Thursday, July 24, 2014

About that command by Jesus...

Here, at the end of the first section of the Sermon on the Mount, perfection is commanded. By commanding perfection, Jesus suggests the necessity—and possibility—of human transformation, a profound correcting of that which is imperfect, even within this lifetime. This causes enormous difficulties for theologians who assume that all humans are thoroughly depraved and sinful, even after being saved.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 27

<idle musing>
Oh, that's simple, we just throw it away...after all, only the parts of the Bible that I agree with are inerrant and in the original autographs—right?! : (
</idle musing>

Take that, you monergists!

Intercession is not our attempt to persuade God to do something He would rather not do. Instead, God is looking for someone who will intercede. It is Yahweh Himself who wants to initiate the intercession. Why is that? Why is intercession important? I wish I could answer that question more fully than I can. It is not that we add something to the work of salvation; salvation is in God and God alone. But there is something in Him that causes Him to invite us to enter into that process, and that entering in seems vital to the completion of the process.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 373

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Let's start at the very beginning

Portraying God’s kenotic descent in Christ, and his acting in what can be seen as a shockingly ungodly manner for the common human perception of divinity, Paul elevates the significance of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, and proclaims Christ to be the Lord, in contrast to the typical Roman understanding of imperial power and honor.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 9

<idle musing>
I was given this book when it first was published—and it sat on my desk (thanks to my friends at Wipf & Stock for the book). One day, I started reading it, made some notes, and then put it down. For about 2 years. I had read the first book and loved it. For some reason, this one was not as easy to read. I struggled to get into it—I suspect because of Kharlamov's writing style. He wrote the first two essays and his style is very dense and doesn't flow well. Once I got through those, the rest of the book was a delightful read, as you will see from the extracts over the next few weeks.

So, if you chose to read this book—and I highly recommend it!—be prepared to struggle through the first two essays. But persevere, it is well worth the effort. Meanwhile, enjoy the snippets...
</idle musing>

About that list of qualifications...

Now, who would be the perfect ruler, and what would he be like? The Old Testament offers many snapshots in order to create a composite picture for them so they can conceive of who the perfect ruler and the perfect mediator would be. For instance, there is Moses. How would you describe him as the leader of Israel? What is his primary characteristic? Was he a priest? A political figure? A figure of power? The thing that impresses me the most is that he was a mediator, and more particularly, an intercessor.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 373

<idle musing>
When was the last time you saw that on the list of job requirements? Can you see it?
Wanted, top level executive. Must be experienced in spending hours interceding with God on behalf of a wayward group of people. Must be willing to sacrifice him/herself for the survival of that same group. Oh, and incidentally, they are more than willing to stone you if you don't do what they want.

Think there would be many takers? Me either...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thought for the day

In September of 1934 Bonhoeffer mentioned that he had heard that some in the Oxford movement were trying to convert Hitler. Bonhoeffer referred to this as “a ridiculous failure to recognize what is going on. We are the ones to be converted, not Hitler.” (emphasis original)—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 232

<idle musing>
That's the final excerpt from the book. What do you think? Do they make their case?

As I mentioned the other day, I don't think so. The whole time I was reading the book, I felt like Herod Agrippa listening to Paul, "Almost you persuade me." Almost—but not quite. The testimony of Bethge is too hard to discard.

That being said, those who blithely state that he was involved in the plots to assassinate Hitler need to nuance that. The authors are correct to point out that he couldn't have been actively involved. But, he surely was aware of the plans and might have been more active than that.

Actually, to me the most compelling evidence for a lack of active involvement comes from the testimony of Bonhoeffer scholar Sabine Dramm. She maintains—compellingly, I feel—that the main reason Bonhoeffer was involved with the Abwehr was to prevent being drafted. He knew that if he was drafted, he couldn't serve. In Nazi Germany, that meant automatic death.

So, in the end, we have a man who firmly believed in pacifism, but felt compelled by the extenuating circumstances of the time to take on the guilt of going against those convictions. Ethics is full of statements to that effect...

By the way, while getting the link Ethics, I see that there is a Supplementary and Index volume coming out this fall! Lust! Desire! Of course, I should finish reading the ones I already own...and complete the set as well. Book lust! Erasmus is my patron saint—"If I have money I buy books. If I have any money left, I buy food..." : )
</idle musing>

Deus ex machina? Hardly

When one takes the Old Testament from the beginning, God’s purpose is redemptive; God is never first a judge. Furthermore, salvation is not going to come from the throne. It originates there but it won’t be accomplished there. It is in time and space that redemption takes place. And redemption is not going to be done without us. Yet, although it is not going to be done without us, there is no salvation in any of us. All salvation is in Him and comes from beyond, but it takes place in the here and now and not without human involvement.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 363

Monday, July 21, 2014

A simple choice?

“Our choice is Germanism or Christianity.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 229

<idle musing>
And we are faced with a choice, too. Not that I am comparing the U.S. with Nazi Germany—there are significant differences—but the choice is the same: do we stand for Jesus, or do we stand for "American interests"?

How can a Christian condone violence? Especially against children! I know there are no simple answers, but at least don't just brush it off and say we have to defend our interests!
</idle musing>

Implications of God as Father

God has this concern for the world. He is a Father. He was a Father before He was Lord, and He will be a Father in the end. And when He created us He put us in families, In other words, He put us together like Himself and He wants us to have that kind of paternal relationship with Him. But He is a holy Father. And His holiness, His otherness, is especially expressed in an ethical purity unlike anything found in humanity. As such, He is offended by wrong; it repels Him. But that repulsion does not make Him want to let us go. Rather, it makes Him want to get His arms around us and not let us go, because He knows that when we have chosen wrong, we have chosen something detrimental to us, the ones He loves. He wants to deal with the evil, not just to punish us as a Judge. So, what is it that creates evil? It is when I shut the door on the Source of life, When I shut the door on God, when I shut my heart on God, then evil develops because the source of virtue, the source of righteousness, the source of holiness, is cut off. By my shutting the door on Him, I have created something alien to Him, something that will be my destruction.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 351-352

<idle musing>
I love that about Kinlaw; he makes a straightforward observation. Then he turns it in a way that causes you to see something totally new in it. Sure, God is Father—but here are the implications. And God is a holy Father—but here are the implications. And God is a Judge—but here are the implications.

That's why his classes were such a joy to be a part of. That and the fact that he was continually making reference to a whole library full of books to read. He'd mention a book and say, "You owe it to yourself to read this." How can you not want to read it when it is introduced like that?!
</idle musing>

Friday, July 18, 2014

It's all encompassing

The call to follow Jesus, discipleship, is about the revelation of God made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ—being present with us, empowering us, commanding us to be his body in the midst of the world. And let me make something clear: just as the Sermon on the Mount is not mostly about “pacifism,” so Discipleship is neither mostly about the Sermon on the Mount nor mostly about pacifism. No, it is a provocative call to serious holistic discipleship, drawing upon both the Gospels and the Pauline material in the New Testament. This call entails many specifics, including love of enemies.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 229

Thought for a Friday

Paganism sees existence as a struggle between chaos and order, with chaos being “bad” and order being “good.” These two principles have always existed and always will, and we simply need to face the fact that disorder, evil, is as necessary a part of existence as order, good, is. It is all right to attempt to maximize order and to minimize disorder, but disorder is always going to be there, and you are just going to have to learn the tricks to try to hold it at bay. So the universe is full of these forces of disorder. To all of that the Old Testament says a resounding “No!” Evil is nothing more nor less than the results of a refusal to submit to the creative purposes of our Father. In the sense that He made a world where that refusal is possible, He is responsible for the existence of evil in the world. That means that when you face the realm of evil within you and without, He is the only One you need to deal with, and if you have Him in the right place in your life, you can forget about your fears.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 345

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It's bigger than that

...in addition to being against nationalism and for peace, Bonhoeffer also had come to believe that Christians needed to be attentive to the needs of the most vulnerable in society—whether African Americans in the United States or Jews in Nazi Germany.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 228

<idle musing>
And illegal immigrants, and the unborn, and those who are being taken advantage of by big business, and...
</idle musing>

Careful, he just stole the show

[Dorothy] Sayers says that if a playwright introduces the Devil into her cast of characters, she immediately has a great problem on her hands. The problem is how to keep the Devil from becoming the hero. Since the human spirit is so attracted to evil, even if you just make Satan one of the minor characters, you are going to have trouble keeping him from getting center stage.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 343

<idle musing>
And that's true in theology too, isn't it? I suspect that is the reason you don't find a fully developed theology of satan in the scripture...and why it is so easy to see "a demon behind every bush" if you aren't careful.

A good illustration of this is the movie Fantasia from Disney. The part where good finally triumphs at the end is boring! But the preceding Night on Bald Mountain is fascinating...we need the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit even to see evil as repulsive.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Can we do as well?

Bonhoeffer consistently—from 1932 to the end of his life (thus before and after Hitler assumed power)—was strongly opposed to nationalism. His clear teachings against nationalism were rooted in the Sermon on the Mount and his belief that God commanded peace, as well as in his strong sense of the unity of the church and his belief that war among Christians was a violation of such unity. Connected to this, he was a strong advocate for conscientious objection among Christians.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 226

<idle musing>
There was a song done by The All Saved Freak Band that speaks well to our situation. It's titled Theme of the Fellowship of the Ring (the link is to an MP3). The relevant lyrics are

Frodo and Samwise they did quite well
In Mordor where the shadows lie
Destroyed the Ring in fires of Hell
In Mordor where the shadows lie
Hobbits destroyed it and they did quite well
In Mordor where the shadows lie
Halflings did it, even one that fell
In Mordor where the shadows lie
The Fellowship prevailed against the Two Towers
In Mordor where the shadows lie
Can we do as well in this hour, destroy its power
In Mordor where the shadows lie
Gollum fell, was consumed by the ring, but nonetheless, he assisted in the destruction of the ring...

<rant mode on>
Nationalism and Christianity can not coexist peacefully—just like God and money, nationalism (my country, right or wrong!—and of course it is right!) consumes all it touches...Where are the Bonhoeffers of today? Who is standing up against the overpowering of the church by an unthinking embrace of a theology that puts the US flag on the podium in the sanctuary?

Where are those who question equating the flag-waving adulations of the crowds with God's will? Why the embrace by Christians of militarism? How is that different from Germany in the 1930s?

Lebensraum differs from "American interests" in what way?
</rant mode off>

Just the
</idle musing> of a former bookseller who wonders where the prophets have gone...

Escapist literature

Of course there is prediction in the true prophets, but the purpose of that prediction is something very different from divination. Divination seeks to let you know what the future is so you can escape it. The purpose of true prophecy is to let you know who God is so you an get right with Him, and in that way guarantee your future.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 310

<idle musing>
Escapist literature at its best : )
</idle musing>