Mandy's Musings

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us

Lecture 4 covered what Dr Bray described as 'perhaps one of the most difficult passages in the NT'.

In the first instance he demonstrated that the context shows that 'debts' and 'trespasses' mean 'sins'. The passage refers not just to mainly ritual sins, concerning purity and keeping of the law, nor just small errors or faux par, but rebellion against God that we, as descendants of Adam, actively participate in.

He spent a long time outlining exactly what sin is. Interestingly, he again made the point that sin is not natural and was not intended by God. In this regard he echoed what he had said the other day, that Jesus would not have stood out as being unnaturally human. His sinlessness would have stood out, but not as something abnormal, rather as being the most normal and natural thing, for he was behaving in the way that humans were originally created to behave. I found his point that the human nature refers to the physical being of humanity and his observation that Adam and Eve were mortal beings, protected by God and thus sustained an interesting notion. He was using this to demonstrate that the human nature was not sinful in itself, but it left me wondering what that means for our anthropology. Does this not mean that the new life we have in Christ, indeed that eternal life is of a fundamentally different character?

I was really encouraged to think through what it would mean for me to focus less on self and more on Christ as I approach the kingdom, and to think through how a growing awareness of Christ will help make me more aware of my sin and have a greater appreciation of God's goodness as a result.

The final section dealing with the need to forgive others recognized how hard this could be and acknowledged that at times this can be almost impossible. He distinguished between forgiveness and reconciliation, arguing that because we are sinful, that our forgiveness of another would not guarantee a reconciliation of relationship, but it should be our goal. This is different to God's forgiveness, which always achieves its end. It was on this point that in question time he argued necessitated belief in limited atonement.

Worst church signs ever

I went past a church today and saw what I think must be one of the worst church billboards ever ...

Feeling Ugly?
God thinks you are to-die-for!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Give us this day our daily bread

Talk 3 on Friday morning continued tis excellent series of lectures, focussing on God's provision for us in our daly lives. Dr bray observed that we move in this clause from praise and adoration of God to intercession.

Dr Bray observed that the pattern of request does not include the niceties of 'please', but is indicative of a beggar who is completely dependent. God is not someone who can be cajoled into giving us what we want - rather he is our Father from whom everything comes - we are utterly dependent upon Him. We can be bold in our approach to him, directly calling to him for help. He distinguished between God as a friend and a Father. Friendships in this world can be fragile, yet God is utterly unlike earthly friendship - he remains our Father and we never cease to be dependent upon him. I found his observation that our prayers are collective really challenging - we are taught not to pray in a self-focussed way, but collectively, as we ask of our Father on behalf of others.

Time also played a big part in the lecture. As he addressed what it meant for our requests to be for 'this day' he spoke of God being outside of time because he lived in 'the eternal present'. One of the things that really struck me was when he said 'This day must be our immediate concern because this is where we are.' A timely reminder, especially given the uncertainty of where I will be once college finishes.

'our daily bread' reminds us that our livelihood in this world is in his care. Praying for our daily bread is a trest of our faith and shows that we are living one day at a time. Not that we are not looking forward, but that we trust that God's provision will not fail. He looked at the connection between daily bread and the eucharist. They are coonnected but not to be confused. The eucharist shows the connection between the spiritual and physical life. The broken body of CHrfist has given us all we need, our sins are paid in full

Question time was again interesting. I was struck by his argument that being in the image of God is what gives us the capactity to know God. What is the image and likeness? It is personhood - as God is personal, 3 in relationship. A person is a being with capacity for relationship. Indeed a person is a being in relationship with God, for whether regenerate or unregeneration they have that relationship, it is just a question of whether the relationship is healthy or not. He argued that person and individual are not synonomous - person is a relational word that indicates our connectedness, whereas individual is a separational word, referring to a thing that can no longer be reduced any further.

Looking forward to lecture 4!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth as it is in heave

Last night was Dr Gerald Bray's second lecture, focusing on the second part of the Lord's Prayer. Again, it was an engaging, thoughtful and pastorally sensitive call to obedience as we explored the nature of God's kingdom and his will. I was particularly struck when he said 'the spiritual battlefield starts in our own hearts and lives.' As he spoke about Jesus' task on earth, he reminded us that he came not to esablish a new empire that is of this world, but rather to bring in a totally new kingdom - he overthrows Satan's kingdom in one afternoon, where on the cross he becomes sin for us, destroying sin and the power of sin in one move. the stark challenge for us is whether we will seek after the praise and glory of this world, or whether we will listen to God's word and believe that he has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise and seek after the heavenly kingdom.

There were a few interesting thoughts to ponder further. Dr Bray put forward the view that when Jesus descended to the dead that he preached to the dead, and seemed to imply that there were people who were converted by his preaching and rose to heaven with him. I have heard this before (ie it is not novel and draws on 1/2 Peter) but I'm not quite sure what I think of it.

The second thing that came out again was the dual natures of Jesus. In reflecting on the need for God's will to be done, Dr Bray indicated that while God does not have 2 wills, that Jesus did - one according to his divine nature and one according to his human nature. He was conscious of not being Nestorian at this point and sought to hold the two together by way of the single person of Christ. While this one person has two natures, the natures do not exist separate of the person. Thus he argued that at Gethsemane Jesus according to his human nature expressed the very natural human will to live, but in submission to his Father's will learnt obedience and chose to die. it was only by surrendering that he learnt obedience. This for me raised another set of questions that we did not get to explore which goes to the nature of the Father/Son relationship in eternity. Is it necessary to have a contrary will and submit to that will to learn obedience? Was not the eternal son always obedient to the Father, but virtue of their relationship? Is there not something about the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son that made it entirely appropriate and for the Son to come and submit in obedience to the Father here on earth? Is this not the way that we can truly have access to the Father, because what the Son reveals to us in the economy is true of his very nature?

Lots to ponder, be encouraged by.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Our Father ...

Last night was the first of the Annual Moore College Lectures (AMCL) for 2006. Dr Gerald Bray is delivering five talks on the theology of the Lord's Prayer. For more details, click here

Last night he spoke on the first clause of the prayer 'Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name' and delivered a clear, pastorally sensitive and encouraging message that taught us about the nature of prayer and particularly the nature of the God whom we address as Father.

He helpfully observed that the Lord's prayer was not a mantra for us to repeat over and over, but was a pattern to be followed and adapted. It's simplicity belies the depth of theology contained within it.

He reflected on the difference between God and humanity. While Jesus invites us to share with him and enter into his relationship with the Father by addressing him as 'Our Father' we remain different to God. We do not naturally share in God's nature. While we are in God's image, this refers not to our sharing of God's nature (something that only the Son and the Spirit share) but to our personhood. Bray argued that we image God in our ability to create and sustain relationships with others. These relationships exist at a horizontal level, with other persons and at a vertical level with God himself. Our relationship with the Father is not contractual, but familial. To pray 'Our Father' is to confess the trinity and obtain access into the divine being. There was much to mull over and be encouraged by.

Much discussion was generated about the transcendence and imminence of God. If God is wholly other, and different to us, how can we relate to him? How can this wholly other God come into the world and what light does the incarnation shed on our understanding?

Dr Bray's answers to these questions reminded me of some of the discussions we had in Doctrine of God classes at Oak Hill as we grappled with the humanity and divinity of Jesus. If I understood correctly, he observed that we must remember that on the cross Jesus died according to his human nature, thus we can say in one sense that 'God died on the cross' but we must remember that it was the son who died and not the father (we are not patri-passianists ). I think he tried to tie together the dual nature of the son by saying that we must remember that it is Jesus' divine nature that is in control of all things and sustains the world - and thus remains in control of his human nature. I'll be interested to see how he develops this further in the later lectures.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why I love Sydney

I've been home for 3 weeks now, and last Friday was reminded of some of the reasons why I love Sydney.

On Friday morning I rolled out of bed at 5.45am asking myself why??? Why do I persist in trying to get in to Newtown by 6.15am for a before class run? But as I dragged myself into my runners and into the car to make the 12km journey in from Gladesville, found a park on Carillion Avenue and jogged up Little Queen St at 6.14am I was beginning to think it was maybe not such a crazy idea. And when the others agreed that we could do a long, slow run down the back of Pyrmont, through Darling Harbour, into the city a bit then back up to Newtown via Chippendale, I knew it was going to be a good day. I think I am definitely a little faster than when I left and being able to run away from the cars with a view of Sydney Harbour is fantastic.

Listening to 4 of my year present their Issues Papers was also a real treat. Great to see the hard work they had put in and their clarity of thought - lots of encouraging 'this paper is moving in the right direction' from our lecturers commenting on them. I'm so excited to see where God will use my classmates to grow His kingdom next year and beyond.

On the way home from college I dropped in at the video store and saw my big brother, Kevin. Lovely to be able to just pop in and see him. We never really managed the whole phone call thing while I was away, so I think I spoke to him twice in six months!

Then on Friday night I joined a group celebrating with 'Lovely Emma' at the Opera Bar. Michelle and I had to get in to the city from Gladesville, so we decided that we would drive the 10 minutes to Woolwich and catch a ferry directly to Circular Quay. Sydney Harbour really is spectacular - I'm not sure I will ever tire of seeing the Harbour Bridge or Opera House. Even Luna Park all lit up is pretty special. Great conversations and catching up with friends topped the night off really.

The only downside was that I forgot to take my camera, so I don't have any pictures of this spectacular city to share!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Created in the image of God

I've been trying to write the first section of my project today, focusing on humanity as created in the image of God and looking at the way that theologians over the years have interpreted what it means to be in the image of God. Here is a summary and some of my thoughts on proposals by W. Sibley Towner in 'Clones of God: Genesis 1:26-28 and the Image of God in the Hebrew Bible' published in Interpretation, October 2005 pages 341-356.

'Can it be that all of us alike - the saints, the sinners, the able, the differently abled, Christians, jihadits, atheists - are in some limited way "clones of Go", who, to those who have eyes to see, display God's likeness? Of course, to speak of a "limited clone" is to use an oxymoron. "Clone" is incorrect. But "image" is exactly the startling theomorphic and indubitably powerful claim of the Bible. Not only angels or demi-gods, not only pharaoh and Caesar, but also every peasant, pauper and person possess the gift of God's image.' (341-2)

W. Sibley Towner identifies some 11 proposals regarding the meaning of image of God in human beings - some of which include: the image being manifested in our ability to make moral decisions, to the unique human capacity for self transcendence, to the image consisting precisely in the division of humankind into male and female.

As an OT scholar, he identifies seven exegetical issues raised by the foundational texts. Many of these I found quite helpful.

1. Location in the text: 'from its position in the overall order of creation on God's sixth and final working day, after the creation of all other land animals, it appears that for the Priestly narrators, humankind is God's crowning work.' (344)
2. Plural subject. According to WST the plural "Let us" (Gen 1:26a, see also Gen 3:22, 11:7) are not a specific reference to the triune God, nor is it a plural of majesty. Rather he argues that 'critical scholarship has settled on the notion of the Divine Council as the best explanation for this unexpected use of the plural by the Creator.'(344) He concludes that the implication of this is that 'whatever it is in human beings that mirrors God mirror the divine realm as a whole.' (344) [I am chasing up his primary sources here, but I was not completely convinced by this point]
3. Adam as a collective concept: He argues that there is a collective sense that inheres in the form of the noun (adam in hebrew rather than the more usual word for man ish). He argues that Gen 1:26-28 conveys a collective sense, particularly given the plural imperative in 1:26b 'let them have dominion' and the remark in v 27c 'male and female he created them'. (345)
4. Significance of male and female - 'The disclosure that both male and female are included in adam have implications that extend in two directions. Intrinsic to both the divine prototype and the human counterpart are fellowship and relationship, though sexuality is not intrinsic in both.
5. Semantics of image (selem) and likeness (demut) - he notes that image is most often used to refer to physical representation, although not in Ps 39:6 and 73:20 where image seems to be a mere semblance of a person. He questions whether the tendency towards physical resemblance in most uses of the term should tilt us towards viewing image as a physical resemblance or whether the two uses in the Psalter are to help us to see that' the imago dei is not a physical thing at all, but some other kind of semblance?'. He notes that likeness generally means resemble, liken, although is more abstract than selem and 'can refer to similarities other than visual ones'. He concludes here that the linkage of image and likeness seems to draw together the physical and a mirror or reflection, such that: 'For those who have eyes to see, something about us is reminiscent of God and the heavenly beings!' (347).
6. Connection with 'dominion' in Gen 1:26b - the third-person imperative 'let them have dominion' defines the role of the newly created adam. 'clearly it means that God is conferring a kingly status upon adam and invites humankind to rule over the rest of the living creatures as God's viceroy.' (347). The syntax demonstrates that the force of the sentence is that we are in God's image so that we can have dominion, not that the image of God consists in having dominion.
7. Sexuality - the text raises the question of the relationship of human sexuality to the divine image - God created adam in the binary form of male and female. WST argues that the text 'strongly implies that sexuality is conferred n humankind as a separate blessing (1:28 and 9:7), as a kind of seperate implementing action.'(348) He goes on 'if we see the image of the divine in the maleness and femaleness of humankind, it is not in their sexual conjunction per se ... "image" is manifested in their very plurality and consequent fellowship.' (347-48)

In the final section, WST addresses some systematic issues, having concluded that Barth's approach, in seeing the image of God expressed precisely in the division of humanity into male and female and its relational emphasis as being the 'best track of any toward understanding and making good contemporary theological use of imago dei.' (349). He argues that Gen 1:26-27 and Gen 5:1-2 and 9:6 point human relationships in three directions:
1 Humans are related to God and the proper response is worship and obedience
2 Humans are related to each other, beginning with the fellowship of male and female, expressed in love and loyalty (possibly sexually)
3 Humans relate to animals, plants and the created world, and have dominion and stewardship over it.

Thus he concludes: 'All biblical anthropology turns out to be theological anthropology, which means that a human is defined by his or her relationship with God and God's other creatures.

The image inhering in use does not make us divine or somehow absorb us into the wholly other God. Primarily, being in the image of God refers to our status as God's friends and partners, created by him and in relationship with him, given the task of ruling over the rest of his creation (351).

The image is not smashed or defaced in the fall so as to change human nature: 'The problem with these antithetical juxtapositions of Gen 3 with Gen 1 is that nothing in either Genesis text suggests that a basic change in human nature, a new anthropology, as it were, could or did occur in the Garden.' (351). Indeed he speaks of the image of God as being an inalienable gift.

'If "image" is an innate propensity toward relationship, that capacity would, in the priestly view, presumably always be resent from childhood to maturity as a fundamental element of biblical anthropology.' (352). Thus we can speak of being conformed to the likeness of Christ and a sense of development in the life of the Christian as they more fully live out who they are made to be as humanity in relationship with God.

The concept of 'image of God' presents a high view of humanity, for they alone are the ones who are not only created by God but also invited into a personal relationship with him, a relationship that enables them to exercise rule on earth (354).

Overall I found much of what WST said helpful and insightful, particularly the recognition that the syntax of Gen 1 pushes towards an understanding of image as a relational concept and hat dominion over the earth and other creatures is an expression of that image rather than consisting of the image itself.

Particularly challenging is the role that the fall plays in our understanding of humanity. I'm still processing what the fall means. I think the implications of WST's presentation is that that the image is not defaced or destroyed because our capacity for relationship to God still exists.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Which muppet are you?

For some light relief, have a look at this quick test and reveal which muppet you are. I've always loved the muppets, and Miss Piggy was my favourite.

You Are Miss Piggy

A total princess and diva, you're totally in charge - even if people don't know it.
You want to be loved, adored, and worshiped. And you won't settle for anything less.
You're going to be a total star, and you won't let any of the "little people" get in your way.
Just remember, piggy, never eat more than you can lift!