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Posts Tagged ‘word’

(For context, see “Are You My Mother?” and “The Visible Word”.)

Genesis 1:1-5
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

As a kid who grew up aspiring to be an astronomer with a conservative Evangelical background that emphasized creationism over evolution, I couldn’t see this passage any other way. These verses had one theological purpose to emphasize whatever scientific explanations may exist about Big Bang or other alternatives: God did it! Plain and simple. These verses were about how God created the Universe.

So I was a bit surprised a few years ago when a speaker used this and the first chapter of John as his starting point to talk about art. His goal in conversation with Evangelicals who are used to emphasizing “Word” over “Light” was that the two were not just congruent, but intimately related. Here I was seeing the artistic equivalent unfold to what I knew already from Thomas Torrance’s teachings about science. (more…)

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John 1:1-5
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Shedding Light on the Old, Old Story
Most people when starting a discussion about science and faith start with Genesis. That makes sense since it is a book about beginnings of Creation and culture. But John reinterprets all of that and then some. In five short sentences, he renews the whole story of Scripture.

We know from Genesis that God created by His own Word. “Light be. Light was.” From John, we learn that the Son of God was that Word. That Word created all things and has now “moved into the neighborhood” (The Message by Eugene Peterson). The Word is not just heard, HE is visibly and even tangibly revealed to us.

In Genesis, we also learn of the beginnings of humanity, sin and death. The Word has provided light for all people and now reveals Himself personally. He is Light that will not be extingished, but will overcome all darkness including our self-willed ignorance.

A Better Light to Read By
Dr. Carl Sagan begins his book Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark with the inscription of a Jewish proverb. “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” As the subtitle explicitly states, for Dr. Sagan, science is that savior that will overcome all means of ignorance including religion. (more…)

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In my third year of InterVarsity staff, the New York / New Jersey region required all new staff to finish their three-year training by developing a thesis of sorts. This study would then be the basis of a specialty for speaking to students on campus. Most picked typical themes for a general college audience such as multi-ethnicity, social justice, and gender roles. The work of my colleagues represented everything that made me proud to be part of InterVarsity.

Given my background in science, I thought it important to use my experience to further discussion of these issues. Dr. Sagan’s basic premise for critical thinking and how we learn was outlined in Demon Haunted World as being “wonder” and “skepticism”. This epistemolgy (how we know what is true) was deliberately meant to image “chance” and “necessity” as basic to his evolutionary understanding of science and the nature of the “Cosmos”.

Previously, I had read dozens of books across the spectrum of Christian understanding. It was a tortuous process in which I rejected view after view for various reasons. Finally, through this project, I would find a theologian who made sense of the science and faith chaos for me. But more on that in a moment… (more…)

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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)

(more…)

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