Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Theology and exegesis: is there a simple reading of scripture?

As Jesus approached his shameful death on the cross, to be convicted as a blasphemer, as a terrorist, as an usurper, to be stripped, beaten, killed in a field by oppresive forces, his followers scattered, his reputation ruined,

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
(John 17:1)

How is this glorious?
How do we resolve this?
One option is to say that Jesus was wrong, and he was not glorified.
Or perhaps we could say that when Jesus says 'glory' he means something else, that has no connection to what we mean when we say 'glory'
Another option is to say Jesus was glorified later, in the resurrection perhaps.
Yet there is a fourth option that says that we must rethink our concept of glory in light of the reality of what happened in Jesus Christ
Jesus death is truly his glorification, and the glory of his Father, but not glory in the way we usually use the term. Or perhaps it is in the way we use the term, but getting there a much differnt way.

Part of the necessity of theology is the way in which God has encroached on our language and concepts. Or maybe a better way to explain it is how God has sanctified, or redeemed our language and concepts.
If God simply replaced our concepts, or spoke in some kind of non-human God language
that had no connection to our previous language, then there would be no need for theology. Everything would be entirely clear (or entirely hidden).
But God didn't. He spoke in and through his Son who became entirely human, He spoke through his prophets and apostles, He made himself vulnerable to misunderstanding.
Pert of the task of the theologian then, is to show how God is both continuous with our concepts yet at the same time utterly judges, transforms and redeems them.

When it comes to language, God doesn't wipe the slate clean [to make a tabula rasa ;) ] he redeems and rebuilds. And the theology of the christian community is part of this rebuilding, this reframing of our view of life the universe and everything in light of the coming of God in Jesus Christ.


Mike Bull said...

The problem is modern conservative scholars' rejection of a Scripture-bound typology. If you read the Bible with one eye, you come across these 'problems.'

I agree with your point on the Lord's encroaching upon our language (or definitions). But this one of the cross as a throne begins very subtly in Genesis 1:6-8 and develops from there.

Mike W said...

Yeah, I think you are right, but even with the whole of scripture, there is are still quite strong tensions that require us to rethink our ideas of both sides (or more)(if we are getting these ideas from outside the scriptures, which for the most part we are, especially as converted christians).
Even the first century Jews who knew their scriptures quite well had trouble with the messiah being crucified. Sure, Paul could argue pretty strongly from the scriptures, but the understanding of that typology and it's significance had to be rejigged in the light of Jesus coming.

What I'm attempting here is to think through how the gospel can be translatable. How can it make sense to cultures and people that don't have that scriptural language and worldview, yet at the same time challenge and encroach on their world view

byron smith said...

Yes, it's not a tabula raza, but a vacuum sepulcrum!

Our concepts need to be killed and raised, not just dusted off, and not simply replaced. So the challenge is to follow the theo-logic of glory here. How is it that the glory of the cross is the hidden completion and transfiguration of our fleshly concepts of glory?

Mike Bull said...

The cross is the glory of the wilderness - passing under the light of God's law and being exposed as "true."

But this is not the completion or transfiguration that comes with Canaan.

I have a post that might be though-provoking on this issue: