Which came first: God’s speech or the church?

Anchoretic apologists often ask Protestants, “Which came first, the church or the Bible?” This question is misleading on a number of levels (and really reflects sophomore apologetics than anything else) but what they are trying to elicit is the recognition that church communities preceded the final recognition of the canon.

So what if they did? The Protestant can equally turn back the question: Which came first, God’s speech or the church? Obviously, God’s speech. And if God’s speech came first, and God’s speech is the Logos-Word-Debar, and Jesus created the Church (or more precisely, spoke it into existence), then God’s speech created the Church.

God’s speech is therefore over the church.

Convict Conditioning 2 (review)

by the eponymous Paul Wade, whether he exists or not.

 

Wade’s first book, Convict Conditioning, was an awe-inspiring classic.  Because of his teachings, I can do things now at 32 than I could at 18 when I was bench pressing almost 300 lbs (not a lot, I know, but I’m a little guy).  This book is awesome, too, but not in the same way.

In the first CC Wade taught you how to work the big muscle groups using body weight training.  This book focuses on the unseen, yet in some ways more important aspects like tendon strength, vertebrates, joints, and smaller and harder to train muscle groups.

cc2

And he succeeds.  

Yet a few warnings:

1)  In the first CC if you were already reasonably strong at the beginning (say, you could easily do ten chin ups or even a one arm push up), you could skip the intermediate steps.   With these exercises you can’t do it.  I have strong arms and a strong back, yet I tried some of the advanced forearm exercises without building the tendons up first and I tore some fibers in my forearms.   When he says you need to build up your tendons he means it.

Should one get this book or C-Mass?  This book gives you more specific advice on some exercises, and C-Mass assumes you have read this book.  C-Mass will help you build towards mass, but CC2 has some invaluable advice as well.  I would probably say get this book.  Among other things, this book teaches you how to build up to a flag post, which may be the apex of strength training.

Wade ends the book with some mental coaching.  This was the neatest part of the book because he describes what it takes to mentally survive prison and how to apply that to training.  

More on the so-called Hellenic divide

I’ve never said that the Hebrew language is ontically different from the Greek language, and hence superior. Apostle Paul delivered the most devastating criticisms of Greek philosophy in the Greek language.

Rather, I am thinking in more of–hmm, I don’t want to use the term “worldview.” That is a bit overused and I suggest even “Greeky.” For some reason the phrase “social knowing” is coming to mind (I think it is the title of Pinkard’s book on Hegel). It’s not perfect and I can think of a few flaws, but it is okay enough. Keep in mind that Descartes said to get to truth he had to isolate himself in his apartment.

Below I want to offer some observations.

1. The Hebrew word for “knowing” can also be used of sexual intercourse (yada). Is knowing communal and interpersonal? Rossenstock-Huessy thought so. Jewish thinkers like Buber and Heschel picked up this as well.

1a. If knowing is communal in general, then is proper knowing also covenantal? Michael Horton suggests that the proper response to the Speaking Covenant Lord is “Here I am.” (The Christian Faith, 86-87, 95)

Excursus: Did Vos really say there was a difference between Hebrew and Greek thought? Not really. Vos simply quoted Plato and compared it with the prophets. He writes,

According to the former, “to know” means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven (Biblical Theology, 8).

Abraham Heschel writes,

Plato lets Socrates ask: What is Good? But Moses’s question was: what does God require of thee? (God in Search of Man, 98).

Commie joke

Old Russian proverb say “Is better to have potato and lose than never have potato.”

Of course is silly. No Russian have potato in first place.

Russian try to cross river. Has dog, potatoes, and dead son’s body. Can only take two across river at one time.  If leave dog with potatoes or corpse, dog eat them. Is very sad.

Also is not good boat

Last joke

Two Russian look at clouds. One see potato. Other see impossible dream. Is same cloud.

De-hellenizing the Old Testament

Walter Eichrodt was a mainline German Protestant who nevertheless wrote an outstanding theology of the Old Testament.  The first fifty pages or so was sheer excitement.  I was floored.  Here was one of the world’s leading Old Testament authorities saying everything about Hebrew Thought and God that I had been saying, except he has tenure.

This is only the first two hundred pages of Old Testament theology.  These deal more with covenant and doctrine of God.   The second half deals with covenant leaders, which is important but not relevant to my studies at the moment.  Key here is the contrast between covenant religion and magic (ontology) religion.

“Real God becoming manifest in history to which the SCriptures of the OT bear witness” (15).

“That which binds together indivisibly the two realms of the Old and New Testaments…is the irruption of the Kingdom of God into this world and its establishment here” (26).

The Meaning of the Covenant Concept

  • Factual nature of divine revelation (37).  “God’s disclosure of himself is not grasped speculatively.”  As “he  molds them according to his will he grants them knowledge of his being.”
  • A clear divine will is discernable.  “You shall be my people and I shall be your God.’ Because of this the fear that constantly haunts the pagan world, the fear of arbitrariness and caprice in the Godhead, is excluded” (38).
  • The content of that will is defined in ways that make the human party aware of the position (39).
  • Divine election and kingdom:  Jer. 2:1; 1 Sam. 8:1-10; this dual pattern provides the interpretation of Israelite history.
  • The bond of nature religion was broken (42).  The covenant did not allow an inherent bond in the believer, the order of nature, and the god.   Chain of being is broken.  Divinity does not display itself in the mysterium of nature.  Election is the opposite of nature religions (43).  Israelite ritual does not mediate “cosmic power.”  “One indication of decisive importance in this respect is the fact that the covenant is not concluded by the performance of a wordless action, having its value in itself, but is accompanied by the word as the expression of the divine will” (44).

The History of the Covenant Concept

Eichrodt discusses the dangers the covenant idea faced.  Canaanite ideas quickly muted the sharp sounds of the covenant.  “The gulf set between God and man by his terrifying majesty was levelled out of existence by the emphasis laid on their psycho-physical relatedness and community” (46).  It is interesting to compare this description with Paul Tillich’s claim that the church placed the intermediaries of saints and angels over the Platonic hierarchy of Forms.

Refashioning of the Covenant Concept

Dt 4.13, 23 understands berith simply as the Decalogue.   A shift to the legal character.  Man can violate the conditions of the covenant, but he cannot annul it (54).

The Cultus

“Alien from primitive Yahwism, and introduced into the Yahweh cultus predominantly as a result of Canaanite influence, were the massebah, the Asherim and the bull image” (115).  The Canaanites believed this was a transference of the particular object of the divine power effective at the holy place as a whole.

  • Special places were always seen, by contrast, as memorials to Yahweh’s self-manifestation (116).

Pictorial Representations

“The spiritual leaders of Israel, however, always made a firm stand against this adoption of heathen image-worship, regarding it as an innovation which contradicted the essence of Yahweh religion” (118).

Prayer

“Indicative of the pattern of Old Testament piety is the fact that the dominant motives of prayer never included that of losing oneself, through contemplation, in the divine infinity.  There was no room in Israel for mystical prayer; the nature of the Mosaic Yahweh with his mighty personal will effectively prevented the development of that type of prayer which seeks to dissolve the individual I in the unbounded One.  Just as the God of the Old Testament is no Being reposing in his own beatitude, but reveals himself in the controlling will of the eternal King, so the pious Israelite is no intoxicated, world-denying mystic revelling in the Beyond, but a warrior, who wrestles even in prayer, and looks for the life of power in communion with his divine Lord.  His goal is not the static concept of the summum bonum, but the dynamic fact of the Basileia tou Theou” (176).

The Name of the Covenant God

Exodus 3:14:  “This is certainly not a matter of Being int he metaphysical sense of aseity, absolute existence, pure self-determination or any other ideas of the same kind.  It is concerned with a revelation of the divine will” (190).

The prophet Isaiah connects the fact of Yahweh is King with Yahweh’s eschatological act of salvation.

 

A literary detour

One of my projects is to read through Jane Austen’s major works.  I read a few in high school, but I really can’t remember what they were about except for some vague reference to a Keira Knightley film, I think.  I finished Pride and Prejudice a few weeks ago.   I am reading Peter Leithart’s Miniatures and Morals alongside it.  Sure enough, Leithart finds a way to bring chiasms into it!   I think it works.

 

A.  Mr and Mrs Bennet
B.  Bingley and Darcy arrive in Netherfield; hopes for Jane
C.  Collins;  hopes for Elizabeth
D.  Wickham
C’  Collins proposes; Dashes hopes for Elizabeth
B’   Bingley and Darcy leave; dashes hopes for Jane
A’ Mr and Mrs Bennet

(Leithart 52)

Someone could object, “He’s projecting that chiasm onto Austen.”   But the response is simple, “Is it there or not?”   Anyway, fun.

Are Reformed Really this naive?

I try not to keep interacting with Orthodox Bridge.   I certainly can’t comment over there, given their commitment to triumphalist rhetoric.  However, as bad and insulting as some of their articles are, they can be helpful to Protestants.  If you are a Protestant looking at Orthodoxy, yet you also really know what you believe as a Protestant (an increasing rarity), and you see Orthodox guys reading your beliefs as such, you will be insulted.  Similarly, I am doing the Orthodox a favor.  If they will take my comments seriously, they will be better able to help honest seekers who know that the smarter Reformed, even if they are wrong, probably aren’t this intellectually stupid.

I am not going to interact with the whole article.  It is somewhat self-feeding and you get the idea after a while.  It is about a Jewish convert to Orthodoxy who detoured through low church evangelicalism.

The bad news is that often I would decide for myself what the Scriptures meant.

This is ambiguous.   If he is saying “my mental faculties were functioning correctly and I was able to use syntax to figure out what the sentence said” then there is no problem.  This is simply how language works.  If he is saying, “I found out the meaning apart from any interpretive community,” then it is naive.  But no Confessional Reformed church believes that.

I mean, I took sola scriptura (“only the Bible”) seriously!

No, you didn’t.  That is not what sola scriptura means.  It means the Bible is the norm that norms our norms.   If you don’t understand that sentence then you need to quit apologetics for a while and study some more.

Let me hasten to say that the Bible is all God intends it to be. No problem with the Bible. The problem lay in the way I individualized it, subjecting it to my own personal interpretations-some not so bad, others not so good

Every evangelical leans this in the first 5 minutes of hermeneutics 101.

In fact, it seemed to me that the more one held to the Bible as the only source of spiritual authority, the more factious and sectarian one became.

My tradition, the Westminster Confession, explicitly condemns the above statement.

Even the Old Testament was still in the process of formulation, for the Jews did not decide upon a definitive list or canon of Old Testament books until after the rise of Christianity.

This isn’t exactly true.   Paul’s statement that the Jews received the oracles of God would be meaningless if those silly Jews couldn’t identify the oracles of God.

Interestingly, it is this later version of the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, rather than the canon of early Christianity, that is followed by most modern Protestants today.

After Beckwith’s book on the Old Testament, few scholars seriously hold the above line.  Granted, if it falls much of Anchorite apologetics crashes to the ground, so they have a vested interest.

The rest of the article is too painful to continue.  If Orthodox Bridge wants to operate with childish notions of Evangelical scholarship, that is their prerogative.  I know they think that converts by the dozen are fleeing the Evangelical world, but I suspect those numbers are inflated.   I will leave them with some key evangelical works on hermeneutics:

Kevin Vanhoozer, First Theology.

Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology

James K. A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation

Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Which Interpretation?

If you are even remotely familiar with the arguments in the above texts, then you can’t keep with silly posts like above.  If you choose to ignore these above arguments, then you’ve essentially conceded the game.