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May 16, 2005

Comments

Karl

Interesting. You seem to be echoing some of the thoughts that .N.T Wright has been toying with. As someone who was raised a Fundamentalist/Evangelical, I was shocked when I learned – through the teachings of Bishop Wright – that it was, in fact, God who supposedly raised Jesus from the dead, and not Jesus raising himself as I was led to believe.

How does Wright's thinking influence your thinking in this area? What do you think Wright would say in response to your ideas?

Karl

Great blog, btw.

Todd Granger

It would be wholly wrong to assume that this is the direction in which Tom Wright's thought is tending. One quick piece of evidence for this is his assertion (I have been recently listening to a set of lectures he gave in January at a pastors' conference in Louisiana) that, with God's saving acts in Jesus, Paul redefines what is meant by God, and that Paul's use in various places of kyrios to refer to Jesus is directly taken from the LXX use of the word to refer to Yahweh/Adonai.

More to follow. And remember, if we're going to be concerned with the earliest writings (hence D.C.'s rejection of the prologue to the Gospel according to John) - a presumption with which I would strongly disagree - then Paul gives us the earliest writings, earlier than any of the Gospel or Acts texts that D.C. adduces, above.

Todd Granger

One more quick note.

That the apostles would have referred to Jesus as "a man" is not in the least surprising or any sort of evidence that they didn't believe that in Jesus, the God of Israel had become a human being. It would be heterodox or outright heretical to insist that Jesus wasn't a man. Orthodox christology insists that Jesus was God incarnate as a man, hence the early rejection of docetism and the later rejection of monophysitism in the Chalcedonian Definition of the God and human natures of Jesus.

And Karl, as for God (the Father) raising Jesus from the dead (rather than Jesus raising himself), this has been the teaching of the catholic Church from the very beginning.

Barry Fernelius

I think that the most radical thing that was taught by the Apostles was the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, after reading the very different stories about Jesus' resurrection, I'd go further and say that this event is the central MYSTERY of the Chrisitian faith.

Some modern theologicians scoff at the resurrection and try to downplay its importance. In my opinion, this is fairly difficult to do if you read all of the New Testament works. I'd go as far as to say that without the Apostles proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus, there would have been no such thing as Christianity.

I think that the resurrection of Jesus coupled with some Aristotlean logic leads to the Christology that is later codified in the third and fourth centuries. The reasoning was along the lines of this: if Jesus is merely a man, how was the resurrection possible? This leads to the idea of Jesus being God. But if he's God, why would he have died on the cross? To the Greek mind, Jesus is a bundle of logical contradictions. The conclusion that was reached was that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine in the same person. This was a necessary conclusion based on the worldviews of the fourth century leaders of the church.

Frank

Any person who would write this article does not have any faith because Jesus testifies that He is God. A person without faith will kneel down before Jesus as we all will, But he will be there for judgement not for rewards. I am sorry for you.

Mike

I used to adore being of an intellectual bent- and would subsequenlty have enjoyed the probe of this post. No dumber or less intellectual than before- perhaps a bit more humble- I find this post offensive. Do you really think God's going to make some kind of mistake? Didn't God say in His Word to rely on His wisdom and not the wisdom of men? By all means, do your homework and analysis, but don't post DOUBTFUL DISPUTATIONS on an internet site so you can trouble/confuse other infants in Christ... and get your heads out of those 'other' books and stick with the scriptures like you're supposed to. Be an intellectual, voice your opinion- but don't give the devil a foothold. Praying for you!
Love and Peace in Jesus' Name!

D. C.

Thanks for the comment, Mike. It's pretty apparent that you and I take very different approaches to religion (and to life, for that matter). Browse through some of my postings in the categories of Authority or Scripture and you’ll see what I mean. I don't think I could ever follow your advice to "get your head out of those 'other' books and stick with the scriptures like you're supposed to."

I'm not particularly worried about troubling or confusing other "infants in Christ." I'm more concerned with reaching out to those who can't reconcile faith in God with a modern, critical-realist mindset. I think they can be persuaded (i) that the religion about Jesus is not the only form of Christianity, and (ii) that the religion of Jesus is immensely attractive as well as intellectually defensible.

I'm sorry you found my post offensive. Please keep in mind that many of my readers might have a similar reaction about your comment.

I hope you don't take this as a brush-off. If you have specific arguments or corrections to make about the merits of my essay, I’d love to see them.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your comment; please come back.

D. C.

Karl, thanks for the kind words. I've read all three volumes of N.T. Wright's magnum opus. He's a very impressive thinker and writer, especially in his adoption of a critical-realist mindset.

There's at least one crucial place where Wright goes wrong. He cites the work of Kenneth Bailey in support of some of his (Wright's) epistemological claims. WRight says that (i) we can rely on what he calls "controlled oral tradition," and (ii) the New Testament is an example of controlled oral tradition.

We know that oral tradition is not without its problems. That's why we have a hearsay rule, for example. We know stories mutate. Sometimes that happens in the first retelling. I don't see that we have any reason to think things were different in the first century.

Wright cites Bailey's work to argue that the problems with oral tradition are overcome by "informal controlled oral tradition." But Bailey's work apparently is open to challenge. I found a long essay by one Ted Weedens, which raises some interesting challenges to Bailey's scholarship. A Google search revealed that Weedens is an emeritus professor of theology at the Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

In his essay, Weedens looks at Paul's letters to the Galatians and Corinthians, which complained that those churches were deviating from the "true" gospel. Weedens points out that those deviations show the uncontrolled mutation of oral tradition. Paul, he says, was forced to try to undo the mutations through written corrections.

Weedens also thinks Bailey misrepresented his sources when he gave examples of controlled oral tradition. Bailey cited a book by Rena Hogg, the daughter of a Christian missionary in the Middle East. He said the Hogg book confirmed various stories about Hogg's father that were still being told in the villages where her father had served. But Weedens says that Rena Hogg's book not only didn't confirm some of the stories, as Bailey claimed, but flatly contradicted them.

Weedens is a member of the Jesus Seminar. Some traditionalists will seize on that as a reason to dismiss his analysis.

But Weeden's challenges to Bailey's scholarship will stand or fall on their merits. To me they have the ring of truth. If they are valid, they undermine some of Wright's most crucial arguments.

D. C.

Todd Granger, your two comments beg the question: From what evidence, and by what reasoning, did the Fathers conclude that Jesus had to have been more than just a specially-favored man -- that instead he must have been God incarnate?

I maintain that we're entitled to critically scrutinize both the Fathers' evidence and their logic, and that we're not required to slavishly accept their conclusions.

The same applies to your remark that Paul redefined what is meant by God. I'm skeptical of Paul's christological speculations, not least because he never knew Jesus during his lifetime. (Had it been otherwise, Paul almost certainly would have said something about it in Galatians, among other places.) I also think we're not required to uncritically accept Paul's reports that he encountered the risen Jesus.

Barry Fernilius may be onto something in his comment about Aristotelian logic. As humanity knows all too well, logic applied to incomplete facts can get you in trouble.

Logic can be especially dangerous when, lacking all the facts, we jump to the conclusion that the reality simply must be either A or B -- and then, because B seems absurd, we conclude that A has to be the way things are. I don't know how many times we've seen that kind of reasoning among traditionalists in the current disputes; some modernists are probably guilty of it as well.

Thanks for commenting, both of you.

Todd Granger

D.C., I have posted a rather long response in my weblog.

David Huff

Weedens is a member of the Jesus Seminar. Some traditionalists will seize on that as a reason to dismiss his analysis.

Which, of course, would be an example of fallacies like Guilt By Association, with elements of a Circumstantial Ad Hominem attack as well. These sorts of comments come up all the time with the people involved in the Jesus Seminar, and I'm getting heartily sick of it...

I don't know how many times we've seen that kind of reasoning among traditionalists in the current disputes...

Ahh yes, the fallacy of the False Dilemma is rampant in these discussions, isn't it ? And while I agree that I've seen examples of poor reasoning from both sides, the traditionalists' "arguments" seem absolutely rife with this sort of thing. Makes their writing very hard to read and even harder to take seriously.

Of course, the point is probably that arguments should be won by emotional appeal anyway...so I'm most likely off on a tangent ;)

Mike again!

D.C.! Firstly, all greetings and blessings in Jesus' Name! Thank you for your e-mail, I was quite surprised to receive it! I agree: We do have differing views (duh!)- but is Christianity religion? I say NAY! That little opinion by itself may be the deciding factor in any following talks we may have...
I find myself happy and amused at this, how shall we say, "challenge" (of sorts)? I followed one of your links, I believe the Authority link, and boy oh boy!! You've got yourself quite a noodle!!! Deep thinker. Mazel Mazel!
The last item I perused was the Grandma's Rocking Chair post, and it served to further convince me that there's a bit of the Old World Greek philosopher in you, my friend, perhaps more so than one should desire. That's not a cynical barb; rather it's a thought arrived at after reading a little more than a handful of your postings.
Or is it 'blogs'? That's still a new word to me, still kinda funny on the tongue.
Were I more in favor of our (humanity's) ability to reason and apply logic to situations, you'd have a banner flyer in me- but I don't. In one of your previous (blogs?)-Deposits of Faith and...Dec. 9,2004, you quoted scriptures pertaining to the 'practical use' of scriptures, as voiced by Paul. The fact that they're God-breathed should, in fact and spirit, silence any speculation whatsoever... Are you among the crowd that looks askance at the fact that God created everything? I admit, I assume so, only because you question a lot of things pertaining to scripture; this leads me to believe you doubt the sincere truth of scripture as God's Word.
Having questions is no sin. As 'traditionalist' as I may seem (that's a new term to me too), to deny the faculties with which we were born, given by God Himself would be ridiculous. We have brains, and some of us- as evidenced by yourself- have quite powerful, deep reaching ones that aren't exactly comfortable with 'simple' explanations. Question away! But doubt scripture? Dangerous. Doubt the people of yore who wrote them, basing your arguments on human fallibility? If Jesus, God, and Creation were a man made thing, then I'd be in your boat. I can't agree with you, simply because we- Christians- accept the Bible as Divinely Inspired writings, not rehashings of the messages of some really staunch, dynamic people.
Didn't Jesus promise the gift of the Holy Spirit in His (Jesus') absence, who would teach and guide us? Do you give any credence to the Person, reality and power of the Holy Spirit?
Didn't Jesus tell the disciples precisely who He was? What He was? Why He was, and the few other W's left? I'm no Bible scholar- I haven't even read scripture in about 2 weeks (bad boy!), but answer me this, D.-
What's the point of claiming belief in 'religion' if it seems your mission is disproving it? Pointing out perceived errors, poking jests at 'traditionalists' who do in fact rely on the Holy Spirit for revelation, along with scripture... doesn't seem fitting of a person of your vast mental appetite.
A counter thought to your Grandma's Rocking Chair post/blog: Go ahead and paint it, refurbish it, shoot- motorize it!
It's just a rocking chair. They never saved anyone. Besides- they're man made... and all man made things eventually perish with nothing but a memory to mark the passing- but we're fashioned by God's very own mind and heart, hands, animated by His very own breath- this vessel may perish, but our spirits endure!!!!! Praise God, in Jesus' Name, brother!!! Love and Peace!

Dave

I would say that if Jesus Christ is God then verses stating that God raised Jesus from the dead make full sense since Jesus is God. In the same way the Father and the Holy Spirit are both mentioned as two distinct persons (John 14:26, John 15:26, Acts 2:33, Eph 1:17, etc) and yet are one. Sometimes the bible refers to God the Father as raising Jesus (e.g. Gal 1:1); other times the bible refers to the Holy Spirit as raising Jesus (e.g. Rom 8:11); and yet other times just as God (e.g. Acts 5:30, 1 Pet 1:21). Jesus, Himself, however said that He would raise Himself (John 2:19). If we accept that Jesus was not lying and that all scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16) then it would seem logical that Jesus is God. Furthermore, there are a number of passages which link Jesus to God as an equal, such as Titus 3:4-6.

D. C. Toedt

Dave, I'm not prepared to accept the assertions you reference in various scriptural documents. If I were to have the opportunity to speak with the authors of those documents, I would ask them my favorite theological question: Please tell me exactly how you know this, and explain why you think I should accept that you're correct.

Thanks for commenting.

D. C. Toedt

@David, you cite John and Revelation. Those documents purport to describe what Jesus supposedly said and did, but they were written decades after the fact, by people with an obvious theological agenda to advance.

(In the Markan passage you cite, it's noteworthy that Jesus doesn't say, I forgive your sins; instead, he merely reports that his listener's sins have been forgiven.)

My original post focuses on what the apostles said and did in the days after Jesus' putative resurrection (as opposed to what subsequent followers said many years later). The only extant account on that point is that of Acts — and that account is markedly different than those of the Fourth Gospel and Revelation.

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