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

Monday, November 25, 2013

N.T. Wright, "Paul and the Faithfulness of God" (Vol 4) - The People of God: Israel, Church, Kingdom

Here we have the age-old problem of whether the church replaces Israel in God's plan, or whether Israel will be resurrected again to replace the church later on. Let the reader be forewarned that I'm probably not on the same wavelength as Wright is on the idea of supercessionism. Wright's concern is to read Paul in light of Jesus' fulfillment of Messianic Scripture as heralded in the promises of God's return in the OT to His people Israel. However, along comes Christianity to re-interpret all the blessings of the Israel for itself in a wide variety of soteriological and eschatalogical and schemas. In effect, if I understand Wright correctly, God has done His job to Israel and has passed the torch along to the church through the hands of Jesus, the Immanuel of Israel, and Savior of man.

Which brings me to a loggerhead.... When I first began writing this website my immediate concern was to describe a post-modern, post-evangelic Chrisitanity - popularly known as "Emergent Christianity" (1990s-2010) whose term has been shredded so much as to cause me to re-apply its usage more recently as "post-modernpost-evangelic Christianity" instead of "emergent." In effect, my generation of evangelics had so lost their way within biblical theology that it motivated me to reassess the pros, and cons, of evangelicalism gone awry. And this I have done even as I have neglected a steady diet of biblical exegesis for the writing of contemporary theology in an effort to wrest back into the hands of the church the vision of the bible apart from its many misstatements and misrepresentations made by eager pulpiteers and a politicizing Christian media.

At that time I did not feel it was important to write of the "Relationship between the Testaments," which was the name of my graduate thesis project, and an idea I once had to author. However, the very idea of supercessionism's many misrepresentations tells me that I should perhaps reconsider this task again. Broadly, it takes Wright's observations and applies them forward to the eschaton to come. That is, it speaks of God's election in terms of promise, covenant, community, and fulfillment in Jesus.

Below are my several thoughts on this subject but when re-reading its bullet points I must admit that it pales to the real subject I have in mind - to the major themes of the bible as they move forward in Jesus.... Even so, have I made a hasty sketch to further confound the matter without further apology or explanation at this stage of writing:

  1. Jesus came for Israel. He came to be their Messiah. He came to fulfill Scripture to Israel.
  2. Jesus came to redeem His people and raise them up as a new people to His name. We know
      this as the (Jewish) early church as it spread outwards to the world under the Apostles.
  3. The church does not replace Israel nor does Israel usurp the church at some later date.
  4. As the old covenant has passed away, so has Israel. Even as the church will be folded into
      the massing Kingdom of God under God's New Covenant as it converges and spreads.
  5. To be a part of Israel's election in the OT Gentiles had to proselytize under the Old Covenant.
  6. But with the New Covenant comes a new people of God. One composed of Jews AND Gentiles.
  7. In the New Covenant each people group comes on equal footing without proselytization.
      Hence, there is no need to be a Jewish Christian either now or later. But a Messianic Christian
      knowing Jesus as one's Messiah. All is uplifted.
  8. The Gospel of Christ is trans-denominational, trans-cultural, trans-national. It melds and unites
      all men and women in Jesus' name.
  9. God has always had a remnant, an elect. We know them as the "people of God."
 10. God's community changes with covenant. With a covenant change comes a people (and era)
11. This does not mean that Jesus doesn't fulfill Israel's hope... He simply expands them inclusively.
12. Someday the church will be replaced not by a new Israel but by God's Expanded Kingdom.
13. In the Kingdom of God will God's people rejoice and all find Shalom.

R.E. Slater
November 25, 2013

* * * * * * * * * *

Revised People of God and Supersessionism

by Scot McKnight
November 21, 2013

At the heart of any theology of the Bible is the people of God, which means Israel and it is a source of astonishment that some write “biblical” theologies and have almost nothing on Israel — other than as background. At the same time, at the core of a Christian reading of the Bible as the Story of God in this world, is the church. In NT Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God, this theme of church, along with the classic understanding of salvation, are tied together under the theme of “election.” All of this from a singular angle: The People of God, Freshly Reworked. We are talking here then as the church as the elect people of God — but what does election mean? And how does this get applied to the church after it was applied to Israel?
I use the term ‘election’, rather, to highlight the choice, by the One God, of Abraham’s family, the people historically known as ‘Israel’ and, in Paul’s day, in their smaller post-exilic form, as hoi Ioudaioi, ‘the Jews’ or ‘the Judeans’. The word ‘election’, as applied to Israel, usually carries a further connotation: not simply the divine choice of this people, but more specifically the divine choice of this people for a particular purpose (775).
Election, then, embraces some big themes and NT Wright mentions briefly each — justification, anthropology, being in Christ, salvation history, apocalyptic, transformation (deification), and covenant. Wright himself prefers covenant, thereby assuming election and covenant are to be brought together.
He knows the issues abound, including supersessionism, about which he has these strong comments to say:
We have to contend with what one can only call a revived anti-Christian polemic in which anything, absolutely anything, that is said by way of a ‘fulfilment’ of Abrahamic promises in and through Jesus of Nazareth is said to constitute, or contribute to, that wicked thing called ‘supersessionism’, the merest mention of which sends shivers through the narrow and brittle spine of postmodern moralism. How can we say what has to be said, by way of proper historical exegesis, in such a climate? (784)
The storied nature of covenant comes to the fore in NT Wright’s work: Adam and Abraham and Land and Exodus are all tied into a resumptive and redemptive framework, but the overall impact is that Abraham is the one through whom God chooses to work out the divine plan. In this section in PFG we get an important discussion of texts that connect Adam to Abraham. (I have myself for a number of years called Abraham [as] the “first second Adam.”) From Genesis Rabbah 14.6: “Why is Abraham called a great man? Because he was worthy of being created before the first man. But the Holy One, blessed be he, thought, ‘Perhaps something may go wrong, and there will be no one to repair matters. Lo, to begin with I shall create the first Adam, so that if something should go wrong with him, Abraham will be able to come and remedy matters in his stead’” (from Wright, 794). In other words,
“The question of how this link played out – whether, as we said before, the Abrahamic purpose was designed to rescue the whole of the human race, or rather to rescue Abraham’s family from the rest of the human race – receives a variety of answers, but the underlying point remains: the promises to Abraham were understood in relation to the problems caused by Adam. Their intention was to get the human project back on track after the disasters of the fall, the flood and the idolatrous Tower. The covenant that YHWH made with Abraham was the way of sealing this intent, binding this God to his promise and Abraham’s family to this God, assuring Abraham of the ‘seed’ that would inherit the promises, the promises which were focused on the Land as the new Eden, promises which would be fulfilled by the Exodus from Egypt as the great act of redemption (794-795).
Covenant and righteousness go together: the former is the means of the latter. So NTW examines the meaning of “righteousness” yet one more time, and here is my four point summary:
  1. The word refers in the history of Israel first to right behavior in a relation to God and God’s will.
  2. It is connected to the law court, where the judge is to be righteous and the person in front of the judge may be declared right. (Sometimes the defendant is righteous anyway.)
  3. YHWH will vindicate/justify Israel because YHWH is righteous. God’s act of righteousness then is an act of salvation (Psalms, Isaiah 40–55). That is, God is faithful to his covenant with Israel in justifying/saving.
  4. YHWH’s righteousness then is also cosmic, setting the whole world right.
God’s righteousness, God’s restorative justice and God’s covenant faithfulness are all pulled into one whole in this term “righteousness.”
Israel, then, is God’s servant in this world. The covenant elects Israel to be the redemptive agent for God of the world. Which raises the issue of supersessionism all over again, and Wright sees three kinds:
Hard: God rejected Israel in Christ.
Sweeping: post-Barthian, apocalyptic newness beyond anything earlier. It’s all new. He sees it in J.L. Martyn’s commentary on Galatians.
Jewish: Qumran. The rest of Judaism is compromised.
This latter kind emphasizes fulfillment and is not, he argues, genuinely supersessionist. He asks, Was John Baptist a supersessionist? Jesus? Paul? NT Wright sees his view of Paul to be this kind of Jewish supersessionism. He takes it all on with this:
My proposal has of course been (in chapter 6 of the present work and elsewhere) that Paul’s revision of the Jewish view of Election was more or less of the same type as what we find in Qumran. Call it ‘Jewish supersessionism’ if you like, but recognize the oxymoronic nature of such a phrase. The scandal of Paul’s gospel, after all, was that the events in which he claimed that Israel’s God had been true to what he promised centred on a crucified Messiah. That is the real problem with any and all use of the ‘supersession’ language: either Jesus was and is Israel’s Messiah, or he was not and is not. That question in turn is of course directly linked to the question of the resurrection: either Jesus rose from the dead or he did not. Trying to use postmodern moralism, with its usual weapon of linguistic smearing, as a way to force Christians today to stop saying that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah is bad enough, though that is not our current problem. Trying to use that moralism as a way of forcing first-century historians to deny that Paul thought Jesus was the Messiah, and that the divine promises to Israel had been fulfilled in him, simply will not do (810).
So election is all about God choosing Israel for a purpose:
1. Within the framework of the covenant outlined so far, in which Israel was called to be the people through whom the one God would rescue the world, Israel was called to be the Shema people, confessing the One God and loving him with heart, mind and life itself.
2. Israel was called to be the people shaped by the creator God’s ‘wis dom’. Again, we looked at this earlier. For many in Paul’s day, this ‘wisdom’ was contained, more or less, in Torah.
3. Israel was called to be the people in whom, therefore, the life held out by Torah would become a reality – both in the sense of the ‘life’ of glad, loving obedience and the ‘life’ promised to Torah-keepers (much as the ‘tree of life’ remained, tantalizingly, in Eden).
4. Israel was the people in whose midst the living God had deigned to dwell, first in the pillar of cloud and fire, then in the wilderness tabernacle, and finally in the Temple in Jerusalem.
5. Israel was to be the people who inherited YHWH’s sovereign rule over the world. The promised land was a sign of this, but already by the first century many Jews had glimpsed the possibility, already implicit within the Adam–Abraham nexus, that the land was simply an advance signpost to YHWH’s claim over the whole of creation.
6. Israel was to be (according to the Pentateuchal origins and the second- temple writings already noted) the people who would discover YHWH’s faithfulness to the covenant through the pattern of slavery and Exodus, of exile and restoration.

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