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Keeping Time

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

Keeping Time

Human Finitude and Figural Interpretation

Daniel J. Treier

The question of how figural reading relates to human finitude arises from the nearly contemporaneous appearance of two dazzling books from Ephraim Radner—Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures and A Time to Keep: Theology, Mortality, and the Shape of a Human Life.1 The intuition explored here is that these books do not entirely cohere in their approaches to time, their common theme. Perhaps, even if this intuition is misguided, exploring it will draw further attention to neglected territory.

Radner uniquely combines existential passion, pastoral experience, and deep learning. These books cover a breathtaking amount of biblical, historical, conceptual, and cultural territory. While Radner is not afraid to speak directly about the churchly problems, he also listens carefully. So I am grateful for the chance to explore these distinctively Anglican pathways, even if I must doggedly make my way back to a Presbyterian home.

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The Decalogue as the Law of ChrisT

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The Decalogue as the Law of ChrisT

Gilbert Meilaender

The Church lives by the “fathers” of Israel, by the fellowship of the spirit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David and Elijah. . . . These fathers of Israel, and they alone, ought in strict justice to be called the “fathers of the Church.”

—Karl Barth1

It is obvious that the Decalogue (the “ten words”) has played a central role in the church’s understanding of how Christians should live. In their confessions, in their preaching, and perhaps especially in their catechetical instruction, churches have used the Decalogue as a framework for understanding the will of God for our lives. Jesus himself seems to regard the commandments of the Decalogue as an articulation of the goodness God requires (e.g., Luke 18:18–20). And in Galatians (4:13) St. Paul draws these “ten words” into one, writing, “The whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” A similar passage in Romans (13:8–10) indicates clearly that the commandments Paul is drawing together in this one are those of the Decalogue.2 Would, however, that things were really this clear and simple. Readers of St. Paul will know better than to suppose that it is.

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Scripture on the Edge of God

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Scripture on the Edge of God

Ephraim Radner

Nothing could be more gratifying and humbling to me than the discussion of Time and the Word offered by this symposium of deeply perceptive and faithful theologians. I am enormously grateful. The breadth of discussion makes my own response challenging. At the outset I will simply offer my genuine thanks for whatever praise has been offered. But for what follows, I will turn to the questions and sometimes clear critiques my colleagues have helpfully laid out. There is a common thread among these, that is, a concern about over-loading the divine nature of Scripture, such that, on the one hand Scripture may seem to take the place of God or on the other, that it may seem to swallow up the distinct singularities of historical existence—creation, events, individuals, persons. I will try to address this under several general headings.

An Experiment

I want to admit up front that many of the specifics related to the general concern just mentioned derive from my own lack of clear understanding about the matters Time and Word addressed! This is due to my own intellectual limitations, no doubt, but also to the fact that the book as a whole was an experiment, one in which I was trying to work something out, without yet knowing where it would end up, or quite seizing the implications of what I was doing. I will explain the particular experiment below, but first I want to make an apology, both in the sense of defense as well as asking for pardon.

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The Concept of Newness in Eschatology

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The Concept of Newness in Eschatology

Joshua Wise

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

—Rev. 1:81

And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

—Rev. 21:5

The tension of the “new” and the “old” in eschatological studies is, of course, the locus of most of the disagreement that takes place in the field. We can identify this tension as the tension of the natural and the supernatural, nature and grace. Repeatedly visions of the coming age are criticized for their overemphasis of one of these factors, while leaving the other behind. N. T. Wright, one of the most prolific voices contributing to eschatology in the last twenty years, has been critiqued by some2 for his overemphasis on the continuity between this age and the coming age. Alternatively, and with a much longer history, St. Thomas Aquinas’s picture of a world in which the heavens have stopped, there are no plants or animals other than humans, and we merely contemplate the Lord with our minds,3 leaves behind the continuity of this and the next age in a way that is deeply dissatisfying for many.4

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On Radner’s Time and the Word

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers ePub

On Radner’s Time and the Word

Paul J. Griffiths

I’m grateful to have been asked to contribute to this symposium on Ephraim Radner’s book, Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures. It’s a real book, by which I mean that it’s the written deposit of concentrated thought about a set of questions as if it were important to approach and answer them rightly. It’s something more than journeyman academic work, and something more, too, than the work of someone who cares for the church and wishes to serve her. It has the unusual virtue of combining wide learning, intellectual passion, and devotion to Christ and his church. In reading it, it seemed to me that I was faced with a mind at work on something that matters. That is rare, and good; I’m grateful to Radner for it.

So, what is the book about? It offers an elucidation and defense of figural reading, exegesis, and preaching of Christian Scripture, together with examples of these activities being performed, and some instruction in how to perform them better. Radner acknowledges that the last forty years or so has seen a massive recovery of interest in figural reading and interpretation of Scripture in the anglophone Christian world; but he also writes that this kind of reading is still under-theorized or badly theorized, and therefore in need of further elucidation and defense. What does he mean by “figural reading”? Here are two instances, among many, of brief attempts on his part to say: “Scripture in particular is . . . the gift of an omnipotent God who has so construed the world and ordered the words of the Bible, that the latter may function broadly in an inter-signifying role to navigate through the former in the direction of salvation’s grasp” (157–58). And: “[F]igural reading is the temporal explication, through the juxtaposition of her multiple texts, of Scripture’s divine ‘allness’” (210). The idea is that the text of Scripture is intended by God to be a text capable of signifying, and being read to signify, everything: all that there is, and everything that has happened and will happen. So reading it is figural reading, and it is reading that assumes a deep and serious claim about the text, the Lord, and what is neither the text nor the Lord.

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