Archive for the ‘Exegesis’ Category

Swinburne on Interpretation of the Old Testament

January 10, 2009

The modern world… has become very conscious of the fact that some passages of the Old Testament cannot be treated [in a literal or straightly historical way]; for they state (and not merely presuppose) scientific and historical falsities, or they represent God as commanding immoral conduct (not merely conduct which might seem less than the best), or otherwise behaving immorally. It has therefore tended to say that the Old Testament contains a mixture of truth and falsity, revelation and misunderstanding; and that attitude of course leads to a fairly low view of the sacredness of Scripture. And if one reads the books of the Old Testament on their own, either straight or historically, one must certainly say that, if God was inspiring the development of Israel and its recording in the Old Testament, his inspiration got mixed with much error. But what the modern world has forgotten is that the Church, which followed Irenaeus and subsequent Fathers in proclaiming the Old Testament to be Scripture, also followed the way which he initiated in interpreting in metaphorical senses many passages of that Testament which were not edifying if taken in straight or historical senses. As noted above, Irenaeus himself tends to assume that all such passages are to be understood in straight or historical ways, even if they had also a more important metaphorical meaning. But his successors took the logical step of maintaining that these passages had only a metaphorical meaning (or more than one metaphorical meaning). This metaphorical meaning is a meaning forced on the passage, not by considerations of the need to make sense of that passage as a passage of the biblical book taken on its own, but by the need to make sense of it as part of a Christian Scripture.

Revelation: From Metaphor to Analogy p 265

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Church Authority: Argument 3

December 30, 2008

Accuracy, Authority, and the Visibility of the Church

In this post, I will argue that (1) There are some reasons to think the Church’s leaders have intrinsic authority, (2) Saying our parents have intrinisic authority is compatible with questioning our parents once we incorporate the concept of “insanity” into our model of authority, (3) Authority and accuracy are two distinct things, and this is implicitly accepted by Protestants, (4) Jesus thought the Scribes and Pharisees had intrinsic authority, (5) The Church continues the visible leadership structure and intrinsic authority that the Scribes and Pharisees had.

This post is a response to a comment in a very long discussion that can be found here on the blog By Whose Authority? about private judgment in the interpretation of the Bible. David Nilsen has been arguing that the gift of the illumination of the Holy Spirit helps individuals to interpret the Bible, and that the Spirit’s infallibility can speak directly to the soul of a Christian, binding his or her conscience to believe an interpretation of the Bible. Much of the discussion has already happened on his blog, and may be good background for this post.

(1) There are some reasons to think the Church’s leaders have intrinsic authority. (more…)

On the Sacrament of Holy Chrismation in Scripture

December 30, 2008

Under the Mosaic law, only specific persons received the special gift of the Holy Spirit—prophets, priests, and kings, and other such folk. The new relationship between God and man inaugurated in Christ involves the incorporation of all citizens of the Kingdom into a participation in the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit in Christians was promised by Christ (John 7:37-9). The Spirit becomes incorporated into humanity supremely in Christ’s miraculous anointing at his baptism. This is the first step in the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that the Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, for Christ sums up all flesh in himself (1 Corinthians 15, Ephesians 1:10).

To “receive the anointing” which is a gift of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20-27) or “receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38, 8:14-17, 9:6, 17-18, 19:1-7) refers to a sacrament still practiced in the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism, and Anglicanism to this day. The word “Anointing” is “criso” in Greek; hence “Chrismation”. (more…)

Supererogatory Actions? Part 2

July 10, 2008

So a while back I posted a short speculative little bit questioning whether there is a place in a place for supererogation in a proper Christian ethical system. This little thought project eventually begat a short semester paper in my ethics class. I’ll be posting it in a few different pieces. This is the first part. As always constructive feedback is greatly appreciated. (more…)

Natural Consequences (3): Jeremiah on Suffering and Punishment

May 28, 2008

What is punishment, according to the teachings of the Old and New Testaments? Is it just God repaying us for our guilt in a way proportional to the evil we did by inflicting suffering on us? Or can punishment mean something else too?

Normally when we think of “punishment” it is something inflicted retributively by an authority who is responsible for moral censure. But if we find a wider range of punishment language in Scripture, then this should caution us against assuming that elsewhere, punishment must mean some suffering that is meant to repay us for our guilt. Indeed, the prophet Jeremiah uses punishment terminology to describe the effects of sin upon the person who sins and their social group and environment.
(more…)

Natural Consequences (2): Isaiah on the Fire we Light

May 8, 2008

Is hell just retributive punishment inflicted actively by God?  The language of “punishment” and the fact that God is a judge who casts people into the fires of hell seems to favor this understanding.  But is there any biblical evidence for the idea that the fires of hell (whatever they are) are self-lit?  Consider Isaiah 50:10-11: (more…)

Natural Consequences (1): Jeremiah on Word, Fire, and Wrath

May 5, 2008

It seems like I’m always starting series of posts that I never finish. Oh well.

Anyways, this series is going to be about the biblical data and theological implications of the idea of “natural consequences”. To say that something has natural consequences for you basically means “what goes around, comes around” or “you asked for it”. Natural consequences are the non-intentional results of actions we take. They are not inflicted by an exercise of will that is aimed at retributively punishing us for our guilt; they just sorta happen because of the way the world is. (more…)

Narrative and Normativity (1): Outlining a Particularist Approach

April 11, 2008

Much of Scripture is narrative. It is an account of events that happened in history to real people. But it is not just an historical report. It is supposed to carry meaning. In fact, some of it is meant to produce a kind of normativeness. There are some things we ought to do because stories tell us to. Some stories of the New Testament, for instance, are meant to tell us “do this” or “live this way” by providing an example that we should follow. So, for instance, when Jesus forgives and fellowships with sinners, this has a meaning behind it: “Do this. Fellowship with sinners and those that society considers unclean, because God accepts and loves all”.

But how are we to decide when something is supposed to be normative in a narrative, and when it is just any ole’ event? Admittedly, this isn’t going to be immediately obvious. But perhaps we can start with some *PARTICULAR* examples of places in a story where an event generates some kind of “oughtness”. In this post I will begin to outline a particularist approach to narrative and normativity. (more…)

Supererogatory Actions?

April 11, 2008

For those that don’t know, supererogatory actions are basically actions that go “above and beyond the call of duty,” actions that are good, but are not required deontologically.  A paradigm case for a supererogatory action would be self sacrifice.  Think of a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his comrade. 

Well, this is all well and good for most systems of ethics, but does this category fit within the Christian paradigm?  I may be controversial in my position, but I think there is good reason to think that there are no supererogatory actions for the Christian.  Here are a few simple arguments to try to motivate my intuitions on this:

1) In James 4:7 we are told that “to him who knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”  This seems to me to be saying that anytime there’s a good thing that could be done, you ought to do it.  To not do it is sin.  Thus, if self-sacrifice is good, you ought to do it. 

2) Ethics by example:  The primary way ethics is taught in Scripture is by pointing to examples.  Philippians is a paradigm case of this.   Paul presents the Philippian believers with the example of Christ’s completely self-sacrificial/self-empting life and says that they ought to think and act this way as well.  The dialogue form would be something like:  Paul:  Be humble.  Philippian:  What’s humility?  Paul:  Look at Jesus.  That’s humility.  Be that.  In the same letter, Paul also provides the Godly examples of humility and self-sacrificial love in Epaphroditus and Timothy to teach them as well.  He tells the Philippians to honor men like Epaphroditus because he suffered for the sake of the gospel.  Finally, Paul describes his own journey to salvation, his own self-emptying; acknowledges that he’s not perfect yet, but must keep striving; and tells the Philippians to imitate him. 

If our paradigm cases for what constitutes proper Christian behavior are Christ and the saints (who are all martyrs in one way or another), what actions could possibly be considered supererogatory? 

3) Think about the deontological commands that are given in Scripture.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  We’re to love God with complete and total abandon; we’re to give everything of ourselves to him.  We’re also to love our neighbor as our very self because we are all members of one another.  So again, what would qualify as supererogatory actions under this deontological system?

4) In another place, Christ says that if anyone is to be His disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Him.  This is not some weak acknowledgment the troubles we’ll all face in life or some pithy nonsense like that.  Christ is calling us to recapitulate all His suffering unto death, even death on a cross, and nothing less.  We’re called to total and complete self-denial.  So, again, what could be a supererogatory action in this system of ethics?

 

These are only a couple of arguments running through my head right now.  I’m going to be writing a paper on this topic for my ethics class so I would appreciate any thoughts or feedback.  I will be posting more of my thoughts on this topic in the weeks to come.  Specifically, I will post some thoughts on virtue ethics, deification, ontological views of salvation vs. legal views, etc., and the effect these things have on the possibility of supererogatory actions. 

Conditional Election in the Incarnation

March 2, 2008

Defenders of unconditional election will generally deny that there are any examples of God choosing a person based on qualities internal to them in Scripture. Many of them will also assert that if God depends on human decisions (if He “waits on man to respond” as it is sometimes said) to accomplish salvation, then this robs God of his glory and sovereignty, because its really man’s choice that counts, not God’s.

Luke 1:28-30
“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

If defenders of unconditional election are correct about these two ideas, then why does it seem that in Christ’s incarnate economy, the very foundation of our salvation, God elects Mary based on a faith that she chooses to have? Notice the lack of “God elected you to accept grace” language; rather, its “God elected you because you accepted grace”. And if God conditionally elected in something as great as the Incarnation, why not think God conditionally elects in personal election of believers unto salvation?