Reading the language of creation

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I’m at the Conference on Classical Lutheran Education in Cheyenne, Wyoming, the theme of which this year is “A Pedagogy of Truth.”  Our keynote speaker is Rev. John Hill, who is giving a brilliant series of lectures on the concept of truth according to the Bible (delving deeply into the original languages), the Lutheran Confessions, and Christian theology in general.  His message is not just “truth is objective!” in a simplistic end-of-the-discussion sort of way.  Rather, he shows that the Biblical notion of truth is rich, complex, and provocative.  (If Christians want to counter the postmodernist view that truth is relative, they need to understand what the Christian view of truth really entails.  Rev. Hill has got to publish these lectures.  CPH editors, take notice.)

Here is one example. . . .Creation, he says, is God’s speech.  As the Bible teaches, God created the universe by His Word (e.g., Psalm 33:6).  Rev. Hill quoted Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, in which Luther says that “God speaks reality.”  When we speak, Luther said, in grammatical language. But God’s speech involves things coming into being.  We are all words of God.  The created word is spoken by the uncreated Word.

The connection of creation to language is evident in those beautiful but puzzling words of Psalm 19:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

So all creation is a kind of language.  But to whom is God speaking in the language of creation?  To us! Rev. Hill said that human beings “are meant to hear and to read this language.”

He tossed off this provocative statement and moved on to a related topic.  But notice what we have here:  a new way to think about learning!  a theology of education! [Read more…]

How God uses the imagination

More from my interview with Mathew Block, who asks how God uses our human imaginations to reach us. [Read more…]

“With fear and great joy”

When the Angel of the empty tomb appeared to the Roman guards, those courageous battle-hardened soldiers were so afraid that they passed out.  When the same Angel appeared to the women who came to care for the body of Jesus, they were also afraid, but they left “with fear and great joy.”  What was the difference?  The women had the Word of God proclaimed to them.  So explained our pastor in an illuminating Easter sermon, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

The Lutheran roots of Radical Orthodoxy

Not long ago we posted about the theological and philosophical movement known as Radical Orthodoxy, asking whether Lutherans could have a seat at that table.  Well, in another context, my friend George Strieter put me on to Johann Georg Hamann, a devout Lutheran who was friends with Kant and Hegel but who critiqued their philosophies with some extremely innovative philosophy of his own.   It turns out, Hamann’s thought is said to be a major influence on ” Oswald Bayer, John Milbank and David Bentley Hart.”  The latter two are the most prominent figures in Radical Orthodoxy.  And that Oswald Bayer , perhaps the favorite contemporary German theologian at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, is mentioned here puts him in the company of the radically orthodox. [Read more…]

Better than witnessing the Transfiguration

Yesterday was the climax of the Epiphany season, Transfiguration Sunday, marking the most explicit epiphany of Jesus during His time on earth.  St. Peter saw witnessed it personally, as he describes in His second epistle.  But he goes on to say that we have something even better, even more certain, than witnessing the Transfiguration. [Read more…]

He opens their mind to understand the Scriptures

More from Pastor Douthwaite’s sermon last Sunday, on the connection between Scripture and Jesus:

Luke tells us: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Like the parent who after embracing her child opens the closet to show him that there are no monsters, or who kneels and shows her that there is nothing under the bed, so Jesus next opens the Scriptures to show His children the truth – the truth of His Word. That what happened the past few days was no accident, no series of unfortunate events, and not things spinning out of control – but what had been prophesied and spoken of from the beginning and all through the Scriptures. Everything that had been written, spoke of and pointed to Him and His Easter work.

And so Jesus opened the Scriptures to them and filled their minds with the truth. He told them about the cross and Isaac’s burden of wood in Genesis. He told them about His Supper and the flesh and blood of the passover lamb in Exodus. He told them about His atonement for sin and the sacrifices in Leviticus. He told them about His death for the life of the world, like it was with Joseph. He told them how He was the real strong man, like Samson, who came to crash the gates of his enemy. He told them about the hatred and villainy He and a former King of Israel – David – received, even from their own people. He told them about the being pierced from Zechariah as He showed them His hands and side. He told them how He was Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He told them about dry bones and resurrection. And with each teaching, each story, each shadow revealed, their fears were taken away and their faith increased. The monsters of uncertainty and the ghosts of sin were taken away, and replaced with the Spirit and Word of God.

Oh, they were still children! They would always be children, just as we will always be. But they were learning as they drank the pure spiritual milk of the Word, and growing up to and into their salvation – which is not a what, but a who. Growing up and into Christ – the one who was speaking to them and not only informing, but forming, them.

And that distinction is important. That the Word of God not only informs us, but also forms us. For being a child of God is not simply a matter of the head, but of the heart. Of life that is not just known, but lived. Perhaps we have too often put asunder these two things that God has joined together. The Word of God became flesh, and He still does, as He now comes and lives in and through us. That we live who we are; who we have been made in our baptism.

That is what John means when he goes on to talk about the “practice of sinning” and the “practice of righteousness.” That is not simply of matter of knowing what is right and wrong, or of will power and determination to follow the Law. It is a matter of being, of abiding in Christ. That born anew as children of God, we no longer follow the false promises and lies of the devil, but instead, follow the true and sure promises of God, and find our life in Him. Practicing righteousness by repenting of our sin and abiding in His forgiveness and love, and thus growing into Him.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Easter 3 Sermon.