Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Ecce Homo!"

"Behold the Man" - The Man of Ages.


Kierkegaard said "... faith cannot be distilled from even the nicest accuracy of (historical) detail. The historical (claim) that God existed in human form is the essence of the matter ..." "If the contemporary generation (with Jesus) had left nothing behind them but these words: We have believed ... God appeared among us in the humble figure of a servant, that he lived and taught in our community, and finally died,' it would be more than enough (for faith)."



Jaroslav Pelikan has this inspirational statement, " If Christ is risen, then nothing else matters ..."


The gospel narrative provides the solution to the human dilemma not by answering the questions of faith and belief, but, by placing the emphasis upon the Author of life, squarely and forcefully facing man with the implications of life lived apart from fellowship with God and the fear which natural conscience affirms in standing against God. The gospel brings us face-to-face with the Man, Jesus.


"... the eternal transforms the meaning of history, it must break the immanent frame, not be an element in it ... a man hanging on a cross does not look like a Messiah, or a Son of God, ..."


Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except by me.'
Acts 4:12, "... nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
Acts 5:31, "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins."


Salvation implies a variety of meanings from sickness; sin; political oppression; divine judgement; storms; the commonality in all is the essence of a renewed opportunity free from the dangers or limitations of the previous existence. It is a rescue from a prior impoverished state to an improved quality of life, perhaps one envisioned, perhaps exceeding anything previously thought. These interventions in personal and corporate life have historical implications, meaning they become a part of the narrative of life and subsequently are embedded in our own personal story.


Salvation requires the intersection in life of an event or person which changes the course of history either personally or corporately. The plight of the powerless, the pushed around, beaten down, ignored, abused and crushed have need of a champion. The appearance of that champion creates meaning, brings to light the absence of freedom, the dire need for salvation from whatever state of life exists, provides the purpose of life with a center from which a decision is required:
-to accept the reality that the champion was needed in order to restore freedom;
-to understand that the appearance of the champion created in history a moment of meaning demanding a concrete decision to accept the value of salvation or reject the historical imperative created and continue existence in arbitrariness; and
-to accept that this interpretation of the historical appearance of the champion requires faith, believing there is a victory of meaning over meaningless. This "center of history gives meaning to history only if it overcomes simultaneously the threat of meaningless, or if it is the point where salvation manifests itself as the content of history."

Every man has a story, a narrative, this is suggested by a man's power to realize in his mind what meaning means and have the discernment and natural powers to affect that meaning by seeking purpose and significance in life. Every man is born free and has as a necessity of being the power to elevate himself to meaning. "It is a necessary implication of freedom that it can become actual only in the decision between good and evil."

*It is at this point we come to the question, 'What is good?'
The cyclical aspect of the discussion is pointedly obvious at this juncture and it seems very simplistic to state that it is the appearance of the champion, the historical reference to salvation which concludes the matter.

1 Cor:15:12.17,19, "If Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead ... and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins ... if for this life only we have hope in Christ, then of all men we are the most miserable and pitied." "... no one knows the outcome of these decisions they imply an element of belief, of hope and daring which cannot be replaced by rational conclusion." Following Christ has left many suffering personal persecution, ostracism, poverty, with very few tangible benefits.
"When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."... "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk?, but that you may know that the Son of Man has power on Earth to forgive sins" -- He said to the paralytic, "... arise take up your bed ..."

Human life is a state of suffering. "What is sin but a deplorable fall, a grovelling on the Earth, a repose in the creature, often followed by a universal palsy of the soul; namely, an utter inability to help itself, to break off its evil habits, to walk in the ways of God, to rise or take one good step towards Him? Grace can repair all in a moment: because it is nothing but the almighty will of God, Who commands and does whatever He commands." Prosper

Christianity flaunts in the face of man by showing not only the demand or the need for salvation, but the fulfillment of that salvation, the requisite need supplied without the asking. In doing so it vaunts itself above our human rational by proclaiming a meaningful reality which exists in history, independent of our inquiry.
Its claim is the existence of God and a plan for salvation exclusive of human thought and understanding. It is an offering of grace the " ... exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, not anything of ourselves, it is a gift of God, ..." Meaning is found and encapsulated in a person Jesus Christ and in spite of all human rationale and understanding it is the only path to God.
'Only a meaningful reality can give meaning to history. History is constituted by the appearance of an unconditioned meaning not as demand but as existent, not as an idea but as the temporal and paradoxical anticipation of the ultimate perfection. Christ is a sacramental reality, a reality in which the holy is grace and present, not only demand and future. Therefore He is not only prophet and proclaimer of an unconditioned meaning. His prophecy and proclamation is the expression of His existence. That gives Him the power and authority, which can never be derived either from His theoretical knowledge or from His prophetic inspiration, but can be proved only through a faculty of making people participate in His powerful existence. The ... task is to make visible the reality ... by pointing to its power of giving meaning to our existence and of overcoming the threat of meaninglessness."

" ... that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance, .. and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power ..."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
"The point is that an eternal difference in a historically mediated understanding of truth would have to be by way of transforming the meaning of history itself."

Eternity cannot be sequenced the way time can: T1, T2, T3, etc. Therefore, the relationship of a temporal sequence to eternity is of the entire sequence to eternity (otherwise eternity would have to be considered to have changed with respect to some point in the sequence, which implies temporality, not eternity). For that reason any eternal meaning must be applied to all of time, and if it is believed to have been revealed at a particular time, it must be a revelation that changes the meaning of all time without prefering the point of view of any particular historical perspective.

I want to start with this "negative criterion" in teaching young people about the meaning of faith for three reasons. First, it makes the subtraction story incoherent as told against faith. Second, it eliminates the worldview nonsense that takes the intellectual framework of the ancient world and makes it part of a so-called "biblical worldview." And third--and most important--it highlights the gospel narrative's transformative application to all of history: The Son of
God hanging on a cross contradicts our understanding of God; the resurrection replaces it with a transformed understanding.

I like to thing of the implication of this for prayer: if God hears and answers prayer, he must take our temporal point of view and use it in eternity to transform his entire plane for history. From this point of view the free will--soverienty question becomes meaningless: we interact with Eternity.