Sunday, May 27, 2012

Wycliff Avoiding Familial Language for Godhead

Perhaps you've heard of the Wycliff Bible translators move to drop familial language in references to the Godhead, so there would be no "Father" and "Son" in translations meant for Muslim contexts. They've talked of doing this to escape the misunderstanding that Jesus is a biological "son" resulting sexual procreation between God the "father" and Jesus' mother.

They worry that using "Father" and "Son" leads to this misunderstanding, and that translations for the Muslim culture should use other dynamic equivalents in place of this familial language.
Over the next few blogs, I'll address this issue, looking at questions like the following:

1. Suggested dynamic equivalents: The proponents suggest various options, generally revolving around messianic theology that speaks of a royal heir to the throne. What do we gain and/or lose if adopt them?
2. The threat to trinitarian theology: Is it possible retain fully Christian trinitarian thought if we loose track of the Father, who sent the Son, and the Son, who obeyed his Father, and the Spirit whom the Son sent?
3. Whether this is a linguistic difficulty or a theological difficulty: What specific languages are we concerned about, which lack any non-biological reference when speaking of a father and son relationship? Is it really linguistic, or is it actually a theological issue.
4. Biblical limits to accommodation for the sinful reader: How far can we safely move for the sake of the receptor's understanding and still faithfully communicate the Sender's intent.


I'll try to blog this issue over the next few days, and if I also write something more substantial than blog entries, I'll include a link for it when it's available.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

This fulfilled...

Matthew's infancy narrative describes Joseph taking his young family to Egypt until it was safe to come back. And Matthew says, "In this way what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet was fulfilled: 'I called my Son out of Egypt'" (Matt 2:15; quoting Hos 11:1). It's interesting to note that Hosea wasn't even making a prediction; he was describing history that was already about seven centuries gone by.[1]

It's not a prediction, so Matthew's idea of fulfillment has to be broad enough to include some other dynamic than prediction and its fulfillment. Perhaps the shorthand for explaining this is to speak of typology. If you will, Israel was a type of Jesus Christ; or Jesus is the antitype of Old Testament Israel. One of my old seminary professors once said, "Jesus was the 'remnant' of Israel reduced to One."[2] Matthew saw in God's pattern of preserving Israel in the Old Testament a foreshadowing of his preservation of Jesus in the New.

Maybe Matthew learned this way of reading the Old Testament from course notes taken during the Emaeus Road lesson in Christological hermeneutics, or Christocentric biblical theology (Luke 24:25-27, 44-47). I'm thinking that Paul must have found a copy of those lecture notes too, since he said, "Every one of Godʼs promises are 'Yes' in [Christ]" (2 Cor 1:20).
And Paul drew conclusions that we should also follow: "therefore also through him the 'Amen' is spoken, to the glory we give to God." From Genesis to Revelation, it's all ultimately about Christ.
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1. If we see the Exodus occurring in the 15th century BC (1446-1406 BC) and see Hosea as an 8th century prophet.
2. Raymond Dillard. I think you can find that in the Dillard & Longman Old Testament Introduction.
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Emaeus Road Biblical Theology Lesson

Luke 24 records a post-resurrection lesson in biblical theology. Jesus chided his discouraged disciples for not understanding more about the Old Testament. Then he pointed out the Christological import of all the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.

Some scholars suggest that this speaks of select Old Testament texts that are Old Testament prophecies of Jesus' coming, death, burial, and resurrection. But the reference to all the Scriptures indicates that Jesus was prescribing a comprehensive Christological reaching of the whole Old Testament.
I would say that we need to adopt that same Christological reading today--we have no license to read it otherwise.
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Faith and "who knows?"

We sometimes speak as though faith and certainty operate in lockstep. And of course, we have good biblical warrant to link certainty to faith (Heb 11:1). But sometimes real faith says, "Who knows?" or "maybe," or "perhaps."
God's ways are above our ways, and "no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him" (1 Cor 2:9). So sometimes faith will say, "Who knows?" meaning of course, "only God knows." But what a delightful promise that uncertainty entails.

It's also important to note that the Scriptures also describe real faith being able to say "who knows" in the sense of "perhaps." I think of Joel telling a chronically rebellious people, "Repent" and then saying, "Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve" (Joel 2:14). Or what about the bold step of faith Jonathan was able to launch off of a "perhaps" when he a fellow warrior took on Israel's enemies: "Perhaps the LORD will help us, for nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether many warriors or only a few?" (1 Sam 24:6).
If God's ways are above our ways, we will sometimes say "who knows?" And if we trust in the goodness of God's ways, we will sometimes even be willing to launch out on a bold endeavor even if we initiate it with a "maybe."
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Modern Idolatry

"I could never worship a God who..."


It seems like people who say, "I could never worship a God who..." are generally just about to launch off into the modern version of idolatry. If idolatry is creating God in our own image and likeness, instead of accepting him as he has revealed himself, that can happen theologian's pen just as surely as under the carver's knife.



For example, theologians who do not accept reality of eternal torment in Hell sometimes turn to that phrase, and even flirt with blasphemy too boot. They say, "I could never worship a god who condemned people to eternal torment." Then they sometimes follow on: "A god who would do that would be worse than Hitler."

How much better to take the self-revealing God on his own terms. He has finally revealed himself in his Son. And then, instead of torturing our theology of God until he conforms to our image of what is holy, righteous, and good; let us submit ourselves to the Word of God as the Holy Spirit will impress it into the fabric of our being. This will instead, transform us, so that we are transformed into his image--which is what he created us for.

This transformation will prove the epitome of anti-idolatry, just as idolatry proves itself the nadir of anti-creationism.