Monday, August 24, 2009

Terrific YouTube videos

Loads of great YouTube videos, with Bauckham, Thiselton, Dunn, Wright, Hurtado, Stanton, Burridge and others, talking about Ricoeur, the kingdom of God, the divinity of Jesus, the Gospels and eyewitnesses, the Gospel of John and much more.


A moment in the Tilling family home

I had just entered the lounge having prepared my breakfast with a bit of honey

Anja (still in the kitchen): Where is the honey?

Chris (now sitting down in deep thought on something or other): Where is was! (thinking Anja was implying I had not put it back in the right place)

Anja (slightly irritated): That's not very helpful! Where is the honey?

Chris (still in thought and slightly bothered another question had been posed): Where it is now!

Anja (after a minute or so of some muttering coming from the kitchen direction, having finally found it on her own): You could have said 'in the corner cupboard on the left'!

Confession of the day

I believe in God, Father, Son and Spirit, yet my quest for theological truth is often nothing more than a series of question marks left in the wake of this God's presence in my life. I think this is partly because the nature of Truth is not just something we ask about, seek to understand and analyse in terms of probabilities, rules of contradiction etc. Rather, Truth – if that is really what we are dealing with – often puts the question to us.

Anyway, enough profundity for now. I'm off to see if I can actually belch my way through the 39 Articles, or at least the Barmen declaration.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Bultmann

I have often posted on this blog about my admiration of Bultmann, perhaps the greatest biblical scholar of all time. This can perhaps be said due to the sheer number of subjects he influenced: from methodology to the historical Jesus, from John's Gospel to Paul's letters and theology, from Christology to anthropology, from New Testament soteriology to hermeneutics, and so on. His scope of vision was indeed breathtaking and he managed to think through all of this in such a way that gracefully interwove the various themes all together into the kerygma, God's address to us all in Christ. Indeed, his passion was faithful commitment to the Gospel and he resisted the various distractions on offer in, for example, the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule. Perhaps most notable is Bultmann's 'conversation' with Heideggerian themes such as isolation and anxiety, which he seized and 'inhabited' with the Gospel, drawing fresh insight from the correlation. Though one must immediately add that Heidegger's influence on Bultmann can be exaggerated, and it must be remembered that Heidegger himself denied his thought was concerned with existentialism or existentialist philosophy. That said, the influence is palpable: just look at the themes Bultmann covers in his NT theology of Paul! Thus pens John MacQuarrie in his 1955 work, An Existentialist Theology: A Comparison of Heidegger and Bultmann: 'WHETHER for good or ill, it is a fact that throughout its history Christian theology has fallen at various times under the influence of different secular philosophies'.

But herein lies the problem, and the soft underbelly of the great man's work. MacQuarrie is wrong. The supposed influence of 'secular philosophies' has not been a fact 'throughout' the history of Christian theology for one simple reason: 'secular' is a relatively modern invention. Yes, this 'Radical Orthodoxy' critique of Bultmann must be heard. In his method of correlation, of seeking to find space for the kerygma in 'secular' philosophy, Bultmann had inadvertently bought into a worldview deeply antithetical to the Christian vision that God is the source of all being and knowing. This led him to the further mistake of confusing the existential content of the resurrection of Jesus on the disciples with the external-to-human-disposition event-edness of Easter.

But Bultmann was simply standing in a long German tradition in this respect, and his work within that institution was without peer. Pick up a book by Bultmann today, and sit at the feet of one of the most important theologian-biblical scholars ever. But read critically, as I am sure our birthday boy himself would encourage you to do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Quote of the day

'The Pharisees represented a pious movement. They enjoyed wide popular support and were dedicated to an interpretation of the biblical texts that was anything but rigid and literal. The fact that Paul was nurtured in an environment that saw new interpretations of the biblical texts as a natural part of the divine revelation is an important aspect when trying to understand his way of reasoning'

(from Magnus Zetterholm, Approaches to Paul: a student's guide to recent scholarship, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009, pp. 15-16)

This reasoning of course speaks against the kind of Pauline handling of scripture proposed by Scott Hafemann, as seen for example in Paul, Moses, and the History of Israel: The Letter/Spirit Contrast and the Argument from Scripture in 2 Corinthians 3 (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2005).

Monday, August 17, 2009

Eduard Schweizer on Universalism

There are passages in the New Testament describing the group of the blessed and that of the cursed ones (as in Matthew 25:34-41), and there are other passages declaring that "all men have been consigned to disobedience that he (God) may have mercy upon all" (as in Romans 11:32). We certainly need the warning of Matthew 25 that there is a dimension of eternity in which all our living on earth has to be seen. We also need, equally urgently, to be reminded of God's grace (as in Romans 11), from which nobody and nothing can separate us, which is stronger even than our disobedience. This twofold message is the word of God, as it has to live among us. But if we tried to build up a doctrine of an indispensable belief in hell or of universal salvation, we would put ourselves above God, since we would pretend to know exactly how he would have to act on the last day. How he will really act in the last judgment is beyond the threshold of human knowledge, and nobody is allowed to pass this threshold before it is revealed in the parousia of Christ.

From "Colossians 1:15-20", Review and Expositor, 87 (1990)


Sunday, August 16, 2009

A good read

Two friends have insisted that I read anything by James K. A. Smith, so I took up the challenge and purchased Introducing Radical Orthodoxy: Mapping a Post-Secular Theology, Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2004, and Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007, is in the post.

I'm only 90 pages into the first but I highly recommend it: deeply learned, clearly written and best of all I am having many 'aha!' moments.

Michael Bird's little book, Are You the One Who Is to Come?: The Historical Jesus and the Messianic Question, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009, happily dropped through the letterbox the other day, which I really look forward to reading in more depth. I quickly purchased another roughly related book from a completely different perspective to add a bit of zest to the summer. Namely, Thomas L. Thompson's The Messiah Myth: The Near Eastern Roots of Jesus and David, London: Pimlico, 2007 which comes with back cover blurb stating 'the Jesus of the gospels never existed'. I might take this last one on holiday with me, actually.

I suppose I should look for the links to the other books, but I can't be bothered. Bung 'em in Google yourselves!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bauckham comments on creation ex nihilo

I recently posted some thoughts about creation ex nihilo in light of 2 Peter 3:5, and offered three ways of dealing with what we are to make of the (later) doctrine of ex nihilo in light of such biblical themes.

In short I suggested: 1) reject ex nihilo, 2) claim ex nihilo came ex nihilo, but is still correct and 3) argue ex nihilo, while a later development, is consistent with seeds of truth already to be found in the NT and Apocrypha.

Richard Bauckham e-mailed me a fourth possibility that I had not even considered, one I find very appealing:

"Another possibility is that 'chaos' was a sort of mythological way of imagining 'nothing.' To imagine a pre-creation chaos and to say that God created all things was perfectly consistent, because no 'thing' existed until God formed it out of chaos"

What do you think?

David Bentley Hart on reading books

A friend recently drew my attention to Hart's new article on First Things, which made for amusing reading. Here he discusses his reading neurosis:

"Admittedly, this last judgment is based upon only a partial sampling of the work. I am, by nature, a neurotic "completist"; I feel I must finish any book I begin, no matter how great a torment it turns out to be. But I have to confess that, in two attempts to get through The Spiral Ascent, my will has proved unequal to the task. On both occasions, there came a point (and roughly the same point) at which the poor laboring beast of my attention span lay down in the dust and mulishly refused to move forward another inch, no matter how savagely I cursed and flogged it. Thereafter, I merely skimmed through the final pages, simply to confirm for myself that life—even a life as protracted as, say, Edward Upward's—is not long enough to make room for such an ordeal. Others, however, have found the books more inviting than I, and perhaps my failure to follow Upward's tale to the end bespeaks something shallow and dilettantish in my nature"

Saturday, August 08, 2009

What happens if a slightly impatient angel dropkicks your happy sacks halfway through singing a song?

The answer:

HL: Scotteriology

Yea Tiger, be glad I chose theology

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Theological nutters

I've recently been busying studying the psychological areas of Transactional Analysis (TA) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) mainly because I'm a bit mad and thought I could do with a decent psychological thrashing to sort out the 'frothing mouth' aspects of my psyche. Fascinating stuff, actually, and in my humble opinion more so even than the psychoanalysis schools of Freud, Lacan and others who have managed to get some modern continental philosophers so excited.

But in my own general inclinations to lunacy, I am apparently in good company. For on the way, I read the plausible hypothesis that Luther, Teresa of Avila, John Bunyan, Ignatius of Loyola and others suffered from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and that this influenced many of their theological decisions. Of course, obvious to all, it occurs to me that many other theologians and biblical scholars were just plain simple bonkers, having fallen right out of the crazy tree onto the rabid-brain farm: Zwingli, for example. He had 'please lobotomise me' written all over him.

In TA there are three basic ego states: Parent, Adult and Child, and I can't help but reflect a little on such verses as these.

  • 'When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways' (1 Corinthians 13:11)
  • 'For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel' (1 Corinthians 4:15)

Is this Paul evidencing Adult and Parent ego states? I don't think we will ever know.