Monday, August 3, 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015


"In Christian history, however, some of the most significant heresies have been conservative rather than radical--the tendency to hold on to old theological answers when new questions have caused the main body of Christians to move on to new answer.

"[regarding Athanasius contr Arianism] the new answers he proposed were true to the direction of the Scriptures. 'Orthodoxy,' then, is not always the possession of those who try to hold on to the past. One may find a truer criterion in the direction toward which Christian thought has been tending."

Raymond Brown, The Comminity of the Beloved Disciple, 80-81.

I'm not willing to establish this as a dictate of theological or pastoral method. However, this insight definitely offers a big intellectual bite to chew on.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


More from Richard Hays' Moral Vision of the New Testament, this time on Matthew:

"When we compare [Matthew's] teachings to the halakic rulings of the Mishnah or the detailed regulations for community life codified in the Community Rule of the Qumran covenanters (1QS), we can hardly help noticing the rather broad and incomplete character of Matthew's programmatic presentation [in the Sermon on the Mount]. As Wayne Meeks observers,
 ... [W]e  have here no system of commandments. The rules are exemplary not comprehensive, pointers to the kind of life expected in the community, but not a map of acceptable behavior. Still less does Matthew's Jesus state philosophical principles from which guidelines for behavior could be rationally derived. We are left with the puzzle that while Jesus plays the role of a conventional sage in Matthew, his teachings recorded here do not add up to an ethical system. It is not in such a program of teaching, apparently, that Matthew understands the will of God to be discovered.
Matthew's  rigorous summons to moral perfection cannot be rightly understood as a call to obey a comprehensive system of rules. Despite his emphasis on the church's commission to teach obedience to Jesus' commandments, Matthew sees such teaching as instrumental to a deeper goal: the transformation of character and of the heart." (98)

Really, I could quote most of Hays' chapter on Matthew. Each succeeding section unfolds another aspect of the ethics constructed by Matthew's narrative world so foundational, so basic to Matthew's vision, that I wonder why I've never seen it before.

For instance, the next section on the "hermeneutic of mercy" and the twice repeated (!) citation of Hosea 6.6 (Mt 9.13; 12.7) bowls over some of my gut-assumptions about Matthew. The high obedience ethic of the Gospel and the paltry character of "mercy not sacrifice" appeals in much contemporary literature.

Another money quote:

"In these passages [Mt 9.13 and 12.7] we see the outworking of Matthew's earlier claim in the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus fulfils rather than negates the Law. When that formula is applied to test cases, such as eating with sinners and harvesting grain on the Sabbath, we see that the Law is understood to bear witness to what Matthew elsewhere calls 'the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith' (22:23). Jesus' teaching provides a dramatic new hermeneutical filter that necessitates a rereading of everything in the Law in light of the dominant imperative of mercy." (100)

This is a beautiful chapter.

Sunday, January 4, 2015


From Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament, 90.

"If God's self-disclosure takes the form of riddle and enigma, there can be no place for smugness or dogmatism in ethical matters. Those who think they have the rules firmly in hand are those who suffer from hardness of heart (Mark 3:1-6, 7:1-23). [Mark's] story's notorious lack of closure should engender openness in the readers. If our sensibilities are formed by this narrative, we will learn not to take ourselves too seriously; we will be self-critical and receptive to unexpected manifestations of God's love and power."

Monday, December 22, 2014


From the 2009 Antioch Gathering..,

"Abandon false gospels and re-embrace the Gospel of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is an invisible but very real political space ruled by Jesus the King that encompasses the entire created world – except the human race which is given a choice under whose rule to live life, Mammon or Jesus (Matth 6:24). Those humans that join and populate the Kingdom are the ones that are saved by grace, say farewell to Mammon and decide to place themselves voluntarily under his kingship in loving obedience, not merely saying “Lord, Lord” but doing what their King says. The Kingdom is essentially the domain of God’s uncontested rule. As such it is a disposition, not a destination. “The gospel” was originally the news that there is a new king; the main message of Jesus was exactly that: he is our new King and we are all invited to live in the Kingdom, not any longer under the domain of darkness. This is the essence of the Gospel of the Kingdom. In the history of the Church three false while incomplete gospels have gradually replaced the Gospel of the Kingdom: a) the evangelistic gospel of “come ye and be saved”; b) the pastoral gospel of “come ye and be safe” by joining our church or group; and c) the gospel of the teachers and theologians that created doctrinal systems of truths that can be correct, but lifeless. It is of ultimate importance that The Gospel of The Kingdom is rescued from its historic obscurity and re-embraced and resonated by all that belong to Christ.

If the Kingdom of God is to come, ours has to go. The three kingdoms that most violently fight against the Kingdom of God is a) the kingdom of self, our own drivenness by selffish ambition, a career mindset and the idea “what is in it for me”; b) our primary identity in the “kingdoms of we”, groups, labels, organizations or denominations that displaces everything else, including the Kingdom of God, to a rank of secondary priority; and c) the kingdom of nationalism, tribalism and patriotism, where our sworn or felt allegiance to an ethnic group, a political expression or a political preference stands in the way of our primary citizenship in the Kingdom." 

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