Friday, 31 July 2009

Australian 'theology'

Brilliant. I know it's geek humour, but it's still brilliant.
ht con campbell

Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Body of Christ

One of the things that I have been looking at for my PhD is the question of whether - according to Paul - Christ currently has an independent physical body. Philippians 3:21 and 1 Corinthians 15 seem to make it clear but interestingly a number of people argue that the church (and/or the bread in the Lord's Supper) is the only physical body that Christ possesses.

So Graham Ward in an essay on the Body of Christ in the volume Radical Orthodoxy contends that

The body of Jesus Christ is not lost, nor does it reside now in heaven as a discrete object[…]. The body of Jesus Christ, the body of God, is permeable, transcorporeal, transpositional. We have no access to the body of the gendered Jew […] because the Church is now the body of Christ, so to understand the body of Jesus we can only examine what the Church is and what it has to say concerning the nature of that body. […] God in Christ dies and the Church is born. One gives way to the other, without remainder.

Similarly, Robert Jenson in his Systematic Theology notes that ‘in a Copernican universe [there] is no plausible accommodation for the risen Christ’s body’. However, if ‘there is no place for Jesus’ risen body, how is it a body at all’? Jenson concludes that although

Paul clearly thinks of the Lord as in some sense visibly located in heaven spatially related to the rest of creation, the only body of Christ to which Paul ever actually refers is not an entity in this heaven but the Eucharist’s loaf and cup and the church assembled around them.

I think that as well as the verses I mentioned above, that there are strong theological reasons for insisting that Christ continues to exist as a human being which means that he has his own, independent human body. Hopefully, in due course I will post on it...(but given my posting record I wouldn't hold your breath!).

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Someone's made it

It's not necessarily a big deal on the world-wide stage of biblical and theological scholarship, but Pete, co-author of But Now has recently had a review published in Themelios. It's the first thing either of us have had published (unless Pete's been working under a pseudonym), and if we were betting men I'd probably owe him a bottle of something. You can read it here. Personally I agree with his review of the book - it's an excellently balanced critique of Barth which as Pete notes, presents a 'robust and fair interaction with Barth'. And I can guarantee it's the first review you've read in a long time which contains the word 'prophylactic'. Congratulations Pete - we look forward to many more!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Christ and Nothing

A friend recently introduced me to the writing of David Bentley Hart. He is (according to Wiki) an 'Eastern Orthodox theologian, philosopher, writer, and cultural commentator'. As an evangelical Protestant there are obviosuly many things that we would not agree on, but having read a few of his articles I have found them profoundly penetrating in their analysis of culture and world-view. Try this one for starters. Here is the intro:

As modern men and women — to the degree that we are modern — we believe in nothing. This is not to say, I hasten to add, that we do not believe in anything; I mean, rather, that we hold an unshakable, if often unconscious, faith in the nothing, or in nothingness as such. It is this in which we place our trust, upon which we venture our souls, and onto which we project the values by which we measure the meaningfulness of our lives. Or, to phrase the matter more simply and starkly, our religion is one of very comfortable nihilism.

Uploading the Old Testament

To be perfectly honest my sermons don't usually contain a lot of illustrations. This is due to my inability to think of appropriate illustrations rather than for any theological or homiletical reason. And when I do think up illustrations, they often aren't that good.

Except on Sunday. On Sunday I did alright. In fact, I was so happy with it I'm going to use it again this Sunday.

Sunday last we were looking at Jesus walking on water in Mark 6. In the text the disciples look at the information provided to them - Jesus walking on water in the middle of the lake in the middle of a gale in the middle of the night - and they make an assessment of who he is - he's a ghost (6:49). Mark however writes his account in such a way as to provide us with more information - he walks on water (cf Job 9:8-11) he goes to pass the disciples by (cf Ex 33:21); he declares his name (cf Ex 3:14) - and we should make an assessment of who he is. But we can only make that assessment if we understand the information - if we see what is happening in front of us.

And here's the illustration. Chuck is a programme on here in NZ on Wednesday evenings. Chuck is an unwilling secret agent - he's had the Intersect - a top secret database containing details of all major threats to the government - accidentally uploaded into his brain. What that means is that when he sees a person, a building, hears a voice or views a code which is in the Intersect he 'flashes' - all the information about the item he's seen comes flooding into his head. It allows him to understand what is in front of him.

In exactly the same way when we read Mark 6 (and indeed all of the New Testament) we should 'flash' - the information stored in our heads about the Old Testament about the types and promises of Christ, about God's overarching plan of salvation, should come flooding into our heads, that we might understand what is happening in front of of us. And yet of course the problem for many Christians is that we don't know our Old Testaments. We don't read it. We don't preach on it. We find it difficult to understand and apply and so we just abandon it. And so it isn't in our heads. We have no information upon which to 'flash'. And of course that means that when we read the New Testament - when we're confronted with the person of Jesus and God's action in and through him - it is impossible to really understand what is happening. And the danger is that we make the same mistake the disciples did - we identify, and therefore respond to, Jesus wrongly.

And in case you're wondering, I'm going to use the Chuck illustration again this week because we're starting a four week series on why and how we should read the Old Testament. Nothing like putting your money where your mouth is.