I did say that this blog is 'a personal take'. Sometimes it seems more tech than personal.
At Café Apocalypsis I have had a personal interaction with one of the authors there. The comments show that hope can be difficult to hear and difficult to accept even for those who are supposed not to be without hope.
This morning also I walked through some code with one of my staff - and it encouraged me that humans almost always get binary decisions backwards on first cut. I do myself. Then after the careful reconstruction of the requirement in precise language, removing the unnecessary complexities, we are only subject to the errors of accident and the incompleteness we find ourselves in even in the era of computer software.
Theologians and those who have confessional stances are like the careful programmer but with the additional disadvantage that they deal in imprecise language where what is not said or cannot be said is much more important than what can be said or written. And like programmers, their first inference may be backwards. We can get the message wrong. That's why a good move by God announced as good news can end up sounding like bad news.
We are given books like Job in order that a false understanding of a good covenant may be dissolved. And we are given books like the Psalms and the Song so that a false understanding of the flesh can be dissolved. Then perhaps our corrected inferences will be subject only to accident and incompleteness.
Personally, I am concerned about the intellectualization of the Gospel. Our hope is not in the intellectual - nor is it our intellectual grasp of hope that is our hope. The hope expressed in the New Testament is in the Anointed Jesus who gave his life for the life of the world and who is raised from the dead for our justification. In or out, our hope is not in what we do but in what has been done for us and will be done in us. Such hope is not even in what is done for us as individuals as if we lived or died to ourselves.
Evangelicals have faith - let them have it to themselves before God. I cannot define hope - so I have run a string of negatives above to avoid a false encapsulation. What is measured and seen in the world is a better way - acts arising out of love. This is a righteousness that exceeds.
Does this necessarily incomplete statement condemn me? Am I then not in the Salvation that is in Christ Jesus? I phrase this not because I belittle Jesus - God forbid that my imprecise words should be so received, for they were not sent that way. It is Christ, Jesus because as the Father is greater than the Son so also the Christ is greater than our perception of it in the Chosen - not that our perception could not improve but that it is by its nature incomplete. The greatness of his servanthood in love to both the circumcised and the uncircumcised is more than our doctrine can hold if we hold such doctrine exclusively. And it is more than inclusiveness can hold also.
If those who are wrong are lost, then there is no Gospel.
I am told that salvation is by grace through faith - and I would add, in hope. Grace is like the loving-kindness of the Hebrew covenant. Faith is the same reliability of God that is clear in the election of Israel. And hope is the recognition that we are not complete in ourselves or in our own understanding - no matter how 'rightly taught' (orthodox) we are.
The obedience of faith is seen in acts of love - then others too will have hope. To take one envelope of Romans, 'the obedience of faith' and ignore the inner envelope, 'not judging to condemnation those who differ from you', is to fail to open the letter. But equally - to agree to disagree is to leave open the possibility that we may ourselves change.
Today Rachel posted on the place. As always her post is worthwhile and other comments touch on this same distinction of intellectual appreciation and the requirement of righteous (loving) action. A second post of hers today raises for me the question why we do not have equally creative Gentile writers who can find meaning in our texts in similar ways. I myself have barely touched the surface of the old and new texts. Here are some additional comments exploring a similar question - They came to my attention just as I was writing this post. The Scripture - old and new - should teach us to live and care for each other rather than to defend our own intellectual positions or imply that others are outside the mercy. It occurs to me that we are likely much better at motherhood - real nurturing and caring, than we are at logic or inference.
I was researching the use of נשא with its many differing objects in the Psalms and I realize that I know nothing that should be inferred from such a common word with so many differing uses - some ordinary, some sacrificial, some sarcastic. Let the image stand as the envelope of this post - a lifting up of my complaint. Next time I translate the Psalms, I think I will use creative language everywhere and scuttle structure and concordance. Perhaps this time I will ask - what does it all mean? (The last unreadable object is blessing.)
Friday, August 21, 2009
Posted by Bob MacDonald at 7:56 AM