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Archive for April, 2009

Romans 7

This is a problematic and much discussed passage. I’ve been discussing it in another forum, and have decided to move it here and present some very preliminary observations about it.

One large question is this: Who is the speaker here and what is his situation? Traditionally, the speaker is seen to be Paul and the situation is the trials of believers as they wrestle with indwelling sin. There are reasons why this traditional view has come into question, primarily that throughout this part of Romans Paul is discussing the coming of the New Creation and the end, in some sense, of the Torah-Law. That’s the point of Romans 7:1-6.

Hence, some have argued that the “I” in Romans 7:7-27 is not Paul himself but Israel, or the typical Israelite living under Torah and yearning for the New Creation. Yet, the problem with this is that the man in Romans 7 includes in his arguments that he has been raised from the Deathbody of Adam/Israel in union with Jesus Christ our Lord. He seems, thus, to be someone in the New Creation already.

My suggestion is that the man in Romans 7 is Paul Himself, but Paul putting himself in the position of Israel, and behind that, of the corporate Adam of the human race. Death entered through Adam, and humanity lived in an unresurrected Deathbody from then on. Death includes division,and Adam and Eve divided from each other right away, putting a fig-leaf barrier between themselves. God enhanced this division at Babel, and again by dividing humanity into circumcised and uncircumcised (Genesis 17). Further divisions, and symbolic forms of the Deathbody were introduced at Sinai, with priests alone allowed near to God, and various forms of symbolic uncleanness (death) linked to bodily functions (the flesh). The division within the human person is manifested here in Romans 7.

Torah-law, with its divisions and its Deathbody manifestations, arises from the original death-law, “Do not eat of the Tree of Knowledge or you will die.” The things that have to do with extending human dominion are marked with death: eating all animals, having children, glorious white skin, and rivers flowing from the center of the body (Lev. 11-15). Humanity is not resurrected, so all this glory is marked with death. This Deathbody and its problems is in view in Romans 7:13-25. The passage exists with an introduction and a three-fold argument, which cycles through four phases three times. Paul says, normatively, that he agrees with Torah (v. 16); dispositionally,that it is he himself who wishes to do Torah (v. 19), and situationally, that Jesus Christ has resurrected him from the Deathbody and its contradictions.
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Good New SF

1. The current issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction includes a good fantasy novella by John C. Wright, who since his conversation has been writing Christianly. This is a fine fantasy with nods to C. S. Lewis and Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and probably Gene Wolfe as well. The issue is only sale only in April, so get yours now if you are interested. Also included in this issue is a reprint of Thomas Disch’s classic “The Brave Little Toaster” (made into a movie a few years ago).

 

2. Perhaps of even more interest is The Best of Gene Wolfe (Tor, 2009). Here are 464 pages of short stories and novellas by today’s greatest SF writer, a devout Christian. Included are the two stories Christians most often refer to: “Westwind” (a short homage to Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday) and “The Detective of Dreams” (a Poe-esque homage to the Greatest Storyteller of all time). Short remarks by Wolfe are found at the end of each of the 31 stories here. Some stories are charming; more are cautionary. Many require re-reading. If you need an introduction to Gene Wolfe, or if you want the best in one place, get this.

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The Liturgy Trap is Back

liturgy_trap1Now available …

The Liturgy Trap
the Bible Versus Mere Tradition in Worship (3rd. Edition)

by James B. Jordan

From the Athanasius Press website:

“We hear all to often that someone has decided to leave the  Evangelical Christian faith and to join the Church of Rome, or Eastern Orthodoxy, or High Anglicanism. The lure is liturgy and tradition, and since the Evangelical and Reformed churches so often  have such poor worship, it is not hard to understand the pull exercised by those churches that have a heritage of formality, sobriety and beauty.

“This cure, however, is far worse than the disease. The answer to the weaknesses of Evangelicalism is not a turn toward the fallacies and errors of Rome, Orthodoxy and Anglo-Catholicism, but a return to Biblical patterns of worship.

“Just as there is true and false doctrine, so there are true and false worship patterns. In this book, James B. Jordan sorts out the true and the false in the area of worship practice, discussing the cult of the saints, the veneration of icons, apostolic succession, virginity and celibacy, the presence of Christ at His Supper, and the doctrine of tradition.”

The book is currently available for pre-order at 40% off the cover price. Buy it here.  Be sure to check out the other books and resources available at Athanasius Press.

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