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Monthly Archives: February 2007


Not Sure Why I Even Bothered with This One…

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.

A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.


Christian Reconciliation Carnival: Anybody Out There?

The second Christian Reconciliation Carnival will be hosted here on March 1. It is not too late to nominate a blog post dealing with any area of the topic of reconciliation among Christians. You can nominate your own work or that of someone else.

For details, see my original call for submissions.

Wilshirite: Nicene Christianity 2

Continuing guest blogger Craig’s dialogue with Christopher R. Seitz’s Nicene Christianity:

In his essay, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìOur Help Is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Christopher Seitz attempts to analyze the first article of the Nicene Creed. From Seitz?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s analysis, I took away the overriding message that the rest of the Nicene Creed, along with the whole of our theology, proceeds from this first article. Our understanding of who God is?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand the Old Testament?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s testimony regarding God our Father?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùis not some ancillary theological subject that we can study when we want a short break from our ?¢‚Ǩ?ìpet?¢‚Ǩ¬ù issues (that is, the theological subjects that typically dominate our time and attention) of christology, soteriology, or whatever. Rather, Article One of the Creed is central and foundational to how we understand our faith and ourselves.

The Old Testament is very clear in who it asserts God to be, and the Nicene Fathers are similarly clear. Throughout the history of the church, people have fretted that the first article is not long enough or detailed enough to convey its understanding of God. However, the article is succinct?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùbeautifully so?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand it conveys its understanding through two means: its compactness and its language.

Compactness: Article One does not need to go on and on about the nature and acts of God. To do so would be to usurp the witness of Israel in the Old Testament and to go on the defensive against heretics and unbelievers.

Language: Article One draws its understanding of God from the Old Testament, employing terms used by Israel?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s fathers and prophets: Almighty (Isa 44:6); our Father (Mal 2:10); Maker of Heaven and Earth (Ps 124:8); and one God (Deut 4).

Seitz?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s insights into Israel?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s monotheistic understanding of God is particularly helpful:

For the phrase ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI believe in one God,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù we look, of course, to the foundational language of the decalogue, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìyou shall have no other god,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù which follows directly upon the solemn self-declaration, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìI am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù The reflexes of this phrase in the Old and New Testament are too numerous to list. Consider only, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìAnd this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (John 17:3 KJV); or, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìThou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (Matt 4:10 KJV). These are, in turn, based upon the logic of Deuteronomy 4, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù ?¢‚Ǩ?ìNo one can serve two masters?¢‚Ǩ¬ù (Matt 6:24 NRSV), and Tertullian in Against Marcion puts it thus, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìIf God is not one, He is not.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù In this context it is important that Christians rightly grasp that God was known in Israel by his personal name, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìthe name above every name.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Based upon a process already at work in the Old Testament, the name is rendered from Hebrew Adonai into Greek kyrios, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìthe Lord,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù but specifying a personal name and not a mere title. This name God gave to Jesus, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow. He did not transfer an office only (lordship); he transferred his name, of himself. As David Yeago has pointed out, this confession from Philippians 2, heard in conjunction with Isaiah 45, establishes the pivotal judgment of Christian Scripture, which will give rise to the judgment of homoousia, even while the conceptual systems may and do differ (handing over a name and saying ?¢‚Ǩ?ìof one substance or being?¢‚Ǩ¬ù).

So, God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s name is not a phoneme known by those he has elected and withheld from others. Exodus tells us God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s name is the disclosure of God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s faithfulness in time, by speech in promise and fulfillment…. As such, God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s name encloses a particular history with a particular people, providing them with particular memories and particular understandings of their future in God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s time. God?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s name declares a specific identity with a providential purpose….

To believe in one God and no other god is to believe in this God, whose name is spoken not only by a particular people in recollection and promise, but also by those who now, having been enclosed in a covenant of blood, name Jesus Christ Lord (kyrios) to the glory of his Father. Barth once said that Christian (trinitarian) doctrine ?¢‚Ǩ?ìneither is nor claims to be anything else?¢‚Ǩ¬ù than an explanatory confirmation of the name, YHWH-kyrios. (26-27.)

This is the work of the Creed: to convey the church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s understanding of who its Lord and God is. We are not interested here in particular attributes. Omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, merciful, righteous judge are all attributes of God, but they do not necessarily let us in on who God is. If I say that Jane is ?¢‚Ǩ?ìa beautiful woman with a kind heart,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù I have said something about Jane, but I have not said anything about who she is. I have said what kind of person Jane is, but a stranger does not know Jane through such language; neither can we truly know God through descriptive language alone. This is why the Old Testament stories, accounts, poetry, lamentations, celebrations, etc., are so integral to orthodox Christianity. We cannot understand who it is that we are naming Christ our Lord unless we understand who it is that Christ our Lord claims to know as Father.

As Seitz says, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìWhat this means theologically is that the Old Testament presentation of God is the fixed point with which the creed seeks to correlate the church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s understanding of Christ and the Holy Spirit?¢‚Ǩ¬¶. The phrases one God, Father Almighty and Maker of Heaven and Earth unequivocally point to this God, who is known in the Old Testament. The very lack of explanation is testimony to the givenness of this witness from the bosom of Israel, such that the stock phrases function to encapsulate the whole.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

technorati tags: christianity, christopher r. seitz, ecumenism, nicene christianity, nicene creed, orthodoxy

What Hath Colonel Sanders to Do with Jerusalem?

Interesting take on the theological implications of animal welfare from Joe Carter:

What does our exercise over dominion say about God? Does how we treat chickens and cows, dogs and ducks, and other ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcompanions in creation?¢‚Ǩ¬ù speak truthfully about our Creator? If not, what will we as Christians do to stop misrepresenting the nature of God?

Jesus’ Tomb?

I don’t have the time or interest in tracking this story, which should in itself be an indication of how likely I think it is that the claims of Simcha Jacobovici (and James Cameron, who produced of his new documentary on The Lost Tomb of Jesus) hold water. But some of you will be curious, so let me point you to a quick roundup of other peoples’ posts:

Scot McKnight has two pertinent questions.

Claude Mariottini sums up my sentiments precisely: “[I]f the documentary is like Jacobovici?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s documentary on the exodus event, then there is no reason to worry.”

Speaking of the previous documentary, Chris Heard (who ripped said documentary into itty bitty shreds) explains why he’s skeptical of this one, too.

James White offers a solid summary with lots of actual facts.

So does Ben Witherington (who couldn’t resist a Titanic reference).

And finally, Weekend Fisher notes where we are on the calendar.

When filmmakers are permitted to announce astounding archeological discoveries, we are clearly living in the post-DaVinci-Code era.

technorati tags: simcha jacobovici, the lost tomb of jesus

Wilshirite: Nicene Christianity 1

Craig (aka Wilshirite) is one of my favorite kinds of people: a lay theologian. He has asked if he could post an extensive review of and interaction with Christopher R. Seitz’s Nicene Christianity at Dr. Platypus and has agreed to hang around to interact with anyone who would like to dialog in the comments.

Craig describes himself as “A 35-year-old Baptist with a wonderful, godly wife and two wonderfully energetic and inquisitive daughters. I work in Dallas as a software developer by day and read theology books as a hobby by night. I think that many Baptists have concentrated on our inner life with God, and our relationship with our neighbor and the physical world has suffered. While I am committed to the Baptist distinctives, I’m looking to rekindle some level of catholicity among Baptists and to bring renewed awareness of our connection with the broader church and its history.”

Craig has dug deeply into this volume (which, I must admit, I had never heard of!). I hope you will take the time to ponder his interaction with it.

With the passing of modernity and the waning influence of the liberal ecumenical movements, the church today has both a daunting challenge and an unparalleled opportunity. The people of God need to find their identity apart from the influence of wider society and its debased culture, and many churches do not have the foggiest idea of where or how to begin. We need to explore our faith and understand its relevance for these post-Constantinian times; looking back to eras similar to ours might?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùjust might?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùuncover lost secrets and some answers that we desperately seek. The ecumenical creeds of the church form one deposit from such times. The Apostles?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ and Nicene Creeds presented the testimony of the church as it sought the wisdom of Holy Scripture and defended itself and the faith against the attacks of heretics and unbelievers. If anything is to tie the various communions and individual churches of God to one another in the years to come, it will have to be the Bible and the ecumenical creeds. The days of a common episcopacy for the entire church are gone, and we are well beyond any hope for its resurrection. To borrow an analogy from Richard Foster, the various churches of God are ?¢‚Ǩ?ìstreams of living water.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

So, with all of this in mind, I was encouraged to see a 2001 book, edited by Christopher R. Seitz, titled Nicene Christianity: The Future for a New Ecumenism (Brazos Press, 2001). It is my hope that this volume will further this vision of an ecumenism based on the content of the ecumenical creeds. Written as it was by theologians from churches with an episcopal form of government, it is my further hope that I can use this series of essays to dialogue with this book from a free-church perspective. Although I am not a theologian, I am a Baptist, and the Baptist tradition speaks of the priesthood of all believers. It is the whole Christian community that wrestles with the things of God. It is important to remind Baptists that there is a deeper, richer heritage that we have largely forgotten; yet it is also time that we show the church catholic that there is a Baptist tradition that it can no longer afford to ignore.

In his Introduction, Philip Turner lays out the purpose and objectives of Nicene Christianity. We are reminded that, for the creeds to serve as a unifying force for the content of the church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s faith, their content must be considered and respected as a whole:

The times require even of those who say the creeds without effacing them by means of a thousand qualifications that they give attention to each article and not simply to certain favored ones?¢‚Ǩ¬¶. How frequently does one hear the incarnation depicted apart from the full narrative of Christ?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s relation to both God and creation? In this truncated form, the second article of the creed (which displays the mystery of the incarnation), by an ironic inversion, becomes little more than a disembodied theological principle that can be used without restraint to bless the human condition simpliciter. ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHe was crucified,?¢‚Ǩ¬ù the phrase that displays most clearly the full meaning of the incarnation, does no theological work beyond pointing to a moral tragedy. Phrases like ?¢‚Ǩ?ìhe ascended into heaven?¢‚Ǩ¬ù and ?¢‚Ǩ?ìhe will come again to judge the living and the dead?¢‚Ǩ¬ù simply have no meaning at all.

In hands such as these, Christianity becomes a religion of meaning and personal affirmation rather than a religion of salvation. (12-13.)

The point is that the use of truncated creeds is more destructive than simply abandoning them?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùand orthodox Christianity altogether. Either we understand that our trinitarian worldview informs the church?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s understanding of salvation, the sacraments, and her place in the world, or we surrender to our contemporary impulses and reduce all of the Christian faith to a ?¢‚Ǩ?ìlove relationship with God.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù The latter unravels the result and benefit (our personal relationship with God) of a broader and richer tapestry and reduces it to nothing but a simple faith that is based on emotion and subjectivity. After all, ?¢‚Ǩ?ìwhat?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s true for you might not be true for me?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùor Him.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù Turner sums it up thusly: ?¢‚Ǩ?ì[The Nicene Creed] must, in short, once more provide the basis for right Christian usage.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

We are only beginning to conform our interpretation of Scripture to that of the Council of Nicea and those church fathers who came before the Council. To use all of this as the basis of a new ecumenism, we must wrestle with the creeds and, indeed, the Bible itself to make the faith alive and fresh for our time and place. Lutheran theologian Douglas John Hall calls this ?¢‚Ǩ?ìcontextualizing the faith.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù It is pointless for a living faith to rotely parrot creeds of the past, for this leads to religion having form with no spirit. To engage in discipline (that is, to truly be Christ?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s disciples) is to express and live out the Gospel of Christ in today?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s world by interacting and wrestling with the writings of the Scriptures, the writings of the giants of the faith, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we must consciously make the faith our faith.

[I]t became habitual in the church to identify ?¢‚ǨÀúdiscipline?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ almost exclusively with harsh or at any rate rigorous methods of ?¢‚ǨÀúeducating?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ (i.e., indoctrinating, controlling) the person?¢‚Ǩ¬¶. This is hardly what one would have expected from the etymological meaning of the word, which derives from discere (to learn, discern). Obviously, what happened was that the unfortunate measures which were too often employed in the practice of teaching the faith were themselves identified as the process necessary for Christian ?¢‚ǨÀúdiscernment.?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ Thus, while the obvious primary meaning of the verb discere (?¢‚ǨÀúto discipline?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢) is contained in English verbs like ?¢‚ǨÀútrain, educate, teach, instruct, school, lead, guide,?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ the connotation which has survived as primary is exactly what the Concise Oxford Dictionary lists as such: ?¢‚ǨÀúBring under control, train to obedience and order, drill?¢‚Ǩ¬¶chastise.?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ In short, the derivative sense of the verb (derived from bad educational practice!) has succeeded the original meaning and, for the most part, altogether obscured it. This is what happens when ?¢‚ǨÀúthe discipline,?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ understood as intellectual and moral content, is divorced from those who are its practitioners?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùfrom their lives, their personal struggles, their social condition, their racial and sexual identities?¢‚Ǩ¬¶.

And that does not matter! Those for whom the discipline is an end in itself have always behaved as if what mattered ultimately and utterly were verbal agreement or conformity with some doctrinal norm. This is the disease of religious rationalism, especially the pseudo-intellectualism of those ?¢‚ǨÀúwho combine unusual insecurity with na?ɬØvet?ɬ©.?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢… What matters is not that every Christian should give assent to the same ideas in the same terminology, but that whatever they assent to should emerge from a real struggle within their souls, and should have the effect of overcoming the alienation of spirit which exists between them and ?¢‚ǨÀúthe others.?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ In a word, the discipline is secondary to the disciples. (Douglas John Hall, Thinking the Faith [Augsburg, 1989] 61-63)

In other words, as Turner proceeds to argue, the contemporary church will never regain a true understanding of orthodox Christianity until it practices theology within its own life and worship. However, it can never do this as long as modern Christianity continues to see the church as it does. Being the children of the Enlightenment that we are, we have pushed the church out of the center of the Christian life and inserted the sovereign individual in her place. An attitude of ?¢‚Ǩ?ìjust me and Jesus?¢‚Ǩ¬ù pervades modern Christianity like a cancer sapping the Body of Christ of all its life and energy, threatening to leave behind nothing but an empty shell. It is apparent, too, that churches will not be able to become the center of the Christian life until they themselves stop behaving as individuals, bickering among themselves and dividing over the most trivial of reasons. Church order, the practice of worship, and discipline (as described by Douglas John Hall) must be a part of any new ecumenical discussions?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùwhat we are now referring to as ?¢‚Ǩ?ìNicene Christianity.?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

Next: ?¢‚Ǩ?ìOur Help Is in the Name of the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

technorati tags: christianity, christopher r. seitz, ecumenism, nicene christianity, nicene creed, orthodoxy


I’ve done a bit more fiddling with my biblical timelines, mostly rearranging what goes on which one so that most of them only cover about 500 years of history, give or take. In the process, my original three timelines have become four:

Part One: up to Abraham
Part Two: Abraham to Moses
Part Three: Joshua to Saul
Part Four: David to the Fall of Jerusalem

I anticipate two additional pages, but I have only barely begun to work on them. Part Five will cover the period from the Exile to the Maccabees, and Part Six will cover events leading up to and including the New Testament period.

technorati tags: chronology, old testament