Theological Fragments: Robert Jenson on contact with the Word

“There is no need to embark on the endless preliminary of first persuading men to return to the convictions of their fathers, so that next we may show them how they fail to measure up to these convictions, so that finally we may speak of God’s mercy. We can speak without needing to appeal to these now shaky bridges between Christ and ourselves. We need no bridges at all between Christ and ourselves, these or any other. Our relation to God’s revelation of himself in His Son is not something apart from our ordinary lives as human doers and sufferers. It is not something which comes second, so that we are first involved in our history and the history of our world–and then faced with the choice of whether also to become involved with God’s Word. The message of the Church does not need to create a point of contact with human life. The Word is that “other” over against whom human life is lived.”

(Robert Jenson, Alpha and Omega, 147)

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Theological Fragments: God’s Identity

“The proposition that God’s self-identity lies in dramatic coherence is in any case mandatory for those who wish to worship the biblical God. For if we cannot construe the biblical God’s self-identity in this way, then we cannot construe it at all; then we do not know any one such reality as the biblical God. Otherwise than dramatically, the Bible’s theological descriptions, accounts of divine action, and worshipful invocations are too mutually conflicted to suggest referral to a same someone.”

–Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology: Volume 1, The Triune God, 64.

Theological Fragments: Bonhoeffer on “In the beginning…”

“When the beginning can be spoken about only by those who are in the middle and worry about the beginning and the end, those who tug at their own chains, those who — to anticipate for a moment something that comes later — know only in their sin about having been created by God, then it can no longer be asked whether this beginning is God’s own beginning or God’s beginning with the world. This is because for us God as the beginning is no other then the one who in the beginning created the world and created us, and because we can know nothing at all of this God except as the Creator of our world. Luther was once asked what God was doing before the creation of the world. His answer was that God was cutting sticks to cane people who ask such idle questions. In this way Luther was not cutting the questioner short; he was also saying that where we do not recognize God as the merciful Creator, we can know God only as the wrathful judge — that is, only standing in relation to the middle, between the beginning and the end (Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall, pg 31).

Scholarship: The Hidden God

“Luther took the hidden God seriously for a number of reasons. Without the admission that there is more to God than meets either eye or ear, God could be tamed, measured, managed within the realm of the human ability and possibility to judge. From the human perspective God remains God because human creatures are creatures as well as sinners, and it is not possible for the product of God’s creative words to master knowledge of the Creator.

“…In the Heidelberg Disputation Luther had focused first on the blank wall created by the impossibility of the human creature’s, to say nothing of sinner’s, conceptualizing of God, just to prove that with fallen eyes no one can see God. With fallen human ears no one can return to the Edenic hearing of his Word. Then Luther focused very sharply on God in his revelation of himself (John 1:18): no one has seen God, but Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh, has made him known: a God with holes in his hands, feet, and side; the God who has come near to humankind, into the midst of its twisted and ruined existence” (Kolb, Bound Choice, pg 36).