Cross talk

I haven’t read either of these yet, but they’re bound to be of interest:

Robert Jenson, “On the Doctrine of the Atonement”

N.T. Wright, “The Cross and the Caricatures”

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4 thoughts on “Cross talk

  1. Hmm. Wright’s article is like listening in on someone else’s argument – it seems as if he had to speak because he is being accused of siding with an argument like Dr. John’s by people to his right within his own evangelical camp. It almost reads like a writing of Luther’s – not least because it was done so quickly.

    With at least two things I agree, however. 1) People today do not understand the “wrath” of God except as a caricature of lightning-bolts. I remember trying a curriculum called “The Justice Mission” with our youth group a couple of years ago where the question was asked “What does God hate?” The session immediately bogged down b/c my kids could not couple the words “God” and “hate” in the same sentence. This may be a good thing, if you’re surrounded by Fred Phelps types, but a bad thing, if you thus become morally indifferent to injustice, evil, violence, etc.

    I purchased Simon Wiesenthal’s The Sunflower years ago. What I expected was a number of meditations on the beauty of forgiveness. What I got was a number of essays that refused to ignore the evil committed (perhaps hanging on to anger, but at least not ignoring evil) in the Holocaust. Cynthia Ozick’s essay continues to influence me, and I do not preach on the first of the seven words without a review of that book.

    That is why baptism is both wrath and mercy – the old Adam (and we should know how self-obsessed are our old Adams!) is drowned and the new person rises to live in God’s freedom and love.

    2) The story of Israel is neglected in preaching today. The focus on close textual analysis has nearly obliterated the placing of texts within the metanarrative of the entire Bible. Too often theologians and preachers both substitute their own metanarrative onto which they project the message of the New Testament. I myself confess to this failure, although I hope that the metanarratives that I assume at least fall within the broad Christian tradition of interpretation.

    So what do you think, Lee? Do Jens and Tom fairly treat your buddy St. Anselm?

  2. I won’t deny that the story of Israel is neglected in preaching, but I question if that’s due to a focus on “close textual analysis”. Narrative theology, “canocical criticism”, and other post-moderny kinda stuff seems to have swung the opposite direction. Although I guess whether that has trickled down to the pulip level is an open question.

    I think it has more to do with how the “seeker-friendly” movement has gone to seed, and the prominence of preachers (like Joel Osteen for instance) who peddle a warm fuzzy God and whose preaching is little better than amateur psychology.

    The story of Israel is a pretty frightening one. Wandering in the desert, Sampson, God taking back his decision to have Saul as king, David (the handsome, harp strumming boy) raping another man’s wife, Elsiha summoning bears to maul children, Jeremiah being highly unpatriotic, etc., etc.

    It’s not like you can sing “Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Yes Lord” 50x and then hear about the Levite’s concubine. That might make people uncomfortable.

  3. I haven’t read the Wright essay in it’s entirety yet, but it does strike me that he’s trying to fend off people on both the “right” and the “left” and occupy some sort of middle position re. penal substitution.

    Jenson’s argument is interesting, but I’m not entirely convinced that conceptual frameworks from outside the biblical narrative can’t help make sense of Christian beliefs. A lot of this has to do, maybe, with Jenson’s view that “Greek metaphysics” were sort of illegitimately grafted onto the Christian belief-system (at least that’s how I read his story in The Triune Identity among other places), something I don’t really buy. It’s also worth pointing out that a close reading of Anselm shows, I think, that he poured his own meaning into the terms he supposedly borrowed from feudal legal systems and the “feudalism” objection really doesn’t hold much water (not that Jenson says this exactly). John McIntyre’s St Anselm and His Critics is particularly clear on this point. Anselm’s conceptual scheme is rooted more in his concept of God and God’s aseity than in some sort of analogue from feudalism. Obviously you can take issue with Anselm’s conception of God, which is heavily influenced by platonism, but that’s where the argument lies.

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