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Posts Tagged ‘creation’

you shouldnt have[A repost from the early days of the King’s English]

On the King’s English I’ve been thinking about a triune creation.

In the beginning

Let there be light

Let us make man in our image

Be fruitful and multiply

Behold, it was very good

God rested

The Breath of Life

It’s really striking me how profligate is the triune God of grace.  The Father, Son and Spirit bubble over in love.  A unitarian god needs creation.  And all relations between such a creator and its creature are quid pro quo arrangements.  The triune God does nothing about of necessity.  It’s all about gift and free overflow.

We can genuinely say “You really didn’t have to.”  And the Lord will reply, “I know, but I wanted to.”

So my friend, whoever you are.  Know in your heart: You are entirely unnecessary.  Entirely.  Unnecessary.  You are a profligate extravagance, a superfluous addendum, a needless flourish.  The Lord, His universe, His church, His kindgom purposes could so easily do without you.  You are completely surplus to requirements.

And you say “I need to be needed!  If my children don’t need me, I’ll fall apart.  If my church doesn’t need me, I’ll crumble.  If my work doesn’t need me, who am I?”

But you don’t need to be needed.  You only think you need to be needed because you’ve forgotten you’re loved.  So let me remind you…

You are wanted.  You are desired.  And not for anything ‘you offer.’  You are surplus to requirements.  But our God doesn’t deal in requirements, He enjoys the surplus.  He delights in you.

Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2:4-5)

You are entirely unnecessary, but utterly loved.

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Famously Adolf Von Harnack asserted in the History of Dogma that much of Christian theology betrayed the “work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the gospel.”  Now to be fair, the old liberal didn’t have much gospel himself but the observation has something to it.

On the one hand we have the Scriptures beginning with a very good creation, full of promises of land and seed and a Saviour taking flesh to renew heaven and earth.  On the other we have a Hellenizing spirit which pits body and soul, earth and heaven, time and eternity against each other.   When this spirit meets this gospel – and Harnack was right, this is a perennial danger – it always yields bad fruit.

But in this series I want to look at two towering exceptions in the history of theology – Irenaeus and Athanasius.  In their day they resisted ‘the Greek spirit’ and called the church back to the fertile soil of the gospel.  There they found the Fountainhead of those unities which escaped the philosophers of this age.  In Jesus Christ they saw creation and salvation held together as one work performed by one Word.  And from there flowed a unified account of all reality.

In our own day we would do well to hear their voices.  Because we too find it completely obvious to fall for the old dualisms.

In the realm of the body, we see self-harm and eating disorders, promiscuity and confusion over sexual identity, compulsive dieting and body-building, cosmetic surgery and gender re-assignment.  These are problems commonly found in the world but also in our churches.  We seem deeply uncomfortable with our bodily existence.

In the realm of the environment, we see the extremes of those who simply consume the earth and those who worship it.

In worship there are the ritualists who consider their sacramental practice to work ex opere operato and there are the low church minimalists running scared from anything physical.

And theologically, as we consider the relationship of creation and redemption, some mistake political harmony, social justice or economic liberation for salvation.  In reaction, some cut loose creation from salvation with an anti-physical gospel and an escapist eschatology.  And some will dissolve any final distinction between creation and redemption and opt for universalism.

In view of this, the proper co-ordination of creation and redemption (and its attendant co-ordinations of body and soul, time and eternity, etc, etc) is a vital task for us all.

Irenaeus and Athanasius are going to help us massively.  And they will help because they put Jesus Christ at the centre of their thinking.

This is a repost.  The subsequent posts are here: part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.

And here is Mike Reeves introducing Irenaeus and Athanasius – well worth a listen!

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A round based on Luke 1:78-79.

Best on full screen with headphones.  And do join it.  That’s the point…

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Happy Friday

Horribly, cringefully, hilarious…

Wonderfully, gloriously, beautiful…

…and everything you always suspected…

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Brian Cox – dream-boat physicist, not craggy-faced actor – recently said this:

 Our civilization was built on the foundations of reason and rational thinking embodied in the scientific method, and our future depends on the widespread acceptance of science as THE ONLY WAY WE HAVE to meet many, if not all, of the great challenges we face. (here)

Well now.  Them there’s fighting words.  Therefore, I thought it was time to repost this from two years ago (see how cutting edge CTT is?  Discussing Cox two years ago!)

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Just watched this documentary on the Large Hadron Collider: “The Big Bang Machine.” (BBC4) presented by Brian Cox.

Here’s an extract from around 4:20 – 7:20.

Physics is stuck and the only thing left to do is recreate the universe as it was a fraction of a second after the big bang.  That’s what the LHC is designed to do.  To smash bits of matter together at energies  never before achieved so that we can stare at the face of creation…

So here’s the aim – to stare at the face of creation.

And this is the means – to smash particles together.

Notice the disjunct between the stated aim and the means!   Cox excites us about the scientific quest promising us a ‘face’ to creation.  Of course “face” says communicative, conscious.  It says personality.  It’s no wonder that Cox wants to reach for this kind of language because at bottom it’s personal reality that we long to see.  But all Cox can give us is particles.  This is the trouble.

What do you say of a person who promises you a face but gives you only particles?

What do you say of an enterprise that can describe a face only in terms of its sub-atomic particles?

He continues…

…Every civilization has its own creation story.  The ancient Chinese, indian mystics and Christian theologians all place a divine creator at the heart of their creation stories.  Science too has an elaborate story that describes the universe’s genesis.  It tells us how the fundamental constituents of the cosmos took on their form.  The difference with this story is that we can test it.  We can find out if its true by tearing matter apart and looking at the pieces.  All you need is a machine powerful enough to restage the first moments after creation…

This was the sentence that made me sit up and take notice: “Every civilization has its own creation story.”  And Cox puts ‘science’ in there among Indian mystics and Christian theologians.  Ok good.  We’re all telling stories about the world around us – scientists included.  But what does Cox say is the difference with science?  Answer: “we can test it.”  Hmm.  How will science be tested?  Tearing apart matter and looking at the pieces.

Well now that’s a very sensible test if you think that matter is what explains everything.  If you have a story about the world that says everything came about via material means then test matter.  Yes indeed that’s testable.  But it’s not the only thing that’s testable.  What if your story about the world says ‘Everything came about via the Word who was with God in the beginning and then became flesh and dwelt among us.’  Is that testable?  You betcha!  Every bit as much as the ‘science’ story.  It’s just that you test this story in ways appropriate to its nature.

All science works by testing its object of study in accordance with its nature.  You don’t do astronomy with a microscope – your means of testing is adapted to the thing tested.  So if you think it’s all about matter, you study matter.  But if you think it’s all about the Word then you study the Word.  Theology in this sense is completely scientific.  It is taking its Object of enquiry completely seriously and pursuing thorough investigation according the nature of the Word – ie it is listening obediently to Him.  That’s good science.  And it’s our only hope of actually seeing the Face that explains our world.  Particles won’t get you to the Person – but the Person can help you explain particles…

Cox continues…

In the beginning there was nothing. No space, no time just endless nothing.  Then 13.7 billion years ago from nothing came everything.  The universe exploded into existence.  From that fireball of energy emerged the simplest building blocks of matter.  Finding experimental evidence of these fundamental entities has become the holy grail of physics.

Notice first that this creation story is just as miraculous as any other.  “From nothing came everything”.  No explanations are given.  None ever could be.  This is the astonishing miracle at the heart of our modern creation story.  It is not the case that only primitive ‘religion’ believes in miracles.  The ‘science’ creation story is equally miraculous.

And again do you how science proceeds?  It proceeds like theology.  The scientific worldview says there must have been simple building blocks of matter that existed after the big bang.  Of course we’ve never observed these.  Nonetheless the worldview tells us they must have existed.  Therefore science seeks after evidence of what it believes to be true even without the evidence.  It has faith (an assurance of things hoped for (Heb 11:1f)) and from this faith it seeks understanding.  That is the scientific pursuit and it is no more or less a faith-based enterprise than theology.  And that’s no bad thing, it’s just the way things are.  It would just be nice if scientists came clean about it!

The point is this – don’t let anyone tell you science is about matter not miracles or fact and not faith.  The truth is we all have our creation stories.

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On the King’s English I’ve been thinking about a triune creation.

In the beginning

Let there be light

Let us make man in our image

Be fruitful and multiply

Behold, it was very good

God rested

The Breath of Life

It’s really striking me how profligate is the triune God of grace.  The Father, Son and Spirit bubble over in love.  A unitarian god needs creation.  And all relations between such a creator and its creature are quid pro quo arrangements.  The triune God does nothing about of necessity.  It’s all about gift and free overflow.

We can genuinely say “You really didn’t have to.”  And the Lord will reply, “I know, but I wanted to.”

So my friend, whoever you are.  Know in your heart: You are entirely unnecessary.  Entirely.  Unnecessary.  You are a profligate extravagance, a superfluous addendum, a needless flourish.  The Lord, His universe, His church, His kindgom purposes could so easily do without you.  You are completely surplus to requirements.

And you say “I need to be needed!  If my children don’t need me, I’ll fall apart.  If my church doesn’t need me, I’ll crumble.  If my work doesn’t need me, who am I?”

But you don’t need to be needed.  You only think you need to be needed because you’ve forgotten you’re loved.  So let me remind you…

You are wanted.  You are desired.  And not for anything ‘you offer.’  You are surplus to requirements.  But our God doesn’t deal in requirements, He enjoys the surplus.  He delights in you.

Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.  (Eph 2:4-5)

You are entirely unnecessary, but utterly loved.

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…continued from here

Implications

We’ve been following the thought of Irenaeus and Athanasius and have seen creation and salvation united as the one divine work of the one divine Word.  Creation is a gospel project for the Gospel God.

Let’s sketch out some implications.

Perhaps the first application of these truths should be in the realm of evangelism.  Such a theology of creation and redemption means that the call to “trust Jesus” is not just for Christians.  It is the calling of every creature.  All are to find their peace, their life, their goal in Him.  If, as the Apostle Paul says, “All things are made by [Christ] and for [Christ]” then the question for every creature is, “Am I for Him?”  Christians must have no embarrassment about the greatness of the commission laid upon them for the One they herald is not simply a spiritual Teacher for spiritual people.  He is the Maker and Heir of each one of us.  Pointing to Jesus is not simply a special calling for sprecial Christians but our vocation as human beings.

Secondly, the ‘cultural mandate’ as it’s often called (‘fill the earth and subdue it’, Gen 1:28) is recapitulated in the great commission.  If Irenaeus is right that Adam’s is a ‘sketched out’ ensouled humanity to be filled out by Christ’s spiritual humanity then it is right to see Adam’s commission as similarly recapitulated.  In Matthew 28 Christ, as the Second Adam, tells His people to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with the gospel.  “Making disciples” is not a second task alongside a quite separate ‘cultural mandate’.  That would be to assume that God has two works, creation and redemption rather than one work of creation-redemption.  Therefore, making disciples is the renewed and elevated mandate given to new creation people.  This means that care for the environment and socio-political involvement must be strictly co-ordinated under the over-arching requirement of gospel proclamation.  We are to care for this old creation, but we are to do so by pointing to its one hope, Jesus.

Thirdly, the gospel we proclaim needs to be much more comprehensive than the communication of certain moral or spiritual truths.  The gospel is about everything.  In fact, it is the reason foreverything.  In ‘pointing to Jesus’ we are not narrowing things down to a small range of religious truths.  Rather we must see how all of history, philosophy, science and the arts, all of created life, is a gospel reality.

Fourthly, we should beware of escapist eschatologies that despise the body and our earthly future.  Our great hope is not some aphysical, anaemic vision of heaven, but of a renewed creation summed up under Christ.  Yet this rightly orients our concern for the environment.  It is not environmentalism that will save the world but Christ Himself.  Our love for the world must take its shape from God’s gospel love for the world.  This will entail a passion for His gospel mission.

Fifthly, we must take seriously our embodied physicality in life.  Our bodies are neither to be despised as unspiritual nor merely indulged or worshipped but they are “instruments for righteousness” (Rom 6:13). More specifically, our gendered embodiment, as part of God’s good creation, is internal to our identity and not something incidental to our personhood.  It is a neo-Gnostic spirituality that would tell us that we are ‘trapped’ in the body of the opposite sex or that a union of bodies is not really a union of persons or that gender is immaterial to such unions.  In modern debates about gender or sexuality, the liberal arguments may present on the surface as a celebration of bodily life.  Yet this is quickly undermined as soon as it is asserted that “my gender or the gender of my partner is immaterial.  What counts is…”  Such arguments are a rejection of our concrete creatureliness in order to ground our true being elsewhere.  It becomes the very opposite of a celebration of bodily life.  We need to return to the more robust doctrine of creation provided by the bishops (the ancient ones, that is).

Sixthly, we must take seriously our embodied physicality in worship.  The evangelical wing of the church will more usually emphasize worship as an all-of-life sacrificial service (Rom 12:1).  This is a right application of the creation-redemption union.  But the catholic wing of the church points with equal and justified concern to a right reverence for the sacraments.  It is not more spiritual to bypass the creaturely gifts of water, bread and wine.  It is not more spiritual to close our eyes and disregard the bodily.  Our spiritual life takes shape precisely in our creatureliness and will do so eternally.  This is not a fact to be lamented but celebrated.  These two wings of the church can help each other to live out the creation-redemption link in worship.

Conclusion

Wherever salvation is spiritualized, wherever the body is denigrated, wherever gender is trivialized, wherever the future is immaterial, wherever the sacraments are Platonized, wherever worship is merely internalized, we have lost the insights of Irenaeus and Athanasius.

Irenaeus must be heard again as he proclaims the triune Creator’s good purposes for this world.  Man ruling under God was the creation blueprint realized in Christ, the Heavenly Man ruling under God in the redeemed creation.  Christ’s work is the triumphant reversal of Adam.  More than this, it is the kingly accomplishment of God’s eternal plan for the creation.  Christ reigns from the tree.

Athanasius must be heard as he holds out Christ as the divine Agent of creation and redemption.  The incarnate work is nothing less than a re-creation of the de-created cosmos disintegrating under the weight of sin and death.  The Redeemer is therefore no-one less than the Creator taking responsibility for His handiwork and making all things new.

When we fail to hold together creation and redemption, Christ’s work is entirely misunderstood.  It is either considered as a superfluous addendum to the purposeof creation or it achieves a goal subordinate to it, or it begins a work alien to the creative intention or, worst of all, it is won as a salvation from the created order (and perhaps even from the Creator).  Yet none of these say what the Scriptures insist and what Irenaeus and Athanasius knew must be proclaimed.  That is, that redemption is the accomplishment of the one work of God, encompassing both creation and redemption.  Christ’s work is not an awkward adjunct but rather the accomplishment and consummation of His own creative intent.

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For more applications see Dev’s recent post.

Here’s Leon Sim on Irenaeus and the Trinitarian OT – great stuff.

Dan Hames on Irenaeus.

And Mike Reeves’ introductions to Irenaeus and Athanasius
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…continued from here

Is salvation achieved merely by the incarnation?

Both Irenaeus and Athanasius are commonly accused of making the ‘bare fact’ of incarnation the sum total of Christ’s saving work.  Yet this is unfair.

For Irenaeus, Christ’s filling out of Adam’s distorted image means necessarily a “filling up [of] the times of his disobedience” (Ad. Her. III.21.1)  In taking on Adam’s substance, He took on Adam’s curse – this He satisfied at the cross, ‘propitiating indeed for us the Father, against Whom we had sinned’ (Ad. Her. V.17.1) and ‘redeeming us by His own blood’ (Ad. Her. V.14.3).  Having put Adam to death, the resurrection then realizes Christ’s spiritual body bringing about the true glorified humanity to which the redeemed will belong and on which the renewed creation will be patterned.

Athanasius calls the cross “the very centre of our faith.”  For him, the curse of death is a key consideration.  Within the creation narratives comes God’s decree: “You will surely die.”  The word of Genesis 2:17 must be maintained lest God be proved false and, ironically, the serpent proved true.  Christ’s incarnation is therefore that by which the Word can take a body capable of death “so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished.” (De incarn. 8) Moreover this death is specifically a sacrifice (De. Incarn. 9; 10; 20) made under God’s curse (De incarn. 25) and offered without blemish (De. Incarn. 9) so as to be a ransom (De. Incarn. 9; 25) freeing us from Adam’s ‘primal transgression’.  “In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.”

Thus, while the Bishops both see the union of divine and human as the goal of God’s creation-redemption purposes; and while the ‘Word become flesh’ is their sole hope for this union; the ‘bare fact’ will not do on its own. The nature of Adam’s race requires much work to be done.  Mankind must turn from idols to the Truth, we must receive and truly own an active righteousness before the Father, Satan has to be defeated, justice must be upheld, sin must be dealt with, incorruptibility must be won.  Thus, Christ’s divine teaching, His demonstrations of authority over man, nature and the devil, His active obedience, His suffering, His death, His resurrection and His ascension are all crucial in order to accomplish redemption.

Yet, against those (especially the Arians), who would uphold the necessity of these works yet deny the Person who worked them, it must be maintained that the Agent of these works is God and the locus of their working is man.  These works are, therefore, only effective because they are the works of the God-Man.  Thus, the incarnation is the necessary cause of redemption, but sufficient only when articulated as the full work of the Incarnate, Creator-Word.

In the final post I’ll draw out some implications for today…

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…continued from here

The Fall – the Need for Re-Creation

In the philosophies of the third and fourth centuries, creation came out of great ruptures (e.g. wars in heaven).  Against this, Athanasius maintained that physicality is not the issue for the creature before God.  The problem – that is, the fall – occurs after creation.  Thus it is humanity’s disobedience that gives rise to the rupture between God and man: an ethical rather than ontological problem.

The fall was a rejection of the Word, in consequence of which mankind no longer knew God and instead pursued false images (idols), not the true Image. Since God’s intention for creation is His fellowship with man in His Image, then this disruption affects the whole cosmos.  The fall is thus ‘the work of God… being undone’ – de-creation.

Time and again Athanasius stresses how ‘supremely unfitting’ and ‘unthinkable’ it would be for the ‘All Good’ ‘Father of Truth’ to allow His creation to run such a ruinous path.  He also notes that humanity has no resources within itself to remedy the situation.  Thus God’s commitment to creation demands a reversal of the fall.  Without redemption, God’s “consistency of character with all” is compromised.  Or as Irenaeus had said, God must act lest He “be conquered [and] His wisdom lessened.” Since the fall was a ‘de-creation’ so redemption must be a re-creation.  And if this is so, then the Creator Himself must be the Redeemer.  Thus, creation and redemption are held together by the One Divine Word.

The Fall – the Need for Recapitulation

Where Athanasius speaks of re-creation, Irenaeus speaks of recapitulation.

Recapitulation (anakephalaiosis; see especially Ephesians 1:10; also Romans 13:9) has been variously understood: to sum up, to go over the same ground again, to unite under a single head, to restore to the original, to bring to a climax.  All of these capture something of Irenaeus’ meaning though I prefer the picture of ‘a spiral climb’.  It means going over the same ground but thereby raising it to a higher plane.  Fundamentally, redemption is described as God “recapitulating in Himself His own handiwork.” (Adv.H., III.22.1)

Thus “what we had lost in Adam – namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God – that we might recover in Christ Jesus.” (Adv. H., III.18.1)  Christ achieves this by taking the very flesh of Adam (Adv. H. V.1.3) – the head of the old humanity – and, going over the ground of Adam’s history.  E.g:

just as Adam had no earthly father, so too Christ (III.18.7); just as Eve was disobedient, so Mary is obedient (V.19.1); just as Adam was tempted through food and failed, so Christ was tempted through fasting and succeeded (V.21.2); just as Adam was disobedient with the tree, so Christ is obedient on the tree (V.16.3) etc. etc.

Christ achieves victory where Adam failed.

“He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things… in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.” Adv. H. V.21.1

Thus Christ can become the Head of the true spiritual humanity to which we must belong. This is, of course, not an innovation of Irenaeus’, but the plain teaching of the Scriptures –  Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, 44-50.

What’s important for out purposes is the fact that God’s creative work has moved in this direction from the beginning.  Adam is always heading towards Christ.  Eden is always heading towards the New Jerusalem, etc, etc.  Christ’s incarnate work is completely ‘of-a-piece’ with His creation.  The goal of all God’s ways with the creation has ever been to sum up everything under the Heavenly Man, Christ (Eph 1:10)

Thus, the humanity of Adam, for Irenaeus, was ‘sketched out’ expressly as that which must be filled out by Christ.

“The Word – the Creator of all – prefigured in Adam the future economy of His own incarnation.  God first sketched out the ensouled human being, with a view to his being saved by the spiritual human being.  Since the Saviour was already in existence, the one who was to be saved had to come into existence, or the Saviour would have been Saviour of no one.” (Adv.H. III.22.3)

Notice that Adam was always ‘to be saved’ and that Christ is ‘Saviour’ even before the fall.  Thus Minns must be right when he says of Irenaeus’ theology:

“Adam’s sin conditions the salvation to be worked by the incarnate Word but it does not call it into existence.  For the earth creature does not come to be in the image and likeness of God until God becomes flesh, until the human being in whose image Adam was created stands on the earth.” (D. Minns, Irenaeus,  p87)

For Irenaeus, Christ’s work is not simply the answer to sin (though it certainly accomplished this).  Christ’s incarnate work inhabits and realizes the one dynamic story of creation’s fulfilment moving from Adam to Christ, from flesh to spirit, from Eden to the New Jerusalem.  Salvation is not a response to the fall and it’s not paradise restored.  Salvation is the drawing into God of what has been made through the Son.  And what has been made has always been destined for this redemption.

Thus, creation and redemption are not just held together by One Divine Word, they are also held together as one divine work.

More to come…

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…continued from here

The purpose of creation

In a key passage of De Incarnatione, Athanasius defines the purpose of creation:

…why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him? But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? … [so that] they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life. (De incarn. 11)

The creature is willed by God out of His abundant goodness as the overflow of His triune life.

It is absolutely foundational to Athanasius’ doctrine of God that He is ‘good’.  On the Incarnation abounds with the ‘goodness’ and ‘sheer goodness’ of the ‘All-good God.’ E.g.:

For God is good—or rather, of all goodness He is Fountainhead, and it is impossible for one who is good to be mean or grudging about anything. Grudging existence to none therefore, He made all things out of nothing through His own Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. (De. Incarn. 3)

Athanasius’ doctrine of God is a decidedly happy one!

Therefore from God’s overflowing goodness, He does not will to be God alone.  And so the creature is brought into being, not in independence but in happy dependence to know God.  As one made after the true Image – the eternal Word – the proper destiny of man is to participate in the divine life.  Man, in union with Christ – who is “Man among men – is to be taken up to the Father, by the Spirit, and so to participate in God.

This participation is described variously by the two:

For Irenaeus it’s ‘passing into God’ (Adv. H., IV. 33.4.); being ‘promoted into God’ (Adv. H., III.19.1.).  And most famously he says:

Our Lord Jesus Christ… did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself. (Adv. H., V. pref.)

For Athanasius:

He, indeed, assumed humanity that we might become God.’ (De incarn., 54);

The Word became flesh in order both to offer this sacrifice and that we, participating in His Spirit, might be deified. (De Decret., ch 14)

What is the essence of this participation in God?  Obviously neither of the Bishops could speak of this deification in ethereal ways.  For theologians who look to Christ to see the fullness of deity, ‘becoming God’ couldn’t possibly mean becoming less human.  Any more than Christ’s becoming Man meant His becoming less God!  No, participation in God is not about dissolving into a divine stuff.  It’s about participating in the relationships of the trinity – being loved by the Father in the Son and through the Spirit.

Listen to Irenaeus explain deification:

“Those who receive and bear the Spirit of God are led to the Word, that is to the Son.  But the Son takes them up and presents them to the Father, and the Father bestows incorruptibility.  Therefore one cannot see the Word of God without the Spirit, nor can anyone approach the Father without the Son.  For the Son is the knowledge of the Father, and knowledge of the Son of God is through the Holy Spirit.  But the Son, in accord with the Father’s good pleasure, graciously dispenses the Spirit to those to whom the Father wills it, and as the Father wills it.” (Demonstration. 7)

Participation in God does not mean participation in some omni-being of attributes.  It means being properly related to our triune Creator.

Creation has come out of the triune love of God and its goal is to be drawn back in.  Not in dissolution we must add.  Creation remains truly itself as it participates in the love that birthed it.  As all things are drawn by the Spirit under the feet of Christ, the world maintains – and actually achieves – its concrete otherness because the love of God does not dissolve but affirms distinction and difference.

But this is the goal of creation – many brought into God in the Son.

In the heresies we have met, the divine could not be divine in its engagement with the creation.  Nor could the creature attain to the divine without escaping the created.  Yet the Triune LORD’s relationship to the creation allows the Eternal Word to be Himself even as He works immanently in, with and through His world.  And we can truly participate in this triune God even as we live our creaturely lives.  We can be truly spiritual and truly physical all at once without falling off one side of the horse or the other.

The fall, though, threatens to thwart God’s goal.

More to come…

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Thought this was relevant to the triune creation stuff I’ve been blogging.  This is what you get when you mess with “Let us“…

It’s also a good reminder not to make “nothing” into a big black something.  To say that God creates out of nothing is not to imagine a gigantic, universe-shaped hole into which creation then slots.  It means that before creation, the Father, Son and Spirit were all of reality.  When He creates God is massively relativized by the cosmos.  Creation is the beginning of the Lord’s humbling that climaxes at the cross.

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…continued from here

Creation

Where has creation come from?  There are three popular options.

1) Maybe it’s come out of some problem in the heavenly realms.  Perhaps it’s the body of a slain monster as in the Babylonian myth Enuma Elish – literally a monstrosity.  Perhaps, as the Gnostics would have it, creation arises after a member of the spiritual realm has been sin-binned for some misdemeanor.  Again, this being who is outside the spiritual constitutes creation.  Perhaps – a popular one today – it’s arisen from explosions and endless struggle.  In these variations on a theme the underlying belief is that fall precedes creation and gives rise to it.

2) Another option is to say that creation has always existed.  It’s just an immovable, eternal fact – godlike in its own right.  Here, if you believe in God, he’s got his hands tied and basically does his best with the materials available.

3) A third option is to say creation is a matter of the will.  There is first a God (or some power or principle), and creation exists alongside as a demonstration of his power.  To get to the heart of all things is not to find a heart at all but only force.

Interestingly our modern creation myth is a synthesis of all these errors.  We are the result of explosions, chaos, death and struggle; God (if he exists) is a far-off clockmaker and really the only way to live in such a world is to acknowledge that might is right and propagate our selfish genes.

But there is another way to see creation.  And the trinity is crucial.

As Irenaeus and Athanasius saw it, the Father of all was first Father of the Son Whom He loves.  And this Father-Son love in the Spirit provides the key to understanding creation rightly.  Robert Jenson puts it well:

The Father’s love of the Son is… the possibility of creation.  Insofar as to be a creature is to be other than God, we may say that the Father’s love of the Son as other than himself is the possibility of creation’s otherness from God. (R.Jenson: Systematic Theology, vol 2, p48.)

The massive significance of this can be seen when we ask the question, what is it like to be ‘other’ than God?

With option 1) above, to be other than God is to be a cosmic embarrassment, the fruit of a defect.  With option 2) to be other than God means to be a cog in an impersonal machine.  With option 3) to be other than God is to be a slave.  But with the triune God, to be Other than God is to be beloved and included.

In eternity the Son has been Other to God.  He is the Father’s eternal complement as Body to Head (1 Cor 11:3).  Otherness is therefore not competitive or defective but corresponding and desired.  And creation that is in Christ and through Christ and for Christ is the extension of this eternal love-for-otherness.  Colin Gunton says:

To create in the Son means to create by the mediation of the One who is the way of God out into that which is not Himself.  (Triune Creator, p144)

Before creation there was not nothing and there were not wars, there was a Loving Father eternally anointing His Son in the Spirit.  And as Irenaeus has said, that Son is called Christ “since through Him the Father anoints and adorns all things.” (Demonstration §53)

That’s worth meditating on!

For Irenaeus, even our individual formation in the womb comes through Christ.  (Ad. Her. IV.31.2; V.15.3)

The Father of Jesus brought all things into existence from nothing through His two hands – the Son and the Spirit, His Word and Wisdom.

For the hands of God in Scripture see, for e.g. Isaiah 48:13, 51:9; Psalm 98:1; Ezekiel 3:14,16; Daniel 5:5; 10:10f; Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20.

So Irenaeus says:

This hand of God which formed us at the beginning, and which does form us in the womb, has in the last times sought us out who were lost, winning back His own, and taking up the lost sheep upon His shoulders, and with joy restoring it to the fold of life.  (Ad. Her. V.15.2);

And, because God is rational, he therefore created what is made by his Word, and, as God is Spirit, so he disposed everything by his Spirit. (Demonstration. 5.);

For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things. (Ad. Her. IV.20.1)

On all these points, Athanasius was in agreement.

The key advance which Athanasius made with regard to a Christological doctrine of creation was his definitive differentiation between the Son’s eternal generation from the Father and creation’s in-time manufacture.  Irenaeus would surely have agreed with Athanasius on these points but he didn’t have an Arius forcing him to articulate his position in quite the same way.

The issue arose because for Arius the world was willed by a God who is not essentially Father and therefore not essentially Lover.  The world is a product of will.  And Christ too is the off-shoot of this will since he must be made as a demi-god mediator in order to (somehow!) bridge the infinite otherness-gap of God and creation.  All of this is the absurdity of unitarianism.  Yet it was Arius who found trinitarian thinking absurd.

He would ask Athanasius, “Why do you say there was a time when creation began to exist, but not a time when the Son began to exist? What convincing distinction can be made between begetting and making?”

Athanasius answers that there is a crucial distinction between what is begotten and what is willed.  Paternity is a matter of essence, not will. As soon as a father has a son he is a father.  Therefore the Father has always been Father just as the Son has always existed.  Yet creating is a matter of will not essence – one can be a maker before one actually makes.  Therefore, just because God has always been Maker does not mean that there has always been something that is made (i.e. creation).

So creation has a beginning in time but the Son does not.  Jesus is the Father’s Son by nature (or essence), creation is God’s handiwork by will. He is Begotten not Made as the creed now says.

But here’s the good bit – the Father has willed a commitment to the creation that is very much tied to His essential commitment to the Son.  The creature is lovingly and purposefully willed by the Father as that which is ‘after’ His eternal Image Whom He loves. His love for the creature corresponds to His love for the Son, for when He beholds the creation He delights ‘in seeing the works made after His own Image; even this rejoicing of God is on account of His own Image.’ (Contra Arianus. II.82)

Because of the mediation of the Son, creation could never be a matter of indifference to the Father.  The love with which He has loved the Son is now bound up in the world He has made for Him.  But precisely because it is for Him then Athanasius has successfully reversed Arius’ heretical proposition:

It is not He who was created for us, but we are created for Him. (Contra Arianus, II.31)

A properly trinitarian account of creation has therefore preserved the honour of Christ as Divine Creator but also the honour of the world as beloved creature.

Where have we gotten to?

I do not live in a monstrous reality arising from chaos.  I don’t live in a grand, impersonal machine.  And I don’t exist for the magnification of might.  I am from the Father, created purposefully out of His overflowing love through the Son, and – by the Spirit – for Him.

It’s that “for Him that’s we’ll discuss next time.  We will consider the purpose for creation.

More to come…

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…continued from here

To know Christ is to know the ‘one Lord… through Whom all things came and through Whom we live.’ (1 Cor 8:6).  Therefore, without a Christological doctrine of creation, it is not simply that Christ’s work will be incomprehensible, Christ Himself will be blasphemed.

Thus, against the heresies of the sub-Apostolic era, it fell to theologians such as Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200) and Athanasius (c. 297 – 373) to uphold the continuity of creation and redemption.  They were able to do so precisely because, for them, Christ and His work was not a metaphysical conundrum to be solved – how can the Creator-Word become flesh? Instead, the Word-become-flesh was the Rock upon which they built (cf Col 2:8f; John 14:6; Matthew 11:25-27; Colossians 1:15; John 1:18)

Trevor Hart makes this analysis of Irenaeus:

[he made] the person of the Incarnate Son his dogmatic starting point, rather than the dualistic framework provided by the categories of Greek thought.

(T. Hart, ‘Irenaeus, recapitulation and physical redemption’, Christ in Our Place, Ed: Trevor Hart and Daniel Thimell, Paternoster, 1989. p.179)

Athanasius’ starting point is similarly Christocentric:

The first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word who made it in the beginning.  (De incarn. 1)

These men were not concerned to hold creation and redemption together in an abstract sense (so as to keep a balanced theological ledger).  Rather their commitment to Christ as Beginning and End of all things forced them to think through creation and redemption as the one divine work of the One Divine Word.  The Bishops of Lyon and Alexandria were therefore able to maintain the coherence of creation and redemption in Christ and therefore to guard the gospel that still speaks powerfully today into our confusions.

To begin with, we will look at the confusions of their day as the context for their theology.

Heresies

The early Church was assailed on all sides by those who divorced their understanding of Christ and His work from their understanding of the creator God.  Those heresies which were most pernicious were precisely those which insisted on the centrality of Christ to redemption.  Yet immediately the question must be raised ‘Redemption from what? And to what? And by Whom?’

The answers given by Marcion (c.80 – c. 160) were disturbing.  Christ saves us from the Creator God of the Old Testament who is bad (viz. involvement with creation), capricious, legalistic and not the Father of Jesus.  The death of Christ purchases salvation and His soul’s rising from death gives hope for our own soulish afterlife.

The Gnostic, Valentinus (in Rome from c. 136-165), provided Irenaeus with his chief ‘whipping boy’.  He taught that the creator is not the Supreme Being but, as Irenaeus caricatures, ‘the fruit of a defect’ existing in a long chain of deity (the pleroma) which kept the created order at a great (almost by definition, unbridgeable) distance.  Christ is simply one emanation from this pleroma (lit. ‘fullness’) as opposed to the One in Whom all the fullness of God dwells (Col 2:9).  He came to save the true pneumatikoi (the ‘spiritual’) from this material world through imparting secret gnosis (‘knowledge’).

Arius (c. 250 – c. 336), was perhaps the most serious threat to orthodox Christianity because his account of Christ’s saving work was so apparently Scriptural.  The ‘what’ of the cross was set forth plainly.  Yet the ‘Who’ of the cross proved the decisive error.  Arius committed the fundamental mistake outlined in the introduction – that of deciding his doctrines of God, of man and of creation in advance of considering the God-Man Creator.  For him, the Divine Being is unitary and without distinctions, must be un-begotten, can have no contact with creation and can never partake in human (i.e. changeable) existence.  Of course he could subscribe to none of these views if Christ were his dogmatic foundation. Thus it fell naturally to Athanasius, whose Christocentricity we have noted, to defeat this terrible heresy.

All of these heresies fail, not only on the point of Christ’s identity but also on the goal of His redemption.  And such failures have contemporary echoes.  If God and the created order are necessarily incompatible then you may have an earthy salvation but not true fellowship with God (think of Islam where paradise is exceedingly carnal but a place from which Allah is conspicuously absent).  On the other hand you might have a spiritual future but only by escaping the creation (think of Buddhism or the new age movement).  But how do you have both?

You need to affirm what Irenaeus and Athanasius saw so clearly: creation and salvation are part of the one divine work of the one divine Word.

More to come…

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Famously Adolf Von Harnack asserted in the History of Dogma that much of Christian theology betrayed the “work of the Greek spirit on the soil of the gospel.”  Now to be fair, the old liberal didn’t have much gospel himself but the observation has something to it.

On the one hand we have the Scriptures beginning with a very good creation, full of promises of land and seed and a Saviour taking flesh to renew heaven and earth.  On the other we have a Hellenizing spirit which pits body and soul, earth and heaven, time and eternity against each other.   When this spirit meets this gospel – and Harnack was right, this is a perennial danger – it always yields bad fruit.

But in this series I want to look at two towering exceptions in the history of theology – Irenaeus and Athanasius.  In their day they resisted ‘the Greek spirit’ and called the church back to the fertile soil of the gospel.  There they found the Fountainhead of those unities which escaped the philosophers of this age.  In Jesus Christ they saw creation and salvation held together as one work performed by one Word.  And from there flowed a unified account of all reality.

In our own day we would do well to hear their voices.  Because we too find it completely obvious to fall for the old dualisms.

In the realm of the body, we see self-harm and eating disorders, promiscuity and confusion over sexual identity, compulsive dieting and body-building, cosmetic surgery and gender re-assignment.  These are problems commonly found in the world but also in our churches.  We seem deeply uncomfortable with our bodily existence.

In the realm of the environment, we see the extremes of those who simply consume the earth and those who worship it.

In worship there are the ritualists who consider their sacramental practice to work ex opere operato and there are the low church minimalists running scared from anything physical.

And theologically, as we consider the relationship of creation and redemption, some mistake political harmony, social justice or economic liberation for salvation.  In reaction, some cut loose creation from salvation with an anti-physical gospel and an escapist eschatology.  And some will dissolve any final distinction between creation and redemption and opt for universalism.

In view of this, the proper co-ordination of creation and redemption (and its attendant co-ordinations of body and soul, time and eternity, etc, etc) is a vital task for us all.

Irenaeus and Athanasius are going to help us massively.  And they will help because they put Jesus Christ at the centre of their thinking.

More to come…

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Mike Reeves on a theology of music:

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

ht Dave Bish – click for more resources and good comments.

His basic point is that Christians are generally pretty atheistic when they think about the world around us.  We readily think that Christian truth is a gloss that we apply to the blank sheet of ‘nature’.  But no, this is the Lord’s world.  Therefore we should be looking to all things (music included) to tell us the gospel of Christ.

After these mp3s, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I listened to a sermon in which the preacher tried a bit of a theology of everything himself.  He remarked, “I’m not sure why we sleep.  I think it’s to do with God teaching us humility.  Keeping us inactive for 8 hours a day teaches us who’s boss.”

Really?  Is that the best he can do?

Which made me think – everyone has a theology of everything.  It’s just that they don’t often have a gospel theology of everything.  For this preacher, the natural world preaches the bigness of God and the smallness of man – which featured in his preaching much more than the actual gospel.  Strange to think that ‘death and resurrection’ didn’t occur to him…

Anyway, that’s by the by.

Enjoy the mp3s!

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This post first appeared last year in a series of three on the incarnation.  The other two are: Incarnation and trinity and Incarnation and salvation.

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Christ is “The Beginning”, “The Alpha”, “The First”.  His Person is itself the basis for creation.  He is the One who is eternally Other from the Father and the foundation for all else that is other than Him.  Because of Him, through Him and for Him flows a creation.

Christ is by nature and eternally from the Father in the Spirit.

Creation is by grace and in time from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit.

This shows us

a) the spreading goodness of the triune God, Whose being is outwardly curved.  Creation is not necessary to God.  But God’s being, like a fountain, by nature overflows.  It is a being going out towards the other.

b) creation is not a free floating reality but something beginning in the Son, crafted by Him, cohering in Him and headed towards Him as His inheritance.  While God’s being reaches out towards the other it is simultaneously a being that draws the other in bonds of love.

These twin tendencies – the going out and the drawing in – find fulfilment in creation and incarnation.

Let’s think about Genesis 1.  The heavens (masculine) and the earth (feminine) – like head and body, husband and wife – set the scene for this theatre of God’s glory.  And centre stage is man – Adam made from the Adamah (the ground).  He is not spoken into being.  This man of dust (Gen 2:7) is made of the very stuff of the earth – drawn up, pinched off like clay and breathed into.  The earth-man is strongly united to the earth over which he is placed as head.

Adam means

a) that particular bloke;

b) ‘a man’ (a true human being) and

c) ‘humanity’ (as a whole).

This central actor – man – is king.  He is God’s ruler, through whom He exercises dominion.  From the outset God’s rule is a mediated rule – through man.

Now when man is disobedient you may have thought that God would renege on His determination to rule through man.  But no.  He takes this mediation through man very seriously.  It is because of the cosmic kingship of man that man’s fall entails the fall of all creation.  The ground (adamah) is cursed because of man (adam).  Man remains king.  But while man is perverse, so is his world.

But all of this looks towards the Man of Heaven (1 Cor 15:47-49).  Flesh and blood could never inherit the kingdom of God.  Men of dust were never the intention.  The intention was always the union of heavenly Man and earthly man.  The intention was always for the Logos to take this flesh and as Man to rule as God’s true king.  This rule was not to be a divine rule over and against man.  It was to be a heavenly rule in and through man.

And so came the eschatological Adam (1 Cor 15:45).  He is

a) that particular bloke, Jesus;

b) ‘a man’ (a true human being) and

c) ‘humanity’ (an eschatological humanity to answer Adam’s)

He sums up the man of dust, his being and life.  He takes His very flesh and retraces the steps of his disobedience, hammering out instead a being and life of perfect faithfulness.  Then, exalted as the pinnacle of all creation, this eschatological Adam is lifted up between heaven and earth – absorbing the curse of both and reconciling one to the other.  As Priest He ministers by the Spirit, offering to God the true worship of earth (Heb 9:14).  As Lamb He receives the curse of God on behalf of man (Gal 3:13).  As King, He reigns from the tree, manifesting God’s righteous rule to the ends of the earth.

Ascending as Priest, Lamb and King to the Father’s right hand, Jesus has lead captives in His train and sat down as Head over all things for the church.  The True Man, our Brother, sits in heaven as ruler of earth, not over against earth.  Rather, having taken Adam (and in him, adamah!) to Himself, He rules as and for man for all eternity.  When the heavenly Husband (masculine) moves house with His Father to earth (feminine) there will be the Marriage to end all marriages.  The manifested union of Bridegroom and bride will be at the same time the manifested union of heaven and earth.  Christ and creation will be consummated that day.

As Alpha, Christ has crafted a creation and granted it a gracious otherness.

As Omega, He has entered in and drawn back that creation to a gracious oneness.

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Karl Barth died 41 years ago today.

Here are a few of my favourite quotes from him:

On his own theology:

My whole theology, you see, is fundamentally a theology for parsons. It grew out of my own situation when I had to teach and preach and counsel a little. (From a radio broadcast made shortly before Barth’s death. Quoted from William Willimon, Conversations with Barth on Preaching, Abingdon Press, 2006.)

On the reason for theology:

The normal and central fact with which dogmatics has to do is, very simply, the Church’s Sunday sermon of yesterday and to-morrow, and so it will continue to be.” (Church Dogmatics I/1, p91)

On theological method

Jesus Christ, as he is attested to us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God whom we have to hear, and whom we have to trust and obey in life and in death.  (Article 1 of the Barmen Declaration)


On the bible:

“The Bible says all sorts of things, certainly; but in all this multiplicity and variety, it says in truth only one thing – just this: the name of Jesus Christ… The Bible becomes clear when it is clear that is says this one thing… The Bible remains dark to us if we do not hear in it this sovereign name… Interpretation stands in the service of the clarity which the Bible as God’s Word makes for itself; and we can properly interpret the Bible, in whole or part, only when we perceive and show that what it says is said from the point of view of that… name of Jesus Christ.”  (Church Dogmatics I/2, p720)

At bottom, the Church is in the world only with a book in its hands. We have no other possibility to bear witness except to explain this book.” (God in Action, p107-8)

On creation and covenant

Creation is the outward basis of the covenant and the covenant is the inward basis of creation.  (Church Dogmatics III/1, ch41)

On church:

The essence of the Church is proclamation.  (Homiletics, p40)

On the Christian life:

“Ye shall be witnesses unto me” (Acts 1:8) – this is enough for the one to whom Christ speaks and who has heard Him. Whether strong or weak, willing or unwilling, successful or unsuccessful, the Christian is a witness, irrespective of whether the miracle occurs, or whether it occurs visibly or invisibly. In all circumstances and with the whole of his existence he is a responsible witness of the Word of God. He is called to be this. As such he is set at the side of God in the world, and therefore set over against the world.’ (Church Dogmatics IV/3, p609)

On proofs for God:

Note well: in the whole Bible of the Old and New Testaments not the slightest attempt is ever made to prove God. This attempt has always been made only outside the biblical view of God, and only where it has been forgotten with whom we have to do, when we speak of God. What sort of attempts were they, after all, where the attempt was make to prove a perfect Being alongside imperfect ones? Or from the existence of the world to prove the ordering Power? Or the moral proof of God from the face of man’s conscience? I will not enter into these proofs of God. I don’t know whether you can at once see the humour and the fragility of these proofs. These proofs may avail for the alleged gods; if it were my task to make you acquainted with these allegedly supreme beings, I would occupy myself with the five famous proofs of God. In the Bible there is no such argumentation; the Bible simply speaks of God simply as of One who needs no proof. It speaks of a God who proves Himself on every hand: Here I am, and since I am and live and act it is superfluous that I should be proved. On the basis of this divine self-proof the prophets and apostles speak. In the Christian Church there can be no speaking about God in any other way. God has not the slightest need for our proofs. (Dogmatics in Outline, 38)

On apologetics:

The great danger of apologetics is “the domesticating of revelation… the process of making the Gospel respectable. When the Gospel is offered to man, and he stretches out his hand to receive it and takes it into his hand, an acute danger arises which is greater than the danger that he may not understand it and angrily reject it. The danger is that he may accept it and peacefully and at once make himself its lord and possessor, thus rendering it inoccuous, making that which chooses him something which he himself has chosen, which therefore comes to stand as such alongside all the other things that he can also choose, and therefore control.” (Church Dogmatics II/1, p141)

On assurance (this is perhaps my favourite Barth quote):

“We might imagine the conversation…  The man to whom [the Word of grace is spoken] thinks and says that he is not this new, peaceful, joyful man living in fellowship. He asks leave honestly to admit that he does not know this man, or at least himself as this man.

The Word of grace replies: ‘All honour to your honesty, but my truth transcends it. Allow yourself, therefore, to be told in all truth and on the most solid grounds what you do not know, namely, that you are this man in spite of what you think.’

Man: ‘ You think that I can and should become this man in the course of time? But I do not have sufficient confidence in myself to believe this. Knowing myself, I shall never become this man.’

The Word of grace: ‘You do well not to have confidence in yourself. But the point is not that you can and should become this man. What I am telling you is that, as I know you, you already are.’

Man: ‘I understand that you mean this eschatologically. You are referring to the man I perhaps will be one day in some not very clearly known transfiguration in a distant eternity. If only I had attained to this! And if only I could be certain that even then I should be this new man!’

The Word of grace: ‘You need to understand both yourself and me better than you do. I am not inviting you to speculate about your being in eternity, but to receive and ponder the news that here and now you begin to be the new man, and are already that which you will be eternally.’

Man: ‘How can I accept this news? On what guarantee can I make bold to take is seriously?’

The Word of grace: ‘I, Jesus Christ, am the One who speaks to you. You are what you are in Me, as I will to be in you. Hold fast to Me. I am your guarantee. My boldness is yours. With this boldness dare to be what you are?’

Man: ‘I certainly hear the message, but…’

In this perplexed and startled ‘but’ we see the attack, and who it is that is attacked.” (Church Dogmatics, V/2, p250)

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Do you have a favourite Barth quote?  Why not leave it in comments.

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“My whole theology, you see, is fundamentally a theology for parsons.  It grew out of my own situation when I had to teach and preach and counsel a little.

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Ok, I’ll get off the subject soon enough.  Just a little test for us all, inspired by Heather’s comment.

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My Name humble themselves, and pray and seek My Face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. ” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

“Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.”  James 5:17-18

So what causes climate change, pollutants or prayer?

Cue howls of disbelief.  Choruses of “medieval superstition!”  Derisive laughter…

Yeah, yeah.  Get it out of your system.  But seriously…  Which is it?  Pollutants or prayer?

And of course you say, ‘It’s not an either-or.’

Well… even when it is a both-and, it’s by no means a symmetrical ‘both-and’ is it?  Prayer can change the climate quite apart from the levels of Co2 in the atmosphere.

And really – who’s running this show?  Christ or carbon?

Cue more mocking and incredulity.  I hear your protests: ‘Don’t be ridiculous Glen, typical overstatement!  The sovereign Lord still works via means and agents.  He might well say to the waters ‘This far and no further’ but He uses gravity to do the job.  Same with climate.  He’s Lord of climate change, but He oversees it according to cycles and seasons and constants and laws.’

Mmmm fine.  That’s what I thought you were going to say.  I just wanted to see how quickly you said it.  As a matter of interest, how immediate was your ‘Yeah, but…’?

I’ll probably agree with your ‘Yeah, but…’  I just want to know how quickly it snapped into place.  I want to know how strongly it rose to the surface.  Because in my heart and mind it springs like a steel trap.

And the place it springs from is not my training in historic reformed Christianity.  Oh I can happily use Calvinism to justify it (secondary causes and all that).  But I’m pretty sure it springs from enlightenment sources, not reformational ones.

You see I read 2 Chronicles 7, lodge its truths in some cerebral filing cabinet under ‘theology’, and then return to the real world where principles and programmes and professors and pollutants rule the roost.  In the real world iron laws grind out our predicatable fate.  And the only difference between us and the ‘enlightened’ secularist is that we know the name of the One pulling the levers.  Right?

Sheesh… Of course by the time you’ve made peace with this view – the name of the One pulling the levers is so immaterial to the discussion you can afford to drop it entirely.  And nothing really changes.  Because, let’s face it, we we basically reckon the levers pull themselves.  Right?

And so here’s my little test.  Can you say this sentence out loud and for ten minutes refuse every urge in you to clamp down with your ‘Yeah, but…’:

Ultimately, prayer changes the climate, not pollutants.

Can you linger on this for a full ten minutes?  Can you mull over all its radical implications?

Christ not carbon is the determining factor

Here’s the deal – if you can remove yourself from the deistic clockwork universe for ten minutes and feel the immediacy and Personality of the biblical universe, I’ll let you go to Copenhagen.

Fair?

Ok, off you go.  But I warn you, it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

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