Archive for May, 2012

A hendiadys (hen-DAHY-uh-dis) is simply a grammatical construction where two words linked by a conjunction express a single complex idea; such as “sound and fury”. In fact, the word itself is a hendiadys as the literal Greek is “one through two”. There are many such constructions in the Bible, sometimes even incorporating a third word. Neither word is dissolved in the other, as the picture they provide is greater than the sum of its parts. Words themselves can form a community with a bigger vision for life.

Grace and Peace

It’s been said that some of Jesus’ best teachings were not told, as much as lived out. This real life dynamic exists in Paul’s classic salutation of “grace and peace”. Linguistically, it is not a hendiadys, because Paul takes the words from two different languages. At least initially, the phrase is not a stock expression in any culture. His reason for doing this was straightforward. As the early Christian Church grew rapidly, it quickly went from being a marginalized Jewish sect to a faith that crossed all cultural barriers. The common language for the Roman Empire at the time was Greek. The common Greek greeting was “charis” or “grace”. The common Hebrew greeting, of course, is “shalom” or “peace”.

The resulting idea was much like that of a hendiadys, but in ethnic terms. Paul’s greeting reflected that the Church was something much bigger than law abiding Jews on one side and pagan Greeks on the other. Paul now taught that they were all “one body in Jesus Christ.” In time this salutation would become Paul’s standard greeting. The dynamic is further intensified by the fact that both words have a passive and an active sense in how they benefit the individual and the community: (more…)

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Reading has long been important to me especially when it comes to theology. We need to see other views across various times and viewpoints to more fully appreciate the majesty of God. Unfortunately, time and motivation have come harder for me since my transition from InterVarsity which encouraged reading as part of the job. Even the ability to finish a thin book has been elusive.

So, of course, I jumped right in this Christmas by asking for an infamously voluminous set of theological tomes known as the Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. The main content is in the first 13 volumes containing over 6 million words. There is also a 14th volume for a Scripture index to connect every reference to specific verses in the set. It’s often noted that he died while writing the last fragment of a volume. So, it was, indeed, intended to be even longer!

I have long appreciated the work of Barth, especially after reading Dogmatics in Outline which follows the structure of The Apostles’ Creed. He is also know for writing the Barmen Declaration which was written in opposition to liberal theologians who pledged support to Adolph Hitler. My more recent inspiration came from reading the blog “Storied Theology” by Daniel Kirk which reviews readings of the Church Dogmatics according to a schedule.

Last year, Kirk read through the first two volumes on “The Word of God”. I am jumping in on year two with volume II.1 about “The Doctrine of God”. The entire set is further structured into almost 75 sections. As you can see, I’m starting with Section 25 and will look to give a few highlights each time I finish one. Fortunately, you can start just about anywhere in Church Dogmatics as every part references the others in some way.

One of the great things about Barth’s writing generally is that he starts each section with a concentrated statement summarizing everything he is about to say. Section 25 begins as follow:

“The knowledge of God occurs in the fulfilment of the revelation of His Word by the Holy Spirit, and therefore in the reality and with the necessity of faith and its obedience. Its content is the existence of Him whom we must fear above all things because we may love Him above all things; who remains a mystery to us because He Himself has made Himself so clear and certain to us.” –Karl Barth (CD II.1, p.3)


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So let me introduce you to Perichoretic Theosis!

Early Christians wrestled to find language that would describe their experience of the triune God working in Christ through the Spirit. Quite often they would chose a word with weak meaning and fill it, or create an entirely new word.

One such word creation was “perichoresis” which quite literally means “to dance around”. Early theologians wished to convey that the Father and the Son and the Spirit not only embrace each other; but also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, and yet also eternally one in the intimacy of their relationship.

So what contribution does “theosis” add to the mix?

Greek Orthodox Christians use the word “theosis” to describe our spiritual pilgrimage. From the moment of baptism, the goal is to continually draw nearer to God throughout our lives participating in the life of the Spirit. This process is also sometimes referred to as “deification” in which we seek to become more holy and more “Christ-like” within Jesus Christ. In fact the word Christian means “little Christ”. A well known quote by St. Athanasius reflecting this belief is, “God became man so that we might become gods.”

Faith thinking changes all of life. My goal in writing is to discuss how this same creative intimacy is at work in our theology and daily life. God in Christ through the Spirit calls us (vocation) to join this same dance in an effort to transform our thinking and our lives. His dynamic One-ness creates fresh integrity to be in relationship with Himself, to know ourselves truly, to be at peace with our neighbors, and to understand more of the universe we inhabit beyond what we can see.

These are my reflections with the help of other theologians and guides as part of a collective journey to find signs and parables which tell of Grace and Peace in a land largely obscured by shadows. These are deeper meditations with the goal of holiness.

Please sit with me and add your own reflections along the way.

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