November 27, 2021

A Controversial Claim




 Dick Lucas, commenting on Colossians 3:18, 


“All this is not to say that the woman will always find the sacrificial giving of herself in loyalty to another congenial. But if we are right in seeing this entire ethical section as a sustained exposition of the rule of Christ, the significant truth about a Christian woman’s relation to her husband is that it mirrors her commitment to her Lord. What Paul is really explaining is what it means to call Christ Lord. In his concept there is no possibility of a married woman’s surrender to a heavenly Christ which is not made visible and actual by some submission to an earthly husband. To claim (as I have heard it said) that the discovery of a new loyalty to the Lord made it imperative (apart from exceptional circumstances) to be disloyal to a husband is to enter a pseudo-spiritual world of double-think.”

(R. C. Lucas, Fullness & Freedom: The Message of Colossians & Philemon, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 160–161.)


Of course, the kicker, as Lucas goes on to point on in his commentary are all of the responsibilities Paul will lay on those who hold authority. This itself would have been controversial in its time, and is a needed refrain in ours. Nonetheless, the real sense in which he lays a responsibility for submission on various people (women, children, servants) in the Colossians text and others like it cuts deeply against the grain of our culture and our nature. 

November 22, 2021

Why Pray?


Photo by Samuel Martins on Unsplash

A Response to “Thomas Aquinas’s Understanding of Prayer in the Light of the Doctrine of Creatio Ex Nihilo” by Rudi te Velde


Introduction

In his paper, “Thomas Aquinas’s Understanding of Prayer in the Light of the Doctrine of Creatio Ex Nihilo”, Rudi te Velde begins with the premise that to pray when one believes in an omnipotent God by whom all things were created and on whom all things - including prayer - depend, creates certain practical and philosophical problems which must be remedied. To put it as he does on page 50, “What is the use of prayer if God’s causality with respect to the world is from all eternity determined and not liable in any way to change?”

St. Thommy to the Rescue


To help walk through this issue, te Velde interacts with the thinking of Thomas Aquinas, particularly his work Summa contra Gentiles. Here Thomas distinguishes between primary and secondary causes. God is the only being or reality who exists outside of the created realm and is therefore the only primary cause. However, he chooses to act through secondary causes. These include, but are not limited to, prayer. Therefore, prayer can be a real cause in the real world, just not in the absolute sense that God himself is.

How’s that Gonna Work?


This is all dependent, te Velde points out, on Thomas’ conception of God as a “God of participation, of letting things share, from his own abundance, in being and goodness” (50). Thus, it is within God’s purview to allow things to be caused within what we might call time and space by other contingencies within time and space. However, there is a particular rub here with prayer, as prayer is petitioning God himself to intervene. And throughout Scripture, it seems he does just that. Both Jeremiah 18 and Isaiah 38 are brought forward as instances of such complexity (57-58). How are we to respond to these hard cases?
It would seem to me that the distinction between primary and secondary causes is helpful if we are careful to state that the reactions of God in time to changing contingencies of his creatures - for example, prayers of repentance - is not in any way an intrinsic change to God himself or to his will, but is the perfect application of his immutable person and purpose. Were the Ninevites, for instance, not to repent, it would have been consistent with God to crush them. But they did repent (at the preaching he sent), and thus he relented. Nothing in God himself changed. The creatures changed, and his response maintained perfect consistency with his immutable purposes.

November 18, 2021

Singing Subversively

 


Photo by Trevin Rudy on Unsplash


An (appreciative) Response to Michael W Martin and Bryan A Nash


Introduction

In their paper, “Philippians 2:6-11 as Subversive Hymnos”, Michael W. Martin and Bryan A. Nash argue that, though contested of late, the categorization of Philippians 2:6-11 as a hymn is correct. They do this by comparing the ancient rhetorical theory of hymnos with the text in question, and then looking at the key difference: Christ is praised for some most unusual reasons.


The Marks of a Hymn

Examining ancient textbooks which address the genre of hymnos, Martin and Nash first point to four markers which allow the identification of the hymnos genre (95-109).

  1. Species of rhetoric. There is a close relation between genres of hymnos and encomion, thus hymnos is set apart by the next three markers.

  2. Subject. Whereas encomion takes as its subject man, hymnos is dedicated to a god. 

  3. Length. Here both hymnos and encomion share length, as opposed to epainos, which are brief.

  4. Form and content. The theorists put forward lists (generally consistent, if containing differences) of the types of virtues to be praised and how to cover that ground.


Applied to The Text

After laying their groundwork, the authors set about their real business of arguing that the above marks fit with what we see in Philippians 2. (110-134)

  1. Species of rhetoric. Here Paul’s writing falls directly within the realm of reinforcing virtue by praising the one who possesses said virtue. 

  2. Subject. Though Christ’s humanity is in view, he is clearly identified as God, and thus the category of hymnos is fitting. 

  3. Length. Though it is shorter than many examples of ancient hymns, it falls within the boundaries of expected length. 

  4. Form and Content. The list of Christ’s praiseworthy attributes also fits the description of hymnos - running through a catalog of reasons to praise him.


The Subversion

Where this paper stands out is in taking up that last point and arguing that while Christ is being praised, the reasons given for praising him subvert the very expectations upon which the hymnos genre was built, both for Latin and Greek writers. That Christ is praised, not for his God-ness, but for his laying aside his Divine rights and taking the form of a servant (117), is but one example they give. Citing the work of Robert Alter (109-110), they point out that often the most instructive part of a piece of art is not where it conforms to expectations, but where it defies those expectations.


In Philippians 2:6-11, Christ is pictured as one deserving all praise - but he is also pictured as the One who reorients our thinking about that which is praiseworthy. Something to keep in mind when we come later to Philippians 4:8 and read, “if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.”





November 17, 2021

Williamson on Roe

 This article over at National Review is more than worth your time. Moving, clear, profound.

November 16, 2021

Broken For You

 The following post is adapted from a Communion Meditation given at Remsen Bible Fellowship on 11/7/2021.

Remembrance

In Luke 22:19, Jesus tells us that when we come to the communion table we are to do so, "in remembrance of me." In this post, I want us to fix our minds on, to remember, one particular passage . Let's examine the words of Jesus in John 19:28-29.

 

"28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth." (ESV)

As we briefly consider these verses, I want to organize our thoughts under two headings, plan and pain.

Plan

First, plan. Note in verse 28, John tells us that Jesus spoke. His words were not mere incoherent cries., they were words intended to bring a particular result - the fulfillment of Scripture. Psalm 69:21 says,

 

"for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink." 


When Jesus said, "I thirst," there stood nearby a jar full of sour wine, wine vinegar. And they filled a sponge to give to him.

Passages like this aren't what we normally think of when we contemplate the Scriptures being fulfilled. But Psalm 69 gives us a pattern or a type. A servant of the Lord, suffering unjustly, with enemies on every side. This pattern finds its true expression - its fulfillment - in Jesus at the cross. Remember that this was God's plan.

Pain

Remember also the pain which Jesus suffered. His words of thirst were not mere trickery to get those Scriptures fulfilled. As a true man Jesus suffered tremendously on the cross. His body was broken. And he thirsted. But friends, because of the plan, the pain had meaning. Jesus thirsted so that all who come to him might have streams of living water flow from within. Jesus drank the sour wine of God's wrath that those who receive him might enjoy the sweet wine at his wedding supper. Jesus suffered and thirsted and died that all those who hunger and thirst for righteousness might be blessed - blessed by receiving satisfaction in and from him. 

So remember. Remember what Jesus did, and why he did. Jesus died for you.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).