Monday, February 28, 2011
One good point that he makes is that the Cappadocian Fathers and other early theologians who asserted divine immutability didn't think about it quite in the same way as Plato or Platonizing Christian and Jewish theologians did (i.e. Philo, Origen, Clement, Justin Martyr, etc.). For the Cappadocians, God is conceived as something living. Even though he is immutable, his immutability is not something static. God is unchanging "energy."
I was thinking about this, and I think the best analogy of the Christian concept of immutability and that of Plato is ice vs. fire. For Plato, God or "the Good" is like ice in his immutability. It's frozen. If it moves, it breaks- in other words, it loses its integrity. I think that's essentially why Arius taught what he taught. If God could act and enter our story, he would break. So, Jesus isn't God. He's a go-between so that God can stay God and not break.
By contrast, the classical Christian idea of immutability is that of fire. Fire is living, yet it doesn't change. It stays exactly the same if you keep on putting fuel on top of it. It can also spread, while not losing anything of itself or changing. This is because the Biblical doctrine of immutability is rooted in the Trinitarian conception of God. The Trinity is dynamic. It is an eternal event of divine self-communication and donation. It doesn't change, yet it is living and dynamic. The Father gives all of himself to the Son, while remaining the unchanging Father. God exists as a relational life. He isn't a slab of ice, but a living, yet unchanging, reality.
I think this is a better model of Christians to understand the immutability of the divine being. Understand God as something living, yet unchanging also helps us starve off the attacks of those who (based on a false understanding of immutability) what the divine being to be mutable. If that latter would be true, it would destroy the whole Christian account of God. It would mean that creation would be deified and present possibilities to God which he lacked in himself. Even worse, God might be change his mind about either the law or the gospel. The end result would be that the divine assurance that the gospel brings would be utterly destroyed.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The condescending and concealing movement of the Son actualized in the narrative of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection also unfolds the word of the testament as a specifically Trinitarian act of mutual concealment and revelation. The dialectic of the hidden and revealed God is not properly understood as the unfolding of an essentially unitarian account of the deity (even though certain Lutheran theologians have given that impression!), but is rather shaped by the Trinitarian structure of the divine life and the taxis of its temporal manifestation.
At Christ’s baptism, the Father testifies that he is his Son. As we noted above, Jesus does not appear to be God’s Son in that he stands in solidarity of with sinners. Throughout his ministry, Christ testifies of the Father against the experience of condemnation suffered by Israel. The Father hides as deus absconditus under wrath and law. He does so through the mask (larva dei) of continuing exile and a decaying creation (Rom 8:22). In contradistinction to this mask, Jesus testifies that the Father is the gracious giver of every good. Jesus, as the true Son of the Father, is his very image (Col 1:15, Heb 1:3) in his ministry of compassion and forgiveness. He sees what the Father does and does it himself (Jn 5:20). Those who have seen him have seen the Father (14:9). Although the Father is hidden and no one has ever seen him (1:18), he reveals his grace by making the rain fall on the just and unjust (Mt 5:45) and loves those who abuse his grace (5:43-8). Indeed, only the Son knows the Father, just as the Father alone knows the Son (Mt 11:27, Jn 10:15). This is because Jesus and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), and Jesus is in Father and the Father is in Jesus (Jn 14:11). Nevertheless, this unity of the Father and the Son is hidden and only revealed by the power of the Spirit. This unity is both revealed and conceal at Jesus' baptism through Jesus' reception of the Spirit under the concealing form of a dove. In Jesus' ministry, the Spirit reveals the unity of the Father and Jesus through the word that Jesus gives (Mt 11:27).
As Jesus’ ministry persists, the aporia between his testimony regarding his unity with Father and the actual circumstances of his existence grows ever deeper. Jesus forgives sinners who are condemned by the Father's law by means other than those set down by the Pentateuch (i.e., Temple and cultic sacrifice). Jesus is not opposed to the law (Mt. 5:17), but rather claims that the law is ordered to the gospel (Jn 3:17). Jesus’ identification with sinners and his eventual death along with them will therefore be an act of divine redemption, not a final condemnation of him as a mere messianic pretender. In fact, the Father's love for the Son lies in the fact that he bears this judgment (10:15). This judgment will not be an end in itself, but rather will serve the purpose of the Father’s loving plan to redeem the whole world (3:16). Hisopus alienum is therefore ordered to his opus proprium. This truth is nevertheless not really accessible to vision. The Father, whom Jesus prays to and testifies of, finally reacts in silence to Jesus' cry of desperation in the garden of Gethsemane. The Father remains loving even though his benevolence is hidden when he abandons the Son to a cruel fate. In the same way, Jesus remains divine and righteous, though he dies under the veil of sin and weakness. On the cross, the visible rupture between the Father and the Son (as well as between vision and hearing!) is completed when we hear both: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “Truly this was the Son of God!”
In the resurrection, the Spirit who raises Christ (Rom 8:11) resolves the aporia between the Son's testimony and the Father's action. Jesus' claim that the Father's wrath is order to his love is validated once and for all. Similarly, his claim of unity with the Father is reaffirmed in the unity of the Spirit, for: "In that day [that is, at the time of the receiving the Spirit after the resurrection] you will know that I am in my Father" (Jn 14:20). This revelation is nevertheless hidden in that no one directly observes the event of resurrection. Jesus himself testifies to the disciples that he has been raised and gives them the Spirit (20:19). By receiving the Spirit, they will preserve and propagate Jesus' infallible testimony regarding the Father (14:16-26). The Spirit's activity is also hidden for believers in Word and sacrament. The audible word given by Jesus in his promises concerning the word of the apostles and sacraments testifies to the Spirit's hidden work. In establishing the means of grace, Jesus testifies to work of the Spirit against vision, in the same manner that the Father testified of him and he testified of the Father sub contrario.
Faith holds to Jesus as the true revealed God over-against sinful human perceptions of the Father hidden in majesty. Faith also trusts in the Spirit and the Father's word of testimony regarding Jesus in opposition to his manifest form of weakness and condemnation. Through this testimony, faith recognizes Jesus is a mirror of the Father's heart. Luther writes in the Large Catechism: "For (as explained above) we could never attain to the knowledge of the grace and favor of the Father except through the Lord Christ, who is a mirror of the paternal heart, outside of whom we see nothing but an angry and terrible Judge." Faith gains this knowledge through trust in the hidden work of the Spirit in Word and sacrament: "But of Christ we could know nothing either, unless it had been revealed by the Holy Ghost." Therefore for Luther, the whole dialectic of the hidden and revealed God resolves itself for faith in the Trinitarian advent of Christ's life made accessible in Word and sacrament.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Friday, February 18, 2011
After reading The Heidelberg Disputation and Freedom of a Christian in tandem for my Luther class, another point struck me regarding how Luther is rejecting the Platonic-Augustinian desire-mysticism. Not only are we not attractive to God (i.e., we bring sin and death to the mystical marriage of faith!), but Christ isn't attractive to us! After all Isaiah says to regarding him: "he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him" (Isaiah 53:2).
Luther notes in thesis 4 of the Heidelberg Disputation that God's works always appear unattractive, but are nevertheless eternal merits. Hence, we receive Christ through the hearing of faith contrary to the vision of beauty and love, as the Platonic-Augustinian tradition would have it.
After all, for love to be primary, there must be a primacy of vision in the divine-human relationship. Love desires and pursues that desire (i.e., the works of the law). Faith hears and patiently receives. Faith hears and believes against external appearance.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
My immediate response was: "Huh?"
I find that rather strange. My theological positions are general, standard, run-of-the-mill old Missourian.
I think it's fair to say that I don't address standard topics that one finds throughout the Lutheran blogsphere. But how would that make my blog controversial?
Question: Has anyone else heard anything about this?
Monday, February 14, 2011
Monday, February 7, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
I was over at Lutheran Forum again and Robert Benne was commenting on how his side conducted itself in the ELCA civil war compared to the LCMS conservatives back in the 60s and 70s. He was lamenting how nasty everything got in Missouri. I would agree that much of what went on then was highly regretable- most notably the association between many of the conservatives and Herman Otten (whom I consider to be utterly reptilian!).
Nevertheless, on the other hand, not playing for keeps didn't really work for Benne and his group- i.e. they lost. In ecclesiastical warfare, the number one rule is that you must realize that you are playing a zero sum game. There is no peaceful co-existence. Either one side will win and determine everything or the other. Benne's group wanted too little and didn't fight hard enough. They just wanted to status quo. They didn't get that they and the other side could never peacefully co-exist. That was pure illusion.