Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food - will God destroy both?

I am wrestling through 1 Corinthians 6: 12-20 at the moment. Verse 13 states:
"Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food. And God will destroy both one and the other". Virtually all commentators agree that the first part (13a) is a Corinthian slogan Paul is quoting to make a point. The difficulty comes in with 13b: "And God will destroy both one and the other". Is this part of the Corinthian slogan, or is it Paul's response to it?
Richard B Hays comes up with the following suggestion: "[I]t is the Corinthians, not Paul, who contend that God will destroy the merely physical elements of the self . . . this has to be the correct way to interpret the passage, for the idea that the physical body is unimportant is precisely the point that Paul is trying to refute" (Richard B Hays, First Corinthians, 1997, p103). Does this make sense?

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Deze stoffelijke, tasbare en zichtbare wereld is toch schepping van God?

Does it really matter how we live in our bodies here and now? Connected to this: how should we treat the material world around us? Is the body (and the material world around us) not doomed for eternal destruction? It seems that the New Testament writers are unanimously saying "no". With the hope of a future resurrection, believers are called by God  to glorify Him in their bodies, and also care and nurture His earth. I stumbled across a lovely quote by the well known Dutch theologian AA van Ruler (1908-1970 - he studied in Groningen and became professor in Utrecht), in which he takes issue with those who, (based on 1 Cor. 15.50) think our resurrection (and the renewal of creation) will only be "spiritual" and thus provide for a complete disembodied (immaterial and ghost-like) state.  

"Is de apostel geen realist? Moeten we niet verder gaan en vragen: is de apostel geen materialist? Ligt die materialistische trek niet heel diep ingegroefd in all bijbelse en christelijke denken en spreken? Deze stoffelijke, tasbare en zichtbare wereld is toch schepping van God? En als er verlossing is, dan gaat deze toch, ook in een uiteindelijke zin, ook over deze wereld, die wij nu hebben en zijn? De mens is toch voor de Heer, zoals de Heer is voor het lichaam (1 Cor. 6:13)? De apostel laat toch in zijn opstandingsgeloof de lichaamelijkheid van de menz niet schiet? Daar komt juist alles voor hem op aan: dat er echte opstanding is en dat deze opstanding uit de dood is en dat deze opstanding uit de dood betrekking heeft op de werkelijke, de complete mens" (Van Ruler AA, De Dood word Overwonnen, 1965, p146) See the following link for the AA van Ruler webpage:

Monday, 23 August 2010

Christians and non-believers believe in resurrection?

As I entered our large cafeteria here in Nijmegen last week, my eye caught a group of about 20 young students sitting in a circle. In the middle sat a girl who held a framed picture of a student friend in her hands. Also on the table were flowers, and a burning candle. The atmosphere was cold and sombre. A few girls cried softly while others recalled special moments they shared with their friend in the picture. It took me seconds to realize that these students were gathered to pay tribute to a friend who passed away. This unforgettable “picture” made me  think (as so often!) about life, death and life beyond death. Will there really be a resurrection one day? Did Jesus really rise from the dead as his followers believed? If so, how should or could that be translated for 21st century Europeans?

Anton Wessels (to the right), emeritus professor of Missiology and Religion at the Free University of Amsterdam, wrote a thought provoking book in 1994 called: EUROPE: Was it Ever Really Christian? (translated by John Bowden from the Dutch Kerstening en Ontkerstening van Europa. Wisselwerking tussen Evangelie en Cultuur). In chapter V under the heading The Interaction between the Gospel and Present-Day European Culture, he attempts to discuss (among other topics) “Death and resurrection” in such a way as to bridge the gap between traditional Christianity on the one hand and modern Europe on the other. For this he quotes an excerpt from George Steiner’s work, Real Presence:

“To the Christian, that day [Sunday] signifies an intimation, both assured and precarious, both evident and beyond comprehension, of resurrection, of justice and a love that have conquered death. If we are non-Christians or non-believers, we know of that Sunday in precisely analogous terms. We conceive of it as the day of liberation from inhumanity and servitude. We look to resolution, be they therapeutic or political, be they social or messianic. The lineaments of that Sunday carry the name of hope” (p190-1).

I did not read Wessels’ whole book but the impression I got from the sections I did read was that he tries to “develop an eye for . . . truth [in] myth”; he wants to translate the gospel for modern Europeans; and reveal the “mystery of the Christian faith” (p162).

I am certainly not in a position to give an informed analysis of a volume in the field of Missiology. As for the resurrection of Jesus, and its implications for humanity (within the field of New Testament exegesis) several critical questions could be asked following Steiner and Wessels’ deductions. That I leave for another day. Only one question for now: Is it really so that “non-Christians . . . know of that Sunday in precisely analogous terms” as followers of Jesus Christ do?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Herman Ridderbos and Jan du Rand on the resurrection

I had a facsinating discussion with prof Jan du Rand (from Johannesburg South Africa) here at Tyndale House, Cambridge today. I was surprized to find out that prof Herman Ridderbos (arguably the most prolific Dutch New Testament scholar of his generation) was the external examiner for prof Du Rand's doctoral dissertation (prof Du Rand got a distinction for it).
One thing these two scholars have in common is their belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus. In his still cogent work Paul. An Outline of His Theology, 1975, Ridderbos discusses Paul's understanding of the resurrection body (see p 537-551). Prof Ridderbos has a very nuansed discussion on the whole issue of continuity and discontinuity of the future resurrection body. It is certainly worth reading. One point in particular was very helpful for me:
"What establishes the connection between life before and after the resurrection and what 'passes over' from the one into the other is the Spirit and being under the rulership of the Spirit . . . What 'abides' is faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13). That undoubtedly presupposes the human mode of existence, a future 'ontological' structure of man, in virtue of which even after the resurrection he can believe, hope, and love. On that account the resurrection of the body pertains to the inalienable content of the Christian kerygma" (p 551).

Monday, 16 August 2010

God's forgiveness without the empty tomb? E Schillebeeckx and NT Wright

Even though I disagree with Edward Schillebeeckx about important theological issues, I have to agree that he is probably the most famous theologian who held a chair here in Nijmegen where I am studying. I came across the following significant disagreement between him and NT Wright. It is worth the read:

‘Edward Schillebeeckx . . . declares that when the disciples went to the tomb their minds were so filled with light that it did not matter whether there was a body there or not. What happened in the Easter appearances was a conversion to Jesus as the Christ, who now came to them as the light of the world, and this was the “illumination” by which the disciples were “justified”(Jesus: An Experiment in Christology, Huber Hoskins, trans. New York: Crossroad, 1979, 384). Schillebeeckx fits out Bultmann’s suggestion with a more precise one; that the dicsiples, who were overcome by deep feelings of guilt at having run away and let Jesus down, experienced on Easter morning a wonderful sense of the forgiveness of God and the continuing presence of Jesus. This then became the start of the characteristically Christian experience knowing the forgiveness of God and/or knowing the presence of Jesus (380-397).

The trouble with this is that if you had said to a first-century Jew that you had had a wonderful experience of the forgiveness (or the love and grace) of God, she or he would have been delighted for you. But if you had gone onto say that the kingdom had come, that a crucified leader was the Messiah or that the resurrection had occurred, they would have been deeply puzzled if not downright offended. This language is simply not about private experiences, even communicable private experiences, of forgiveness. It is about eschatology, about something happening within history that resulted in a world being now a very different place. Neither Bultmann nor Schillebeeckx can explain from the texts the rise of Christianity as we know it’ (NT Wright, “Christian Origins and the Resurrection of Jesus: The Resurrection of Jesus as a Historical Problem” [Originally published in Sewanee Theological Review 41.2, 1998]).

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Worship that makes sense to Paul - Nijay K. Gupta

I thought it appropriate to make mention of an academic book by De Gruyter our library just received here in Nijmegen. It is by Nijay K. Gupta with the title: Worship that makes sense to Paul. A new approach to the Theology and Ethics of Paul's cultic metaphors.

I got to know Nijay during my MA studies in Durham. I will never forget November 6th, 2008, when we helped clear professor James Dunn's loft in Durham. I also had a fascinating talk with Nijay about his spiritual journey in high school. Nijay is a true scholar - if I recall correctly, during his three year study at Durham, he did more than 100 book reviews! I wish Nijay all the best in Seattle where he will start teaching in September.

The back cover of the book states:
"This book explores the apostle Paul's temple, priesthood, sacrificial, and worship language with special interest in how metaphors are powerful vehicles for theological transformation. The methodology of this study combines perspectives from cognitive linguistics, the social-sciences, and rhetorical criticism. In the final synthesis, it is discovered that common factors among Paul's cultic metaphors include an interest in devotion to God, the significance of the body, and the potential for the reshaping of the mind and perception."

I will definitely have to read this book!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Moving Hardwick, Cambridge

Moving house with two young children is not as easy as I thought. So many boxes.. Some dear friends helped us move. We now live in Hardwick, a little village just outside Cambridge, UK (the sunset is over Hardwick). We had our first "punting" experience the other day at the River Cam.... (picture below).

Having been doing research in Cambridge (at Tyndale House) for several months now, one thought has been with me for some time: Why am I doing academic research? For what purpose? Am I doing it to be recognized by the guild (of which there is no shortage here..) first and foremost? Of course serious study is integral to what I'm busy with! But what difference does it make in this world? Does it give glory to Jesus Christ?  May God help me to always strive to do the latter through His grace and power.