Friday, July 8, 2011

Who do you say that I am?

Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, and James Cone find themselves all at the same time at Caesarea Philippi. Who should come along but Jesus, and he asks the four famous theologians the same Christological question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Karl Barth stands up and says: “You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.” 

Not prepared for Barth's brevity, Paul Tillich stumbles out: “You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.” 

Reinhold Niebuhr gives a cough for effect and says, in one breath: “You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming oughtness in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

Finally James Cone gets up, and raises his voice: “You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus writes in the sand, “Huh?”

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Glutony: A "Deadly" Sin

Mississippi most obese state, Colorado least | Reuters

Isn't it about time that the church began preaching against the seven deadly sins, at least on gluttony. The very communities who argue for total abstinence on alcohol, because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), seldom address what's actually killing America. For example, a "Coke" used to be 8 oz., then it became 12, then 16, and on and on. Now we don't even count the ounces, since we get free refills. It's become normal. Only the body doesn't realize it. This obese generation is raising a generation of diabetics.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jesus as the "Son of Man"

Fresco of Christ in Majesty (15th century )
Jesus' favorate self-designation wasn't "Son of God" or "Messiah"; rather, it was "Son of Man." Sometimes he used it when talking about his present earthly ministry, speaking of his authority over sin, sickness, or even nature (Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, 150; citing Mark 2:10, 28). Sometimes he used it when speaking of suffering, rejection, dying, and rising again, all of which occur after the disciples had  begun to recognize that he’s the Messiah (Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament, 150; citing Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:44). But even more often, he used it when talking about his eschatological glory (Wright, 150; citing Mark 14:62; Matt 13:41-42; 19:28).

The Old Testament generally used "son of man" as a poetic expression for "man," "human," or "human being," often with emphasis on human weakness and mortality (Pss 8:4; 80:17; Isa 51:12; and 93x as a self-reference in Ezekiel). But in one place, it takes on the nature of a title (Daniel 7). There the "Son of Man" comes against the beastly kingdoms of this earth to strip them of their authority and crush them.

There we see a potential double point of reference for “Son of Man.” On the one hand, he could represent the saints, that is, all of God’s people throughout history (Dan 7:14 // Dan 7:18). He might do that as their angelic agent (cf. Dan 10:13, 20-21) or perhaps as a corporate representative of them all, which would go well with Jesus’ identification of himself with Israel.

On the other hand, the "Son of Man" might be associated with God himself (v. 13). He's given divine power and authority (v. 14). Indeed some Greek versions even identify the Son of Man with the Ancient of Days, an identification that Revelation echoes (Rev 1:7, 12-16).

In terms of either self-identification, Jesus made a great claim when calling himself "Son of Man." Either he claimed to represent the true people of God, or he claimed to be the one who would receive eternal dominion and authority to act in judgment. And he did that before the Sanhedrin. As Wright notes,
Strong stuff from one who had just been arrested at the dead of night and was himself on trial for his life. But there was worse. For in Daniel 7 the enemies of the son of man/saints of God were the beasts. Who then were these enemies of Jesus? As so often, Jesus did not need to spell out the implications of what he said to Jewish authorities. His meaning and its implied threat were clear and quite intolerable. Chief Priest or Chief Beast? No wonder Caiaphas tore his robes and cried blasphemy, called for the death penalty, and permitted the spitting and beating. The claims of Jesus were enough to burst blood vessels and well as old wine skins. (Wright, 153)

I draw two things from this:
  • Would that the church knew the Old Testament as well as Jesus' opponents! 
  • No matter how well you know the Scriptures, if you don't bow before the Lord of the Scriptures, you only condemn yourself.

Chris J. H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1995) - Available from Amazon