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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rob Bell - Nooma: 003 | Trees

The Search for the Historical Adam 8


by rjs5
posted September 8, 2011


We have been working through the recent book by C. John Collins entitled Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who They Were and Why You Should Care. This book looks at the question of Adam and Eve from a relatively conservative perspective but with some good nuance and analysis. The questions he poses and the answers he gives provide a good touchstone for interacting with the key issues. Later this fall we will look at the question of Adam from an equally faithful, but less conservative, perspective in the context of a new book coming out by Peter Enns entitled The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins.

Chapter 4 of Dr. Collins’s book deals with human uniqueness and dignity. These ideas are discussed in the context of the biblical concept of the image of God and in the context of universal human experience.

The image of God is a concept that arises from the text describing the creation of mankind in Genesis 1.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Gen 1:26-27, NIV
Dr. Collins discusses three approaches to the image and likeness of God while noting that there is no unanimity among biblical scholars on the significance of the term.

Resemblance view: Humans are like God in some respects. The intellectual, moral and aesthetic experiences of human beings are cited as examples of this resemblance. I would also suggest that creative abstract thought and the ability to realize this creativity are aspects of resemblance.

Representative view: Humans are God’s representatives on earth and are commissioned to rule in God’s place. Humans have a job to do.

Relational view: Humans are fulfilled in community – both as male and female and in a broader sense of community. Humans in community function as the image of God.

Dr. Collins incorporates all three of these in his view of the meaning of the expression “image and likeness.”
My view is that the linguistic and exegetical details favor the idea that “in our image, after our likeness” implies that humans were made with some kind of resemblance to God, which was to enable them to represent God as benevolent rulers, and to find their fulfillment in relationships with each other and with God. (p. 94)
I have also heard NT Wright comment on the image of God as a reflection of the glory and presence of God in the world, humans are “angled mirrors.” Some will also comment on the image and likeness of God as temple language. God’s creation is his temple and humans are the image of God placed in the temple – the way an idol would be placed in the temple – a representation of God.

In what ways are humans created in the image and likeness of God?

Which views would you emphasize or combine?

Continuing on with the idea of image and likeness of God, Dr. Collins reflects on the idea of the human soul – maintaining a form of body-soul dualism, but a deeply connected and intertwined form of dualism. The image of God is a property of the whole person – body-soul, not a property of the soul.
The Biblical version of body-soul dualism stresses much more the intertwining of these two elements than it does their separability. … Recognizing this body-soul unity as the focus in Genesis will help us avoid a mistake that has a long history in Christian theology, of seeing the image of God as a property of the soul only: rather, it is the human being as a body-soul tangle that expresses God’s image. (p. 95)
According to Dr. Collins, the image and likeness of God is unique to humans, universal among humans, and transmitted through procreation. He reflects on human moral instincts and the human ability for language and grammar as reflective of the image of God. There is no effective model for the evolution of language capability and perhaps this is indicative of a special act of God. The ability to retain a cultural life in the worst of circumstances is another feature of humans demonstrating that we are more than mere animals.

Universal Human Experiences: Dr. Collins ends this chapter with a discussion of universal human experiences. Humans have a yearning for justice, a need for God, and a feeling of brokenness. Something just isn’t right. We need redemption for broken relationships. A major effect of the corruption of human nature is social – in the breech of social relationships with God and with others.

Dr. Collins suggests that part of the evidence for Genesis 1-4 as historical is found in the general human sense of being lost. There is a nostalgia for a better past that is part of universal human experience. We know that something is wrong, and that once upon a time all was whole. Here he quotes Blaise Pascal ( I include only the beginning of the quote):
Man’s greatness is so obvious it can even be deduced from his wretchedness, for what is nature in animals we call wretchedness in man, thus recognizing that, if his nature today is like that of the animals, he must have fallen from some better state which was once his own. (p. 102)
Dr. Collins next considers the commentary of Leon Kass on Genesis. Kass insists on a purely symbolic reading of Gen 2-4 but discusses a nostalgia for our mythical past. Or at least “something that feels, in fact, like nostalgia.” This deep sense of nostalgia tells us to read Genesis as containing a degree of literal history.
With all due respect to Kass, if we fail to read the Genesis story as some kind of history, we fail to persuade the perceptive reader, because we fail to do justice to this nostalgia. (p. 103)
After quoting GK Chesterton (As I Was Saying p. 160) on the significance of the Fall as a view of life, where happiness is not only a hope, but also a memory, Dr. Collins concludes his chapter:
If we say, as I think we should, that there is a level of figurative and symbolic description in Genesis 1-4, we must still allow that the story we find there provides the best explanation for our lives now, and for our hunger for things to be better. (p. 104)
The Historical Adam and Eve. Dr. Collins argues that we must search for the historical Adam because we know that, in some sense, the story is true. We are fallen, we do not and cannot live up to our ideal, an ideal we know as “memory” not just in theory. We long for something better and are in need of redemption, reconciliation, rescue to reach that something better.

I see more of the figurative, symbolic, and even mythical in Genesis 1-4 than Dr. Collins would allow. However, in this argument I think he is on his strongest ground. There is a way in which the fall is at the very root of the Christian story. And Christ was, from before the beginning of time, the way to make this right.

What do you think – is the fall the best explanation for our lives now and for our hunger for things to be better?


If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net

If you have comments please visit The Search for the Historical Adam 8 at Jesus Creed.




Gerhard Richter - September 9/11



September

A Gerhard Richter print from 2009.
A Gerhard Richter print from 2009., Courtesy of
Gerhard Richter and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris



Disappearing Before Our Eyes



German painter Gerhard Richter tackles
the hardest subject: that which no longer exists.


Making art about 9/11 is the ultimate challenge for any artist. How do you take such an utterly iconic image and push it beyond cliché? How do you say anything at all about the attack without veering into either bellowing banality or genteel understatement? In his painting titled simply September, Gerhard Richter, possibly the last of the great painters, may have found answers.

Robert Storr, author of a new book on this one artwork from the Museum of Modern Art, points out that Richter resisted enlarging his canvas to the scope of the event—the clichéd move in grand history paintings—but instead found more meaning in a domestic, even democratic size. September is close to the size and shape of a flat-screen TV, “matching the proportions of the vessel through which we learned the terrible news,” says Storr.

But Richter, now 79, has said that even with the scale right, when he originally tried to paint the burning towers, in 2005, he couldn’t stomach the results. Working in his classic photo-realist style, he found that the towers’ glowing flames registered as garish and attractive: “That couldn’t work,” he said. But rather than give up, Richter took his failed painting, scraped off most of its surface detail, and smeared an abstract veil of gray on top of what was left. “He applied the techniques of unpainting to his subject, but since the subject is the erasure of a building, it’s the perfect metaphor,” Storr says.

Richter gives us a way to view the carnage: the image is so imprinted on our psyches that we recognize it even, or especially, in a painting that is close to obliterated. But he also uses paint to push back against our urge to gawk, against the pornography of violence and catastrophe.

No bit of canvas could ever contain the scale and scope and meaning of the moment. When the world’s greatest living painter can’t do justice to his theme, can only render it as blurred and almost unseeable, you get a sense of its enormity. The impossibility of condensing such a subject into art, or into any final summation, is the true, great subject of September.


Addendum

 When I first saw this painting it took my breath away in its sweeping panorama of destruction evaporating away into nothingness. There were just no words to describe the horror, the waste, the agony. And in many ways this painting can be a metaphor for our lives when we find them blown up by sickness, death, injury, trauma, personal events, and the like. It's as if a life has ceased to exist once having stood tall to everything and everyone around it. And though this blog is dedicated to helping Christians find a bedrock to their faith during this time of religious uncertainty, it is also dedicated to helping those individuals seeking answers to faith's questions.

For without questions we cannot discover God's purpose for ourselves, our reality, our meaning when all around us seems terrifying and desperate. Rather than becoming unpainted in our lives with all the colours washed out from the canvas of our minutes and hours and days and years of our lives, we may begin to reclaim those years of faithless-living back through Jesus and his Spirit. For now is the time for Jesus to become the master painter of our lives in our re-awakened discoveries of what true life can become as he re-applies his paints and colours to a once unimagined life lived without purpose, love and meaning.

Eternity begins now through God's love and redemption, and the lostness and emptiness once so much a part of our being can be scraped away with faith's assurance hitherto unknown in the depths of our spiritual being. No more will sin's hatreds, discontents, emptiness, and brokenness drive one's days and nights; rather, through spiritual re-birth into the life of Jesus as our Savior-Redeemer can love, purpose, meaning be re-discovered in a lost and empty world fled its Creator-God. Be at peace then ye who seek God. For God seeks you and invites you to enter into his life, his destiny, his purpose for you.

Come, says the Spirit, come to the table of plenty set in the valley of the shadow of death. For life begins now. Faith begins now. Come ye, and enter in.

- skinhead