Sunday, June 26, 2011

Princeton Barth-Aquinas Conference: Recap part 2

Well, it looks like all of my recap of the Barth conference is really going to be retrospective.  You can find great overviews of the whole conference covered between Travis' blog and Nathan's blog.  Like the first part, I'm going to aim for theological recap with some evaluation.

The second set of speakers on Monday were nominally presenting de trinitate.  First up was Guy Mansini, OSB.  Fr. Mansini wanted us to be clear at the start about his monastic vocation, perhaps because he wore clerics rather than his Benedictine habit.  (The Dominicans in habit were quite self-evidently monastic.)  And it was quite relevant for his analysis of humility and obedience in the second person of the trinity.  Using the Rule as a means of demonstrating humility and obedience (and creating and enforcing it -- quite a bit of coverage of the function of the Rule as a practical social means), Fr. Mansini approached the question of Christ's subordination to the Father.  He opened with a paraphrase of a passage on repentance in Lewis' Mere Christianity:
In fact, it needs to be a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it. (57)
God can share only what God has, and repentance God has not -- so God needed to take on human nature.  The moderns, of course, find Lewis naïve; it is too superficial to say that there is no such thing as divine repentance or divine suffering.  [Here, of course, is the debate on impassibility.  And perhaps the Fathers are naïve, but perhaps they simply have other epistemological commitments than we do.  Augustine is quite sophisticated, as were Plato and Aristotle.]  At any rate, Fr. Mansini sets up the typology between a view of God as lacking human nature, and an integral view of the humanity of God.  And attempts to stand between them.

In the meantime, gospel thoughts.

It looks like all the rest of my conference recap will be retrospective at this point -- getting home and returning to the pile of delayed work always does this.  Part 2 is in the pipe, but for the moment, some thoughts on this morning's gospel and the inevitable theme of "welcoming."

Mt 10:40-42, kind of stiffly: "The one accepting/receiving you, accepts/receives me, and the one accepting/receiving me accepts/receives the one having sent me.  The one accepting/receiving a prophet for the prophet's name gains the wage of the prophet, and the one accepting/receiving a just (person) for the just (person)'s name gains the wage of the just.  And whoever shall draw a draught of cold (water) for one of the least of these merely for the disciple's name, truly I tell you, shall by no means lose the disciple's wage."

What is the onoma?  I've translated eis as purpose, such that it is the fact that the person is called what they are called that is the basis for reception and acceptance.  But onoma here is not the person's name, as Peter is called Peter and I am called Matthew.  It is the person's calling, as the potter is called Potter and the drawer of water is called Wassermann.  And for the names which are here -- prophet, just/righteous, disciple -- it would seem that these are also callings.  Vocations, names invoked upon us.  Vocations, considered in terms of what we therefore do -- the opposite of calling a potter, "Potter."  A prophet is called by God, or she is no prophet at all.  A just person is just, as we must understand in Christ, because of an external criterion of righteousness.  A disciple is so because of the teacher.  And correspondingly, these are missions.  All right, I admit, I have some trouble with dikaios in this scheme -- but we are called to be it, regardless.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Princeton Barth-Aquinas Conference: Recap part 1

I don't tend to do the "event coverage recap" genre here, but I have to deal with my handwritten notes somehow, so here we go.  I'm at the Princeton Barth Conference this year, and the topic this year is an ecumenical convergence of Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas.  Each day has been divided into two two-lecture sessions: one by a Protestant Barthian, and one by a Catholic Thomist.  And honestly, it continues to feel like the Barthians have the home court advantage.

First up, on the nature of God, were Robert Jenson and Richard Schenk, OP.  And honestly,  Jenson blew me away, so I'm going to spend most of my time on him for this piece.  Jenson's has so far been the most on-target of the lectures, in terms of fitting the topic assigned.  I had gotten my lectures out of order, and initially expected him on Trinity, but this way we were only subjected to a few recitations of "The name of God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit."  It was a seated, profoundly conversational lecture.  And conversationally profound, if I can flip that around.  Having taken a hiatus from Barth, Jenson had to pick up Barth fresh, and re-learn him.  It seems that after a while, Barth doesn't say the same things you remember him saying.  And so, with the caveat that "discoursing on God's being is perilous," he dove into CD II.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sin, disapproval, and John 20:23

Reading Drawn to Freedom, I'm struck by the clarity of the understanding of sin. That, and how pale in comparison are those 'sins' which are merely sinful because we disapprove of them. Sin is sin, not because there are rules that oppose a thing, but because it authentically causes misery. It does us harm. It is defined by our painful distance from God. In Paul's terms, it is even personified as that power that rules over us, but from whose service we are liberated into the service of God in Christ under the Spirit.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The church and the dynamic of salvation, II: mission?

So, having written the last post, I'm left wondering what it does to mission:
The church has no necessary participation in the economy of salvation.  I wish to be clear: the church is not a necessity in the relationship between God and creation.  The communion of the people of God is a consequence of salvation.  It is a result, by no means an ordained one, and in no way a mediation.  It is, on the other hand, a key place in which we act out our being-in-the-dynamic-of-salvation.  It is, at its best, the place par excellence of that mode of being, the place designed by and for that mode of being in preference over all others.  As such, it is the place of the sacraments.  As such, it is the place of the gospel.  It is the place in which we participate in God's given means of grace because of salvation already achieved in Christ and being acted out under the Spirit.  It is the exemplary realm of ethical being-in-the-world on the basis of being-in-the-dynamic-of-salvation.  Or at least, it can be.
Mission is ethical being in the world, being under the command of God and the Spirit of God as a result of salvation.  As such, it is also a consequence of salvation -- but I would rank it as prior to the church/communion of the people of God.  I want to say that salvation creates missionary obedience creates koinonia partnership.

And yet it is clear from scripture that koinonia may precede conversion -- and that whole communities may become missional as they become aware of their salvation in Christ.  I do not say, "as they become saved" -- because that happened already, whether it is acknowledged or not in the present.  But as I say that, I'm not sure that the nature of the word koinonia describes what survives the change in intentional community.  If the intentionality of the community changes, it then has a new nature as community, and is a new koinonia, a new communion.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The church and the dynamic of salvation

The church has no necessary participation in the economy of salvation.  I wish to be clear: the church is not a necessity in the relationship between God and creation.  The communion of the people of God is a consequence of salvation.  It is a result, by no means an ordained one, and in no way a mediation.  It is, on the other hand, a key place in which we act out our being-in-the-dynamic-of-salvation.  It is, at its best, the place par excellence of that mode of being, the place designed by and for that mode of being in preference over all others.  As such, it is the place of the sacraments.  As such, it is the place of the gospel.  It is the place in which we participate in God's given means of grace because of salvation already achieved in Christ and being acted out under the Spirit.  It is the exemplary realm of ethical being-in-the-world on the basis of being-in-the-dynamic-of-salvation.  Or at least, it can be.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Text as Codec in Oral Culture

While I do some copy-editing on several essays by Joanna Dewey, I'm struck by the ways that texts actually functioned, and analogies that fit their oral-culture role better than the modern concept of the text.  And the one that best appears to me is text-as-codec.  An auditory event is recorded, encoded, conveyed, decoded and performed elsewhere as an auditory event.  Nobody reads an MP3 file as text, unless they're using it for audio steganography.  Likewise with a JPEG file, only for visual images -- those of us who are old enough to remember when mail clients used to accidentally inline the "text" of a JPEG attachment will understand.