Saturday, October 30, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The fact that Jesus is a descendent of David and therefore the true inheritor of the promise of the Davidic covenant is clear from the genealogies provided for us by Matthew and Luke. The question of whether Jesus was a descendent of David is in fact not a trivial one, but rather concerns God's faithfulness to his promises. If the Messiah was not David's son, then we cannot understand him to have been the faithful God whom we encounter in the revelation of the gospel. Therefore, this question cannot be papered over with the typical Liberal Protestant shrug and predictable appeal to the Kantian fact/value split.
Due to the nearly paranoid skepticism displayed by many of the practitioners of the historical-critical method, the genealogies of the New Testament have been under fire since the time of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless, contrary to popular scholarly belief the Gospel genealogies contain much to recommend them historically, even if they were not guaranteed to us before hand by their inclusion in the inerrant Word of God.
The first aspect that recommends them historically is the probability that Jesus would be a Davidic descendent. David after all, had many descendents, not least as a result of his own and his Son’s prodigious harems. For this reason, a rather large number of people in ancient Israel could very credibly claim descend from him. That this knowledge of this descent would also be accessible is equally plausible. It has also been noted by many, that Second Temple Jews maintained their own genealogical records in both oral (mostly peasants) or in written forms (elites). Josephus also reports that prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., that the Jews maintained a large deposit of public genealogical records. If the Synoptic Gospels were written prior to 70 (as the ending of Acts suggests and, as well as the lack of references to the destruction of the Temple) then it is not unreasonable to think that the Evangelists might have had access to these records.
We may also go further. As Gerd Theissen has rightly noted, Jesus’ family were extremely prominent in the early Church and therefore can be considered the source of the New Testament's source of the assertion that Jesus was of Davidic descent. Paul calls Jesus the “son of David” (Rom 1:3) and he clearly knew Jesus relatives as both Galatians and Acts demonstrates. If that is the case, then Jesus’ family must have claimed descent from David. Going beyond Theissen, we might suggest that if Jesus' relatives did claim descent from David, they must have maintained some sort of genealogical records and these records could very well have been disseminated them within the early Church. Such dissemination would have been a useful tool against those who contested Jesus' claims to be the true Davidic Messiah.
Historical skeptics must also recognize, urges Theissen, that it is highly unlikely that Davidic descent would be something that Jesus' family or the early Church would generate after the fact. There were a variety of messianic expectation in first century Judaism and not all of them made it necessary for the Messiah to be of Davidic descent. Conversely, there were major disadvantages to claiming descent from David insofar as it might make one the object of intrigue by Roman officials fearful of messianic upstarts. As an example of this, Eusebius shares with us that Jesus’ nephews (apparently still leaders in the early Church at the end of the first century) were harassed by Domitian when he discovered that they held their uncle to be the true Davidic king and the ruler of the universe. For this reason, Pannenberg is incorrect to assert that Jesus could never have conceived of himself as the Davidic king. The historical evidence presented to us in the New Testament clearly shows his family (and therefore he) were quite self-conscious of being the heirs of the Davidic monarchy.
An issue that is perhaps more troubling in approaching the question of Jesus' descent is that in significant respects Matthew and Luke's genealogies do not give the appearance of agreeing with one another. This problem is by no means insoluble and has been addressed in a number of ways. The beginning of a solution might come by recognizing (as was observed in chapter two) that Matthew’s genealogy has obvious and rather wide gaps in it. The intention of these gaps (as we suggested) was to highlight Jesus' role as bringer of the universal Sabbath and Jubilee by dividing Jesus' genealogy into forty-two generations (Mt. 1:17). Nevertheless, in observing this, we must note that although Matthew's theological goal was somewhat symbolic, it was not fictive. Hence, appealing to Matthew's theological goal in structuring his genealogy in a particular way does not absolve us of the problem that to the extent he intends to literally list Jesus' ancestors he stands in an apparent conflict with Luke.
As a result of recognizing this problem, a number of solutions have been offered. Probably the most common solution is that each represents a separate parent of Jesus’ genealogy. Perhaps Matthew gives us the descent from Joseph and Luke from Mary. This division is suggested by the fact that the two Evangelists focus on the aforementioned parent in their recounting of the infancy narrative. All things considered, this probably the best solution to the problem.
There are nonetheless a number of objections against this view as well. The first and most common is that both genealogies appear to trace Jesus' descent through Joseph. On the surface, neither deal with the descent of Mary. This may be solved by the fact that, as J. Stafford Wright has noted, in ancient Judaism childless or sonless marriages often times resulted in legal transference of sonship. There are also a number of examples of this occurring in the Old Testament (1 Ch 2:34, Ezr 2:61). Hence, it could be plausibly suggested that Mary's family might very well have lacked sons and that Joseph was named her father's legal heir. A lack of sons in a family is a common enough phenomenon in any culture and historical period that this is by no means a stretch.
Some might also object that this solution suggests that both parents were descendents of David. At first glance might be considered unlikely. Nevertheless it in fact actually fits well with historical data that we possess concerning Second Temple Judaism in particular and ancient Mediterranean culture in general. Historical research has shown that most Jewish marriages tended to be among close relatives during the Second Temple period. Scholars have also noted that much of the pseudepigraphal literature of this period (notably the book of Jubilees) strongly encourages marriage with close kin. The presence of this cultural practice in this literature suggests that endogamy was considered to be the ideal. If Mary and Joseph were therefore anything like their contemporaries, it is highly likely that they were closely related and therefore both descendents of David.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
I can also detect that they're a little disappointed in Luther. I think they expected a person who was more modern, who saved Christianity from the dark, dark, Middle Ages, with reason and enlightenment. Luther did reform the Church, but I think that they have a false view of how and also of what the Middle Ages were like.
The Middle Ages was overly rational. Neither was it backward technologically. So, Luther and the Reformation didn't save Christianity from irrationalism. That's Liberal Protestant claptrap.
Luther saved Christianity from the medieval doctrine of penance, grace, and merit. He didn't intend or want the modern world. The modern world is anti-apocalyptic. It wants human reason and progress the keep the world as it is, under human control. Luther was an apocalypticist who wanted to be God's instrument in the rupture of the ages- the preacher of the righteousness of God against sin, death, and the devil. His message was of God's grace and love that isn't under our control.
This I think they find highly disappointing. It doesn't fit into their worldview. All it just sounds to them like a bunch of intolerance.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
One of the things taht Hinlicky does in his writings is make all sorts of what I consider to be unusual judgments about historical theology. This is one of the things I critiqued about his essay on Scripture and tradition. I'm thinking that the Luther book isn't going to be very different.
I haven't read it yet, but I've thumbed through it. A couple of things to note:
First, there some interesting statements about the book on the cover. One is by Michael Root, who as we know recently decided to stop trying to pretend Luther was a Thomist and simply come out the closet as a Thomist himself (in his statement about his conversion, he finally admitted that Luther wasn't a Thomist- so good for him!). It more or less says that Hinlicky makes a couple of interesting arguments and that its an intellectually challenging book. Second remark comes from Robert Kolb (great scholar BTW!), who says that its good that Hinlicky says in typical postmodern fashion he has given us "his Luther" and that he certainly fulfills his goal of creating a critical dogmatics on the basis of "his Luther." This doesn't strike me as a ringing endorsement, but perhaps I needed to read the whole review.
A few other brief observations. First, the blurb on the cover states that Hinlicky doesn't think that Luther's theology can be accepted by us today, but it can point us in the right direction of doing theology in "post-Christendom." Being someone who would accept Luther's theology in the present (perhaps not the stuff about witchcraft, and calculating the end of the world, but that's less theology and more primitive science), I find this remark a little bit odd. Though again, I am after all a "Fundamentalist" as he was fond of pointing out and am therefore hopeless stuck in my delusions about the Enlightenment not really having a knock-out argument against classical theism and supernaturalism. Alas.
But what about "post-Christendom?" I guess my attitude towards "post-Christendom" is "who cares?" I think that if I grew up in the midwest in the 50s and 60s and saw the cultural influence of Christianity decline before my eyes, it might be more of a going concern for me. But as someone who not only grew up on the west coast, but as the son of a WELS pastor, being in the catacombs seems normal to me. Hinlicky though, is obsessed with the idea that Christian truth claims need to be plausible to people in "postmodernity" and "post-Christendom." Of course as Gerhard Forde would note, this all assume freedom and not bondage. People don't believe in Jesus because he convinces them with a good argument, but because the Holy Spirit convicts them through the proclamation of the Word. This means that theology in "post-Christendom" should presumably be no different than in Christendom. Of course this is part of what our debate over at LOGIA was about. In any case, Hinlicky's approach has been the approach of Liberalism since Schleiermacher wrote his boring book to Christianity's "cultured despisers." And well, that really turned things around, right?
A couple of observations about stuff in the book itself. He seems to spend a lot of time attacking Burnell Eckhardt's book about Luther and Anslem (which I enjoyed and is very good BTW). I assume he thinks that substitutionary atonement isn't in Luther or something. This is fairly typical. Somehow even more conservative theologians in the ELCA just seem to think that everyone will call them troglodytes if they just accept the fairly simple fact that both Luther and the NT clearly teach substitution. End of story. I also find it a bit odd that he cites his daughter's seminary papers as a source for Luther's atonement theology, but then leaves out a whole lot of other standard sources on the subject that I used in my dissertation. Also, I noticed he's going to try to argue that Barth's reversal of law-gospel, to gospel first, then law is authentically Lutheran. I will be interested to see how that goes for him. He clearly stated in the last book that he detests Melanchthon's ordo salutis of law first, then gospel (how an alternative would work, he was unclear- i.e., why would you believe in forgiveness if you weren't guilty of anything!).
As I get through the book, I'll give you updates.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
In any case, chief among this essay's arguments was that no one actually takes the words of institution literally. Calvin makes this argument in the third book of the Institutes, so it's sort of an old argument.
Here's how the argument goes: "Is" for the Catholics means "is transubstantiated." "Is" for the Lutheran means "this is my body and blood along with the bread and wine." Neither therefore gives a literal description of what Jesus is holding in his hand. Because neither confession holds a "literal" view of the words of institution, each confession's argument that "Jesus meant what he said" isn't valid. Hence, the Reformed view is just another non-literal reading of the words of institution and when you combine it was the Christological argument it makes the most sense.
This argument is important to respond to. First, on one level, one could say that the words of institution are in a sense figurative according to Luther's reading. In his debates with Zwingli (see AE 37 in particular), Luther states that Jesus' words express a synedoche, wherein a whole is represented by its parts. The classic example of this is "all hands on deck." In other words, all sailors are represented by their "hands" coming to the deck of the ship. This reading of the words of institution is well justified by Paul's statements in 1 Cor. that the "bread we eat is the communion of the body of Christ, etc." In other words, both substances are there and consequently the words of institution express the presence of Jesus through the elements of bread and wine in the form of the synedoche perfectly.
On another level though, there is nothing "figurative" about the words of institution and the Reformed fundamentally misunderstand how speech acts work on multiple levels.
For the Reformed, the assumption is that words somehow just signify things. So you point at a table and say "table" because the noise "table" is a symbol for the object. Certain speech-acts do function this way. Nevertheless, they also function in one might say, an "effective" manner. So, for example, when I say "I pronounce you man and wife" the words aren't really signifying a reality, they're giving a reality of "marriage."
The words of institution function the same way- and not just in a human way, but by divine power. Luther says that there is a distinction between "call-words" (first class that I spoke of) and "do-words" (the second class). So, when the Reformed hear the words of institution, they mistakenly think that they call "call words." Hence the critique "well, but isn't it also bread and wine also, not just body and blood?" This suggests that they take the words to be an ontological description of the elements. They are that of course, but they're more than that! They are a promise of receiving the body and blood through the reception of the elements. The function of the words is to promise of the body and blood of Christ to faith. Hence to say that they are non-literal is non-sense, because they give what is literally promised.
Faith receives God's literal promises. I think that this is the reason why Luther was adamant about the sacrament. His understanding of faith that he reach during the indulgence controversy was that faith was the means by which God's promises in Christ were to be tapped into. Faith gains what it gains by believing what is promised, no matter how fantastic. So too, the sacrament must be taken to be what it is because it is a word received by faith. It isn't a proposition to be figured out, but a promise received.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Also, I think this shows that the Plato's eros and the caritas synthesis are more or less rationalizations of God. They are in effect attempts at rationalizing the mystery of why God loves. As we know from Luther, law and reason always go together. Law then becomes the means whereby the divine mystery of love is made explainable- i.e., we earned it! But that's not how God works. His love and promise in the gospel are every an incomprehensible mystery, which he gives freely for no apparent reason.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Anyways, the movie (if you haven't heard) is about the creation of Facebook, which so many people are obsessed with (for some reason- I have an account and don't really know what I'm supposed to do with it!).
The interesting thing was how Sorkin construed the basic motivation of Mark Zuckerberg (the founder) in coming up with Facebook. The movie starts with him wanting to get into the "finals clubs" at Harvard and not really having a path. The idea of Facebook is to be able to have a social network that is both exclusive and democratic. It's democratic insofar as anyone can join-exclusive in that your own individual social network is made up of people who your "Friends."
Now, the thing is, although Zuckerberg became the youngest billionaire in the world by making Facebook, he didn't do it for the money. His family was already wealthy enough. Also, his rivals didn't go after him for the money. Again, they already had a ton of money. They were wealthy kids who went to Harvard. The issue is recognition. The social network is about mutual recognition of worth as a "friend"- the action of the plot is drive by the war of the characters for mutual recognition. This is why it is such a clever plot.
This is interesting in that is mirrors what Hegel says about the engine of history. According to Hegel, history is driven by the dialectic of opposing groups demanding mutual recognition. It's no accident either that Hegel considered himself to be philosophical outworking of Luther's theology. Now this is certainly false to a large extent. But to this extent it is true. The human creature under sin is at war with the rest of creation and with God to recognize his or her claim to be in the right and recognized. Eberhard Juengel makes the observation that this takes on even the most trivial forms, as for instance when we mentally justify our right to take a particular seat on a bus or subway.
I think this largely explains the importance of social networks for our culture. The exclusivity of the social network allows a technologically new form of self-justification through mutual recognition. Whereas my own self-justification personally takes on different forms (hence, I generally find Facebook a bore), for most people I suspect that this is the reason why it is so addicting. It's a chance at perpetual self-justification online at the click of button.