Thursday, July 31, 2014

Let's be clear about one thing

Theodore [of Mopsuestia] could not, and would not employ the term divinization in his commentary—or anywhere else in his writings, for that matter. He allowed that Scripture called human beings “gods” in Ps 82:6, but in his comments on John 10:36 he clarifies that “ Human beings are not changed into the divine nature, but by the grace of God this is what we are called.” It is an term of honor.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 163

<idle musing>
A very good clarification. Divinization/theosis isn't anything like the Mormon belief that we will become gods. It is the belief that we become like God by being consumed by his love...
</idle musing>

(Not so) Blind Faith

The Israelites’ faith did not blind them in a way that prevented them from seeing the evil or the unanswered questions—their faith did not express itself superficially. They found nothing in their faith to demand that they deny reality. Sometimes we use religion as an escapism. But you do not find that in Ecclesiastes.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 433

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

I love those early theologians

By offering himself as a sacrifice for us, Christ “built a wall of partition between human nature and sin” [Cyril] so that nothing might hinder our access to God and so that we might return to that original likeness we had at the creation. Just as sin separates us from God, righteousness creates a bond with God that brings us close to God’s side so that nothing can separates us from him for, as Cyril says, “We have been justified through faith in Christ.” In justification, the nature of humanity is entirely reformed and renewed enabling it through the sanctifying grace of the Spirit to once again ascend to its own first beginning about which Moses wrote in Genesis. This ascension can begin even now in this life...— Theosis, Volume 2, page 153

Real faith

As I said above, the more I have lived with this psalm [89], the more grateful I have become for it. It says to us that it is all right to ask questions, when things do not seem to fit in our faith. But it also says that present distress need not diminish the reality of our faith. The psalmist did not question that God really is the God of hesed and ’emunah, steadfast love and faithfulness. It was just the question that those did not seem to be present in the circumstances. By the same token, genuine faith does not require us to deny our pain and uncertainty.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 423

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


But his [Christ’s] sanctification did not consist in his becoming holy, since as God he was already holy. Rather according to the sense of how the term is used in the Old Testament, “That which is brought by any one to God by way of an offering or gifts, as sacred to him, is said to be sanctified according to the custom of the Law.” [Cyril of Alexandria] Sacrifices were set apart, offered and dedicated as holy to God. Therefore when Christ says he sanctifies himself for us, he means according to Cyril that, “he brought himself as a Victim and holy Sacrifice to God the Father, ‘reconciling the world unto himself’ and bringing the human race that has fallen away back into a relationship with God.” This reunion occurs through communion in the Spirit and sanctification because the Spirit is the one who knits us together and unites us with God.— Theosis, Volume 2, pages 152-153

Thought readjustment needed

The verse [Isa 53:6] says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord [Yahweh] has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Now, I checked through every translation of that verse I could find, and it is translated that way consistently. But let me tell you what the literal Hebrew is for that last sentence in the verse. It says, “Yahweh has caused to meet in him the iniquity of us all.” For me, “to cause to meet in him” gives a totally different picture than “to lay on him.” When I think about “laid on him,” I see a judgment in a courtroom. The legal obligation of one person is “laid” on another person. But the word iniquity used here is the strongest word in the Old Testament for the evil that is within us, the wrong that is within us, the depths and the great extent of our wrongness before God. So the picture here is of all our wrongness before coming into this Mediator in whom is all the goodness of God and meeting that goodness there.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 404

<idle musing>
Can you tell he studied theology under Torrence? Shows, doesn't it? As I read that, I felt my brain doing a rewire—in a good way.

Kind of puts the popular versions of atonement in the trashcan (which is where they belong, anyway!)...
</idle musing>

Monday, July 28, 2014

Let's nuance that statement a bit

There is a limit to human knowledge. A finite created being never can fully apprehend the infinite reality of God, and therefore theological language ought to be careful and reserved. However, what can be a knowledgeable aspect of Christian faith and worship.— Theosis, Volume 2, page 129

<idle musing>
I like that, "careful and reserved." Too bad most of what passes for theology these days isn't...
</idle musing>

But maybe not

So clearly, from a human perspective this text cannot mean what it appears to. You see, we decide how God is supposed to act. Every people group decides how God is supposed to act, and the hardest problem that God has with us, I think, is to disabuse us of our wrong notions of who His is and what He is like. So here they are describing the way they think He must be. If He is going to win, and they are sure He will, He can only do so by power and by might.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 399

<idle musing>
I neglected to write down the passage he is referring to, but that's really immaterial to the argument. The point is that we think God is like us. And where he isn't, we're right and he's wrong! Oh, we don't do it consciously, bit it's there just the wonder we need repentance and new birth!
</idle musing>

Friday, July 25, 2014

Thought for the day—I think...

“All our notions of God,” he [Gregory of Nyssa] continues, “are nothing but idols forbidden by the Ten Commandments.” From this comes the rule: “If one who has seen God has understood what he has seen, this means that he has not seen God.” Or: “Words about God are the more perfect, the less comprehensible they are.”— Theosis, Volume 2, page 71

Who's on first

Reconciliation is not something wrung out of God against His will by some application of magic. The sacrificial system only has effect because Yahweh wills to offer reconciliation out of His own heart. That means that if we are to receive that reconciliation, there have to be corresponding personal overtures from us. There has to be something from within us that says we recognize what we have done and want to be reconciled.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 381

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 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>

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

About those assassination attempts...

[I]t is highly unlikely that Bonhoeffer was involved in any assassination attempts. Chapter 3 explored Bonhoeffer’s work in the Abwehr, the military intelligence agency, and discussed in some detail the five assassination attempts between 1938 and 1944 that are most relevant to Bonhoeffer’s life. It should be clear from these discussions that Bonhoeffer had no involvement in any of them.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 224

<idle musing>
As much as I would like to believe them, I can't overthrow the testimony of Bethge...I have to agree with Roger Olson on this one (and against Scot McKnight).

That being said, I believe that he never gave up on his pacifist beliefs (in line with the authors). His Ethics is full of it—but it is also full of the nature of what it means to live in a fallen world and take on that fallenness in a redemptive way.

In the end, I think Nation, et al., are wrong about Bonhoeffer's involvement, but correct that he never gave up on pacifism and God's power. A paradox, indeed. And who isn't full of paradoxes? I think the way out of this paradox is Just Peacemaking. It certainly helped me in my stand on pacifism. Only now I would call it nonresistance, based on my reading of Love and Nonresistance a few years back.

Long way around to say that Bonhoeffer, for all his faults and frailties, was a follower of Christ, doing what he thought was faithful to Christ in a difficult world. Would that we were half as faithful...
</idle musing>

Front and center

Once again, you see [in Psalm 51], Yahweh is standing right at the center of the situation. The big issue everywhere you turn in the Old Testament is Yahweh. It is not first of all about truth, or about the Law. It is not first of all about power, or about guilt. It is not first of all about sacrifice. The central overriding issue is: Who is Yahweh and how do I relate to Him?— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 259

<idle musing>
I just read an interesting post on theological systems over at Missio Alliance. It's actually a two-part post; I linked to the second post, but you should read them both. Anyway, the upshot is that we all too frequently put theology in front of our reading. Instead of reading the text that is, we read the text that our theology says is there...I know, no big news, but it is big news if we allow the Holy Spirit to break through those shackles and really speak to us. That's what this excerpt from Kinlaw is all about—at least, that's how I read it! : )
</idle musing>

Monday, July 14, 2014

Thought for a rainy Monday

The difference between Bonhoeffer’s prophetic voice and that of Niebuhr is that the life to which Bonhoeffer calls his hearers is to be directly and fully shaped by Jesus. Where Niebuhr is drawn to the more generic concept of prophetic religion, Bonhoeffer relies on the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of a specific prophet—one attested to as the very revelation of God.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 220

A fairy-tale world

We live in a cause-and-effect world. One of the most deadly things you can do to your children is always to shield them from the consequences of their actions. They will grow up living in a fairy-tale world that does not exist. And they will never be able to cope with the real world where actions have inevitable consequences. We depend on that fact, as does science. What kind of world would it be if we never knew what the effects of our actions would be? We, in our fallenness, insist on getting the just rewards of all our good (or almost-good) actions, but assume that the consequences of all our bad actions can just be forgotten. It is not true. For forgiveness to exist in the cosmos, there has to have been created some mechanism whereby the just consequences of sin can be fully suffered. Jesus Christ and His Cross are that mechanism, and so much more than a mere mechanism.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 256

<idle musing>
Amen! Good preaching! When the kids were young, they used to say, "That's not fair!" And I would agree, but I also reminded them that "not fair" plays both ways...I wonder if they remember that.
</idle musing>

Friday, July 11, 2014

Two kingdoms?

Bonhoeffer came to reject two-sphere thinking, but he still recognized that the ethical rigorism he expected from Christians could not necessarily be expected from the culture at large or from the state.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 219

Automatic response

We are persons and we do not want to be used or mechanically controlled. But that was at the heart of much of the sacrificial system of the ancient Near East. The right words, the right ceremonies, should work automatically in a naturalistic cause-and-effect manner. These same ideas are found around the world. Studies of Polynesian culture have made a couple of their terms—taboo and mana—part of the English language. Both of them are that ex opera operatokind of thing. It does not matter what your motive was; it does not matter what the circumstances were. If you did it so that it is wrong in terms of that other world, then the consequences are automatic. The only way to avert those consequences was for you to do something to counter them.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 251

<idle musing>
Sadly, that same theology is at work in much of the church—a candy machine god. "Name it, claim it, stomp on it and frame it!" "Blab it and grab it!"

What a perversion the promises of God. That kind of theology never wants to put God first. Indeed, it makes the self the center of the world and then uses scripture to try and justify it. That's not Christian theology!
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Thought for today

The emphasis here is on the personal character, because Yahweh comes through as a person to Israel. He is not a force that has been personified, but a Person. Too often that personal element gets lost in religion. If there is any genius in evangelicalism it is that the personal relationship comes back into the center. And that is, as far as I can see, the only way to explain what really took place and developed in Israel in that ancient day. God stepped out of the shadows and became personal.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 249

Don't settle for less

Niebuhr rejects pacifism because he believes it is impossible, unrealistic, and, in a vicious world, even harmful. When Niebuhr says that the principle of the sanctity of life cannot be held absolutely, he moves to rationalize not an ethic oriented toward peace, which might be recognized in classic justified war thinking, but supports instead a seemingly endless cycle of armaments deterring armaments and wars opposing wars...Bonhoeffer always interpreted his world through the (un)realistic apocalypse of Christ. In this way he sought to continue apprehending reality anew...Bonhoeffer expected more of the church and demanded more of himself.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, pages 218-219

<idle musing>
We settle for less than the impossible because we don't really believe God can do more... We live in an antisupernatural society and we have been drinking the waters so long we've forgotten there is a supernatural aspect to life.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


[I]t is also apparent that Bonhoeffer’s rationale for his longstanding involvement in the resistance was because of—and not in spite of—his theology. Bonhoeffer believed that responding to God’s command necessitates being wholeheartedly in the world and taking up real problems.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, pages 209-210

<idle musing>
Would that more people would allow their theology out of the mind and into their life! Sure, it makes for a messier theology—not everything fits nicely into life! But it makes for more authentic living and leaves room for the Holy Spirit to work...
</idle musing>

Be Holy!

That all became clear when Yahweh called upon His people to “be holy as [he is] holy.” Could they share His essence? Of course not! Were they to be holy simply by being “separated” to Him in some sense? That is not what the context of the covenant conveys. When Yahweh calls on His people to share His holiness, as in Leviticus 19, it is inseparably linked with unselfish moral and ethical behavior. All of that came to be contained in qadosh, which had once been morally neutral. Yahweh’s holiness burst the word open with new meaning.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 230

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Thought for today

Christ’s selfless love is an example of actively taking guilt upon oneself. Thus, like Christ, the individual engaging in free responsible action is guilty in one sense and sinless in another. Whether or not this is ultimately intelligible, Bonhoeffer believes that following Christ in this way sets the conscience free for service.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 207

Not a what

Do you know what I think is primary in the book of Revelation? It is like the Old Testament; when the book of Revelation talks about the future it does not tell you the what in your future, but it tells you the who. Who is central in the first chapter of the book of Revelation and then again in the fourth and the fifth chapters after the letter to the churches? It is the exalted Christ. And there He is, central to whatever is in the future.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 203

<idle musing>
Indeed! Would that more would focus on the who instead of the how and when!
</idle musing>

Monday, July 07, 2014

Thought for today

“People do not fulfill the responsibility laid on them by faithfully performing their earthly vocational obligations as citizens, workers, and parents, but by hearing the call of Jesus Christ that, although it leads them also into earthly obligations, is never synonymous with these, but instead always transcends them as a reality standing before and behind them.”—Bonhoeffer as quoted in Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 204

I thought you were going to judge me

What hesed teaches us is that the arms of Yahweh are wide open, waiting. Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile scripture with scripture. For instance, the prophet Jeremiah will say that Judah has come to the end, that the Babylonian conquest is inevitable; but a few verses later he will be calling upon the people to repent so they can escape the coming judgment. Likewise in the Psalms, you will find one that begins with seemingly inevitable judgment, but then throws the door wide open for repentance and return. He says, “I have to punish you, I have to chasten you, I have to deal with your sin,” and then before He finishes the sentence His arms of compassion and forgiveness are spread wide open. Why is this? Because it is His will that none of us should perish. The reason for the election of the Hebrew people in the Old Testament is that God has elected the whole world. And hesed is at the heart of that.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 181

<idle musing>
Are you getting this? Mind you, this is God in the Old Testament! Sounds a lot like Jesus, doesn't it? It should, because Jesus is the "the exact representation" of God (Heb 1:3).
</idle musing>

Saturday, July 05, 2014

True life

True human life is found outside the creature’s being, in Christ. Thus life is found in the dialectic of the “No” pronounced on our sinful life and the “Yes” given as we find new life in Christ. In this vein Bonhoeffer writes, “We can no longer speak about our life other than in this relation to Jesus Christ.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 196

I dare you!

But you will never find out what God’s hesed can do unless you dare to take risks. The only people who really know about His hesed are the people who intentionally reach beyond their own abilities and their own resources. If you play it safe, you will never know that He keeps covenant with you. But if you will risk everything for Him, you will find He keeps covenant, and more than that, does hesed, with those who belong to Him.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 180

<idle musing>
Go ahead! I dare you! Take the risk and actually walk by faith!

We are too comfortable; we don't need God for most of what we do. The infrastructure takes care of so much that we live under the illusion of self-sufficiency...
</idle musing>

Friday, July 04, 2014

A Christian response

Bonhoeffer did clearly oppose the Nazi regime, but more fundamentally than being an “anti-Nazi” theologian, he was a Christian theologian whose care for the world was demonstrated by his deep concern for the church and its witness. This did cause him to oppose Nazism, but it also prompted his opposition to the bourgeois character of the church, deontological ethics, nationalism, the racism and flabby theology he encountered in the United States of America, and the continued division of the Christian community.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 190

<idle musing>
Indeed! He would have even harsher words for the U.S. church today, especially on this high holy day of social religion, the fourth of July.
</idle musing>

About that covenant breach

So this is the way Yahweh starts this revelation of His essential character to Moses. He is the compassionate One, the gracious One. He doesn’t start with His holiness. He doesn’t even start with His righteousness and He doesn’t start with truth. But He starts with the fact that He is compassionate and gracious. To those two He adds that He is slow to anger. He is very patient. Then the text says, “He is abounding in hesed and faithfulness.” The Hebrew word here translated with “abounding” is rab, which means “Much. Large, abundant.” In other words, His character is full to overflowing with these qualities. But what does that mean? He has to say it again. It means He is very careful to extend “hesed to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” Here in the setting of the first major breach of the covenant, Yahweh is at great pains to let Moses know that He is not merely characterized by justice and mercy, but rather that who He is goes far beyond that. He is absolutely loyal and dependable when the only reason for such behavior is just consistency with Himself. So, Israel is given a second chance, and the reason is because of Yahweh’s nature as hesed and ’emet.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 176

<idle musing>
Meditate on that for a while. It's breathtaking, isn't it? It's the core of who God is and the reason Jesus came. I love that word ḥesed!
</idle musing>

Thursday, July 03, 2014

About that weather forecast

Sunday was one of those days—the weather forecast said it would be sunny most of the day. Well, I guess it was—somewhere! Living right next to a huge body of water where the temperature of the water is about 39°F can have a huge effect on the weather. Sunday was one of those days.

The fog rolled in and out all morning. One minute the sun would be shining and it would be short-sleeve weather. The next minute, the fog would roll in, obscuring the sun and dropping the temperature about 15°. In and out, in and out all morning and early afternoon.

I had decided to take a bike ride after cleaning the cabins (only 4 needed cleaning). But, given the fog, I decided to ride up the Gunflint and over the ridge. That way I would be away from the fog and bad visibility. I hadn't ridden up the Trail yet this year; it's about a 1000 feet climb in around 2 miles. Quite the climb, with one section being especially steep.

After getting over the ridge, I usually ride along Devil Track Lake; it's a long lake with a north shore and south shore option. I chose the north shore, giving me a 25 mile ride. The weather was lovely, but with a bank of clouds to the west. I figured I would easily be home before any storm might hit. Wrong! about 10 miles into the ride, it started to sprinkle. That's fairly common around here, though, so I just kept going. After all, I only had another 3 miles to the half-way point. At the half-way point I would turn around and ride away from the rain. Not a problem, I do it all the time.

It started raining a bit harder just before the half-way point, but I still figured I could outrun it on the way home. Wrong again! It started raining harder and the wind picked up. I put on my windbreaker that is only water resistant, not waterproof. Inside of 2 miles, I was drenched. I picked up the pace a bit, hoping to outrun it.

It appeared to be working; the rain was subsiding. But then, it started hailing. That's right, the rain subsided—by turning into hail! Not tiny hail, either. Marble-sized hail. And it was getting harder.

Let me assure you that marble-sized hail hurts when it hits unprotected flesh. And it hurts even worse when you are going 30 MPH. In my attempt to outrun the storm, I was cranking as hard and as fast as I could. I don't normally go much over 20 MPH, but I was moving at around 28-30 MPH and it was taking all I had.

I finally outran the storm just before I got to the top of the ridge. It was all downhill from there. But it was heading back to the west again—right into the storm!

So, here I am, drenched, exhausted, and I'm going 35 MPH downhill directly into the rain and wind. At least it wasn't hailing anymore!

I got home just before the worst of the storm hit. But I felt great! Crazy, isn't it?!

Who not what

Bonhoeffer’s point is that Christians do not remake the world with ideas distilled from Scripture or even Christ’s teachings. After all, Jesus did not come to teach a revised form of piety, but to form human creatures anew. The reason Bonhoeffer rejects a view of Christ as “essentially” a teacher is rooted in this central concern: if Christ is primarily a teacher then it is what he teaches rather than who he is that is of central importance.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 184

<idle musing>
But to listen to most Christian teaching, Jesus is primarily a teacher. The whole culture wars thing is predicated on Jesus being a teacher...
</idle musing>

Love that word

For us love is primarily, and almost exclusively, a word about feelings. But the main truth about God is not that He feels in certain ways. The main truth about God is that He is certain things as revealed in how He acts. That is what is so significant about hesed. it is not about a way of feeling, it is about a way of acting. And when we discover that this is the way He always acts, that tells us about who He is. The, when the Bible says that God is love, we have some new categories in which to put that statement.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, pages 171-172

<idle musing>
I love that word ḥesed! Read the article in the TDOT, and then read the article in TWOT (yes, it really is published by Moody Press!) to augment the TDOT article.
</idle musing>

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Two kingdoms?

Jesus calls us as whole persons because there is no other type of person but the whole person. Obedience to Jesus, then cannot divide reality into two contradictory zones, one operating in obedience to Jesus and the other operating independent of Jesus’s influence. All of reality is the legitimate place for holistic obedience to Jesus Christ.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 156

<idle musing>
And that is precisely where the two-kingdom model of Luther falls apart...
</idle musing>

That's not fair

If you have to fight for something, it may be that you have put your hand on it and in so doing have hindered the hand of God. For if God intends to give that thing to you, He is going to do it in His own time, and nobody is going to stop Him. That is the reason you do not have to pull strings or play politics with regard to your pastoral appointment. Someone may say, “You’re unrealistic.” That is right from the world’s perspective. It all depends on which set of standards you area operating under. If you do not believe that God can get you where you should be, I question whether you have the faith of Abraham that justified him.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 156

<idle musing>
Ouch! But he's right. If we think we have to take things under our wing in order to make them happen, then we are operating as atheists...
</idle musing>

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

You can't do it

To love one’s enemy is not something that can possibly emerge naturally from a person; it comes as a super-added gift of grace. But because Bonhoeffer has already grounded the capacity for obedience in Jesus Christ rather than in the disciple’s human capacities, obedience is made possible despite its impossibility for human nature. Obedience requires Christ precisely because Christ’s commands transcend human ability.—Bonhoeffer the Assassin?, page 155

Yes, even in Torah

Finally, the evidence of any inner attitude is in behavior, so the Old Testament contains the 613 laws of the Torah. But it would be a mistake to think that it is only behavior that interests the Old Testament. In fact, the very opposite is true. Without the correct attitude, all that obedience is simply empty show. So the laws are the secondary thing. What is primary is this thing behind conduct. It is the attitude that leads to the right kind of conduct. It is that something that God approved of in Abimelech when Abimelech said, “I was perfect; I was innocent when I took Sarah,” and God said, “Yes, I know that.” Abimelech was speaking of an attitude or a condition and because of that right attitude or condition there was no judgment upon him.— Lectures in Old Testament Theology, page 154