Archive for the ‘Covenantal Nomism’ Tag

The People’s Lament and God’s Response   Leave a comment

Above:  Valley of Hinnom

Image in the Public Domain

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READING THIRD ISAIAH, PART V

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Isaiah 63:1-66:24

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Isaiah 63:1-6 depicts God as a warrior taking vengeance on Edom (Amos 1:11-12; Isaiah 21:11-12; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Obadiah; Isaiah 34:5-17).  For more about Edom, follow the links.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance, as in the previous section.

Most of Isaiah 63 and 64 consist of a grand tour of Biblical history, in the form of a lament in the voice of Third Isaiah.  It is a recounting of divine faithfulness, human faithlessness, and divine punishment.  Third Isaiah’s questions of why God has allowed terrible events to occur and not prevented them stand the test of time.  One may ask them, for example, about millennia of anti-Semitic violence, especially the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, Isaiah 64 concludes on a combination of trust and uneasiness.  This makes sense, too.

The divine response, at the beginning of Isaiah 65, is consistent with Covenantal Nomism.  Those who disregarded the mandates of the covenant consistently and unrepentantly dropped out of the covenant and condemned themselves.  God will punish sins, we read.  We also read that God will also regard faithful servants.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

In the new divine order (65:1-66:24), circumstances will be idyllic and the relationship between God and the faithful population will be close.  The process of getting to that goal is underway, we read.  The old prophecies of heaven on earth will come to pass, we read.  And Jews and Gentiles will recognize the glory of God, we read.  Yet not all will be puppies and kittens, we read:

As they go out they will see the corpses of those who rebelled against me, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.  All mankind will view them with horror.

–Isaiah 66:24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Isaiah 66:24 refers, literally, to Gehenna, in the Valley of Hinnom, outside the walls of Jerusalem.  Commentaries tell me that, when Jewish Biblical authors (perhaps including Third Isaiah) sought a properly terrifying metaphor for Hell, they used the Jerusalem garbage dump, where corpses of criminals either burned or decomposed, without receiving burial.  Yet, in Isaiah 66:24 (perhaps of later origin than 66:22-23, the bodies of those who rebel against God will neither burn nor decompose.

Regardless of when someone composed 66:24, as well as whether 66:23 originally ended the chapter, I push back against the desire to end the Book of Isaiah on an upbeat note.  I read that, in Jewish practice (as in The Jewish Study Bible), people reprint 66:23 after 66:24, to have an upbeat ending:

And new moon after new moon,

And sabbath after sabbath,

All flesh shall come to worship Me

–said the LORD.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet 66:23-24, taken together, balance divine judgment and mercy.  Brevard S. Childs, conceding the possibility of the later composition of 66:24, argues that 66:24 fits the theme of

the division between the righteous and the wicked.

Isaiah (2001), 542

This division exists elsewhere in Third Isaiah, too.

In spite of God’s new heavens and death, the exaltation of Zion, and the entrance of the nations to the worship of God, there remain those outside the realm of God’s salvation.

–Brevard S. Childs, Isaiah (2001), 542

They remain outside the realm of God’s salvation because they have condemned themselves.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors of Hell are locked from the inside.

Thank you, O reader, for joining me on this journey though Third Isaiah.  I invite you to remain by my side, so to speak, as I move along next to the Book of Joel.  This journey through the Hebrew prophetic books is much closer to its conclusion than to its beginning.  Nevertheless, much to learn remains.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF GEORGE ALFRED TAYLOR RYGH, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN NEW ZEALAND; HIS WIFE, MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; HER SISTER-IN-LAW, JANE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY AND EDUCATOR IN NEW ZEALAND; AND HER HUSBAND AND HENRY’S BROTHER, WILLIAM WILLAMS, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAIAPU

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

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Prophecy and Prophets   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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READING EZEKIEL, PART VIII

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Ezekiel 12:21-14:11

Ezekiel 15:1-8

Ezekiel 20:45-22:31 (Anglican and Protestant)

Ezekiel 21:1-22:31 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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In the ancient Near East, certain assumptions were ubiquitous.  Two of these were:

  1. the multiplicity of deities, and
  2. the defeat of B’s gods by A’s gods when A conquered B.

Yet YHWH remained unconquered when Judah fell.  As the Fall of Jerusalem (586 B.C.E.) approached, come claimed that the prophecies of this event were for the distant future.  They were wrong (12:21-28).  Some (false) prophets of peace predicted peace and security for Judah (13:1-16).  They spoke for themselves, not for God.  Many people resorted to sorcery (13:17-23).  They were wrong.  Idolatry abounded, as usual (14:1-11).  Jerusalem was bound for destruction (15:1-8), regardless of what anyone said or desired in the final years before 586 B.C.E.  And God remained sovereign, regardless of what any human power did.  The Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was the sword of the LORD, after all (20:45-21:17/21:1-22, depending on versification).  Both Judah and Ammon were destined for destruction, but a remnant of Judah would survive (21:23-22:31/21:18-22:31, depending on versification).

I will return to the prophecies of divine judgment against Ammon (already in Amos 1:13-15; Jeremiah 49:1-16; Ezekiel 21:33-37/21:28-32, depending on versification) when I cover Ezekiel 25:1-7.

I, as a Christian, affirm that “God is love,” as I read in 1 John 4:16.  Reading the entire verse is crucial, of course.  In the context of the indwelling of Jesus, we read:

Thus we have come to know and believe in the love which God has for us.

God is love; he who dwells in love is dwelling in God, and God in him.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.

In Jewish terms, salvation comes by grace, just as it does in Christian terms.  In Jewish terms, salvation comes by birth into the Chosen People, the covenant people.  The covenant includes moral mandates.  Persistently and unrepentantly violating moral mandates causes people to drop out of the covenant.

God is love, not a cosmic plush toy.  Grace is free, not cheap.  And people read what they have sown.

JUNE 26, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, U.S. JOURNALIST, TRANSLATOR, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREA GIACINTO LONGHIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TREVISO

THE FEAST OF PHILIP DODDRIDGE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THEODORE H. ROBSINSON, BRITISH BAPTIST ORIENTALIST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF VIRGIL MICHEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ACADEMIC, AND PIONEER OF LITURGICAL RENEWAL

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The Beginning of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes’s Persecution of the Jews   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART VII

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1 Maccabees 1:20-64

2 Maccabees 5:1-6:17

4 Maccabees 4:15-26

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Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Reigned 175-164/163 B.C.E.)

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The First Book of the Maccabees establishes two years, according to the Hellenistic/Seleucid calendar:  143 (a.k.a. 169 B.C.E.) and 145 (a.k.a. 167 B.C.E.).

The account in 1 Maccabees differs from those in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees.  The version in 1 Maccabees does not mention Jason, the former High Priest.  Also, the account in 4 Maccabees mistakes Antiochus IV Epiphanes for the son of the late King Seleucus IV Philopator.  Historical accounts tell us they were brothers.

Anyhow, Jason, who had bought the High Priesthood, had lost that office to Menelaus, who had outbid him.  Jason tried, by violent means, to get his old job back.  He failed to become the High Priest yet succeeded in causing many people to die.

As one reads the account of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes entering and profaning the Temple in Jerusalem, one may legitimately ask a certain question:  How could he succeed?  Read 3 Maccabees 1:8-2:24; 2 Maccabees 1:13-17; and 2 Maccabees 3:22-28, O reader.  How could King Antiochus IV Epiphanes succeed in 1 Maccabees 1:54f and 2 Maccabees 5:15f?  I offer no answers, for I have none.

King Antiochus IV Epiphanes, having converted the westernmost hill of Jerusalem into a citadel that held from 167 to 141 B.C.E. (see 1 Maccabees 13:49-50), imposed Hellenism–on pain of death–upon the land.  This was his way of trying to create unity in the Seleucid Empire.  If ever there were a reason no to submit to human authority, such oppression was it.

Yet many in Israel found strength to resist, taking a determined stand against the eating of any unclean food.  They welcomed death and died rather than defile themselves and profane the holy covenant.  Israel lay under a reign of terror.

–1 Maccabees 1:62-64, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Keeping the covenant was crucial to pious Jews.  Their salvation came via grace–birth into chosen people.  Their duty was to obey the Law of Moses.  That was how they retained their place in the covenant.  Those who impiously and repetitively ignored the ethical and moral obligations of the Law of Moses dropped out of the covenant.  I have summarized Covenantal Nomism for you, O reader.  Covenantal Nomism was a characteristic of Second Temple Judaism.

How seriously do you, O reader, take your obligations to God and your fellow human beings?

Next, I will write about early martyrdoms, described in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 5, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF JAPAN, 1597-1639

THE FEAST OF SAINT AVITUS OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JAMES NICHOLAS JOUBERT AND MARIE ELIZABETH LANGE, FOUNDERS OF THE OBLATE SISTERS OF PROVIDENCE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILEAS AND PHILOROMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 304

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Kudzu and the Kingdom of God   Leave a comment

Above:  Kudzu, Atlanta, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, we beseech thee, show thy mercy unto thy humble servants,

that we who put no trust in our own merits may not be dealt with

after the severity of thy judgment, but according to thy mercy;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth

with thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 231

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Job 14:1-5

Psalms 112 and 113

Romans 10:1-21

Luke 17:20-33

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The readings from the Hebrew Bible cohere well, speaking in Job 14:1-5, reflects on the brevity of a human lifespan, even a relatively long one.  Psalms 112 and 113, taken together, encourage people to imitate God in behaving justly toward other people, such as the poor.  Our lives are brief, but they can be meaningful and positive.  We can use our time to leave the world better than we found it.  We can live according to the Golden Rule, by grace.  To do so is to respond faithfully to God.  Obey divine laws, Covenantal Nomism teaches.  By doing so, one retains one’s place in the covenant.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Second Temple Judaism, contrary to popular misconception, was not that it was a legalistic, works-based righteousness religion.  No, his critique was that Second Temple Judaism lacked Jesus.  For St. Paul, Jesus was the game changer of all game changers.

The partially realized Kingdom of God has long been present on the Earth.  Certain events have made it more obvious than it was, though.  The life of Jesus on the Earth was a series of such events.  The partially realized Kingdom of God has set the stage for the fully realized Kingdom of God, still in the future.

God remains faithful.  Many people remain faithless.  The Golden Rule continues to be a teaching more people prefer to quote than to practice.  “None” continues to be the fastest-growing religious affiliation in much of the world.  Jesus keeps facing rejection.

Yet the Kingdom of God remains like kudzu, a plant commonplace where I live.  Kudzu grows where it will.  And God will win in the end.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRY MORSE, ENGLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1645

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT DASWA, SOUTH AFRICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SEYMOUR ROBINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGEBERT III, KING OF AUSTRASIA

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The Fruits of Uprightness   Leave a comment

Above:  Still Life with Fruit, by Severin Roesen

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Twenty-Second Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, our Refuge and Strength, who art the author of all godliness;

be ready, we beseech thee, to hear the devout prayers of thy Church;

and grant that those things which we ask faithfully, we may obtain effectually;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 225

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Deuteronomy 7:9-11

Psalm 40:1-13

Philippians 1:3-11

Luke 20:27-38

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…entirely filled with the fruits of uprightness through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.

–Philippians 10b-11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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“Fruits of uprightness” is a wonderful term, is it not?  The main alternative rendering in English seems to be “harvest of righteousness,” which is also evocative.

A covenant is not a contract.  Nevertheless, a covenant does not come with consequences.  In Covenantal Nomism, salvation comes via grace–belonging to the covenant.  The maintenance of salvation comes via keeping the law of God, especially the ethical and moral mandates.  Damnation comes via dropping out of the covenant, which one dies repeatedly and unrepentantly violating those ethical and moral obligations.  This perspective pervades the Hebrew Bible.

Attempting to entrap Jesus in his words was inconsistent with a faithful response to the message of God.  Sadducees rejected belief in the afterlife.  As a children’s song I learned years ago says,

That’s why they were sad, you see.

The question about levirate marriage (Genesis 38:6-11; Deuteronomy 25:5; Ruth 3:9-4:10).

Christ’s answer that God is the God of the living, not the dead (v. 38) echoes 4 Maccabees:

But as many attend to religion with a whole heart, these alone are able to control the passions of the flesh, since they believe that they, like our patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, do not die to God, but live in God.

–4 Maccabees 7:18-19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

God is the source of life for the faithful in Luke 20:27-38 and 4 Maccabees 7:18-19.  What a rebuke of the Sadducees!

God is the source of life for the faithful, regardless or whether they have pulses.  The lives of the faithful, therefore, will bear the fruits of uprightness.  Such lives cannot do otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT AND HIS PUPIL, SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIANS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL J. SIMUNDSON, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY AUGUSTINE COLLINS, ANGLICAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BARNBY, ANGLICAN CHURCH MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SOMERSET CORRY LOWRY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Covenantal Nomism   Leave a comment

Above:  The Cover Page of Paul and Palestinian Judaism, by E. P. Sanders

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty and Merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that

thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service;

grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life,

that we fail not to attain thy heavenly promises;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 206

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1 Samuel 16:1-13

Psalm 84

Acts 13:1-33

Matthew 12:31-42

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These readings cover a great deal of theological territory.

As I ponder the assigned readings, I notice that the old Congregational lectionary most recently assigned 1 Samuel 16:1-13 for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity.  That recently?

Psalm 84 is my favorite Psalm.  The soundtrack to it in my head comes courtesy of Johannes Brahms, from A German Requiem.  The text is one the spirit of which runs counter to one who commits the unpardonable sin.  That unpardonable sin is to be so spiritually oblivious as to attribute acts of God to Satan.

St. Paul the Apostle, in Acts 13:38-39, preached to the Jews:

You must know, my brothers, that through [Jesus] forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, [and] in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the Law of Moses, in him every believer is justified.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Some Jews, somewhere, may have claimed that obeying the Law of Moses justified them before God.  Actually, that was not the teaching of Second Temple Judaism.  The actual teaching of Second Temple Judaism was Covenantal Nomism, by which salvation came via the covenant.  Jews, born into the covenant, remained within it by obeying the Law of Moses.  They dropped out of the covenant by habitually and unrepentantly violating the ethical obligations the Law of Moses imposed.

Acts 13:38-39 succinctly states St. Paul’s objection to Second Temple Judaism:  it lacked Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 19, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SARGENT SHRIVER AND EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, U.S. HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DEICOLA AND GALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS; AND SAINT OTHMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AT SAINT GALLEN

THE FEAST OF ELMER G. HOMRIGHAUSEN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF HAROLD A. BOSLEY, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HENRY TWELLS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Lost and Found, Part III   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Lost Coin

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who seest the helpless misery of our fallen life;

vouchsafe unto us, we humbly beseech thee, both the outward and inward defense of thy guardian care;

that we may be shielded from the evils which assault the body,

and be kept pure from all thoughts that harm and pollute the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 148

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Exodus 14:13-31

Psalm 143

2 Corinthians 3:1-18

Luke 15:1-10

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2 Corinthians 3:5 reminds us that God qualifies the called, that God does not call the qualified.  God’s choices are an old topic in Jewish and Christian theology.  God’s choices favorable to any person or group are pure grace.  The covenant with the Jews is pure grace, as Judaism recognizes.  And the acceptance of grace requires ethical obligations, as Covenantal Nomism acknowledges.

People are precious to God.  Luke 15 contains parables about the lost and the found.  Livestock are financial assets in real life.  A small amount of money is extremely valuable to one who is poor.  The first two parables in Luke 15 conclude the same way:  God is rejoicing because of one sinner repenting.

One sinner is precious in the sight of God because God says so.  Repentance is cause for a party in Heaven because God says so.

People are precious in the sight of God.  All people are precious in the sight of God.  Are they precious in my sight?  Are they precious in your sightl O reader?  If not, there is another reason to repent.

To make my point more plainly, I move deeper into Luke 15.  The responsible, older brother did not consider his penitent young brother precious.  At the end of that parable, who was really lost?  We all have reasons to repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Salvation and Damnation, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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Adapted from these posts:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d-humes/

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Salvation and Damnation, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Saint Bartholomew, by Antonio Veneziano

Image in the Public Domain

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Amos 5:6-15 or Proverbs 1:20-33

Psalm 115:12-18

1 Timothy 2:1-15

John 1:43-51

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Without getting lost on a side trip through cultural context in 1 Timothy 2, I focus on the core, unifying theme this week:  We reap what we sow.

Now they must eat the fruit of their own way,

and with their own devices be glutted.

For the self-will of the simple kills them,

the smugness of fools destroys them.

But he who obeys me dwells in security,

in peace, without fear of harm.

–Proverbs 1:33, The New American Bible (1991)

The crucifixion of Jesus, the blood of the martyrs, and the suffering of the righteous contradicts the last two lines.  O, well.  The Book of Proverbs is excessively optimistic sometimes.  The Book of Ecclesiastes corrects that excessive optimism.

Righteousness is no guarantee against suffering in this life.  Nevertheless, we will reap what we sow.  Some of the reaping must wait until the afterlife, though.

The New Testament readings point to Jesus, as they should.  1 Timothy gets into some cultural details that do not reflect the reality of Athens, Georgia, in December 2020.  I denounce the male chauvinism evident in 1 Timothy 1:9-15.  That sexism is of its time and place.  I focus instead on God desiring that people find salvation.  They do not, of course.  Many of them are like the disobedient people in Amos 5 and Proverbs 1.

The divine mandate of economic justice present in Amos 5 remains relevant.  It is a mandate consistent with the teachings of Jesus and the ethos of Second Temple Judaism.  That divine mandate, built into the Law of Moses, is crucial in Covenantal Nomism.  According to Covenantal Nomism, salvation is via grace–birth into the covenant.  One drops out of the covenant by consistently and willfully neglecting the ethical demands of the covenant.

In other words, damnation is via works and salvation is via grace.

The reading from John 1 requires some attempt at an explanation.  The parts of John 1:35-43 that need to be clear are clear.  But, after consulting learned commentaries, I still have no idea what amazed St. Bartholomew/Nathanael the Apostle about Jesus seeing him under a fig tree.  I recall having read very educated guesses, though.  The crucial aspect of that story is the call to follow Jesus.  Also, John 1:43 links Jacob’s Ladder/Staircase/Ramp (Genesis 28:10-17) to the crucifixion (“lifting up”) of Jesus.  The Johannine theme of the exaltation of Christ being his crucifixion occurs in Chapter 1, too.  The crucifixion of Jesus was the gate of Heaven, according to John 1:43.

That gate is sufficiently narrow to exclude those who exclude themselves.  Those who carry with them the luggage of bribery cannot enter.  Those who haul along the bags of exploitation of the poor cannot pass.  No, those who exclude themselves have done injustice to God and Jesus while exploiting “the least of these.”  Those who have excluded themselves must eat the fruit of their own way.

C. S. Lewis wrote that the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.  

Think about that, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

THE FEAST OF JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, SR., EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS BECKET, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, AND MARTYR, 1170

THE FEAST OF THOMAS COTTERRILL ENGLISH PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/29/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

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Salvation and Damnation, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Part of the Title Page of Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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For the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Almighty God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers,

that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright,

grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers,

and carry us through all temptations;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 131

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Job 38:1-21

Psalm 119:1-16

Romans 4:16-25

Luke 14:25-35

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Contrary to a widespread misconception, Second Temple Judaism was not a legalistic religion with works-based salvation.  No, it was a religion that taught covenantal nomism–salvation by grace (birth into the covenant) and self-exclusion from that covenant by habitually defying the ethical obligations of God’s law.  E. P. Sanders cited Second Temple Jewish writings to make that case in Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977).

Read Psalm 119:1-16 again, O reader.  Read it as saying what it does, not what theology with a Protestant Reformation hangover thinks the text says.  Nothing in Psalm 119 contradicts Christianity.

St. Paul’s critique of Second Temple Judaism was that it lacked Jesus, not that it was legalistic, with works-based righteousness.

God, who has been creating the natural world, has also created salvation and free will.  Salvation is of divine origin.  Damnation is of human origin.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors of Hell are locked from the inside.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIERST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF ERIK CHRISTIAN HOFF, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND ORGANIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIN SHKURTI, ALBANIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1969

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