Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:10-24

The Text:

10 Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην. 11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον• 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν, 14 καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. 15 Ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ 16 ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα εὐαγγελίζωμαι αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, εὐθέως οὐ προσανεθέμην σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι 17 οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους, ἀλλὰ ἀπῆλθον εἰς Ἀραβίαν καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν. 18 Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε, 19 ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. 20 ἃ δὲ γράφω ὑμῖν, ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι. 21 Ἔπειτα ἦλθον εἰς τὰ κλίματα τῆς Συρίας καὶ τῆς Κιλικίας• 22 ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Ἰουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Χριστῷ. 23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει, 24 καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν θεόν.

v11 γάρ vs. δέ. Almost balanced textual support. One suspects the meaning is not overly affected by the variation.

v15 ὁ Θεός has numerous textual witnesses, but importance texts omit it. It probably should be omitted, since its insertion is explicable by a desire to bring out the implied subject of εὐδόκησεν. Its omission, conversely, would be difficult to explain.

v18 Κηφᾶν is supported by strong textual witnesses, while Πέτρον is almost certainly a later substitution of the more familiar Greek name for the apostle. Such a variation occurs several later times in the epistle, which I will simply note without comment.

Translation:

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I still were pleasing men, I would not be a slave of Christ. 11 For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel proclaimed by me, that it is not merely human in nature; 12 For neither did I receive it from men nor was taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard my way of live formerly in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God in an extreme manner and attempted to destroy it, 14 and was advancing in Judaism beyond many of the cohort of my generation, being an extreme zealot for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when [God], having set me apart from my mothers womb and calling me through his grace, 16 revealed his son in me, so that I might preach him among the nations [Gentiles], I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those apostles that precede me, but I departed into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to pay an inquiring visit to Kephas and I stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but another of the apostles I did not see except Jacob the brother of the Lord. 20 which things I write to you, see! before God, I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 I was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing that the one formerly persecuting them not preached the Faith which formerly he sought to destroy, 24 and they glorified God because of me.

Comments:

Although some read πείθω and ἀρέσκειν as having virtually the same force, I think it better to give each an independent force. So Paul raises the question about (a) persuading, and (b) pleasing, and implies a dichotomy between the two. Is the object of his persuasive efforts God or men? The second clause of 10, ‘or do I seek to please men?’ along with the answer in 10c, resolves the rhetorical questions. Paul isn’t making a rhetorical defence before God, since he has no need to persuade God nor purpose in doing so, but rather seeks to please God. On the other hand, his persuasive attempts are directed towards human beings, which is why he doesn’t seek to please human beings. In 10c Paul suggests that service (slavery) to Christ, necessarily rules out pleasing men. This verse sets up the tone of the rest of the passage, which will launch into Paul’s defence of his gospel and apostleship.

v11 then functions as a topic sentence, about the nature and origin of Paul’s gospel. It is not κατὰ ἄνθρωπον, ‘according to men’, which should probably be understood as ‘being human in nature and characteristics’. The reason for its non-human character is, v12, its non human origins – neither received (the passing on of tradition) from a human being, nor taught it, but by a direct, supernatural revelation whose agent and source if Jesus Christ.

Paul’s backing (γὰρ) for the radical nature of this revelation is point to his former way of life ‘in Judaism’. However we want to read the parting of the ways, Paul is prepared to see his former life as part of a distinct religious identity of ‘Judaism’. There is real irony that to ‘advance in Judaism’ was to ‘persecute τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, a phrase which has the Jewish identity of ‘Israel’, but which Paul now situates as ‘God’s assembly’. To advance in Judaism was to persecute the Israel of God (cf. 6:16). Though I would be reluctant to assert any literary or direct connection, the zeal for τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων matches well with Jesus’ own engagement with the Pharisaical schools, as in Mark 7:1-23.

The construction of v15 is odd, partly because the flow of thought introduced by ‘but when God was pleased...’ is interrupted by an extended description of God in terms of Paul’s setting-apart from the womb and calling. The phrase is drawn from Isaiah 49:1, with further correspondence to Jeremiah 1:5, and situates Paul’s calling in terms of the Old Testament prophets. What other category for calling would Paul have drawn upon? For this reason, I cannot sanction interpretations that want to deny a conversion experience to Paul in place of a ‘calling’ experience. Paul’s radical then/now Judaism/Christ constructions rules out a purely intra-Judaism development.

The nature of Paul’s calling is specified in v16, to preach the gospel to the nations. Nations here should be understood in its typical sense, ‘Gentiles’, hence my inclusion in brackets. Thus, Paul’s calling and conversion to some extent coincide. Whether v16 ἐν ἐμοί is to be taken as ‘in me’, as the location of the revelation, or else instrumentally ‘by me’, to Paul’s ongoing revelation of the Christ through his preaching, is open to debate. Though Paul’s ongoing preaching is logically dependent upon the revelation of the Christ to him.

Paul now emphasises the autonomy of his initial period. He did not ‘consult with flesh and blood’ – reinforcing his earlier comment in v12, about the non-human origin and teaching of his gospel. v17 likewise disassociates his gospel activity from the Jerusalem-apostles Rather, Paul went to Arabia (i.e. the Nabataean kingdom), and specifically Damascus.

The three year gap before Paul visits Jerusalem gives his gospel and apostleship a ‘distance’ from the Jerusalem apostles which serves as Paul’s defence of its independence. He does not deny dealing with the Jerusalem apostles, but is keen to delineate his autobiography in terms that demonstrate that independence. So, v18, he mentions his visit to Kephas (Peter), which lasted 15 days, and involved no other major Jerusalem identities beyond Jacob (James), the brother of Jesus. v20 is a meta-comment upon the narrative itself – Paul draws attention to his self-disclosure and attests to his truthfulness. v21-24 summarise events beyond that initial visit – his return into Syria and Cilicia, the fact that he was not acquainted in person with Judean churches, and they praised God.

We might also note that Paul’s visit to Jerusalem here is informal. There is not delegation, no officiality, just Paul coming to Jerusalem and meeting two Christian leaders. He is again emphasising that he didn’t ‘get’ his gospel on this occasion. Indeed, cross-checking with Acts reveals his prior gospel ministry. Secondly, ‘the Faith’ in v23 is a remarkably Christian expression, since Christianity as a religion is built upon ‘Faith’. To speak of other religious traditions as ‘faiths’ is to import a key Christian distinctive into them, that is not necessarily present. So Paul can speak of preaching the Faith in a unique sense of the word. This section, 1:11-24, repeatedly hammers the defence of the source of Paul’s gospel and Paul’s apostleship.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Some Latin translation help

I'm working on a project for someone, and having a few problems with the following passages. Would appreciate if anybody could chime in with some suggestions. There may well be spelling errors/variations, etc., to be figured out. I'll list the latin text, followed by my rambling notes/paraphrase.

1. et occisit Cain tritabum suum et per hoc plantarium sanguinis e digamie dilubii protinus pena subvertit

1. and he slew Cain his own tritabum and through this of his family’s cutting he overturned the penaly of the flood...

2. propter quod zelo ductus interfecit eum. Primus ante diluvium Cain civitatem Enoch ex nomine filii sui in India condidit. Quam urbem ex sola sua postitate inplevit quidis vult quod impiorum pergenies civitatem in ipsa mundi origine construxit. in quod novemus in pios in hac vita ete fundatos, scenos us hospites ete et preginos unem et Abel tamquam preginius intram populis inranius non condidit civitatem superna en enim secorum civitas

2. On account of which, led by jealousy, he killed him. Cain founded the first city, Enoch from the name of his son, in India, before the Flood. Which city he filled by his own [power?] with whomever he wished, since in the very beginning of the world he built this city through the talents of the wicked....

3. a quorum iteritu omnis mundus letabitirunt et invicem re munera mittent

3. from whom the whole world will kill [iteritu] and in turn send rewards

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A possible PhD topic

I may have come up with something. I'm proposing to do a study of the interpretation and reception of 1 Peter in patristic literature. Just looking at the ACCS, there are 7 possible commentaries, though how extensive and how much they show dependencies I'm yet to investigate. They include: Didymus the Blind, Theophylact, Bede, Hilary of Arles, Oecumenius, Cassiodorus, and someone else whose name currently escaped me. That, plus a thorough working over of Biblia Patristica could generate some interesting material. Most of these smaller commentaries have no English translation, which would be an advantage.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:6-9

The Text:

6 Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον, 7 ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο, εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρʼ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. 9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω• εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρʼ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

There is considerable doubt about the textual readings of Χριστοῦ in v6 and ὑμῖν in v8. Χριστοῦ is omitted by significant Western texts, but not all. Its presence serves only to definitely identify the grace in view. The presence of ὑμῖν in v8 restricts the anathama to a particularly Galatian scenario, rather than a more widespread principle, though such a principle would not be inappropriate. Nevertheless, I retain the reading.

Translation:

6 I am amazed that are deserting so quickly from the one that called you by the grace [of Christ], to another gospel 7 which is not another [gospel], except there are some troubling you and wishing to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven preach the gospel [to you] different from what we preached to you, let him be anathema. 9 As we said before and now I say again: if someone preaches to you different than what you received, let him be anathema.

Comments:

Unlike most of his letters, and letters in general, Galatians omits any thanksgiving and moves directly into astonishment. The cause of his astonishment is not the celerity of their abandoment, so much as the desertion itself, couple with its speed. Theodoret and Chrysostom both highlight that the desertion is spoken of as not ‘from the gospel’ but from God himself, to heighten the immensity of their abandoment. The mention of ‘calling’ here again previews significant latter themes in the letter. The play in vv6-7 about the gospel hinges on the fact that, in Paul’s view, another gospel is, by definition, not a gospel at all. Thus he is forced into speaking of it in one instance as ‘a different gospel’, but then denying its very gospel-like nature, since the message they are turning to is not gospel.

v7 also introduces us more directly to the Galatian Opponents. They are described here as ‘those troubling’ the Galatians, and ‘wishing to pervert the gospel of Christ.’ Paul has no hesitation about casting them in the most negative light possible, since at stake is the very gospel message of Paul, and thus the eternity of the Galatian believers. This leads into the twice-over warning and anathema. ‘We’ in v8 should probably be understood as Paul and his entourage, though the primary originator of such preaching is Paul himself. It is worth noting the complement between ‘different from what we preached’ and ‘different from what you received’. The language of ἀνάθεμα picks up the OT cultic language of given over to destruction, and so indicates falling under the wrath of God in judgment.

It is unclear from the text itself whether ‘as we said before’ should be taken to refer to Pauline teaching in Galatia, which he is seeking to remind them of, or as a communicative device referring simply back to v8, and so simply drawing attention to the gravity of Paul’s warning message.

Paul's opening gambit highlights the main concern, especially of chapters 1-2, that of defending his gospel against the Opponents, who he perceives to be peddling an alternate, and thus deficient and deceptive, 'gospel'. Paul's defence will come in two parts, as he shows both the independent origin and the lack of difference from the Jerusalem apostles, of his gospel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:1-5

The text:

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ ἀπʼ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ διʼ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν, 2 καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας, 3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 4 τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν, 5 ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

A number of variations in the text of v3 appear. The strongest of these is πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν which is preferable on external evidence, with a strong and broad cross-section of attestation. Paul's usage elsewhere (Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:3, 2 Cor 1:2, etc.) supports the reading as stands, and a desire to align ἡμῶν with κυρίου would make sense of a scribal change. The effect of the primary alternate reading is theologically negligible, in my opinion.

Translation:

Paul, an apostle not from men nor through human agency but through Jesus Christ and God [the] Father that raised him from the dead, 2 and all the brothers with me – to the churches of Galatia,
3 Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 he that gives himself for our sins, so that he might rescue us from the present evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory eternally, Amen.

Comments:

The standard epistolary introduction receives a number of distinctive features in 1:1-5. Firstly, the author Paul immediately identifies himself as an apostle, and this previews one of the dominant concerns of the epistle in chapters 1-2, a defence of Paul’s gospel intertwined with his apostleship. The qualifications he gives direct our attention first negatively, to the source (not from men), and the agency (nor by men) of his apostleship, then positively to the agency of Jesus Christ, and the source. A strict distinction between source and agency is probably overblown here, so that Paul’s double statement has a certain highlighting of its non-human origins. The qualification of God the Father as ‘the one that raised him from the dead’ is the only reference to resurrection in Galatians, and yet its prominent position in identifying the very God who is the source of Paul’s apostleship reinforces its prominence in his gospel, despite its absence from the bulk of the epistle.

The reference to the brothers with him reminds us that Paul’s epistolary and pastoral work was not done in isolation, but in community.

The addressees, the churches of Galatia, are a source of scholarly contention. For myself, I favour a Southern Galatian hypothesis. The reference to multiple churches suggests multiple gatherings of Christians, and reinforces the notion from elsewhere the ἐκκλεσία properly refers in early christian literature to a local community.

The twin greeting of grace and peace combines the distinctive Jewish salutation, shalom, with the uniquely Christian emphasis on grace, forming a typical Pauline address. Some suggest the grammar of this verse is open to being read as ‘God – our Father and the Lord Jesus’, as a statement of Jesus’ divinity. While this is possible, I am unconvinced the Greek reads so straightforwardly. It can well be agreed, though, that Jesus’ divinity is attested on other NT grounds, and conceded that Jewish 1st century authors would not invite such ambiguity frivolously. That the Christ is identified further in v4 matches the further description of the Father in v1, giving us a rounded presentation of both death and resurrection, with the clear gospel statement of ‘the one giving himself for our sins.’ This is the core of Paul’s gospel message, which is part and parcel of the content of the Galatian epistle.

The purpose clause introduced gives an eschatological note to Paul’s gospel and epistle, ‘this present evil age’ picking up apocalyptic language. However, a full-blown apocalypticism of genre or outlook is impossible to sustain from the rest of the epistle. Thus, it is better characterised as part of Paul’s eschatology. The present age is passing, done with, and the new age has come, into which we are rescued by Christ’s salvific death. The importance of time is also previewed here.

The death and rescue are both 'according to the will of our God and Father', and so reveal and accomplish the divine purpose, which cannot be thwarted. This final statement leads Paul naturally into praise, as he offers up a doxological conclusion to his introductory statements.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

On the reading of texts, a personal note

This past week I've had the pleasure of spending three days in the second block of an intensive MA subject on Galatians. A pleasure for two reasons. 1) As an MTh student, I have been able to audit subjects like these for free, reaping much of the benefit without either financial cost or submissable assessments. 2) There is just something very refreshing about the study of the text. I like nothing better than to sit down with a portion of text, particularly the sacred scriptures that is, but other texts occasion a similiar delight, and read it with close attention to detail. The bulk of my MTh is simply a reading of Chrysostom with attention to certain details. My preaching style is built upon simply reading the text in front of us. The text is indeed the thing.

If I can hold my own attention for long enough, I will post up a series of exegetical notations on Galatians.

doctoral application

I'm meant to put in a PhD application this week. That involves me doing enough preliminary research to formulate at least a provisional topic. I'm thinking of taking a portion of Gregory of Nazianzus' sermons, preferebly untranslated, and seeing what I can do with them. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Job Search

It isn't going very well. I'm half-qualified to be a Latin teacher, by which I mean that I have excellent Latin, but I don't have a teaching background or degree. So, I've applied for at least half a dozen Latin teaching positions, the magnitude of which surprised me, but have yet to get an interview for any of them.

My most eminent qualifications are for ministry positions, but here I am confronted with the fact that despite this being the course of employment most suitable, a plan to move overseas in the next 6-12 months renders me highly undesirable as a prospective employee. Nobody really wants a full time minister for such a short time. This coupled with a lack of networks bodes poorly.

Of course, I am a pessimist in this area. That should at least be acknowledged.

My only other experience and qualifications are in fitness (another area where I am but half-qualified), and working in a fish & chip shop (it was a good year, but I can hardly make a living out of it). Now contemplating a range of employment possibilities which bear little to no relation to my background, experience, and qualifications.

Perhaps you can empathise with my pessimism.

Augustine on culture and sin

The human race, however, is inclined to judge sins, not according to the gravity of the evil desire involved, but rather with reference to the importance attached to their own customs. So people frequently reckon that only those acts are to be blamed which in their own part of the world and their own time have been customarily treated as vicious and condemned, and only those acts to be approved of and praised which are acceptable to those among whom they live.

De Doctrine Christiana, III.10.15

Was reading this passage this evening and struck by how true it is. Apologies for the lack of interesting blog posts, hope to get some in next week.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The interplay of the corporate and individual and the doctrine of two kingdoms (Part 2)

I’m going to take for granted a step that some of you are not inclined to grant, in order to advance this second part. That step is a number of convictions:

a) Individual Christians are called to enemy-love, not self-defence or personal vindication. (I think a good case for this can be made from the classic texts of Matthew 5:38-48 and from Romans 12:14-21, among other places and a broader Christological ethic)

b) The church as a corporate body is also called to enemy-love, not self-defence or personal vindication.

c) The ruling authorities in the world have judicial power for the execution of judgment (Romans 13)

Now, let me come to the point of my philosophical confusion. If Christians are called to a life of enemy-love, both individually and corporately, which eschews violence, how can this be overturned when Christians are considered corporately under a different aegis? That is, if you think about a collection of Christians as a church, one would deny that they had any authority for violence and judicial-force, but if you reconstituted the same collection of Christians as a civil authority, then they should pursue such violence? Of course, the objection could simply be made that in different places and roles I have different values and functions and authorities to carry out. Let me suggest though, that this contrast between ethics of Christian life and secular authority is more than simply what my governmental office might permit me to do, it goes close to the core of Christian ethics.

This is where it is helpful to consider the articulation of the Reformer’s doctrine of the two kingdoms of God. I agree, that God does indeed rule the world by means of two reigns, two kingdoms, the one of secular government, the other the spiritual kingdom nascent in the church. Such two kingdoms are united and overlaid in the nation of Israel, which is why you see the twin exercise of coercive and spiritual authority in the same body. The two kingdoms are distinctly separated in the NT, as I believe can be seen both by (a) Jesus’ relation to secular authorities (Mt 22:21 for instance), (b) the spiritualisation of church discipline and judicial function (excommunication as the sign of spiritual exclusion and thus death, not matched to any temporal death).

The key question is what sort of role may Christians legitimately pursue in the realm of secular authority, that will not compromise their allegiance to Jesus? The NT addresses a situation of political disempowerment, where rulers were far from paradigms of justice, and Christian involvement was negligible to non-existent. Nonetheless, I think it’s a far characterisation of the NT that the real work of God and focus of Christian effort is to be the spread of the Kingdom by lives of witness and work in the world. i.e., the primary focus of Christian lives is seen in the spiritual means of the Heavenly Kingdom, not the coercive means of the ruling powers. Indeed, the realpolitik of fallen and unredeemed rulers and tyrants reminds us that God rules providentially through whatever ruling authorities there happen to be, irrespective of their devotion to him. That, too, is the treatment of the OT, where the judgment of Israel by foreign nations is likewise portrayed as God’s providential ruling of the kings, without exoneration of their sins.

If we’re looking for a terminus ad quem for Christian involvement in secular government, I propose minimally that it must be the avoidance of any kind of dual-minded mentality. Contra Luther, it’s not okay for the Christian to be not-retaliatory in his personal life, but put on the cap and baton and mete out judicial violence in the community. Such a bifurcation of moral realities is unsustainable psychologically and morally for the individual, and disingenuous about the integrated reality of human moral communities. We may live in a world where God reigns by two modes, but Christians should be wary of thinking that the latter can be redemptive.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The interplay of the corporate and individual and the doctrine of two kingdoms (Part 1)

The two most common arguments I hear against the kind of pacifism I articulate follow along these lines:

(1) Surely it is wrong to stand by and let someone vulnerable suffer harm, when you have the power to step in and stop it

(2) The restraint of evil is a necessary part of Godly order in a fallen world, and so Christians must employ violence to do so, but it is not the Church’s role.

In this post I want to explore some of the logic that undergirds or plays into these positions. Firstly, I want to consider how the former argument is often based on a kind of utilitarianism that ends up in logical convolutions of increasing counter-intuitive absurdity.

(1) is based on the premise that ends can shape, and fundamentally alter, the moral dimension of means. What is the end or consequence that is in view in (1)? Let’s suppose that it is some violent crime, murder or rape or the like. These things are truly horrendous, and are to be stopped. Let’s further suppose that the prospective victim is someone dear to me, a family member. Suddenly our hypothetical is taking the shape of, “What sort of moral monster would you have to be to stand by and watch a family member get murdered?”

I have already critiqued in other places the kind of deterministic logic that says only violence can solve this situation, and your only options in this situation are (a) violence, (b) acquiescence. Instead, this time I wish to point out how this hypothetical makes two other problematic moves. Firstly, it atomises the corporate.

Is it right for the church to willingly accept martyrdom? I would think the scriptures and the history of the church teach us yes. And yet, the kind of example above breaks down that solidarity, and says that if its in the power of individuals to prevent, by means of violence, other individuals from dying, then they should do so. The church as a collective, then, would never be a church that accepts martyrdom, but one in which individuals never practice self-defence, but instead always practice other-defence. There is a mis-translation of individual and corporate sensibility here that I want to engage further below.

Secondly, it absolutises this life. If the greatest evil we could suffer would be the deprivation of mortal life, then death would be the great evil to be avoided. But this is untrue in several dimensions. The greatest good is to know God and his gospel. Indeed, Jesus goes so far as to say that to know God and his Son is eternal life (Jn 17:2). So when I make the lives of those nearest to me the highest value in a life-threatening situation, I over-value temporal existence, and under-value eternal existence. Because the eternal life of those dear to me in Christ is secure. The eternal destiny of those that threaten them, almost certainly not. Should I choose to save that which cannot be prevented (i.e., the mortal death of Christian loved ones is certain), at the price of the enemy’s life, thereby ending all hope for their redemption? By this utilitarian logic, Christians should prefer to kill each other to prevent the deaths of non-Christians, in the hopes of their repentance to eternal life. This logic won’t do at all. Indeed, it makes Jesus a moral monster, since he indeed has the power to prevent the deaths of his brothers and sisters, those who he loved to die for, and he prefers their death to their life. Why does Jesus stand idly by?

Monday, October 04, 2010

Training Diary

I meant to write 3 intelligent blogposts this weekend. Review some books, drop some exegesis skills, that kind of thing. Instead I spent the long weekend digitising music, visiting friends, catching a film at the cinema, and so on. So instead, I'm going to talk about exercise.

I tend to be a little addictive in personality, and this extends to exercise. Coming out of high school, I did martial arts, and trained 2-4 times a week. After university, I did a 6 month stint in a tech college learning Fitness Instruction, at which time I also joined the Tech gym, and went to about 14 training sessions a week. That was a fairly high level of training! I was swimming, running, doing weights, and martial arts.

Turns out I really like lifting weights. It's a solitary kind of pursuit, which suits my personality well. This last year I have been back in the gym. I'd taken a couple of years off any organised or formal exercise, and suffered for it. So now I am in the gym usually 5 days a week. I'm not naturally a big person, I really struggle to gain weight. Currently I'm the heaviest I've ever been, and the strongest.

One of the problems with enjoying weight lifting, is that I just like to pile on more activities to my program, so I think I've ended up overtraining lately. I had a shoulder injury many years ago (torn rotator cuff from a skateboarding incident), and so my left shoulder is usually the first to feel things. The second problem I have is the bad habit of just wanting to keep training.

But this week I'm going to be good - no lifting at all. Just a bit of cardio work. I used to run a lot, but not so much anymore, but I'm working on that too. I also really enjoy indoor rowing. What I love about these, and lifting weights, is that it is all so measurable. Metrics means you can record, and thus improve, your efforts.

Anyway, this week, just some running and rowing, and then I'm going to cull my bloated weights program back to some core exercises.

An hour in the gym is also a good length of time to listen to a lecture or sermon on the ipod.

Hope you've enjoyed this off topic post/ramble.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Random updates on various aspects of Life

1) The Thesis

My supervisor sent me back my draft today and we met. He is overall very pleased with it. A few structural elements to include. So my main aim for October is to tidy up the thesis, track down a few more articles that aren't on hand here, and try and submit by Oct 30. That would be excellent.

2) Other studious enterprises

I've been auditing an MA subject on Galatians that is quite fun. We have a second intensive block in October, and I'm getting together a presentation on OT usage/salvation-history/typology. I did a youth camp last weekend with three talks from Galatians 2, 3, and 5, which went quite well and helped a lot.

I'm also helping a guy with some Latin translations from a late antique/early medieval text, which is quite enjoyable.

3) Other things

I've upped my gym training since I've had more time on my hands, which has been really good. On the other hand, haven't really been plugging away at the languages as much as I should be. Once I break routine, it's quite hard to get back into it.

Medical examination for overseas went well. Took longer than expected due to some conflicting but ultimately meaningless results, but now it's done and our mission application can proceed.

I've been reading some good books. Keller's 'Ministries of Mercy', Kostenberger's book on Heresy and Orthodoxy, and just picked up 'Halos and Avatars', a theological compilation on video games.

No success on the job front though.