Archive for the ‘Penal Substitutionary Atonement’ Tag

The Fourth Servant Song   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion

Image in the Public Domain

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READING SECOND ISAIAH, PART IX

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) lists the Fourth Servant Song as one of three options for the reading from the Old Testament on Good Friday.  Another option is Genesis 22:1-18.  My thoughts on Abraham nearly killing his son, Isaac, are on record at this weblog.  The other option is the Wisdom of Solomon 2:1, 12-24, in which the wicked reject justice.  That reading fits Good Friday perfectly, for, as the Gospel of Luke emphasizes, the crucifixion of Jesus was a perversion of justice.  One may recall that, in the Gospel of Luke, for example, the centurion at the foot of the cross declares Jesus innocent (23:47), not the Son of God (Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39).  As I will demonstrate in this post, the applicability of the Fourth Servant Song to Good Friday works thematically, too, but interpretive issues that have nothing to do with Jesus also interest me.

In the original context, the servant in Isaiah 53:13-53:12 is the covenant people during the Babylonian Exile.  The dominant theology in Second Isaiah (chapters 34-35, 40-55) is that the Babylonian Exile was justified yet excessive (40:2; 47:6)–that people had earned that exile.  The theology of Second Isaiah also argues that this suffering was vicarious, on behalf of Gentile nations in the (known) world.  In other words:

Yet the Israelites are still the focus in that these verses offer them a revolutionary theology that explains the hardships of exile:  The people had to endure the exile and the suffering it engendered because that suffering was done in service to God so that God, through their atoning sacrifice, could redeem the nations.

–Susan Ackerman, in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), 1031

Much of the Hebrew Bible, in its final, postexilic form, holds that the Babylonian Exile was divine punishment for persistent, collective, and unrepentant disregard for the moral mandates in the Law of Moses.  This attitude is ubiquitous in the Hebrew prophetic tradition.  I know, for I am working on a project of reading the Hebrew prophetic books, roughly in historical order (with some exceptions), starting with the Book of Hosea.

Yet Isaiah 53:7-9 contradicts that interpretation.  It rejects even 40:1-3 and 47:6, from within Second Isaiah.  Isaiah 53:7-9, not about Jesus, argues that the Babylonian Exile and its accompanying suffering was unjust and the people were innocent.  The thematic link to the atoning suffering of sinless Jesus is plain to see.

Let us not neglect the theme of the vicarious suffering of the Hebrews in the Babylonian Exile, though.  I can read; the text says that, through the suffering of these exiles, Gentile nations would receive divine forgiveness and the Hebrews would receive a reward–renewal.  I try to wrap my mind around this theology, yet do not know what to make of it.  I wrestle with this theology.

Atonement via vicarious suffering is a topic about which I have written at this weblog.  Reading in the history of Christian theology tells me that three theories of the atonement exist in the writings of Church Fathers.  These theories are, in no particular order:

  1. Penal Substitutionary Atonement,
  2. The Incarnation, and
  3. The Conquest of Satan (the Classic Theory, or Christus Victor).

I come closest to accepting the Classic Theory.  It has the virtue of emphasizing that the resurrection completed the atonement.  In other words, dead Jesus cannot atone for anything; do not stop at Good Friday.  I like the Eastern Orthodox tradition of telling jokes on Easter because the resurrection of Jesus was the best joke God ever pulled on Satan.  The second option strikes me as being part of the atonement, and the first option is barbaric.  I stand with those Christian theologians who favor a generalized atonement.

Whether the question is about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jewish exiles or about the atoning, vicarious suffering of Jesus, perhaps the best strategy is to accept it, thank God, and live faithfully.  The Eastern Orthodox are correct; we Western Christians frequently try to explain too much we cannot understand.  Atonement is a mystery; we may understand it partially, at best.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MYLES HORTON, “FATHER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EUMENIOUS AND PARTHENIOS OF KOUDOUMAS, MONKS AND FOUNDERS OF KOUDOMAS MONASTERY, CRETE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF DAMASCUS, SYRIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1860

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS SPIRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF RUED LANGGAARD, DANISH COMPOSER

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Stoicism and Platonism in Fourth Maccabees   Leave a comment

Above:  Zeno of Citium

Image in the Public Domain

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READING 1, 2 AND 4 MACCABEES

PART IV

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4 Maccabees 1:1-3:18; 13:1-14:10; 18:20-24

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The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, composed in 20-54 C.E., perhaps in Antioch, is a treatise.  It interprets Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy–Stoicism and Platonism, to be precise.  4 Maccabees elaborates on the story of the martyrdom of the seven brothers and their mother, covered relatively succinctly in 2 Maccabees 7:1-42, and set prior to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

Fourth Maccabees, composed by an anonymous Hellenistic Jew and addressed to other Hellenistic Jews, has two purposes:

  1. To exhort them to obey the Law of Moses (18:1), and
  2. To proclaim that devout reason is the master of all emotions (1:1-2; 18:2).

Cultural assimilation was a common temptation for Hellenistic Jews.  “Keep the faith,” the author urged more verbosely than my paraphrase.  For him, devout reason was a reason informed by the Law of Moses.  Devout reason, in the author’s mind, the highest form of reason was the sole province of faithful Jews.

Vicarious suffering is also a theme in 4 Maccabees.  In this book, the suffering and death of the martyrs purifies the land (1:11; 6:29; 17:21), vindicates the Jewish nation (17:10), and atones for the sins of the people (6:29; 17:22).  The last point presages Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of several Christian theologies of the atonement via Jesus.

The blending of Jewish religion and Greek philosophy is evident also in the treatment of the afterlife.  The Second Book of the Maccabees teaches bodily resurrection (7:9, 11, 14, 23, and 29).  One can find bodily resurrection elsewhere in Jewish writings (Daniel 12:2; 1 Enoch 5:1-2; 4 Ezra/2 Esdras 7:42; 2 Baruch 50:2-3).  The Fourth Book of the Maccabees, however, similar to the Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-4, teaches instant immortality, with reward or punishment.  The martyrs achieve instant instant immortality with reward (4 Maccabees 9:9, 22; 10:15; 14:15; 15:7; 16:13, 25; 17:12, 18; 18:23).  Antiochus IV Epiphanes, however, goes to everlasting torment (9:9, 29, 32; 10:11, 15; 11:3, 23; 12:18; 18:5).

Stoicism, in the Greek philosophical sense, has a different meaning than the average layperson may assume.  It is not holding one’s feelings inside oneself.  Properly, Stoicism teaches that virtue is the only god and vice is the only evil.  The wise are indifferent to pain and pleasure, to wealth and poverty, and to success and misfortune.  A Stoic, accepting that he or she could change x, y, and z, yet not t, u, and v.  No, a Stoic works to change x, y, and z.  A Stoic, therefore, is content in the midst of difficulty.  If this sounds familiar, O reader, you may be thinking of St. Paul the Apostle being content in pleasant and in unpleasant circumstances (Philippians 4:11-12).

Stoicism shows up elsewhere in the New Testament and in early Christianity, too.  It is in the mouth of St. Paul in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Stoicism is also evident in the writings of St. Ambrose of Milan (337-397), mentor of St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430).  Why would it not be in the writings of St. Ambrose?  Greek philosophy informed the development of early Christian theology.  Greek philosophy continues to exist in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and Biblical commentaries.  Greek philosophy permeates the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews.  Greek philosophy is part of the Christian patrimony.

Platonism was the favorite form of Greek philosophy in the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.  Platonism permeated the works of St. Clement of Alexandria (circa 150-circa 210/215) and his star pupil, Origen (185-254), for example.  Eventually, though, St. Albert the Great (circa 1200-1280) and his star pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), successfully made the case for Aristotle over Plato.  Holy Mother Church changed her mind after the deaths of Sts. Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas. The Church, having embraced Aristotle over Plato, eventually rescinded the pre-Congregation canonization of St. Clement of Alexandria.  And the Church has never canonized Origen.  I have, however, read news stories of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland trying to convince The Episcopal Church to add Origen to the calendar of saints.  (The Episcopal Church already recognizes St. Clement of Alexandria as a saint.)

Platonism and Stoicism have four cardinal virtues–rational judgment, self-control, justice, and courage.  These appear in 4 Maccabees 1:2-4.  As I read these verses, I recognize merit in them.  Some emotions do hinder self-control.  Other emotions to work for injustice and obstruct courage.  News reports provide daily documentation of this.  Other emotions further the causes of justice and courage.  News reports also provide daily documentation of this.

I also affirm that reason should govern emotions.  I cite news stories about irrationality.  Emotions need borders, and must submit to objectivity and reason, for the best results.

4 Maccabees takes the reader on a grand tour of the Hebrew Bible to support this conclusion.  One reads, for example, of Joseph (Genesis 39:7-12; 4 Maccabees 2:1-6), Simeon and Levi (Genesis 49:7; 4 Maccabees 2:19-20), Moses (Numbers 16:1-35; Sirach 45:18; 4 Maccabees 2:17), David (2 Samuel 23:13-17; 1 Chronicles 11:15-19; 4 Maccabees 3:6-18).

Reason can effect self-control, which works for higher purposes.  One of these higher purposes is

the affection of brotherhood.

–4 Maccabees 13:19, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In the case of the seven martyred brothers, as the author of 4 Maccabees told their story, these holy martyrs used rational judgment and self-control to remain firm in their faith.  Those brothers did not

fear him who thinks he is killing us….

–4 Maccabees 13:14, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

That is the same courage and conviction present in Christian martyrs, from antiquity to the present day.

One may think of another passage:

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

–Matthew 10:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Not surprisingly, many persecuted Christians derived much comfort and encouragement from 4 Maccabees.  These Christians had to rely on each other, just as the seven brothers did in 4 Maccabees.

Mutuality is a virtue in the Law of Moses and in Christianity.

I have spent the first four posts in this series laying the groundwork for the First, Second, and Fourth Books of Maccabees.  I have provided introductory material for these books.

Next, I will start the narrative countdown to the Hasmonean Rebellion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION

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Grace and Enemies, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Bethany

Image in the Public Domain

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For Wednesday in Holy Week, 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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Assist us mercifully with thy help, O Lord God of our salvation;

that we may enter with joy upon the mediation of those mighty acts,

whereby thou hast given unto us life and immortality;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947),160

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Isaiah 62:11-63:7

Psalm 55:1-14

1 John 4:7-11

Matthew 26:1-16

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The attitude in Isaiah 62:11-63:7 and Psalm 55 (in its entirety, not just verses 1-14) differs sharply from that in the other two readings.  In Isaiah 62:11-63:7, the love of God for Israel entails divine destruction of enemies (especially the Moabites) of Israel.  And, in Psalm 55, the love of God for an individual involves the destruction of his foe or foes.  In Matthew 26:1-16, however, divine love for people entails Jesus dying for them.  (I affirm a generalized atonement, not Penal Substitutionary Atonement.)  That sacrificial death is a topic in 1 John 4:7-11.

Do we affirm and trust that God loves us and our enemies?  Do we believe that our foes are within the grasp of redemption?  Do we prefer that our enemies reform or repent, or face destruction.  The answers to those questions reveal much about us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PEPIN OF LANDEN, SAINT ITTA OF METZ, THEIR RELATIONS, SAINTS AMAND, AUSTREGISILUS, AND SULPICIUS II BOURGES, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS ACROSS GENERATIONAL LINES

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JONES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MUSICIAN

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Repentance, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Israeli Stamp of David

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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Exodus 12:1-14 or 2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

Psalm 52

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Mark 6:1-13

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Repentance, as any theologically literate person should,know, is changing one’s mind and turning around.  Repentance does not necessarily negate temporal consequences of sins, however.   We still reap what we sow.  If we sow love rather than evil, we will reap love rather than evil.  We may still suffer for various reasons, ranging from the evil of others to the no cause we can discern, but we will suffer in the company of God, at least.

I choose to focus on a few aspects I noticed in some of the readings.

David was a troublesome character, as the story we began to read about him last week and finished this week made clear.  Yet he accepted the uncomfortable words from the prophet Nathan.  Other kings had yes-men for prophets, but David had Nathan.

One cannot use the imagery of the Jesus as the Passover Lamb to justify Penal Substitutionary Atonement and be intellectually honest.  If one pays attention, one notices that the blood of the original Passover lambs saved the Hebrews from the consequences of Egyptians’ sins, not their sins.

St. Augustine of Hippo, writing about our Lord and Savior’s instructions to his Apostles in Mark 6:6b-13, offered this gem of wisdom:

They ought to walk not in duplicity, but in simplicity.

The Harmony of the Gospels 2.32.75

May we refrain from walking in hypocrisy and duplicity before God and each other.  May we walk in honest piety and simplicity instead.  May we repent of hypocrisy and duplicity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDRESS OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HIGH SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/23/devotion-for-proper-12-year-b-humes/

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Kyrie Eleison, Part II   1 comment

christ-on-the-cross

Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 9:5-15 or Jeremiah 25:15-38 or 2 Chronicles 7:1-22

Psalm 88

Luke 23:(1-12) 13-49

1 Peter 4:(1-8) 9-11 (12-14) 15-19

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The readings for this day speak of fiery ordeals.  In 2 Chronicles 7, Jeremiah 25, Ezra 9, and Psalm 88, they occur because of faithlessness to God.  These ordeals–divine punishment–lie in the future for the first two readings and in the past and the present in the last two lections.  In the first three readings he sins are collective, but they are individual in Psalm 88.  When we turn to Luke 23 and 1 Peter 4 we find that the suffering does not constitute divine punishment.  Faith tells us that Jesus did not sin, and the predicted fiery ordeals in 1 Peter 4 result from one’s righteousness and the lack of righteousness of others.

God is unpleasant in the assigned readings from the Hebrew Bible.  Perhaps the most concise passage to this effect is Jeremiah 25:27 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Then you shall say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel:  Drink, get drunk and vomit, fall and rise no more, because of the sword that I am sending among you.

I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus died for my sins.  That theory of the atonement portrays God as one in whom to stand in terror, not to love and respect.  It depicts God as one who says,

I will not be content until some people torture and execute my innocent Son.

No, I am closer to the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, of the Conquest of Satan.  This theory of the atonement emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus.  This makes sense to me because, without the resurrection, Jesus is dead.  Dead Jesus cannot save anyone from anything–sins or damnation, especially.  Actually, I propose that the entire earthly life of Jesus was the means of atonement.  I prefer to leave the mechanics of the atonement vague, in full Eastern Orthodox style.

Good Friday is among the holiest days of the year.  It is an occasion to reflect on the atonement and on social structures and institutions that kill the innocent.  Good Friday is an especially appropriate day to pray for forgiveness for the evil we have done and the evil done on our behalf.  Innocent people still suffer at the hands of other people.  Scapegoating continues.  State-sponsored violence is not just a matter of the past.  The prayer of our Lord and Savior (“Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.”–Luke 23:34a, The Jerusalem Bible, 1966) remains relevant.  Furthermore, sometimes they (we) do not know what they (we) are doing.

Lord, have mercy upon us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-good-friday-year-d/

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Three Kings and Two Deaths   1 comment

The Death of Ahab--Gustave Dore

Above:   The Death of Ahab, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our true life, to serve you is freedom, and to know you is unending joy.

We worship you, we glorify you, we give thanks to you for your great glory.

Abide with us, reign in us, and make this world into a fit habitation for your divine majesty,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 18:12-22

Psalm 46

Hebrews 9:23-28

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God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

–Psalm 46:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The account from 2 Chronicles 18, quite similar to one in 1 Kings 22, agrees with that sentiment and emphasizes the impropriety of a military alliance with an evil ally–in this case, King Ahab of Israel (reigned 873-852 B.C.E.).  King Jehoshaphat of Judah (reigned 870-846 B.C.E.) enters into a military alliance with Ahab against Aram, a shared enemy.  Only Micaiah, one prophet in a particular group of prophets, says that the planned attack at Ramoth-gilead is a bad idea.  He resists pressure to claim otherwise.  Micaiah is, of course, correct.  Ahab dies.  Jehoshaphat survives, to hear from one Jehu son of Hanani of God’s displeasure over the alliance:

For this, wrath is upon you from the LORD.  However, there is good in you, for you have purged the land of the sacred posts  and have dedicated yourself to worship God.

–2 Chronicles 19:2b-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One can read of the reign of Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22:1-51 and 2 Chronicles 17:1-20:37.

Hebrews 9:23-28 concerns itself with the atoning qualities of the crucifixion of Jesus.  I, as a student of Christian history, in particular of the development of doctrine and theology, know of three early theories of the Atonement.  Two of these include the death of Christ.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement does not satisfy me (forgive the double entendre), for it depicts a deity in which to stand in dread, not awe.

I will not be satisfied until people torture and kill my son,

that deity proclaims.  The Classic Theory, or Christus Victor, however, places correct emphasis on the resurrection.  Without the resurrection we have dead Jesus, who cannot save anyone.

Both Ahab and Jesus died.  Ahab, who died foolishly (despite warning) and was idolatrous and evil (consult 1 Kings 16:29-22:40 and 2 Chronicles 18:1-34) had it coming.  Jesus, however, was innocent of any offense before God.  The death of Ahab brought to the throne of Israel his son, Ahaziah, who followed in his father’s ignominious footsteps (consult 1 Kings 22:52-54; 2 Kings 1:1-18).  The death of Jesus, in contrast, played a role in the salvation of the human race from sin.

May we who follow Jesus respond to him, treating him as our savior, not merely another martyr to admire.  Grace is free yet not cheap; ask Jesus.  It demands much of us, such as that we not be as Kings Ahab and Ahaziah were.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LIGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-29-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Struggling With Concepts of God   1 comment

Crucifixion Icon Rublev

Above:  Icon of the Crucifixion by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you led your people through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land.

Guide us now, so that, following your Son, we may walk safely through the wilderness of this world

toward the life you alone can give, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Chronicles 21:1-17

Psalm 17

1 John 2:1-6

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Hear my just cause, O Lord; consider my complaint;

listen to my prayer, which comes not from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes behold what is right.

Weigh my heart, examine me by night,

refine me, and you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:1-3, Common Worship (2000)

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The stories of the plague God inflicted on the Kingdom of Israel bother me.  The account in 1 Chronicles 21 differs significantly from the one in 2 Samuel 24.  In 2 Samuel 24:1, for example, “the anger of the LORD” (as the New Revised Standard Version renders the text), somehow operating independently of God, incites King David to take a census in violation of God’s desire.  Satan replaces “the anger of the LORD” as the agent of incitement in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  That is just one difference.  My major problem, however, is an element of the two versions of the story have in common.  God is terrifying and cruel, sending a plague upon innocent people.  It seems that the author of Psalm 17 is not the only one with impurity.  No, God, who harms innocents, seems impure in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24.

The concept of God in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24 is foreign to me.  Likewise, the idea that God was not satisfied until Roman soldiers tortured and executed Jesus (allegedly in lieu of each sinner, including subsequent ones, such as me) is familiar yet repugnant to me.  God, for me, is love.  Divine power resurrected Jesus, thereby defeating evil schemes.  Yes, O reader, I just repudiated Penal Substitutionary Atonement and affirmed the core of Christus Victor, the Classic Theory of the Atonement.  We who claim to follow God ought to exercise great caution regarding what we say and write about God.  Do we portray God as love or as a monster?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN HATCH, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/10/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Jesus, New Covenant   1 comment

agnusdeiwindow

Above:  The Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AgnusDeiWindow.jpg)

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 134

John 21:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-eleventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

John 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

you that by night stand in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary

and bless the Lord.

The Lord who made heaven and earth

give you blessing out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Common Worship (2000)

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The daily realities and worldviews of biblical characters, being different from my own, require me to do some homework if I am to understand correctly what certain texts describe.  A case in point is Exodus 24, which recounts the sealing of the covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh with Moses sprinkling the blood of sacrificial bulls on the people.  Blood, in the worldview of these ancients, made life possible.  Thus, in this ritual act,

Israel now begins a new life of obedience, signified by sacrifice, the “book of the covenant,” and by the “blood of the covenant.”

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1994), page 881

We know how obedient many of that group of Israelites turned out to be, do we not?

The interpretive angle that blood makes life possible fits well into atonement theology, especially when one considers Jesus, both priest and sacrifice.  I recall to mind the image which the Gospel of John provides:  Jesus dying as sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb; his death is the Passover meal.  The original Passover (in Exodus) protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, so any properly reasoned theology of atonement which uses Passover imagery must move beyond a tunnel-vision focus on one’s own sins.

The theology of scapegoating disturbs me.  Jesus became a political scapegoat, dying as one.  I agree with others who reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement; Jesus did not take my place on the cross.  Rather, the Classic Theory–the conquest of evil, completed via the Resurrection–is closer to my theology.  Actually, I propose that the entire life of Christ was essential for the Atonement.  And I interpret the death of Jesus as having several meanings, including the point that scapegoating does not work.

My holistic understanding of the Atonement takes into account the vital role of bloodshed in the New Testament reflections on the crucifixion.  If the blood of sacrificial bulls made new spiritual life possible, even sealing the covenant, how much more does the blood of Christ affect those of us who follow him?  We have a New Covenant through him, do we not?  The imagery of blood fits well here.

More important, though, is the Resurrection, through which we have a living Jesus, not a dead one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013)   3 comments

Glory to God The Presbyterian Hymnal November 16, 2013

Above:  My Copy of the Hymnal

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I am, in the words of someone I know, a “liturgy geek.”  I am also the kind of Episcopalian who, though closer to Lutheranism than to the Reformed tradition, understands U.S. Presbyterian history better than most U.S. Presbyterians.  Part of my family tree is Presbyterian, so that interest comes to me naturally, even though my spiritual type is Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic, in that order.  (Yes, I was born to be an Episcopalian, even though I had to convert to that denomination.)

My credentials for writing about U.S. Presbyterian worship are strong.  I have written at length on the topic at this weblog, focusing mostly on editions of the Book of Common Worship (1906, 1932, 1946, 1970/1972, and 1993).  My library includes official Presbyterian hymnals from 1874, 1901, 1927, 1933, 1955, 1972, 1990, and now 2013, not to mention all editions of the Book of Common Worship.  Reference works on U.S. Presbyterianism sit on shelves, as do copies of the Book of Order and the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Once upon a time I was on a track to become a historian of U.S. Presbyterianism, focusing on the prehistory of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) via analysis of the racist and reactionary magazine which midwifed it, but that path ended when my major professor at The University of Georgia (UGA) cut my doctoral program short seven years ago.  Perhaps it is for the best that I have taken a different path; I prefer to focus on the positive side.  But, in the words of an old song,

No, no, no, they can’t take that away from me.

I remain well-informed on U.S. Presbyterianism.  And I still have every note card documenting every editorial defense of racial segregation (usually recycled defenses of slavery) and every criticism of the Civil Rights Movement.  (At least the PCA General Assembly had the decency to apologize for such racism about ten years ago.  I give credit where it is due.)

Presbyterian Books November 16, 2013

Above:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990), Book of Common Worship (1993), and Glory to God (2013)

Some explanation of the background of Glory to God might help.  The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972) was a combination service book-hymnal, a successor to the 1946 Book of Common Worship and The Hymnal (1933) and The Hymnbook (1955).  Unfortunately, the organization of hymns in The 1972 volume was alphabetical order.  The Worshipbook‘s two immediate successors were The Presbyterian Hymnal:  Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Songs (1990) and Book of Common Worship (1993).  Now the latter volume has a new companion:  Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal.

The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990) broke new ground in U.S. Presbyterianism by using the church year as an organizing principle.  Thus “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus” was hymn #1.  Glory to God, without abandoning the church year, subsumes it inside the organizing principle of salvation history, focusing primarily on what God has done, sequentially, in good Reformed fashion.  Thus Trinitiarian hymns lead.  The first hymn is “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!”  After the Trinitarian hymns come other sections (also under the heading, “God’s Mighty Acts”) labeled:

  • Creation and Providence;
  • God’s Covenant with Israel;
  • Jesus Christ;
  • Gift of the Holy Spirit;
  • The Church;
  • The Life of the Nations;
  • Christ’s Return and Judgment; and
  • A New Heaven and a New Earth.

Then the headings “The Church at Worship” and “Our Response to God,” each subdivided, follow.

The Theological Vision Statement explains the rationale for the salvation history theme:

This collection of hymns and songs, however, will be published different conditions than those that molded previous hymnals.  It will be offered in a world in which trust in human progress has been undermined and where ecclectic spiritualities often fail to satisfy deep spiritual hungers.  It will be used by worshipers who have not had life-long formation by Scripture and basic Christian doctrine, much less Reformed theology.  It is meant for a church marked by growing diversity in liturgical practice.  Moreover, it addresses a church divided by conflicts but nonetheless, we believe, longing for healing and then peace that is beyond understanding.

To inspire and embolden a church facing these formidable challenges, the overarching theme of this collection will be God’s powerful acts of creation, redemption, and final transformation.  It will also bespeak the human responses that God’s gracious acts make possible.  In other words, the framework for the collection will be the history of salvation.

Glory to God, page 926

Glory to God, unlike its 1990 predecessor, includes my favorite hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself Today.”  (Score one for the new book!)  In The Hymnal 1982, which I use each Sunday, that hymn has seven verses and fills three pages.  The Presbyterian version, however, has six verses and fills three pages.  The omitted verse follows:

I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;

the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;

the service of the seraphim;

confessor’s faith, apostles’ word,

the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;

all good deeds done unto the Lord,

and purity of virgin souls.

The last two lines cross run afoul of Reformed and Lutheran theology, for the the current U.S. Lutheran hymnals I have checked which include this hymn also omit that verse.

Glory to God contains more services than most of its predecessors, with The Worshipbook (1972) being the exception.  

  1. The Presbyterian Hymnal (1874) and The New Psalms and Hymns (1901) offered just words, music, and indices.  
  2. The Presbyterian Hymnal (1927) included responsive readings.
  3. The Hymnal (1933) included responsive readings, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, one page of Opening Sentences, and the two-page Brief Statement of the Reformed Faith (1902, Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.).
  4. The Hymnbook (1955) contained responsive readings plus a short section called “Aids to Worship,” which included Calls to Worship, Invocations, Prayers of Confession, Assurances of Pardon, Prayers of Thanksgiving, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, and the Apostles’ Creed.  
  5. The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972) incorporated the entirety of The Worshipbook–Services (1970), really the fourth Book of Common Worship.
  6. And The Presbyterian Hymnal (1990) included the outline of the Service for the Lord’s Day (with texts) as well as the Creeds in English, Spanish, and Korean.
  7. Glory to God offers the Service for the Lord’s Day, the Sacrament of Baptism, Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, Morning Prayer, Midday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Prayer at the Close of Day.  These services are edited versions of the full forms from Book of Common Worship (1993), sometimes with material not in the 1993 volume.  The new hymnal also offers the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the denominational Brief Statement of Faith in English, Spanish, and Korean.

I have read of some minor controversy regarding Glory to God online.  The hymnal committee, unable to acquire a copyright holder’s permission to alter a certain new hymn, chose to omit it.  C’est la vie.  The omitted hymn, in its unaltered form, affirmed the Penal Substitution understanding of the Atonement, a barbaric theology.  I am more of a Classic Theory of the Atonement man, so I have no problem with this editorial decision.  And I know that Presbyterians have been arguing about hymnals in North America since at least the 1750s, when the New York City congregation purchased an Isaac Watts hymnal which included hymns not based on Psalms.  Those who seek an argument will always find a basis for one.  I dislike contemporary praise music and most spirituals, preferring wordy European hymns.  Thus I would have made some choices which the hymnal committee did not.  But the book contains more meritorious content than dross, so I affirm the good and focus on it.

Among the meritorious aspects of Glory to God is its Lectionary Index, which lists hymns matched to the Revised Common Lectionary.  The three-year break-down by Sunday and holy day impresses me.  I think of The Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), with its lectionary barely deserving of that title, and realize how far these Presbyterians have come.

I look forward to exploring the riches of Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013) for years to come.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28–THE TWENTY-SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Revised slightly on November 19, 2013

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Hatred and Violence   1 comment

crucifix

Above:  A Crucifix

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 29:1-24 (September 11)

2 Chronicles 31:1-21 (September 12)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–September 11)

Psalm 97 (Morning–September 12)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–September 11)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–September 12)

Philippians 3:1-21 (September 11)

Philippians 4:1-23 (September 12)

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Some Related Posts:

Philippians 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/09/week-of-proper-26-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/week-of-proper-26-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-26-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-2/

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The 2006 Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary has led me through Philippians for a few posts, ending with this one.  Thus time the other main readings come from 2 Chronicles.  I have combined these lections because

  1. They seem repetitive to me, and
  2. They abound with mind-numbing details which seem meaningless to me in the context of the cross of Christ.

As much as I reject the idea that God smote nations for idolatry and sent them into exile, I also reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  I reject both for the same reason:  They make God look like a thug.  I do not worship a thug.

Yet turning back to God is always positive.  That was what King Hezekiah did.  And that was what Paul encouraged, even if he did resort to invective, calling advocates of circumcision “dogs” in Philippians 3:2.

The God of my faith is the one who, in the Resurrection of Jesus, demonstrated the power to thwart evil plans.  The God of my faith is the one who hears prayer requests and who

will supply all your needs out of the magnificence of his riches in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 4:19, Revised English Bible

The God of my faith is the one whose servant St. Paul the Apostle urged his friends at Philippi to focus on

…all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable….

–Philippians 4:8, Revised English Bible

That is excellent advice everyday, but especially on and around September 11, now the anniversary of a date which will live in infamy. Violence in the name of God is not sacred, for the love of God is incompatible with “sacred” violence.  Yes, self-defense is necessary sometimes, but let us never mistake such a sad and imposed duty for a sacred task.  What will it profit a person to return hatred for hatred?  He or she will lose his or her soul and not bring glory the executed and resurrected Lord and Savior, who overcame hatred and violence with divine power and love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSKAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MILLARD FULLER, FOUNDER OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/devotion-for-september-11-and-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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