Cardinal Ratzinger on Discipleship of Jesus v. Discipleship of Christ.

Jesus will return!

)Photo credit: Bazstyle | Photography)

I am going to help lead a new class in the fall (if it all works out) on covenant discipleship, from the Wesleyan perspective. I am looking for various quotes and thoughts at the moment. This one…

Well, he was pope for a reason:

This linguistic change reveals a spiritual process with wide implications, namely, the attempt to get behind the Church’s confession of faith and reach the purely historical figure of Jesus. He is no longer to be understood through this confession, but, as it were, in and through himself alone; and thus his achievement and his challenge are to be reinterpreted from scratch. Consequently people no longer speak of following Christ but of following Jesus: for “discipleship of Christ” implies the Church’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, and hence it involves a basic acknowledgment of the Church as the primary form of discipleship. “Discipleship of Jesus”, however, concentrates on the man Jesus who opposes all forms of authority; one of its features is a basically critical attitude to the Church, seen as a sign of its faithfulness to Jesus. This in turn goes beyond Christology and affects soteriology, which must necessarily undergo a similar transformation. Instead of “salvation” we find “liberation” taking pride of place, and the question, “How is the liberating act of Jesus to be mediated?” automatically adopts a critical stance over against the classical doctrine of how man becomes a partaker of grace.

Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology (trans. Graham Harrison; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 14.

Redemption of Life – The Price of Admission in Exodus, Job, and 2 Maccabees

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...

Your life ain’t worth 2 shekels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this interesting. I am currently researching substitution (hint, I don’t think Jesus was classically substituted in Galatians) for my dissertation. These passages all connect for me.

The translations are from the REB.

The Lord said to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites, each man is to give a ransom for his life to the Lord,* to avert plague among them during the registration. As each man crosses over to those already counted he must give half a shekel by the sacred standard at the rate of twenty gerahs to the shekel, as a contribution levied for the Lord. Everyone aged twenty or more who has crossed over to those already counted will give a contribution for the Lord. The rich man will give no more than the half-shekel, and the poor man no less, when you give the contribution for the Lord to make expiation for your lives. The money received from the Israelites for expiation you are to apply to the service of the Tent of Meeting. The expiation for your lives is to be a reminder of the Israelites before the Lord. – Exodus 30.11-16.

Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him,
a mediator between him and God,
to expound God’s righteousness to man
and to secure mortal man his due;*
if he speaks on behalf of him and says,
‘Reprieve* him from going down to the pit;
I have the price of his release’:
then his body will grow sturdier* than it was in his youth;
he will return to the days of his prime. – Job 33.23-25

He levied a contribution from each man, and sent to Jerusalem the total of two thousand silver drachmas to provide a sin-offering*—a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. Had he not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and senseless to pray for the dead; but since he had in view the splendid reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was holy and devout. That was why he offered the atoning sacrifice, to free the dead from their sin. – 2 Macc 12.43-45.

This does not mean I believe we can buy our way into heaven; but at the very least we can two things.

  • a “biblical” model for pre-Reformation indulgences.
  • the hope of redemption by acts, even after death.

St. Ambrose of Milan on the Trinity

And that you may understand it to be said as a mystery and not in reference to the bare number that two are better than one, he adds a mystical saying, A threefold cord is not quickly broken*. For that which is threefold and uncompounded cannot be broken. Thus the Trinity, being of an uncompounded nature, cannot be dissolved; for God is, whatever He is, one and simple and uncompounded; and what He is that He continues to be, and is not brought into subjection.

Ambrose of Milan, The Letters of S. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (trans. H. Walford; A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church; London; Oxford; Cambridge: Oxford; James Parker and Co.; Rivingtons, 1881), 464.

Cardinal Ratzinger on The Trinity as “God is”

God is—and the Christian faith adds: God is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three and one. This is the very heart of Christianity, but it is so often shrouded in a silence born of perplexity. Has the Church perhaps gone one step too far here? Ought we not rather leave something so great and inaccessible as God in his inaccessibility? Can something like the Trinity have any real meaning for us? Well, it is certainly true that the proposition that “God is three and God is one” is and remains the expression of his otherness, which is infinitely greater than we and transcends all our thinking and our existence. But if this proposition had nothing to say to us, it would not have been revealed. And as a matter of fact, it could be clothed in human language only because it had already penetrated human thinking and living to some extent.

Joseph Ratzinger, The God of Jesus Christ: Meditations on the Triune God (trans. Brian McNeil; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 29.

Calling St. Bernard… Or, too many Peters in the Church

Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church o...

Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LVI. But how far does the testimony of Otto of Frisingen tell against the holy Doctor or in favour of Abaelard? He says that “Bernard had a fervent jealousy for the Christian religion, and was credulous from his habitual gentleness of character,” so that he had little love for those Professors who attached too much importance to their human reasonings and their worldly wisdom, “and if anything was reported of such persons which seemed to show that they were out of harmony with the Christian faith, he listened willingly to it” (Otto, B. i. c. 47). But this judgment is rather praise than blame for the holy Doctor, since there is nothing more in the duty of a Catholic Doctor than to repress as soon as possible men of that class, who attach too much value to their philosophical reasonings, especially when they devise new terms of philosophy, which may easily lead into error incautious persons. I may adopt the words of William, that “the excess of zeal which is blamed in him will be itself praiseworthy to pious minds … happy is he to whom the only crime which can be imputed is that which others are accustomed to consider as doing them honour” (Life, B. i. 41). But Otto himself, although he favours Abaelard, yet acknowledges that he had weakened too much the distinctions between the Three Persons of the holy Trinity, not having followed good precedents, “and that because of this he was considered a Sabellian heretic in the provincial synod of Soissons.” How then can it be wondered at, if repeating the same errors a second time he was regarded with extreme suspicion by lovers of the orthodox faith?

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Life and Works of Saint Bernard (ed. John Mabillon; trans. Samuel J. Eales; vol. 1, Second Edition.; London; New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Burns & Oates Limited; Benziger Brothers, 1889), 50–51.

St. Bonaventure on the Unity and Plurality of the Trinity

Saint Bonaventure

Saint Bonaventure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Concerning the plurality of Persons within the unity of nature, true faith bids us believe that, in the one nature, there are three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The First does not originate from any of the others; the Second originates from the First alone through generation; and the Third, from both the First and the Second through spiration or procession. And yet, Trinity of Persons does not exclude from the divine essence a supreme unity, simplicity, immensity, eternity, immutability, necessity, or even primacy; more, it includes supreme fecundity, love, generosity, equality, kinship, likeness, and inseparability; all of which sound faith understands to exist in the blessed Trinity.

Saint Bonaventure, Breviloquium (trans. José De Vinck; vol. 2; The Works of Bonaventure: Cardinal Seraphic Doctor and Saint; Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1963), 35.

This godly Saint also declared Theology the only perfect science,

And so theology is the only perfect science, for it begins at the beginning, which is the first Principle, and proceeds to the end, which is the final wages paid; it begins with the summit, which is God most high, the Creator of all, and reaches even to the abyss, which is the torment of hell.

I can allow that if we understand that science of the physical world is imperfect not to its detriment but because we are human, ever seeking, ever curious, and not always knowing.

Oh God, you devil – the overly simplistic god

I found this floating by on Facebook…

god is a not a liberal

Here was my answer in reply:

  • Vengeful – Deuteronomy 32.35, 1 Samuel 15.3.
  • Temperamental – Exodus 32.10
  • Blood thirsty – 1 Sam 15.3, the Book of Joshua and Judges
  • Bible thumping – Exodus 19.5, the Torah. All the times he says obey my book/commands/law
  • Male – Jeremiah where he laments the divorce from his wives, Israel and Judah
  • Barbaric – Um, Joshua, Judges.
  • Genie in the Sky – John 14.13-14

The problem with this view of God, or any view, really, is that it tends to overly simplify what is by far the most complex _____. There is simply no way to finish that sentence because God is not in our universe and not in our world. To simplify God, then, into human traits such as the ones listed in both lists, is to do a grave injustice not only to that which we seek to name but so too ourselves.

This simplicity is detrimental to our faith because when we realize we were wrong, or not all right, we are going to get rocked.

If you are basing your view of God on Jewish and Christian Scripture — you have to be honest with it and yourself. You have to acknowledge that the reason we have people like Marcion is because people saw a vast difference between the two testaments (unjustly). So why try to force our view, if it is really Scriptural, to into one pattern.

Wouldn’t it be better to say, “I don’t know?” sometimes.

Again, this is why apophatic theology draws me.

Augustine on Schism

Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique

Saint Augustin et Sainte Monique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world. Let us seek after good days, for we are now in evil days; but in the evil days let us not blaspheme, that so we may be able to arrive at the good days.

via CHURCH FATHERS: Sermon 23 on the New Testament (Augustine).

did jesus kill himself (or, maybe, have himself killed)?

The Death of Jesus

The Death of Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jerad and Amanda Miller, the two who ambushed and killed two on-duty (and on lunch) police officers over the weekend are said to have had a death wish. I think this is abundantly clear. But, so do some martyrs (suicide bombers are on an entirely different scale). If you look at the letters of Ignatius of Antioch, you will get the real sense that man desired nothing more than to die.

But, what about Jesus? Famously, some liberal theologians suggest Jesus only submitted to the cross after his example was wasted on the folk. Or, some suggest he was the first martyr. Neither of this, I think, does justice to what I am going to propose in my new dissertation.

If we allow for the moment that devotio means, in its simplest form, “self-sacrifice,” then we can allow for an exploration of suicide as a form of devotio even if the proper term is not used.[1] With this in mind, we turn to two authors, one making use of the other. Jack Miles, in his seminal work, Christ, a Crisis in the Life of God, posits the death of Jesus as a suicide. In his story, God has abandoned Israel and as such, remembers that he must honor his promise. To do so, God becomes human in the person of Christ.[2] Miles uses Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzat’s work, “Le suicide du Christ: Une theologie,” to buffer his work. In this work, Dauzet calls attention to the text, specifically the Gospel of John, and the early interpretation to show that the death of Jesus as a suicide is allowable. But, he goes further. Dauzet states, “The idea of the suicide of Christ will have been, before all else, a Christian if not indeed a Christological idea.”[3]

What if the death of Jesus was by his own choosing? I don’t mean the “Jesus loved us this much he died for us.” No, I mean, Jesus said, “The only way to renew this covenant and force God to act is to for me to die. I have to die.” In working on this, I am left to focus on suicides today as well as those who have themselves killed (death by cop). I am also worried that this line of thinking is making me a more conservative theologian (or theology guy). I mean, it is getting brutal in my head. I also contend that if Jesus did in fact seek to kill himself in such a manner then it is possible, almost required, that the earliest Christology was pretty high, that Paul didn’t invent as much theology as we’d like to think, among other things I’m not ready to put into words yet.


[1] The term “suicide” is a relatively new concept; the idea of a taking one’s life for issues not related to honor, or any of the other ancient reasons, is even newer. However, I believe the anachronistic term is best and will be used periodically given it’s emotional charge and his direct connotation of free will.

[2] Jack Miles, Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God. (Vintage, 2002).

[3] Miles, Christ, A Crisis in the Life of God,, 164–67.See, Pierre-Emmanuel Dauzet, Le suicide du Christ: Une theologie (Perspectives critiques), (Presses universitaires de France, 1998).

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Farewell, N.T. Wright – Or, can we have him back from the American Evangelicals now?

My book on scripture’s authority, Scripture and the Authority of God, makes clear where I stand. I take the whole of scripture utterly seriously, and I regret that many who call themselves “inerrantists” manage to avoid the real challenge at its heart, that is, Jesus’ announcing that in and through his work God really was “becoming king” over the world in a whole new way. So I don’t call myself an “inerrantist” (a) because that word means what it means within a modernist rationalism, which I reject and (b) because it seems to me to have failed in delivering a full-blooded reading and living of what the Bible actually says. It may have had a limited usefulness as a label against certain types of “modernist” denial, but it buys into at least half of the rationalist worldview which was the real problem all along.

via N.T. Wright on the Bible and why he won’t call himself an inerrantist | On Faith & Culture.

He’s said this before — numerous places; however, it is nice to see him affirming it again. Read the whole interview.