History, Theology, and Exegesis

Recent posts by Phil Snider, Phil Sumpter, and Nick Norelli raise a number of important questions on the issue of moving from historical(-critical) approaches to theological approaches in Biblical interpretation. Asking such questions is both useful and necessary, because as Christopher Seitz has rightly said, “the area calling out for greatest clarity, at least in the guild of biblical scholarship, is just what is meant by the turn to theological interpretation1. I’m afraid that, as is so often the case, a number of those currently heading in that direction are doing so more on account of faddism than anything else.

In working through some of these questions, I have found the following paper by Adela Yarbro Collins to be most helpful in that it aids the reader to think methodically through a veritable maze of options:

Apocalypticism and New Testament Theology
(Presidential Address delivered to the New England Region
of the Society of Biblical Literature, 22 April 2005.)

In her conclusion, the divine Adela states:

“Theological warrants should never be used to justify historical claims. Those, however, who aim at a theological interpretation need not, and probably should not, begin with the results of historical analysis of the texts. What is needed is a wholistic approach that construes the text in terms of the interpreter’s philosophical and theological premises or in terms of whatever conceptual framework takes the place of such premises. Theological interpretations that avoid contradicting the results of historical study, however, are likely to be more persuasive than those that do.”

Working one’s way up to this last paragraph is enormously satisfying, and I wholeheartedly recommend this piece to all interested in exploring the intersection of historical study and theological interpretation.

Every bit as demanding as Collins’ paper (and therefore also every bit as satisfying) is Richard Muller’s discussion under the headings “History, Canon and Criticism,” “The Old Testament,” “The New Testament,” and “Biblical Theology” in chapter 2 of his masterful book, The Study of Theology: From Biblical Interpretation to Contemporary Formulation (Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation 7; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), pages 62-96. There is much more to unpack in these 34 pages by a “dabbler at best” (p. 17) in Old and New Testament studies than in far more ambitious works by specialist in those fields. [N.B.: Muller’s book is also available in the very sensibly priced one-volume edition of this series: Moisés Silva (ed.), Foundations of Contemporary Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996).]

Happy reading!

1 Christopher R. Seitz, “The Canonical Approach and Biblical Interpretation,” in Craig G. Bartholomew et al. (eds.), Canon and Biblical Interpretation, Scripture and Hermeneutics Series, vol. 7 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 104.

22 responses to “History, Theology, and Exegesis

  1. A very happy birthday!

    And, for what it’s worth, I have occasionally thought that it would be very interesting to be a fly on the wall while you and Kevin discuss issues of historicity and theology… or perhaps not, as the case may be?!


  2. Thanks all for the birthday greetings!

    Sr. Macrina> I imagine it would be fascinating because, well, it would involve Kevin's discussion of the subject, but I'm afraid it's not possible at present, since Mr Edgecomb and I are not on speaking terms on account of his gratuitous slight of the divine Adela. ;-)


  3. Christopher Seitz has actually been quoted on the blogosphere! Amazing! Esteban, you have just made my day!

    I posted on Seitz’s handling of the question of just what is involved in theological heremeutics in my post on The theological crisis of biblical criticsm. In think his statements there formulate the crux of the problem. It’s all about the relation between the testaments!

    And though you have gifted me with a Seitz quote, I should be the one gifting you with a birthday blessing. Happy 30th Stefan! I wish you all the very best for you future studies and, well, life. Keep up your passionate orthodox posting. You’re contributing to dispelling some of the alieness that surrounds orthodoxy for evangelicals like me.


  4. John, thanks for bringing this to my attention! I meant to footnote that but evidently forgot. The bibliographical information now appears in the main body of the post.


  5. John, if there’s anything you ever read by Seitz or even on Childs for that matter, it is this most significant of all essays. Stefan has done the blogosphere and indeed all of humanity an inestimable service in bringing it to our attention. You may want to read the introduction by Anthony Thistleton, which makes a real effort to point out the significance of the diachronic for Childs’ approach (a concern of yours). There is also a gem by Childs himself, in which he gives a “progress report” on the recent study of “canon” in both Anglo-Saxon and German studies. Surprisingly (for me at least), he locates Germany as the site for the future of “canonical style” interpretation, as it has not capitualited to the “onslaught of modernity” as the Americans and Brits have.


  6. Stefan,

    Thanks for the reference. I’ve read this essay, but I wasn’t sure where the comment was from. (I might want to quote it sometime, as I have problems with this thing called “theological interpretation”.)


    As I said to Stefan, I’ve read this one. I read most, if not all, of the essays in that volume. I’m still looking for the place, if it exists, where Seitz or Childs makes any reasonable attempt to understand Barr’s critique.


  7. Phil,

    This all goes back to my first post on your blog, exactly one year ago (at http://narrativeandontology.blogspot.com/2007/09/faithful-and-critical-scholarship.html), where I wrote:

    “. . . Barr’s most incisive criticism of Childs is simply this: a canonical hermeneutic is grounded in an alethiology (= “understanding of truth”) of storytime actuality, while the kerygma of the New Testament is grounded in an alethiology of spacetime actuality. These two alethiologies are mutually exclusive, so guess which one a proper Christian should uphold? (This point is so simple, but Childs’s confessional commitments, especially aspects of his bibliology, apparently created a huge blind spot in his reasoning.)”

    As you’ll recall, you and Driver both denied that that was what Barr was saying, but I then pointed out, with direct quotations, that my reading was indeed correct–Childs never understood Barr. (I never heard from Driver again.)

    Of course, whether that is what Barr is saying is secondary in importance. Of primary importance is the critique itself, as I make it in my own name: Childs is working with a “split ontology”: he wants to believe that our redemption is linked to the spacetime actuality of the Christ event (as well he should), yet he simultaneously wants to believe that the truth aspect of Scripture is a matter of storytime actuality.


  8. John,

    this is the bit where my head almost falls on the table and I almost give up … almost. I can simply assert that your “split ontology” is a false dichotomy grounded is some kind of coceptual confusion of your own making. I’m glad you tacitly admit that this may not be Barr’s claim, as to be honest I can’t imagine anyone other than you making it. I’ve never read anyone that says that stories arethe truth in any substantive sense. The closet may be certain emergent church types (and perhaps Lindbeck who I haven’t read), but even they ground their commitment to narrative in a pragmatic understanding of truth (as far as I can tell). They never say or imply that truth is “story-time” in any metaphyscially substantive sense. Whatever the case may be, I’ve posted repeatedly to demonstrate that Childs is commited to external referentiality, along with Seitz and even Hans Frei (the commitment to which is emodied in the name of my blog: narrative and ontology, not “narrative ontology” as some have misquoted it). You have a habit of not responding to those posts of mine. But no matter, John, such is the preciousness of your soul that I will not give up!

    Your phrase “split ontology” has given me true hope, as you use it for the first time and it sheds incredible light on where you are coming from. As I have said in the course of our debate, our difference is in the nature or “substance” of the gospel. Mine is apocalypitc and eschatological, it involves the inbreaking of a dimension of reality incomprehensible to human categories, a reality that lives in dialectical tension with what we know. Call it the touching of heaven and earth. I hope that you agree that talk of “space-time reality” runs out of currency once we start talking about “Heaven,” surely … ? Such a reality requires various genres in order to try and communicate it, narrative being one of them. The function of narrative is not to constitute truth but provide an adequate vehicle to it.

    What is at stake is a subversion of the Enlightenment understanding of reality itself (including history) to which you seem to have so utterly capitulated that anything else is simply incomprehsible to you (sorry if that sounds harsh, but we’ve been friends now for year [happy anniversary!]). Please, please, read my series of posts on the Bible and the historian. Better, read the book and then give me your feedback.


  9. Phil,

    Let me get this straight: in your view, the truth aspect of Scripture is materially separate from its *meaning*? In the Christian’s implicit call to believe what Scripture claims about the Christ event, is the call based on the truth aspect of Scripture, or rather on its meaning? I would think it perfectly clear that the call in itself requires a correspondence of the one to the other. (The lack of a requirement for meaning to correspond to truth, which postliberals and Childsians are fond of mentioning, applies only to writings that are not religiously authoritative. Calling something “Scripture” implies such a correspondence, because, at least on the terms of the alethiology that underpins the apostolic kerygma, the authoritativeness of what Scripture *means* is tied to the spacetime actuality of its referents. It’s the postliberals and Childsians here who are conceptually confused.)

    When we are called to believe what Scripture claims about the Christ event, doesn’t that call have anything to do with the truth of those claims? Are we supposed to believe Scripture’s claims? If so, why (especially if it has nothing to do with their truth)? Are we supposed to believe things apart from a consideration of their truth? How exactly does the meaning of Scripture (according to Childs’s view) relate to what we are supposed to believe about spacetime actuality of God redeeming us through the Christ event?

    If nobody else spells these things out in my terms, it’s because nobody else bothers to say what’s obvious. In fact, I can hardly believe that I should have to go to the trouble to explain that Scripture’s meaning, if it is to have any sort of confessional moment, is directly tied to the question of its truth aspect, which in turn is tied to the question of the spacetime actuality of its claims.

    I fully understand that literary meaning is separate from the truth of a writing, but the fact that Scripture is canonical for Christians imposes a necessary overlap, in that the authoritativeness of Scripture lies in its propositional aspect. Any attempt to bracket the necessity of that overlap reduces religion to a game. Scripture is authoritative for the Church’s theology because of the religious moment of its spacetime referents. On the terms of the alethiology implicitly invoked by the apostolic kerygma, the meaning of Scripture cannot possibly have any (prescriptive) religious moment apart from its referential aspect.

    BTW, the term “spacetime” does indeed include heaven, God, etc., because the term is being used strictly in contradistinction to “storytime”. “Spacetime actuality” refers simply to reality, as defined as “the really out there” in the prelinguistical realm, including everything that you call “a dimension of reality incomprehensible to human categories”. (“Comprehensibility” is an epistemological category, so how can it define a category of alethiology?) I explained all this very carefully on your blog several months ago. I should also mention that the term “split ontology” isn’t my own, but comes from someone else who has tried to explain these things. (I’ve used that term on your blog, as well.)

    You write that I “have a habit of not responding to [certain] posts”, but I get very tired of having to repeat the same things over and over and over and over. I posted two weeks ago on your blog, and your reply sounded like you hadn’t read a word of anything I wrote in the past year. (You made it sound like I was saying that there wasn’t a theory of Scripture within the New Testament, but my position has always been that there indeed *is* a theory of Scripture there—it just isn’t the one that Childs wants. His tactic is simply to redefine “Scripture” in an artificially narrow way.)

    I fully agree with you that “[t]he function of narrative is not to constitute truth but provide an adequate vehicle to it”, but that doesn’t explain Childs’s tying of the meaning of that narrative to the Church’s act of interpretation.


  10. Scripture is a vehicle to a truth that explodes out categories. Yes, truth is different to “meaning” in one sense. Truth isn’t what Paul says but what he talks about. The object of theological exegesis is not Paul’s psychology or even Pauline theology, but rather the reality that evoked his witness in all its particularity. But what he talks about is mediated to us through what he says. So in order to get to the “truth” per se, independent of Paul, we need to read Paul dialogically with the reality of which he speaks. It just happens to be the case that that reality is a living God who has revealed Himself in word and deed within the context of Israel’s history and continues to do so. Understanding “truth,” then, via Paul, entails reading his testimony in the context of the Scriptures of Isarel, in the context of church tradition, and in a stance of reception to the Holy Spirit.

    Again, the “truth” is a complex, dynamic, personal concept ultimately exploding our categories, so we have to be careful about the way we talk about the relationship between this “truth” and our means of access to it. Simply posing a clean distinction between “truth” and “scriptural meaning” is to underestimate the nature of the truth we are talking about. Call it “space-time” if you want, if by that you meaning “reality independent of human perception.” I just think that in the context of eschatology such a category is totally out of place. And as usual, your dig at Childs and post-liberals not holding to a correspondense theory of truth is nothing more than an expression of the fact you haven’t grasped this yet. You think you know what truth is before you start talking about it. You have a preconceived “alethiology” to which you submit the kerygma. You say that you alethiology is a reflection of Paul, but then whenever you are driven to defend this (e.g. against the fact that for Paul, the early Church, and church tradition since use Scripture to provide the grid for understanding Christ, as opposed to critically reconstructed “facts”) you fall back on general philosophical claims to deconstruct Paul. I.e. Truth = simple and discrete corresondence between propostion and referent, therefore when Paul doesn’t do this he’s just being “1st Century.” You put the cart before the horse, unless you can somehow demonstrate that Jewish scripture is irrelevant to Paul’s interpretation and faith concerning the Christ event (contra the evidence I provide in this series of posts.

    As for your definition of “Scripture,” I agree that it references the authority of the realtiy to which it points. I just don’t boil this reality down to a concept of certain events in the 1st century understood in terms of space and time only. The hermeneutical result is that the whole of Scripture witness to Christ, including non-messianic biblical texts that originally had nothing to do with eschatology or a dying saviour.

    You say: When we are called to believe what Scripture claims about the Christ event, doesn’t that call have anything to do with the truth of those claims? Again, the fact that you make this statement in the context of this debate shows that you have sold out to a theory of truth before you even get to the kerygma.

    How exactly does the meaning of Scripture (according to Childs’s view) relate to what we are supposed to believe about spacetime actuality of God redeeming us through the Christ event? In a dialectical movement between perception of the theological reality gained through the text and the reality as our church has come to understand it, so that each critiques the other. A kind of hermeneutical circle between dogma and scripture, in which the object of our study is not, e.g. Paul’s psychological state or cultural influences but the reality that he wishes to testify to–albeit in fragementary from when read apart from the rest of God’s prophets and apostles.

    You say: If nobody else spells these things out in my terms, it’s because nobody else bothers to say what’s obvious.

    John, really. A bit of humility.

    the meaning of Scripture cannot possibly have any (prescriptive) religious moment apart from its referential aspect


    “Spacetime actuality” refers simply to reality

    Fine, but then who’d be dumb enough say they believe in “story-time actuality” when they knew this is the logical category they’re competing against? No one makes the distinction because it’s ridiculous.

    I fully agree with you that “[t]he function of narrative is not to constitute truth but provide an adequate vehicle to it”, but that doesn’t explain Childs’s tying of the meaning of that narrative to the Church’s act of interpretation.

    Unless you believe the nature of the “truth” is such that logical propositions cannot adequately represent or actualize it.

    I posted on Paul Minear with you in mind. He says all this far better, so please to respond to the content of the posts.

    Oh, and thank you Stefan for hosting this little exchange!


  11. I wish I had time for a proper response, but I don’t. Nevertheless, I should say the more important things.

    First, in response to my remark that “If nobody else spells these things out in my terms, it’s because nobody else bothers to say what’s obvious”, you counsel humility. I don’t understand that counsel—I would think you would counsel humility if I claimed to make an amazing discovery that no one else has ever made, but in fact I’m claiming the opposite: that what I’m saying is simply what *everyone* whose thinking hasn’t been poisoned by the linguistic turn thinks. The problem is that hardly anyone who thinks straight on these issues feels the need to spell out what lies at such a profoundly originary level of conceptual thinking. The only reason I need to spell them out is that I’ve decided to spar with the Barthians, Childsians, and other attempts to radicalize Reformed theology’s worst moments.

    You write: “who’d be dumb enough say they believe in ‘story-time actuality’ when they knew this is the logical category they’re competing against? No one makes the distinction because it’s ridiculous.”

    They may not be “dumb enough” to agree to that conundrum when it’s spelled out like that. But there are plenty who are “dumb enough” to say that the meaning of Scripture is a function of the Church’s interpretation, . . . which in turn means that they’re saying that the meaning of Scripture is *not* tied to its (spacetime) referentiality, . . . which in turn means that they’re saying that the *truth* of the claims of Scripture is not tied to a theory of truth in which truth is a matter of a claim’s obtaining within spacetime, . . . which in turn means that they’re saying that the truth of the kerygma is not a matter of the spacetime actuality of its referents, . . . which in turn means that they’re saying *either* that the spacetime actuality of the Christ event is wholly dispensable (which is to say, as Barr puts, that Christ “canonically” rose from the dead), *or* that Scripture has nothing whatsoever to do with truth.

    Please let me know if you see any point within the above chain of reasoning that doesn’t follow from its presupposition. I can’t see that there is, which is why I think that it is “dumb” (your term, not mine) to accept any position that claims that the meaning of Scripture is tied to the Church’s interpretation of Scripture while simultaneously claiming to adhere to the apostolic kerygma. There are, of course, those who try to take shortcuts to avoid this line of reasoning, but to do so they have to appeal to bizarre (albeit pious-sounding) affirmations like “Scripture is a vehicle to a truth that explodes our categories”, or “Truth isn’t what Paul says but what he talks about”.

    You write: “You say: When we are called to believe what Scripture claims about the Christ event, doesn’t that call have anything to do with the truth of those claims? Again, the fact that you make this statement in the context of this debate shows that you have sold out to a theory of truth before you even get to the kerygma.” Are you then denying that the truth of the kerygma’s claims is a matter of its spacetime actuality? If so, then does the spacetime actuality (in the sense I use the term) of the Christ event even matter? Or was it enough that Christ rose from the dead “canonically”? You wrote that you agree that “the meaning of Scripture cannot possibly have any (prescriptive) religious moment apart from its referential aspect”, but I don’t see how you can have it both ways without trying to fashion some sort of alethiological Möbius strip.

    At this point, Phil, you typically say something about how I’m using the word “truth” in an “Enlightenment” sense, but as I’ve explained before, my use of a particular term is completely beside the point. The concept of spacetime actuality is still a necessary playing piece for all thinking about reality, and if we choose to call it something other than “truth”, that wouldn’t change my argument in any way. You can’t get away from the conceptual necessity of spacetime actuality and its conjunction with the propositional content of Scripture’s claims simply by saying that “truth” is something else, no matter how pious-sounding your alternative definition of truth might sound.


  12. Hi John, for some reason I wasn’t alerted to your latest comment.

    I’ve profited a lot from debating with you. Over time I’ve refined my understanding of the nature of the meaning and truth of Scripture in response to your critique. I’ve done so in relation to Childs and the result is that I understand him better, rather than having changed my mind. I am willing to sayt that I agree with everything you’ve posted here, but so does Childs. The fundamental distinction is in our understanding of what the “Gospel” is, what it’s “substance” is (which then leads to our different approaches to historical criticism and the function of the Old Testament). I see the issue now soley in terms of referentiality, as Childs had said all along but which I couldn’t quite grasp at first, influenced as I was by the likes of Brueggemann and Grenz.

    Our difference, then, it would seem, turns on how we answer your question: Are you then denying that the truth of the kerygma’s claims is a matter of its spacetime actuality?

    Basically, I feel that the term “space time” is totally inadequate, influenced as I am by our previous dialogues on the theological function of historical critical exegesis (rather that historical criticism per se).

    I agree that “space-time is a necessary playing piece for thinking about reality” in an orthodox Christian framework dedicated to the Incarnation and Resurrection (amongst other things). As does Childs and Barth. We just don’t think that “spacetime” exhausts “truth” and thus provide us with a “Christian alethiology.” I have just read what I consider to be one of the best summaries of what I understand about the “category exploding” nature of the Gospel as referent (taken from Sister Macarina’s blog). It’s by Andrew Louth, of whom Childs was a great fan. Tell me if 1) you agree with the following quote, 2) whether “spacetime” is a sufficient term to describe it and 3) whether pure historical criticism of the Bible is adequate for grasping this reality which Louth et al. purports to be the Scripture’s true referent:

    At its heart is the understanding of Christ as the divine mysterion: an idea central to the epistles of the Apostle Paul. This secret is a secret that has been told; but despite that it remains a secret, because what has been declared cannot be simply grasped , since it is God’s secret, and God is beyond any human comprehension. The secret of the Gospel is the hidden meaning of the Scriptures: for Christians the whole of what they call the ‘Old Testament’ finds its true meaning in Christ. God’s plan for humankind to which the Scriptures bear witness is made plain in the Incarnation. And this is the most common context, as we have seen, for the use of the word mystikos: it refers therefore to the hidden meaning of the Scriptures, the true meaning that is revealed in Christ, a meaning that remains mysterious, for it is no simple message, but the life in Christ that is endless in its implications. Christians, however, share in the life of Christ pre-eminently through the sacraments – mysteria in Greek – and the word mystikos is used therefore in relation to the sacraments as a way of designating the hidden reality, encountered and shared through the sacraments. The final use of the word mystikos refers to the hidden reality of the life of baptized Christians: a reality which is, as St Paul put it, ‘hid with Christ in God’ (Col. 3: 3).”


  13. I’m glad that this exchange has profited you. It has me as well.

    I’m also glad that you’ve been weaned of Brueggemann and Grenz. The problems with their approaches are really pretty severe, but I refrained from venting my views on your blog.

    I agree that the difference between us lies in “our understanding of what the ‘Gospel’ is, what [its] ‘substance’ is”. For me, the OT prooftexts (probably not a word you like?) appended to the kerygma are just that, an appendage, and their function is to provide scriptural justification for the kerygma rather than to be an actual part of the kerygma proper. For you, the OT prooftexts are themselves part of the content of the kerygma, so that the whole thing has to be taken together as one giant web of truth claims in which the truth claims of the prooftexts are equal in bearing to the truth claims of the raw kerygmatic narrative.

    You speak of our “dialogues on the theological function of historical critical exegesis (rather that historical criticism per se)”, but I should be clear—for me, it is not really the function of historical-critical exegesis that is so important, but rather the fact that a propositional alethiology (such as that invoked by the kerygma) puts the truth aspect of meaning within the referential function of Scripture. This in turn validates historical criticism as a method, in that it validates its philosophical presuppositions over against those who hold that meaning is a readerly or formalist moment.

    When you say “We just don’t think that ‘spacetime’ exhausts ‘truth’ and thus provide us with a ‘Christian alethiology’, I fear that you are still reading “spacetime” in a wrong sense. I wonder if perhaps you have been influenced here by the theological exegesis movement, and its tendency to understand historical criticism almost as a necessarily positivist program of reading. (I’m thinking here especially of Stuhlmacher’s influential book on theological interpretation, in which he assumed that those who disagree with a Reformation-style doctrine of Scripture were all skeptics in the supernatural. This struck me [a Pentecostal with a fairly Wesleyan view of Scripture] as rather strange.) In fact, I think perhaps throwing the word “positivist” into the mix may help to clear up the difficulties you have with the term “spacetime”: my contention regarding the implications of the spacetime actuality of the Christ event, and the way in which that mode of actuality underpins the kerygma, does not recognize the attempt of some more skeptical historical critics to put miracles, heavenly transports, etc. off limits. In fact, my central argument requires that there be no such cordoning off of the miraculous, for the whole kerygma itself is miraculous, and should be taken as literally as Paul et al intended it. (I think that Stuhlmacher and the others are being unfair here, but maybe they’re just confused.)

    Now, as for you three inquiries about my view of Louth:

    (1) You ask me if I agree with the quotation. Well, I agree with some aspects of the first half of the quotation insofar as I think it accurately describes the notion of the “revelational schema” that lies behind Eph 3:5, but I consider the revelational schema to be the product of rationalization, and not a part of the core gospel itself. Early Christians had to come up with a way of explaining how Christ could be the fulfillment of prophecies which were understood very differently by the prophets themselves. If Louth is trying to say that this mysterion is continuing right up through the Church age, I’d have to say that he is greatly mistaken, and that the New Testament is resolutely against him: the mysterion was clarified through the apostolic preaching. As far as I can see, in the New Testament the only remaining mysteries are those of the eschatological timetable, of the identity of the man of lawlessness, of the blessings enjoyed by those who have gone one before us, etc. I don’t think there is any mysterion remaining in the kerygma—in fact, the whole point of the coming of the apostles, from the standpoint of the revelational schema, is to make the mysterion manifest. I also disagree with the way Louth tries to use the word mysterion as a bridge from this revelational schema to the sacraments. To my mind, that is a rather weak rhetorical trick, with no substance backing it.

    2) You ask whether “spacetime” is a sufficient term to describe what Louth is talking about. Well, given that I disagree with Louth’s belief in a continuing mysterion, I’m not sure the question is still valid, but it *is* answerable on a purely academic basis, and the answer would be “yes”—the mysterion would be a thoroughgoingly spacetime actuality in the sense in which I use that term.

    3) You ask “whether pure historical criticism of the Bible is adequate for grasping this reality which Louth et al. purports to be the Scripture’s true referent”, and I would say that the question is complicated. If you’re asking whether historical criticism can get at the substance of God’s being, and all those aspects of the Christ event that we cannot fathom, then the answer is obviously “no”, but I would insist that no other method could ever do any better. Yet I would add that Scripture nowhere urges us to peer beyond the veil of what our minds can fathom. (I have always wondered where Barth gets the idea that biblical theology has an understanding of the nature and being of God as its goal. Where in Scripture could he have found such an idea?) My support for historical criticism (as I said above) is not driven by what I think it can do, but rather by the fact that it invokes the same alethiology as the kerygma. I am fully prepared to accept all of its limitations. At the same time, I would insist that the structure of truth itself transcends all dimensions of spacetime, so that the simple toggle operation that I’m positing for the choice between spacetime actuality and storytime actuality transcends beyond the pale of what *you* want to call “spacetime”.


  14. For me the OT texts are not dispensable appendages to the kerygma but vehicles to it. In line with the thinking of the New Testament and most of church history, as argued in my thread by Hägglund and the article by Seitz. Though I agree that seeing the text as “vehicle” necessiates a form of Sachkritik in which the signified “judges” the signfier (as Jesus judged the Old Testament), we have a different understanding of the signified. I’m still struggling to follow you. From my perspective it seems that you choose to focus on the historical death and resurrection as the sum total of the gospel without remainder: i.e. events in “time and space” (what you call “the Christ event.”). This commitment gives you the grounds for rejecting anything the New Testament says (the Old Testament not containing the “Christ event” is now irrelevant) which can’t be correlated propositionally to this “Christ event.” There seems to be not only jumps of logic that I can’t follow, but your “gospel” seems arbitrarily reductionistic. Again, as far as I understand the NT and church history has always seen the Gospel as being God’s ordo salutis in its trinitarian fulness. See, for example, the creeds. Your gospel consists of a few lines from the second paragraph utterly decontextualised. You say that your concept of “spacetime” includes the ontological reality of God, but then methodologically you isolate one tiny element out of the whole as use it as a hermeneutical scalple for dispensing with everything that doesn’t fit with the bit you have arbitrarily isolated. So, despite my inability to see how the “happendness” of the resurrection therefore logically means that we are now at liberty to dispense with anything that doesn’t directly referent it (your “propositional alethiology”), I also don’t get your theological move to reduce the gospel to that limited series of historical events (important as they are, in context), which were never understood to be the sum total of the “good news.”

    Finally, the “revelation” revealed to Paul was more than the fact that Jesus died and rose again. It was the significance of this within the total ordo salutis. Isolating one element of this and calling the rest “rationalization” is just arbitrary.

    Again, please do read the threads I have linked to, as they go into this in detail. You still haven’t responded to any of the concrete arguments I have made repeatedly over the year (I’m thinking of the Hägglund thread, the “Bible and the Historian thread” and the “In Accordance with the Scriptures thread.”)


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