According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Was the gospel told first to the serpent?


Andrew Perrimen
Thursday 02 June 2011

I was listening to a talk the other night by someone from church arguing for a literal six days creation. I think I heard somewhere in the course of his defence of the literal truthfulness of Genesis 1-11 a statement to the effect that we have a prophecy about the future salvation of humanity and defeat of satan through Jesus in Genesis 3:15.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
Whether I heard it or not, it’s a familiar enough “evangelical” argument (see, for example, John Piper’s sermon on “The Fall of Satan and the Victory of Christ”), and it provides an opportunity to consider the widely held view that God puts meanings in texts for us to find that weren’t originally there—or at least weren’t apparent to the original readers of the text. This is one of the nine theses of “The Scripture Project” listed by Ellen Davis and Richard Hays in their book The Art of Reading Scripture:
4. Texts of Scripture do not have a single meaning limited to the intent of the original author. In accord with Jewish and Christian traditions, we affirm that Scripture has multiple complex senses given by God, the author of the whole drama. (2)
The argument that Genesis 3:15 speaks in any sense of a future victory of Israel’s messiah over satan is simply untenable. The verse describes a continuing, iterated conflict between the descendants of the woman and the descendants of the serpent. Given the role that the serpent played in the garden, it seems reasonable to conclude that this cursing of the relationship between humanity and serpents has in view not merely the dangers of walking in the fields barefoot but the persistent, destructive human aspiration to attain a godlike status. That appears to be roughly the scope of the original meaning. It does not really sound like good news.

There is apparently some extra-biblical evidence that Jews in the third century BC were expecting a victory of the messiah over the serpent satan. But there is no reinterpretation of this verse in the New Testament itself. The nearest we have is a doubtful allusion in Romans 16:20, but the language is quite different and it is God, not any “man”, who will crush (syntripsei) satan. Arguably, a text such as Deuteronomy 28:7 LXX provides the more appropriate background: “May the Lord your God hand over your enemies who have risen against you, when they have been crushed (syntetrimmenous) before you…”. Piper claims that Hebrews 2:14 also alludes to Genesis 3:15, but how he arrived at that conclusion is beyond me. In fact, we have to wait until Justin and Irenaeus in the second century AD before we find the thought that Genesis 3:15 constitutes a protoevangelium. As Gordon Wenham comments:
While a messianic interpretation may be justified in the light of subsequent revelation, a sensus plenior, it would perhaps be wrong to suggest that this was the narrator’s own understanding. Probably he just looked for mankind eventually to defeat the serpent’s seed, the powers of evil.1
But then the question has to be asked: Is the messianic interpretation justified by later revelation? Do we have good grounds not simply for finding a sensus plenior—an extra level of meaning—in the Genesis text but for distorting or disregarding what is actually said? If Jesus or some New Testament writer had unequivocally attributed messianic significance to this verse, it would be different matter. Otherwise, what reason do we have for supposing that God, as “author of the whole drama”, meant the statement to be understood, in the light of subsequent developments, as a reference to humanity’s future redemption?

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