Monday, November 29, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology: As Represented in the Augsburg Confession and in the History and the Literature of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2007), 591."The idea of sacrifice under the Old Dispensation sheds light upon the nature of the Lord's Supper. . . . Sacrifice through the portion burnt, is received of God by the element of fire; the portion reserved is partaken of by men, is communicated to them, and received by them. The eating of the portion of the sacrifice, by the offerer, is as real a part of the whole sacred act as the burning of the other part is. Man offers to God; this is sacrifice. God gives back to man; this is sacrament. The oblation, or the thing offered, supplies both sacrifice and sacrament, but with the difference, that under the Old Dispensation God received part and man received part; but under the New, God receives all and gives back all: Jesus Christ, in His own divine person, makes that complete which was narrowed under the Old Covenant by the necessary limitations of mere matter."
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
By giving his Word of law and gospel to our first parents God begins to speak forth the new narrative of creation. The new narrative is constituted by the kenosis of the Son and his recapitulation of Adam. Since God is present and active in his Word, the new narrative of creation is played out in the history of the Old Testament by the giving of the divine Word, within which the Son is present. Being present in his Word of promise he subjects himself to Israel and humanity, and thereby enters into his kenotic existence. Similarly, the Son (as our exegetical findings have clearly shown) was the Angel of YHWH and the kavod, who dwelt with Israel in the cult. In this, he was always present in both Word and sacrament (i.e. the cult). This self-donating act was a true kenosis, in that in his presence with Israel, the Son subjected himself to the creation through his presence and promise. As the sin of humanity increased, his grace also increased (Rom 5:20). Ezekiel tells us that in sending Israel into exile, the kavod (the pre-incarnate Son) entered into exile with them (Ezek 10-11- this is also assumed by the kavod's return, predicted in Isa 40). In other words, as God’s judgment against sin in Israel’s history increased, so too did the depth of the Son’s kenosis. The final act of divine judgment coincides then with the final and overwhelming act of grace, as the prophets predicted and Christ confirmed (Mal 3:2, Is 61:2, 63, Mt 3, Mk 1, Lk 3). The Son must finally enter into humanity and thereby also its existence under the law and the condemnation of sin (Gal 4:4). As von Balthasar again observes:
It is that wrath [the wrath divine retribution against sin] which the Son must face in his Passion. The fearful, divinely grounded wrath which blazes up throughout the Old Testament and finally consumes faithless Jerusalem in the fire of divine glory (Ezekiel 10, 2), Jesus must bring to its eschatological end.
Hence, theologians like I. A. Dorner and Wolfhart Pannenberg are in a sense correct to see the Incarnation is the culmination of the process of the two natures coming together into a single theandric subject. What they are mistaken about is that this does not happen in the life of Christ, who was always a single theandric subject, with no increase or decrease in this reality. Rather, the history of Israel is the arena for the process of the Word becoming flesh. The Old Testament is the story of God binding himself to Israel and humanity by his promise of redemption (Gen. 3:15, 15, 17, 22, etc.). This bond manifests itself in greater and greater degrees, until it culminates in the total identification of the two in the Incarnation.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
More from the book.
The second category of sacrifice that Christ fulfills is that of atoning sacrifice. As our exegetical findings in chapter two make clear, the New Testament writings clearly and consistently teach that Jesus' death was a sacrifice for sin, in according with the types of the Levitical cult and the prophecies of the Old Testament (particularly Isaiah 53, etc.). Nevertheless, in modern theology, this aspect of Jesus' work has been frequently rejected. It has suffered this rejection for two main reasons. First, it is often doubted by many New Testament scholars (and others) that Jesus actually regarded his death as the final sacrifice for sin. Even if we did not possess an infallible witness in the New Testament writings (as we do, Lk 10:16, Jn 16:12-6), there are in fact very good reasons within the historical documents themselves to believe that Jesus held his death to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world.
To begin with, the earliest traditions regarding the death of Jesus that we possess come to us from writings of St. Paul, dating from the 50s of the first century. Paul delivers to his congregation the tradition that Jesus' death was a sacrifice for sins which he has clearly received from the earliest disciples. He states explicitly: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3-4, Emphasis added). In 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, Paul begins by referring to the tradition that he has received that Christ died as a sacrifice for sin, and then proceeds to speak of it within a body of traditions that refer to Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the apostles. Paul ends by affirming the unity of his proclamation with that of the original disciples of Jesus by stating: “Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1 Cor. 15:11). Hence Paul himself both testifies of this understanding of the death of Jesus as being the earliest tradition and one he received directly from the other apostles.
Not only does Paul attest that the earliest disciples understood Jesus' death as a sacrifice for sins (which is strongly suggests that Jesus himself did as well), but he also more directly affirms that this was Jesus' own self-understanding by recounting the words of institution at the last supper. As we observed in chapter two, the words of institution clearly attest Jesus' understanding of his death as a sacrifice for sins in that it presents his flesh and blood as something separated. The act of atoning sacrifice for the Jews was in fact the act of separating body from blood (Lev 17:11). Therefore, in the words of institution Jesus presented his physical substance as something sacrificed for sins: "this is my body" "this is my blood" etc.
The veracity Paul's own witness to these words and the narrative of institution in 1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 cannot be doubted. According to the passages in 1 Corinthians mentioned above, Galatians 1-2, and Acts, the Apostle clearly knew Jesus' original followers and therefore those who had been in Jesus' own presence when he spoken the words of institution. Unless we are to believe that they intentionally lied about what Jesus had said, the words must be understood as historical and therefore Jesus without a doubt understood his death to be a sacrifice for sins.
Beyond Paul's own witness to the words of institution, there is the attestation of them by the Synoptic tradition. The Synoptic Gospels record the words in a very nearly identical form. There is some variation, but this is not surprising. Such variation is doubtless due to how the words were translated from Aramaic and there was also probably some stylization of them due to liturgical usage. What is important though is that this dual witness to the words gives us multiple attestation of their veracity. Multiple attestation is generally one of the criterion used by liberal scholars use for the verification of the authentic words of Jesus in Gospel research. For this reason, the data shows that the words of institution must be considered historical and therefore Jesus must have considered his death a priestly act of sacrifice for sin.
The Gospels give further historical evidence that Jesus intended his death to be a sacrifice for sin. For example, as N. T. Wright has pointed out, it cannot credibly be believed that the early Church invented Jesus' prayer in the garden of Gethsemane that his vocation of dying might be changed (Mk 14:32-42, Mt 26:36-46, Lk 22:39-46.). In fact, there is fairly good evidence that such a portrayal of Jesus stands in rather stark contradiction to the portrayals of heroic martyrdom found elsewhere in the immediate environment. For example, Josephus’ portrayal of the binding of Isaac and much later, Eusebius’ source for the martyrdom of St. Polycarp. In both of these histories, the hero goes unflinchingly to his death and does not attempt to ask God for a reprieve. Josephus tells us that it “pleased” Isaac to hear of his impending death. Raymond Brown has made a similar comparison of Jesus to the brave and stoic martyrs of 2 Maccabees. If one connects the fact of the words of institution with such a plea, then one cannot escape the conclusion that Jesus believed that the Father willed his death as a sacrifice for sins.
Beyond the veracity of the earliest tradition, it should be noted that although Jesus' conception of his death as a sacrifice for sins was unique, it possesses some close parallels within the Judaism of his time. Not only is the idea of the necessity of the Israel’s eschatological suffering for sin as prelude to the eschaton a staple of apocalyptic Jewish thought (as Wright has shown), but the idea of vicarious and representative suffering has also been found among variety of Jewish apocalyptic literature, as well as at Qumran. Both Ben Whitherington III and more recently Brant Pitre, have demonstrated that Jesus’ claim to be the bringer and embodiment of the kingdom necessitated within the Jewish apocalyptic worldview his suffering of what have been typically referred to as “the Messianic woes.” Pitre in particular makes this judgment after surveying a large number of Second Temple Jewish eschatological literature which refers to representative and atoning suffering. This makes Jesus' belief that he was to be the final sacrifice for sins perfectly coherent with his message of the coming of God's kingdom. This also shows that the frequent assertion that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom whereas later Christianity proclaimed his death and atonement is utterly false. In fact, since Jesus' death is the only thing that can bring the kingdom, the two are mutually dependent on one another and therefore represent the same proclamation simply stated two different ways.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
As the true heavenly high priest promised by Psalm 110, Christ fulfills all sacrifice. This is major theme in the New Testament. Jesus is the true Temple (Jn 2:18) and all rituals and sacrifices of the Levitical cult are typological of his grace (Col 2:17, Heb 10:1). For this reason, the early Lutheran scholastic theologian David Chytraeus observed that “God instituted so many different kinds of sacrifice in order that . . . .the variety of Christ’s benefits and of spiritual sacrifices . . . . [would be] foreshadowed by this diversity of sacrificial types.” Among these various sorts of sacrifice, we noted in chapter one that there are three main categories: sacrifices of praise, sacrifices of atonement, and sacrifices meant to ratify and enact covenants or testaments. Christ fulfills all of these forms of sacrifice. His life and death served as a sacrifice of praise, because possessing the fullness of divine glory he was not subject to the law. His obedience and death served as an atoning sacrifice, in that by it he rendered both infinite obedience and suffered infinite retribution in his theandric person on our behalf to the Father. Finally, his death confirmed the testament of the gospel and thereby became a source of our true knowledge and true worship of God. For this reason, much as his kingly office is ordered to his priestly office, Christ's priestly office is ordered to his prophetic office.
We begin first with Christ's fulfillment of the sacrifice of praise. As the possessor of the fullness of divine glory, Christ was utterly free from the law and therefore the archetype of Christian freedom. For this reason, any obedience that he rendered to the Father is not a legal obligation, but rather a sacrifice of praise for having already received all from the Father from eternity: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (Jn 17:4). Indeed, Jesus’ own “glorification” (his death on the cross) is a glorification of the Father since in dying under God’s wrath and the most extreme opposition from sinful humanity, he still confesses God’s goodness and grace and thereby glorifies him by his confession: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (Jn 17:1).
Even Jesus’ lamentation on the cross (Mk 15:34) is itself a confession of faith in the goodness and grace of God that is hiding. Jesus' dying words in Mark, it must be remembered, are a quotation from the prophecy of Psalm 22 and therefore cannot be separated from the liturgical function of lamentation. Psalms were utilized as the liturgy of the Temple and therefore are in a sense all concerned with the praise of God for his goodness. Psalms of lamentation also assume the existence of and trust in divine goodness. One does not lament if they do not consider God to be gracious and good. Lamentation is faith’s response to appearances that contradict its trust in God’s goodness and graciousness. Those who do not believe God is good and gracious do not lament because the world is precisely as a non-existent or malevolent deity would have it. Therefore, Jesus in his lamentation maintains his faith in God’s Word to him, in spite of divine hiddenness and condemnation.
As the true human being, Jesus Christ displays perfect faith in God's goodness. Knowing himself to share all things in common with the Father and having this reconfirmed throughout his whole life by God's external Word (in the Scriptures, spoken to his parents, at his baptism and at Tabor, etc.), he trusted in God's goodness and his own vindication with a victorious faith (Heb 12:1-2). Whereas Adam and Eve, standing at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil doubted God's beneficence, being surrounded by all good things, Jesus on the tree of the cross, stood in the most extreme opposition, abandonment, and condemnation in his death. Nevertheless, unlike our first parents, he praised God and did not doubt his word of grace: "you are my Son with whom I am well pleased." It is for this reason that both Luther and Thomasius (whom we cited earlier) are correct, that Jesus could only redeem if he experienced the total abandonment and wrath of God. Jesus active righteousness is rooted in his perfect faith in the face of total abandonment.
Monday, November 8, 2010
1 Clement 32:4 "And so we, having been called through His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified through ourselves or through our own wisdom or understanding or piety or works which we wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, whereby the Almighty God justified all men that have been from the beginning; to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
First, what am I referring to when I talk about "two kinds of righteousness?" Luther used to the phrase to entitle a sermon he wrote in 1518 (possibly reformatioal, or close to being as such). He also mentions this in the preface of the Galatians commentary of 1531-35.
"Two kinds of righteousness" describes the two sorts of righteousness the human subject is capable of having. This goes hand-in-hand with the dialectical anthropology that Luther operates within. The first sort of righteousness is active righteousness and it is the sort of righteousness that the external person has. In other words, since the external person is ruled by reason and can weigh external goods, one against another- they are capable of actualizing a external, activity based, righteousness in the kingdom of the world.
This means that we do good things using our freedom and reason, and therefore people "see" us doing good things. In this realm therefore, the human person can be instructed by the law and when asked to do good things external by the law, most certain can do so.
There is a second sort of righteousness, the righteousness of faith which is passive before God. Again, as we saw, for Luther the will is primary in our relationship to God. It also rules the human person. The will is ruled by affections that are inculcated in us relationally. We either love and believe in the Word of the Devil or in God. As he say in Bondage of the Will, the two master take turns riding us and we can do nothing to resist them.
Luther says that the righteousness we have in this realm is from faith and not activity. God gives us Jesus Christ, whom we passively receive in faith and therefore become righteous through him. Our activity cannot affect this realm, because our actions do not change our unfree will to be different than it is. God must act on us. We are always passive in this relationship to him.
Now, I think that this is helpful for understanding law/gospel because it clears up a lot of confusion.
When, for example, certain 20th century Lutheran thinkers complain about a "third use" intervening after the gospel, they are effectively making a mistake of realms that could be cleared up by this distinction. In other words, when we are dealing with our righteousness in the direction of God via our bound wills- yes, that's absolutely right. The gospel is the last Word. There is no law intervening in our relationship to God after the gospel comes. The gospel is the last word.
But, when we are talking about the kingdom of the world, things are different. In the kingdom of the world, we are free and we are capable of "using" the law as a guide to actualize a right relationship with creation. Hence, although as passive righteousness (things that are above us, in the terms of the Bondage of the Will) the law is worthless, it is good and necessary in the instruction of the external person in the kingdom of the world.
In that sense, gospel could be said to come before law- just as the promise of the first commandment comes at the beginning of the Decalogue and then frees one to obey the rest of the commandments. Nevertheless, if we are looking from the perspective of the passive righteousness, then law precedes gospel and ends with the pronouncement of justification.
For this reason, the distinction does not destroy law/gospel, but clarifies how we are talking about law/gospel- that is, as it relates to "passive" righteousness or "active" righteousness.