Philippians 2 and the Story we tell this Sunday

As we approach Palm/Passion Sunday, I want to offer some reflections on Philippians 2 from my forthcoming article on this text, which is called “The Apologetic and Missional Impulse of Phil 2:6-11 in the Context of the Letter.” Philippians 2:5(6)-11 is the epistle reading in the lectionary for this Sunday. Non-lectionary-based churches should feel free to use it, too!

I would like to reflect directly, theologically and missionally, on our own context for reading Phil 2:6-11. I have suggested that it is the church’s master story that it recites in some form, as creed or poem or hymn, when it gathers for worship. The story’s immediate context suggests that the story it tells is inextricably connected both to its larger life together as koin?nia in the Spirit (2:1-4) and to its mission in the world (2:12-16).

Thus to recite the story liturgically is to remember the narrative shape of the One who, by the power of the Spirit, lives among us (and within whom we live) to form and re-form us into his image such that our individual and corporate narratives more faithfully resemble his. Worship of this God as Father, Son, and Spirit is therefore an exercise in spiritual formation for faithful living—for ethics and mission, if you will.

Part of that worship—its high point if we follow the trajectory of the story—is confessing “Jesus is Lord.” To confess Jesus as Lord, to the glory of God the Father, in the fellowship of the Spirit is relatively easy to do in the safety of a community of the like-minded. But as a group of Christians makes this confession week in and week out, or (better) day in and day out, and as it keeps that confession connected to the larger story, it becomes empowered to live and proclaim that story faithfully outside of its own walls.

Here the insights of Aristotle and Thomas on virtue are worth considering. We become what we practice. Our liturgical habits make it possible, or not, to live and tell the story faithfully, even naturally, over time. Churches that dispense with the telling of the story, perhaps in the interest of sensitivity to “seekers,” will eventually have nothing identifiably Christian to say, either to themselves or to those seekers. But since everyone, and every community, needs a master story, a new one will fill the void, and the new master story will carry with it a new, and most likely alien, ethic and mission. The final consequence of this creedal amnesia will be that the church has nothing left to live for or, if necessary, to die for, that faithfully embodies the story of Jesus. (Parenthetically, this same consequence is likely for those with sacramental amnesia, though we learn that from the Corinthians [1 Cor 11:17-34] rather than the Philippians.) The church will, instead, call on its children to live and die (and even kill) for some allegedly noble cause, almost certainly one that is ethnic or nationalistic in nature. It will have come, thereby, full circle, reaping the whirlwind of its fear of confession. By neglecting the story and confession of Jesus as universal Lord, the Lord who rules as Suffering Servant, the church will substitute the universal Lord for a tribal deity and the Suffering Servant for a conquering king. Sadly, this has too often been the pattern of the church throughout its history, especially in its mission.

I would submit that the intrusion of an alien master story, and the ongoing re-conversion of the church to that pseudo-gospel, is the greatest and most persistent sin of the church, at least in the United States, today. From presidential claims, both Democrat and Republican, that the United States is the light of the world and the hope for human freedom, to the language of “mission” that permeates military discourse, to talk of “redemptive violence,” to the incorporation of nationalistic holidays and devotion into the liturgical life of the church, the church is constantly bombarded with temptations to honor an alien Lord with an alien mission in the world.

By telling and re-telling the church’s true master story, however, the church is empowered to cast off this alien master story and is prepared to live the story missionally and faithfully.

Wouldn’t Palm/Passion Sunday take on new meaning if we really understood, preached, and lived Philippians 2 as our master story and—most importantly—allowed it to challenge those alien master stories that seek to replace it?

23 Responses to “Philippians 2 and the Story we tell this Sunday”

  1. Josh Rowley says:

    Amen. The second to last paragraph is especially convicting. I am reminded of Brueggemann’s observation that we all live “scripted” lives–the question is only which story is forming us.

    I’ve been reading your book on Paul’s narrative spirituality of the cross (cruciformity). Just the other night, I read its comparison of Philippians 2 and Isaiah 53. You make a strong argument that the first echoes the second.

    Nonetheless, I continue to struggle with the Christian reinterpretation of Isaiah 53 as an explanation of the cross. I am part of a tradition that has used Isaiah 53 (especially verses 4-6) to support the theory of penal substitutionary atonement–a theory that makes me itchy.

    Part of what struck me as fascinating about your argument is that you closely connect Paul’s thought with Isaiah 53, yet do not seem to stop short of affirming penal substitution. You affirm “vicarious suffering,” but this way of putting things seems to convey shared suffering rather than the notion that Jesus suffers God’s wrath as our replacement. When you earlier list a number of narrative themes in Paul’s writings about the cross, you offer only a soft affirmation of substitution, and say nothing about penal substitution. When you later defend the cross against criticism that it promotes violence, you reject the image of a vindictive (wrathful?) Father.

    So, as I continue to wrestle with how best to understand the mystery of the cross, I have two questions:

    1) How is it possible to connect Philippians 2 and Isaiah 53 and not conclude that Jesus saves us from God (especially given Isaiah 53:4-6)?

    2) When you write above that we should not substitute “the Suffering Servant for a conquering king,” are you criticizing Christus Victor interpretations of the cross? Or are you simply stating that the means of Christ’s victory is suffering and not coercive power?

  2. Josh Rowley says:

    Whoops! I meant to write “yet seem to stop short of affirming penal substitution,” not “yet do not seem to stop short of affirming penal substitution.” Sorry.

  3. MJG says:

    Josh,

    Yes, Brueggemann is right. Regarding Isa 53, you will remember that I am particularly struck by the structures of the two poems. Paul, at least in Phil 2, is much more interested in the humiliation-exaltation scheme than in a particular theory of atonement. And I would want to stress the genre of poem. We need to be careful about making the poetic language of either poem into the language of systematic theology. It is theological language, but it is theopoetical language.

    Because of this poetic language, I do not think Isa 53 can or should be stretched to affirm a theory of penal substitution. Yes, the servant suffers, as God’s servant and as a means of fulfilling God’s will, for the sins of the people. Yes, Paul can occasionally use sacrificial language, and even God’s handing over/deliverance of Christ, for Christ’s death. But all of this needs to be balanced by other Pauline affirmations about Christ’s willingness to die, God’s love, God being in Christ etc. At the end of the day, a balanced view of all the texts suggests (1) several metaphors at work in Paul’s head, drawn from Isa 53 and elsewhere, to express the salvific significance of Christ’s death and (2) the fundamental character of that death is one of love, both the Father’s and the Son’s, and not punishment or wrath. To quote Miroslav Volf, the atonement is fundamentally a two-party (God and humanity), not a three-party (God, Son, humanity) transaction.

    Finally, I was not criticizing Christus Victor but “stating that the means of Christ’s victory is suffering and not coercive power.”

  4. [...] for Palm Sunday March 24, 2010 — apprentice2jesus Michael Gorman makes some thought-provoking comments on Philippians 2:5-11. Incredible things to [...]

  5. Dm says:

    Josh,

    Nice connection with Brueggemann; we cannot help but follow some script that overhangs our everday actions. Though, we like to say that things like “reality tv” are un-scripted and completely fresh..

    Also, penal substitution theory makes me itch as well. I like MJG’s response that ultimately Christ took up his cross willingly (but not without serious, even doubtful reservations, as we see Christ in dire straits during his prayer in the Garden at Gathsemane).

    MJG,

    In this way, would you be more disinclined to say, for instance, “Christ came to earth and took on flesh in order to complete a task that we, humankind, could not, by any means, complete.” — Because as soon as we say this, we immediately throw the Old Testament into a false light; the salvific effort prior to that of Christ is nothing but a foil leading up to the actions of Christ. Plus we turn salvation into a three-party system, as Volf warns.

    Instead, would you say something like this: “Christ came to earth and took on flesh in order to complete a task that we, humankind, had not completed, or was failing to complete.” By saying this, humankind, prior to Christ, retains a real authentic agency – only being comprimised by sin and death – and reaffirms Scripture as a whole in its attempt to put things back on track.

    Phil. 2 and Is. 53, then, theopoetically upholds Mirolsav Volf’s “two-party” system of God-humanity.

    Does this make sense?

  6. MJG says:

    Michael,

    I am hesitant, with Paul and most of the Christian tradition, to say that humanity could in any way save itself. I think it is better to think, with the prophets, corporately: God intended to form a faithful and loving covenantal people, but people’s sin—and, later understood, Sin itself—prevented this from occurring, and it was understood by the prophets that only God’s own Spirit could transform people (‘s hearts) and create this people. What the prophets understood and foretold, Jesus inaugurated.

    It seems to me that this “reaffirms Scripture as a whole,” etc.

  7. Dm says:

    Dr. Gorman,

    Thanks for the response!

    The sweep of my rebuttal goes as follows: I am going to (briefly) attempt to invalidate your above premise, on the basis of looking at Scripture anachronistically. My evidence for this charge is threefold: Genesis 12 seen through a cosmic lens, Jesus’ multifaceted soteriology focused on cosmos/Israel/mankind, and lastly — most importantly — the Imago Dei’s staying power, even after sin and death’s arrival on the scene. I think, if the evidence holds here, it is quite impossible to think or even begin to imagine humankind as saving humankind apart from God’s Spirit or Presence — it just isn’t in us, if you will. We are, it seems, wired for God, and if our intellect tells us otherwise then a kind of existential implosion occurs (well-known to the Western canon).

    According to your claim, the individual Christ figure irreversibly had to arrive in the flesh to put us back on track. Doesn’t this mean the blessed “you” in Genesis 12 is, then, seen as not corporate but singular –namely, pointing or shooting inevitably and incontrovertibly toward Christ? If so, why did Christ initially come to set Israel back on track, and then secondly the rest of humanity and creation as a whole? If humanity, represented by Israel, couldn’t retract or reimagine its “very good” original creational mandate in Gen. 1, then why did Christ refashion Israel in the first place?? Why didn’t He just come and save all of humankind and creation in one fell swoop?

    Lastly, God’s own spirit was intimately at work in the prophets prior to that of Christ; when prophets received oracles from God they were in the presence of God, privy to his throne room counsel. The line of argument then follows that, God’s own Spirit was indeed transforming and recreating Israel and the other nations prior to Christ. Jeremiah was a prophet to all of the nations, not just Judah/Israel; his scope was cosmic! (Which, BTW, is unique to Jeremiah.) Jeremiah was attempting to break down the nations in order to perceive something that has been there all along, that being, we are qualitative beings still wrought in the image of God, withstanding sin’s arrival on the scene (see Genesis 5 and 9 as post-sin reaffirmations of humankind’s royal/functional status est. at creation).

    Therefore, I humbly disagree with your above premise, as I think it is quite impossible for humanity to even fathom in the first place that it can save itself apart from God’s Spirit or Presence — that is a sacred/secular split created in the West. And so, the premise that “humanity can’t save itself” is to look at Scripture with Western eyes, rather than an Eastern lens; holistic. And we ask, thus, not exegetical but existential questions unknown to the biblical account, like Luther or Augustine. This is why, perhaps, penal substitution theory has come about, as latter thinkers/theologians thought we needed some sort of whole-scale imputation of godliness.

    Does this make sense? I am looking forward to your response!

  8. Josh Rowley says:

    I appreciate the follow-up comments to my comment. The observation about both of the passages in question belonging to the genre of poetry and not systematic theology is helpful. (I find myself wondering whether there is any systematic theology in Scripture.)

    Sacrificial language is undeniably applied to Jesus throughout the NT. What I question is how this imagery has often been interpreted. It’s not clear to me from my reading of the OT that sacrificed animals were seen as suffering the punishment of God that would have otherwise befallen the person giving up the animal.

  9. Wonderful stuff Mike. Now I’m hungry for the article. Where will it be published?

  10. Dm says:

    – Ha, I am flattered.. I don’t know, but I’ll make sure and rush you over a copy..

    That said, I should say, however, that some of my citations were lazily implied, as I have had a similar discourse with MJG before…

    The royal/functional interpretation of imago Dei has been argued for thousands of years now, though only sporadically — it really picked up during the Italian Renaissance… For an excellent summary account, see J. Richard Middleton, The Liberating Image: The imago Dei in Genesis 1 (Michigan: Brazos Press, 2005), 24-30

  11. MJG says:

    Michael,

    Time only permits a brief response. I affirm much of what you say. I don’t deny a universal scope to the promise to Abraham or a universal prophetic message to the nations or the work of the Spirit among the prophets before Christ or the “staying power” of the Imago Dei or even (with some caution) the royal role of humanity. But none of them is a rebuttal to my claim that humanity cannot save itself, which is not Western but Christian. “He became what we were so that we could become what he is”—the most profoundly Easter way of soteriology—still implies we cannot save, and had not saved ourselves. In fact, the very word soteriology implies my claim. West and East may differ on what is needed and how it happens, but neither thinks salvation is unnecessary or generated by humans. (I think my own writing on theosis suggests I lean toward the Eastern approach, which affirms both the reality of Imago and the need for its restoration indivdually, corporately, and cosmically.)

    Neither my argument nor my exegesis means fundamentally that “the individual Christ figure irreversibly HAD TO arrive in the flesh to put us back on track.” That would be a prospective argument. The whole-biblical perspective is a retrospective argument: that Christ (not a Christ figure) DID arrive; the Messiah of Israel and the Lord and Savior of all people and all peoples came/was sent to keep the divine promise to make a people that would be a blessing to all the nations.

    You might want to read around in NT Wright a bit if you have not. I don’t go with him 100%, but he does read the story of Israel and Christ in a universal and even cosmic context.

    Josh—

    Right—sacrificial language is not the equivalent of penal substitution.

    Jason–

    JTI, but not sure of which issue.

  12. [...] Matthews on March 25, 2010 From an upcoming article by Michael Gorman, an excerpt of which was recently posted on his blog: We become what we practice. Our liturgical habits make it possible, or not, to live and tell the [...]

  13. Dm says:

    Indeed, time is of the essence — and so, I thank you for your detailed response..

    – Yes, I am afraid we do agree on much. However, sadly, I still fail to understand the nuance of your soteriology. I am fuzzy concerning your unequivocal response to my response: “But none of them is a rebuttal to my claim that humanity cannot save itself, which is not Western but Christian.” I am not sure we can afford to unequivocally say such a claim is Christian.

    Quickly, I will get to the root of the matter (maybe then you can see where I am coming from).

    Christ becoming flesh enables humans to then become like Him; okay, I see that MJG, however, only in degree not kind; a monistic return of humanity and creation, not a dualistic jump of otherness. From the get-go humanity and the divine has been in a MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCY regarding the “toledot” or “generations of the heavens and earth” in Genesis 2:4a. As George W. Coats argues, this claim functions as an introduction/superscription (not a conclusion) which leads up to the fall… AND beyond; it is a proclamation which announces the entire scope of history to come, including but not stopping at fall. Therefore, I fail to see how humanity can’t save itself — it has been integrally part of the saving/reimagining process since the very beginning.

    … Perhaps, MJG, we are running into a rhetorical divide of thought — but I think rhetoric is much more than just persuasive speech; it is at the core of our identity. To say “humanity can’t save itself” veers toward what Blake called “mind-forg’d manacles” perpetuated by Western rigid canons. Christ did what we were failing to do, but had begun to do; He, in the vein of the prophets, opened the eschatological era of the new heavens and new earth, or the reversal back toward and edenic responsibility of co-creators in creation. But that was within the time and space of history. Such Lordship must resonate with us (and you are right, this royal functionality is “dangerous”… but can’t be escaped from).

    I am not sure if we can observe Lent in an authentic way, if we do not see or imagine ourselves right alongside His soteriological walk to the cross..

    Sorry, that was a bit long..

  14. MJG says:

    Michael,

    I am afraid it is time to be a bit blunt; I apologize in advance. I’m really not sure of the source of your story and your soteriology. It does not seem to take into account much more than a rather unusual reading of a few parts of Genesis and seems to have no place for the apocalyptic thunderbolt that is the NT. If apocalyptic is the mother of NT theology, I cannot see that it is even on your radar/sonogram (forgive the mixing of metaphors). Am I wrong?

    The inbreaking of the kingdom, the new creation, the unexpected outpouring of the Spirit, the idea of an apocalypse that turns everything upside down and occurs without human volition, and above all (for now) the idea of salvation as liberation by God from the powers of Sin and Death from which we could not and cannot free ourselves. Where is all this in the soteriology you are proposing? Rather than a biblical, rather than a NT narrative, I hear an alien narrative.

    Of course we walk with him to the cross, not to save ourselves or to help him save us, but to participate in the salvation he offers: God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself!

  15. Dm says:

    MJG,

    No need to apologize for being blunt, nor for mixing your metaphors (I do it too)..

    That said, I am not sure what you mean by “alien”, as you have not evidenced or exegeted your polemic on any biblical basis whatsoever? Which PART do you think is alien, sir?? — You have done me an injustice by hurling charges that my thoughts are unbiblical and alien, that is one thing — BUT you have committed an even greater injustice in that you did not, in turn, explain or expound how my claims are alien — your titular claim I take great offense to! Indeed, you’ve taken this discourse to quite another level, which veers on the brink of falling into sheer polemic on your part. If you want to question my biblical understanding, then fine, but please do support your claims — especially when making such a diametric and rigid claim that my thoughts are not biblical.

    As for the NT being the mother of apocalyptic, well, I radically disagree. I really think you are standing on uncertain ground here. Indeed the apocalyptic literature of the NT is, actually, the progeny of the OT’s (flourishing, understandably, during the neo-Babylonian exile):

    Need I say look at Daniel? Need I say look at Jeremiah’s oracles against the nation? Need I quote Joel? — “the earth quakes before them, the heavens tremble. The sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining” (Joel 2:10).

  16. MJG says:

    I’m not sure we are going to get very far, but I will try one last time:

    1. “Therefore, I fail to see how humanity can’t save itself — it has been integrally part of the saving/reimagining process since the very beginning.” This is in part what I mean by “alien.” The biblical story is one of God, not humanity, as savior.

    2. I did not say that the NT is the mother of apocalyptic but that apocalyptic is the mother of NT theology. You clearly know apocalyptic, but there is nothing apocalyptic about the soteriology you enunciate. My point is/was that the sense of a benign, salvific divine invasion of a world gone awry seems absent from your proposal, and I am asking you to prove me wrong. As I said above:

    “The inbreaking of the kingdom, the new creation, the unexpected outpouring of the Spirit, the idea of an apocalypse that turns everything upside down and occurs without human volition, and above all (for now) the idea of salvation as liberation by God from the powers of Sin and Death from which we could not and cannot free ourselves. Where is all this in the soteriology you are proposing? Rather than a biblical, rather than a NT narrative, I hear an alien narrative.”

    This is not mere polemic or even showy rhetoric. To quote you, it is rhetoric that is the core of identity.

  17. Dm says:

    – I am still waiting for a biblical-based rhetoric Dr. Gorman, NOT a philosophical rhetoric..

    While the argument has spun its tires a bit, it has still been somewhat dynamic — I am not quite as skeptical as you. Though I feel like my defense is more biblically supported than your general or generic observations about how you see the Bible..

    – I am really very sorry, but I still fail to see exegesis concerning your first counterpoint…!?

    …”This is in part what I mean by “alien.” The biblical story is one of God, not humanity, as savior.”… That is not a very good argument.

    The crucial message of Genesis 1, from what I gather, is that God so loved his creation that he was willing to share his power with humanity (Gen. 1:26-28). AKA, the royal-functional task of humanity, or imago Dei — that we agree on right?

    1. Now, I offer this single piece of biblical evidence supporting my claim that humans — bearing that steadfast image — are involved in the saving process: Exodus 32:7-14. God commands Moses to go down and tell his people, Israel, they are to be consumed by Yahweh’s wrath for being idolatrous.. Moses counteracts God’s decision to smite stiff-necked Israel, communicating, even commanding Yahweh! — “turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people” (12). And this exemplar prophet grounds his argument on the fact that if Yahweh does consume Israel, then he will have forgotten his covenant (13). And God changes his mind (14).

    Moses began a good work in which Christ firmly situated himself in; prophecy. Yes, Christ forged past mere prophecy, in defeating sin and death, thus our Lord and King, yet he still put himself in a vein which was not present at creation, which developed under human innovation, that being the office of prophecy. The Mosaic movement is one that dynamically propelled the cosmic soteriology toward Christ and his Kingship.

    I am imploring you to show me some exegesis on your part — you owe me that much after claiming that my thoughts are wholly “alien” and not biblical.

  18. Dm says:

    – As for the second point of yours, I concede you that. Sorry, I misinterpreted you!!

    Apocalyptic literature is, indeed, the mother of the NT. It is rich in turning things inside out and upside down, a real eschatological reversal of things which marks the new heavens and new earth..

  19. MJG says:

    I am on my way out of town. A couple of quick thoughts:

    1. There are a lot of “crucial messages” in Gen 1, and I am not willing to privilege 1:26-28 as you do, grant it only royal significance, or interpret it as the lens through which to read the entire canon or by which to construct a soteriology.

    2. Intercession does not equate to effecting salvation. It is still God who saves. Moreover, I do not think you can demonstrate any parallel intercession to the ultimate salvation, namely that of God in Christ.

    3. I did not say that you are wholly alien and not biblical. Rather, the system you are constructing is piecemeal, exemplified in your words “this single piece of biblical evidence supporting my claim….” I would suggest, as Irenaeus said of the Gnostics, that your soteriological system is indeed in biblical in the sense of using some biblical texts but not biblical in the sense of missing the big picture and main point of the Bible.

    4. I return to my paragraph about apocalyptic: How does all of that—which you acknowledge as there—fit into your schema.

    5. My texts—among hundreds—would be ones such as Romans 3 and 5:

    Romans 3

    19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….

    Romans 5
    6For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.

  20. Dm says:

    – Have a safe trip!

    If I could just have one more rebuttal, then you may interact with my exegetical findings and have at the last word…

    Moses is just one example of many regarding the good and just efforts put forth by humankind toward salvation, ultimately accomplished in Christ. You have, sadly, misread my use of synecdoche in the previous post (about Moses) for a “piecemeal” irregularity, but I assure you that Moses was doing a good, salvaging work here, one that is a benchmark reinforcing Christ. Perhaps we should bring the salvific effort back even further, threading the line of salvation before Moses and Abraham hit the scene. I will thus ground Christ in the Noahide covenant, which connects to the onset of creation/cosmos itself. Further, MJG, I will do this with Paul’s own words. Paul wasn’t abolishing order and law, only reordering the “creational furniture” so to speak, firmly in and around Christ our Lord, as he stood on the foundation of covenantal ground (see Colossians 1: 15-20). Lastly, as postlude, I will make a quick philosophical yet exegetical comment about the form of gospel narrative versus the form of epistle, and how the latter tends to systematize things a bit too much when the former (which is the form utilized most in the overall biblical account) loses a much-needed perspective.

    3. Noahide covenant was “saving” or “retracting” creation (taking back what was for the most part a “very good” creation). Connect this covenant, then, with that of Paul’s letter to the Colossians: Christ is Adam remixed; he is a “newfangled being” that is forever transforming the cosmos, but always (and this is my crucial point)… always standing on the foundational ground of the Noahide covenant. Without this basis, there is NO GROUND for Jesus to stand on. Thus the covenant — which make no mistake about it, is made with Noah; a righteous or right-standing human agent — forms and shapes the soteriological ground for Christ to eventually reverse, and will (we hope in faith) complete cosmically in time to come by defeating death altogether. This same ground gives Moses the proper and legal right to be a functional agent in this saving process – as I remarked earlier – as a covenant by definition is a balance or mutual interdependence between two parties, that being God and humanity (Volf). Christ as the new Adam – which is BTW synecdoche – puts things in cosmic perspective.

    4. Romans needs to be read in light of this above exegesis, otherwise we miss the point; Romans 3 especially. The law is not inherently bad! Only when it becomes a badge of impunity and self-righteousness, then it turns sinful. The order of creation, and the laws that humans implement and practice, is not only acceptable by God, but it is our duty and obligation to do so — check out the profound analysis by A.M. Wolters, “The Foundational Command: ‘Subdue the Earth!’”…

    Hence the blessing and the curse is always balanced in anything we do, be it lawyers, doctors, athletes — see Deut. 28. As Paul says, we can hasten the coming of the Kingdom — not by our own powers, but by acting in accordance with Christ and his Spirit, which is firmly founded on Mosaic and Noahide ground, which dates back to creation, which inherently empowers humankind as co-creators.

    The biblical metanarrative needs to be read first and foremost, only then can we understand systems put in place by Paul (which BTW, as a scholar yourself, you know that Paul was largely mission-oriented, and was not much of a theologian). Metanarrative in mind, maybe then, MJG, you will have eyes to see when a synechdoche is being used, as such metaphorical language is intergral to the biblical account.

    I firmly believe I am well within the confines of the Christian story of saving or re-tracting creation; far from “piecemeal” as you have claimed. In fact, I wonder if my soteriology is more authentically biblical than your own, MJG, as it does not narrow its confines to Paul and NT and what “hundreds” of others are saying or theologizing about concerning the saving process of Christ Jesus our Lord. I am in no shape to declare your ideas of salvation unbiblical, however, I do think my ideas have a much wider and stronger trajectory.

    I beseech you to prove me wrong, perhaps by exegeting my own exegesis? Or even exegeting Paul’s instead of copying and pasting snippets of Paul’s letters to the Romans. That is not very meaningful analysis. (And no conclusion??!)

    …Now, you may have the last word.

  21. MJG says:

    Thanks, but I don’t think I have anything more to say. Shalom, and blessed Holy Week and Easter.

  22. Dm says:

    Okay, I think I understand.

    – Peace.

  23. [...] Philippians 2 and the Story we tell this Sunday [...]

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