obsessed with the coming of Christ in some sort of imaginary future kingdom on earth. Through his 1,000 reign on earth, apparently, they will finally be able to enjoy his real presence.
Now, as Lutherans we know from Revelation 4-6, our Eucharistic practice will be fulfilled in heaven, and therefore we should long for his second coming. Nevertheless, we don't have to worry or obsess over it or feel anguish at his absence. Instead, for the time being, we have heaven on earth in the Divine Service by the direct presence of the God-man Jesus in,under, and with the elements.
This, I think is one of the best critiques I've seen of Dispensationalism. I'd be very interested to read the dissertation itself.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
One interesting aspect of the film (and I'm not giving anything away, because this is revealed immediately) is the loss of faith by the main character, Rev. Cotton Marcus. The premise of the movie is that this southern preacher who has made his whole career on the basis of exorcisms has a crisis of faith and is not going to do exorcisms any more- except for this last one.
The interesting point is why Rev. Marcus loses his faith. He loses his faith because his son has some sort of disease when he's born. Doctors save his son and he's very grateful. What causes him trouble is that he realizes that he's more grateful to the doctors than to God. He concludes that God had nothing to do with the cure of his son, but rather the doctors did. Hence he begins to lose his faith.
What's fascinating about this is that his belief that the God works without means comes through in both kingdoms. In other words, Lutheran typically think of Enthusiasm as working primarily in the kingdom of the the right hand. The Spirit zaps people without the Word or baptism and they get the Holy Ghost fever and they're saved, right? Rev. Marcus' fictional example (based on many real examples) suggests that belief that God works without means in the kingdom of the right translates into the kingdom of the left as well. From the Lutheran perspective, the doctors were masks of God and therefore Marcus should be grateful to God. From the perspective of Enthusiasm, human or created agents exclude divine agency from working.
It's easy to find a lot of examples of this in real life. There are many, many sects where the idea that one does not rely on secular doctor (or in the case of mental illness) on secular psychologists is very strong.
I would also suggest that one can detect a milder form of this in the activities of the Christian Right in the United States. I of course do not disagree with people like Pat Robertson or Jerry Fallwell that abortion should be illegal or that gay marriage is a bad idea. The point though is that they believe that they tend to think that God cannot work through secular people or the organs of a functionally secular government to achieve God's order.
It should not go unnoticed that Thomas Munzter's Enthusiasm led to an insistence on the need for the creation of a earthly theocracy. In other words, the secular princes in Germany couldn't be means of God's order. Only a spiritually inspired leadership could directly implement it, and that meant Munzter.