And now for something completely different

by Kim on April 23, 2009

It wouldn’t surprise me if parliamentary satirists soon join the swelling ranks of the unemployed, hard as it now is to top, for rib-splitting hilarity, the Pythonesque sketches starring the Labour leadership that feature nightly on what television producers still insist on calling the News. It is blindingly obvious to anyone not in pathological denial that the Front Bench has collectively lost the plot, but it is when Brown and Darling, with Promethean pretentiousness, pontificate on the economy that the laughometer goes off the rictus scale. So hapless are they that they make Basil Fawlty look like a paragon of someone who knows what he is doing. Of course no one expects politicians to own up and frankly admit that they don’t know what the fuck (not even economists know what the fuck about the economy). But perhaps only Christians are in a position to understand the perennial reason for the sheer hubris of the buggers - and no one puts it with greater theological acuity than William Stringfellow in his writings on the “powers”: how we

persevere in belaboring the illusion that at least some institutions are benign and viable and within human direction or can be rendered so by discipline or reform or revolution or displacement. The principalities are, it is supposed, capable of being altered so as to respect and serve human life, instead of demeaning and dominating human life, provided there is sufficient human will to accomplish this.

I suggest this to be, however, a virtually incredible view … which is both theolgically false and empirically unwarranted….

If there be knowing victims of the principalities, if there indeed be saints and prophets, there are many victims who do not realize it, and there are persons who are eager slaves to these idols. Often these acolytes of the demonic seem to be oblivious to how the principalities tyrannize and corrupt their humanness. In Revelation, the kings and merchants and traders seem startled and bewildered by Babylon’s doom (Rev. 18:9-17)….

There is unleashed among the principalities … a ruthless, self-proliferating, all-consuming institutional process which assaults, dispirits, defeats, and destroys human life even among, and primarily among, those persons in positions of institutional leadership. They are left with titles, but without effectual authority; with the trappings of power, but without control over the institutions they head; in nominal command, but bereft of dominion. These same principalities … threaten and defy and enslave human beings of other status in diverse ways, but the most poignant victim of the demonic … is the so-called leader.

It is not surprising, thus, to find - in addition to the ranks of those whose conformity to and idolatry of the principalities means that they are automatons or puppets - some persons, reputed leaders attended by the trappings of high office, who are enthralled by their own enslavement and consider themselves rewarded for it, and who conceive of their own dehumanization as justification or moral superiority.

You can always count on Stringfellow to expose the buck-nakedness of our emperors.

William Stringfellow, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2004), pp. 83, 87-89.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1

ee 04.24.09 at 8:22 am

Marvellous.

I was actually thinking similar thoughts yesterday. I have both worked professionally with social services departments, and been on the receiving end of their services in a couple of different ways. And after another bureaucratic hurdle rose up before me, I was considering how a profession which should be there to help is bureaucratised and dehumanised, such that it ceases to be benevolent. In the name of efficacy, it takes all authority away from professionals and people using the services alike. Yet the power structure grinds on, merrily crapping on all below it. I’m not sure that Stringfellow is too far-fetched to call this demonic - the power structures in place of the people.

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Kim 04.24.09 at 11:10 am

Hi ee,

For Stringfellow, “demonic refers to death comprehended as a moral reality. Hence, for a man to be ‘possessed by a demon’ means concretely that he is a captive of the power of death in one or another of the manifestations which death assumes in history.” And of course the same goes for institutions - including the social services.

3

DH 04.27.09 at 4:14 pm

“I was considering how a profession which should be there to help is bureaucratised and dehumanised, such that it ceases to be benevolent.”

Man, ee, I love this line. As government more and more mandate help for the poor it promotes the problems that Stringfellow and implied by your post. Rather than beurocratize (word? I made it up) the system to help the poor there should be more incentives for people to do this from their heart.

Here is a thought Kim, maybe when one addresses their heart by doing things for the Lord from ones heart we can prevent the influence of the demonic. We know that Salvation for the unbeliever and Sanctification for the Believer is done by more than confession of ones mouth but also belief from ones heart. “Man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.”

Also demonic goes beyond just what you address here. The demonic can possess individuals like the ones addressed in Jesus’s time. The demonic is way more than an analogy to what you are addressing.

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Tony Buglass 04.27.09 at 4:27 pm

Well, it all depends on where you look at it. One person’s organisation is another’s bureaucratisation. A lot of individuals doing something from the heart may need to get their corporate act together in order to achieve the most effective results - that’s organisation, and it’s good. But when the needs of organisation begin to take precedence over the objectives and purposes, that’s bureaucratisation, and can be very bad. nd if that’s the most important place to attack to prevent the Lord’s work happening, that’s where Satan will atack. That’s demonic, yes?

I’ve noticed for a very long time now the tendency of evangelical thinking to focus on the individual and stay there. Salvation is a personal thing, sanctification is a personal thing, justification is a personal thing - even the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit can be treated as a personal thing. The Hebrew mind (which is the foundation of biblical thought) has no concept of the individual as utterly separate from other individuals - we are all part of a whole, which is community. People are shaped by community and relationships, in exactly the way that a cell of honeycomb is a perfect hexagon because it is shaped by the six surrounding perfect hexagons at the same time as it helps to shape them. (That, incidentally, is a good parable of the way relationships within the church should work…). The individual is important, but the individualism which crept in through the influence of Greek thinking is not; we need to follow through in our understanding of church as community - the Body of Christ.

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DH 04.27.09 at 5:34 pm

I agree with everything you say. However, there is a tendency of making it all community to the detrimate of the individuals. While the Body is the most important one must not neglect that we made up of many “members”.

The fact remains that we are a community of believers or members.

You say the Hebrew mind has no conept of the individual. However, in the Exodus it were the individuals who were doing pagan worship that were destroyed in the pit that the others who didn’t commit the pagan worship that had to drink from.

OT Scripture says “David was A MAN after God’s own heart.” OT Scripture also says “The SOUL that sinneth shall surely die.”
Jesus says “Except A MAN be Born Again he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Hebrews with the “Faith Chapter” in reference to OT believers., Etc. It was the MAN who violated God’s command to touch the “Ark” and died. ,etc., etc.

It seems to me the OT understanding was a perfect combination of individual and community.

Also, when one reads Hebrew one sees it was by Faith all of these people mentioned were considered glorious through God. These were not people who were considered redeemed just because they were Jewish. They were considered redeemed by their Faith. While the Jewish people were considered a community they were considered redeemed by their Faith. It seems from Scripture there is a combination of individual AND community. You mustn’t downgrade the importance of the individual for Salvation and I must not downgrade the importance of the community for Sanctification and the drawing in of individuals for Salvation as well

I say this not to downplay what you say in reference to community/individual but for ALL of us to properly understand these issues.

The community is not greater than the members and the members are not greater than the members. There is also a context issue as well.

6

Tony Buglass 04.28.09 at 8:47 am

“You say the Hebrew mind has no conept (sic) of the individual. ”

No, I didn’t. I said “The Hebrew mind …. has no concept of the individual as utterly separate from other individuals.” Which is what you went on to unpack. Note, when the group (not individuals in isolation) worship idols, it is the whole community which comes under judgment.

My point was that the infuence of Greek thought (especially via the Early Church Fathers) had led to an unhealthy emphasis on individualism and the salvation of one’s immortal soul, which is a distortion of the biblical message. You seem to be agreeing with me.

7

DH 04.28.09 at 4:25 pm

I don’t agree with the statement you had regarding Salvation of one’s soul. I don’t believe Salvation of one’s soul IS a distortion of the biblical message. Jesus did say that “I am the way the truth and the life no ONE comes to the Father but through Me.” Also when one reads the book of Hebrews and the Faith chapter it was by Faith Abrham was made righteous, etc. I don’t consider the “Church Fathers to have an unhealthy emphasis on individualism and the salvation of one’s immortal soul”. I consider it an understand of how by Faith people pre OT and NT etered into the Kingdom. To suggest or imply that being a Jew or part of a community saved people is NOT Biblical in any way. “For by Grace are you saved through FAITH….”

While it was true that indirectly that the whole group came unto judgement, it were those who commited the acts that ultimately were dead. Also you failed to refer to my statement of the individual who touched the Ark. Only the individual who touched the Ark ultimately faced the judgement of death.

The fact remains we are a community of Believers not Community alone. Your initial statement seemed to show more agreement with the Biblical position than the most recent one.

8

DH 04.28.09 at 4:26 pm

This isn’t a Greek thing or a Hebrew thing but a God and Biblical thing.

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Tony Buglass 04.28.09 at 10:06 pm

“I don’t believe Salvation of one’s soul IS a distortion of the biblical message…. This isn’t a Greek thing or a Hebrew thing”

Well, actually, it is. The Bible does not teach that salvation concerns the immortal soul, that is a Greek idea inported into the interpretation of the texts by the Greek Fathers.

The word which is often translated “soul” in Gen.2:7 (eg KJV) does not in fact mean soul: the word is ‘nephesh’ and it means “living being” (so it is translated in the RSV and NIV, among others); this is not the ’spiritual bit’ implied in Greek dualism, but the whole being, body and soul/spirit. Hebrew anthropology did not subdivide the person into bits, but dealt with the whole person - which is why Hebrew beliefs about life after death developed in terms of resurrection, not salvation of an immortal soul.

This is only one illustration of the way the faith was subtly altered in the Patristic period. The loss of eschatology is another: in Hebrew thought, time was a moving progression to an End. In Greek thought, time exists within the sphere of eternity. Instead of the Semitic eschatological worldview, the Church Fathers were heavily influenced by the Greek transcendent worldview. That is why, until Albert Schweitzer and later Jurgen Moltmann emphasised the central importance of eschatology, it became the chapter on “The Last Things”, usually the last chapter in systematic theology books.

Most people are simply unaware of this shift in worldview, because its effect over two millennia has been to thoroughly confuse the two, so most believers are happy to talk about both resurrection and immortality without knowing they are actually very different things.

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dh 04.29.09 at 3:24 am

Well when I read the Bible I see that there IS a seperation but a joining together of “heart, soul and mind”. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind.”

Just becasue some Hebrews didn’t have the understanding of eternal soul doesn’t mean they were correct. In fact Jesus gives athe proper understanding of resurrection and eternal soul. “He that has the Son has life. He that has not the Son has not life.” Even John 3:16 meantions “eternal life” and what it means to have eternal life. When one reads Romans one can’t help but understand the concepts of eternal life and how one obtains it. Revelations talks about the resurrection as some will be raised for eternal life and other s to eternal death.

I totally agree that at the resurrection we will be raised to life. However, our souls is what goes to heaven or hell when we die. While the Hebrew people might not have understood that fully doesn’t mean they were correct in their understanding. They understood in part because Jesus the Messiah hadn’t come to help them understand fully those Truths.

Eternal life for vthe Jews was predicated in the Faith in the Comming Messiah and the Faith in the one True God. “Without Faith it is impossble to please God.”

I see no difference between soul and being.

You say that the Bible doesn’t teach the concept of an eternal soul when Jesus talks about eternal life.

Can you say contradiction?

Are you now going to say that Jesus was one of those “Greek Fathers”? Seems strange and ridiculous when Jesus was in fact Jewish.

I’m sorry for being a little “condecending” but what you are saying makes no sense in light of Jesus talking specifically about “eternal life”.

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Tony Buglass 04.29.09 at 9:01 am

DH, pal, please learn to read what I say, not what you think I say. At no point have I denied what the Bible says about personal salvation. What I have addressed is the language in which it is unpacked, and the way in which that language has historically changed, and thereby affected our understanding of the texts.

To be specific, “eternal life” is not the same as “eternal soul.” Actually, I didn’t use the phrase “eternal soul” but “immortal soul” which is not the same thing.

“However, our souls is what goes to heaven or hell when we die.” Reference, please? Then compare whatever you think you’ve found with Paul’s discussion of the resurrection body in 1 Cor.15:35-49.

“Just becasue some Hebrews didn’t have the understanding of eternal soul doesn’t mean they were correct.”
When I use the term “Hebrew worldview” I am describing the mind of the OT, and thus the foundation for the mind of the NT. You’ve just written off the mind of the scriptures because it doesn’t agree with you. OK, I don’t think you meant to do that, but you just did.

“Are you now going to say that Jesus was one of those “Greek Fathers”? Seems strange and ridiculous when Jesus was in fact Jewish.”

Precisely. Jesus was a Hebrew. Being Galilean, he probably knew some Greek, but his native language was Aramaic and his worldview was Hebraic. Which is why quite a lot of the stuff which came later can be clearly seen as a Greek development of NT ideas, rather than a proper understanding of Jesus’ own thinking.

There is a simple issue behind all of this. It is the problem of reading a text (any text) in translation. Before doing Greek and Hebrew at university I did French and German at school, and read a fair bit of the available literature. I also read one of the French texts in the school library in English translation and in German translation - they were obviously the same text, but they were different. It was like looking at the same thing, but with a different colour filter on it. You will never completely understand a text unless you have some idea of the original language or mindset.

The same thing applies to the Bible. Of course, it would be ridiculous to say that nobody will ever understand the Bible unless the read Greek and Hebrew - but however good the translation is (and they do vary in quality), they can never give you everything which is in a text. There is always something lost in translation - and similarly, there can also be something gained in translation, which might not be what the original writer would have wanted you to gain. Such as the very Greek emphasis carried by words like ’soul’ which should not be used to translate Hebrew words like ‘nephesh’.

A very useful little paperback on this theme is “Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights From a Hebraic Perspective” by David Bivin and Roy Blizzard. It is less than 130 pages, aimed at the non-linguist so very readable accessible, and very helpful in “peeling back the English veneer” to help you get a feel for the Hebrew mind of the Bible. I recommend it.

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DH 04.29.09 at 2:19 pm

When you answer my question regarding Jesus “being one of the Greek Fathers” you prove my point. If Jesus, being fully God, implies strongly that the soul is eternal it IS eternal. Jesus gave the world a more complete understanding of afterlife, eternal life, Salvation and many other aspects as well.

I’m not throwing out the OT understanding but we mustn’y deny the fact that in the OT they had a limited understanding of these things. That is not to say it was a contradiction or that it was wrong for I fully believe in the resurrection like people in the OT did as well as you. The fact remains they had a limited understanding.

An analogy would be Abraham. He in fact wasn’t Jewish didn’t fully understand what it meant to be Jewish but he is the human start of the Jewish race. His limited understanding on Jewish things didn’t make him any less Jewish.

My recommendation is that you recognize thaat Jesus DID give us a proper understanding into these things and that it is NOT people attempting to rechange Christs views but that it is Christ’s view Himself.

“Absent from the Body is present with the Lord.” Nothing I said also doesn’t contradict what Paul, Jesus or anyone else in the Bible says on the subject. And nothing I said diminishes the resurrection. One believe both resurrection and the immortal soul at the same time. Some are resurrected to eternal death others to eternal life.

You mention this, “Actually, I didn’t use the phrase “eternal soul” but “immortal soul” which is not the same thing.” I don’t see any difference.

13

Tony Buglass 04.29.09 at 6:36 pm

“If Jesus, being fully God, implies strongly that the soul is eternal it IS eternal. ”

So you don’t believe in real incarnation? Your position sounds rather Docetist to me. I suggest you re-read the kenotic hymn in Phil.2, and consider the full humanity and self-emptying of Jesus.

“[Abraham's] limited understanding on Jewish things didn’t make him any less Jewish.”

He wasn’t Jewish at all. He was Hebrew. Different thing - as Briton is to English, if you like. ‘Jew’ relates to the people of post-Exilic Judah.

“One believe both resurrection and the immortal soul at the same time.”

That’s the confusion to which I referred. Most people don’t see the diffewrence, but they are quite distinct ideas from quite different philosophies with very different implications for your understanding of God, of human nature, of salvation, and indeed of the nature of creation.

“You mention this, “Actually, I didn’t use the phrase “eternal soul” but “immortal soul” which is not the same thing.” I don’t see any difference.”

Clearly. But there is a difference. “Eternal” simply suggests it goes on for ever. “Immortal” (especially in the terms of the philosophy which coined the phrase) describes its own essential property. An eternal soul suggests that it lives for ever because God has given it eternal life; without that gift it would die. An immortal soul cannot die; it lives for ever because it lives for ever, that is in its nature. God does not give eternal life to such a soul, he can only decide where that soul spends eternity.

This idea is derived from the Greek dualism, in which the ‘real person’ is the soul, and dwells in the body for the duration of this life, at the end of which death frees it to go into eternity - in the original thinking, to the mythical Elysian Isles. In Hebrew thought, such a disembodied soul would be nothing more than the ’shades’ which were believed to dwell in a shadowy half-existence in sheol (the Hebrew word ‘rephaim’ - see Ps.88:10; Isa.26:14; Prov.2:18) - the ‘real person’ is the nephesh, which includes a body, hence the insistence that after death comes resurrection.

“Jesus DID give us a proper understanding into these things and that it is NOT people attempting to rechange Christs views but that it is Christ’s view Himself.”

Sorry - that’s blether. I have set out for you what the words really meant, how they were actually used - these, and not some Western evangelical orthodoxy, are the building-blocks of a true scriptural understanding, and of the understanding that Christ had and gave. Our evangelical understandings must be subject to the true content of scripture, not the other way round.

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DH 04.29.09 at 6:59 pm

“[Abraham's] limited understanding on Jewish things didn’t make him any less Jewish.” He wasn’t Jewish at all. He was Hebrew. Different thing - as Briton is to English, if you like. ‘Jew’ relates to the people of post-Exilic Judah.”

I understand that he was Hebrew that is the whole point. Jews consider him the Father of the race and it proves my point that it was by FAITH that he was considered righteous NOT him bein Hebrew or even Jewish which he was not. You proved my point.

I personally believe in the immortal soul AND the resurrection at the same time. None of what I said goes against the resurrection.

I see what you say on eternal soul “God does not give eternal life to such a soul, he can only decide where that soul spends eternity.” I totally agree with this. I guess I need to modify my position and say that “eternal death” of the unbeliever is not technically “life” but the fact that the soul spends eternity (aka where the soul spends eternity) is the “immortal part” that I’m referring to.

Your statement here “God does not give eternal life to such a soul, he can only decide where that soul spends eternity.” is one I agree with and is based on ones Faith or lack of Faith therein.

When I read “You shall love the Lord with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” I do not see the point of them all being the over unified like you say when it is listed as seperate.

Also when I read Revelation and other passages I believe the resurrection of the dead is the joining of the physical body with the soul of the person. Some will be resurrected to eternal death and others to eternal life.

I see what you are saying about “immortal” and I agree with you more than you realize. However, I don’t believe that when one dies that there is a “nonexistence” between physical death and physical resurrection. I get an implication that when one physically dies that the person is nonexistent until the resurrection. I believe that the soul exists but that Believers have eternal life and non-believers have eternal death. I see a difference between existence and life. You seem to equate the two.

All souls exist and have existed and will exist eternally. Some will exist for eternal death and others exist for eternal life. Eternal death does not mean never to exist no more but that it DOES exist for death. Therefore existence and life are not always the same thing.

15

DH 04.29.09 at 7:01 pm

“I get an implication FROM YOU that when one physically dies that the person is nonexistent until the resurrection.”

Sorry for the confussion I added the words capitalized that I fail to mention.

16

DH 04.29.09 at 7:53 pm

After reading what a doectist is I am NOT a doectist. The fact remains Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. One mustn’t overstate His Spirit being God as to attempt to diminish His humanity and one mustn’t overstate His humanity as to attempt to diminish Him being fully God. He was fully human and died a human death. However, Jesus has at the same time always existed aka “Let US make man in Our own image.”

So you see I’m not docetist.

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DH 04.29.09 at 8:01 pm

“…Jesus always existed” So I’m also not Arian.

Also read this it seems to show the “eternal” like I describe:
“The rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.”
—Luke 16:22-26

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Tony Buglass 04.29.09 at 9:25 pm

“I understand that he was Hebrew that is the whole point. Jews consider him the Father of the race and it proves my point that it was by FAITH that he was considered righteous…”

Irrelevant. The point is that he was a person of his time and of his race; he was Hebrew in culture and in understanding. As was Jesus.

“I personally believe in the immortal soul AND the resurrection at the same time.”

Quite. YOU believe. The Bible doesn’t. You are filtering the Bible through a filter of yor own beliefs, rather than listening to what the Bible actually says.

“I see what you say on eternal soul “God does not give eternal life to such a soul, he can only decide where that soul spends eternity.” ”

The point is that this is NOT the true biblical understanding. God gives life, without god there is no life. There is no such thing as an immortal soul which does not depend upon God for life.

“I do not see the point of them all being the over unified like you say when it is listed as seperate.”

They aren’t separate, any more than your arms and legs are spearate from you as a person. It’s really very simple: ‘nephesh’ in Hebrew refers to the whole person, physical and non-physical. You can play with the words as much as you like, impose later and different understandings as much as makes sense to you - you will therefore be changing your Bible into DH’s word rather than God’s words incarnate in the cultures in which it was written.

“Also when I read Revelation and other passages I believe the resurrection of the dead is the joining of the physical body with the soul of the person.”

Where does it say that? That is your attempt to synthesise two inconsistent frames fo reference and to relate them to a set of scriptures which you view through that confused filter. Revelation does not say that at all.

“I don’t believe that when one dies that there is a “nonexistence” between physical death and physical resurrection.”

No, there isn’t. That’s because at death we are set free from the restrictions of time, as we pass into eternity. What appears to be a gap (ie between the times of our deaths and our resurrections at the End) is only apparent from within the stream of time. In eternity it is immediate - the person who died in the Jerusalem siege of AD70 and the person who died in the Diocletian persecutions of the 4th C will both emerge into resurrection at the same time as you and I: although our deaths and resurrections will feel vastly separated from theirs in our experience of history, in terms of eternity it will be a simultaneous experience. There is no period of nonexistence, no gap to be bridged by an interim immortal soul - simply resurrection in Christ.

“After reading what a doectist is I am NOT a doectist. The fact remains Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time.”

Did you re-read Phil.2? I thought not. Docetism as a heresy derives from the view that Jesus was God to the extent that he only seemed to be fully human (from the Greek “dokeo” to seem or appear). You impute a degree of divine foreknowledge to him which seems to trasend his historical context and thus his humanity. I suggest kenosis makes this impossible. Jesus may have been God in the flesh, but how much of that he actually knew, and how much was hidden from him (or surrendered by him, if you prefer) in order to be fully human is the question. I suggest that if Hebrews is right, and he truly was tested just as we are, he must have surrendered his divine knowledge. He could be fully divine without knowing it. If he truly knew his divinity, then he wasn’t fully human, because he wasn’t limited to human knowledge: that is Docetist.

And your reference to Lk.16 just shows you haven’t understood the role of parable in the teachings of Jesus. You’ve taken a parable and made it an allegory. It isn’t.

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DH 04.30.09 at 5:52 pm

Tony, I’m NOT decetist. Here is the definition: “Docetism (from the Greek ????? [doke?], “to seem”) is the belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. This belief treats the sentence “the Word was made Flesh” (John 1:14) as merely figurative. Docetism has historically been regarded as heretical by most Christian theologians.[1]”

I never said that Jesus humanity was an illusion. He was fully God and fully man. I also don’t believe He denied His forknowledge. He was fully God. I also don’t believe this forknowledge prevents Him from being fully God. I don’t believe His divine forknowledge goes against His humanity.

I also clarified my position to show that I do NOT believe in the “immortal soul” but believe in an “eternal soul”. A person whose soul goes to hell is eternally dead and not alive but at the same time exists. There is therefore a difference between “existing” and “being immortal”. So I agree that those who are immortal are those who are Believers as you implied.

It seems to me that your understanding of docetism is totally different than what the literal definition is. I believe Jesus knew many things as forknowledge but that forknowledge doesn’t deny His humanity in any way. Your view also seems to suggest a diminshed view of Jesus as mere man as opposed to being God. Remember Jesus said “I and My Father are One.” and many other passages which show a degree of forknowledge. This belief in the forknowledge of Jesus is NOT docetism. Docetism states that His humanity was an illusion. I have never said, suggested or implied that belief in any way. The most important point of Jesus’s ministry was to help people understand who He truly was which was God in flesh and for people by Faith to believe in Him by Faith to die, rise again and make a way by Faith in Him for Salvation.

I have not made the parable to be an allegory. The fact is that it isn’t allegory and that the parable SHOWS that there WAS an understanding that Jesus was relaying to the people of the soul afterlife and death as I have explained.

You mention: “Irrelevant. The point is that he was a person of his time and of his race; he was Hebrew in culture and in understanding. As was Jesus.”
and it wasn’t Abraham’s race righteous it was his Faith in God. Jesus was also a Jew by race but it wasn’t Him being Jewish that made Him righteous but the fact that Jesus was and at all times God that made and makes Him righteous.

“The point is that this is NOT the true biblical understanding. God gives life, without god there is no life. There is no such thing as an immortal soul which does not depend upon God for life.”

I agree being eternally dead and the belief in eternal existing are not mutually-exclusive. Like I have mentioned existing and living can be two different things. This also means that one can believe like I do and NOT believe in an immortal soul. So I have changed my position to a point.

I have one question Since the resurrection has not come, does a nonbeliever who died in 70AD exist? again I’m not saying that the persons soul is immortal because like you I agree he is not.

eternally existing doesn’t imply in all cases immortal soul. Immortal souls are in sole reference to Believers. See I have changed my position in light of your clarification. However, I do not believe in the immortal soul of all people who have ever lived. I believe in the eternally existing soul which is not equal to in all cases an immortal soul. The term “immortal soul” is solely in reference to those who are Believers. Also, this position doesn’t go against or diminish in any way the resurrection. For at the ressurrection we will have a new glorified body “not made of hands” that encompassess the original.

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DH 04.30.09 at 6:15 pm

I have read Phillipians 2 and nothing I said contradicts the passage in anyway. His human and spiritual nature and likeness was what Jesus was while on earth as well as today being that Jesus resurrected in everyway.

He also said this “6Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,”

Taking one human flesh is the making Himself nothing. The taking on of human flesh doesn’t imply that He denied His forknowledge. Having forknowledge doesn’t take away Jesus’s humanity.

I’m not doecetist because I don’t believe His life on earth was a physical illusion or His crucifixion was a physical illusion. Again He was fully God and fully human.

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Tony Buglass 05.01.09 at 9:34 am

Well, you can quote the headline definiation of Docetism, but you need to understand why it says that. The point was that (because of prior assumptions of the nature of divinity) it was believed that Jesus could not really have become human - he just seemed to be human. In the same way, if you insist that Jesus had his divine foreknowledge, his divine omniscience, or in any sense was not restricted by the human frame and context in which he was born, I suggest you have allowed your preconceptions of Jesus’ divinity to deny his full humanity. That is an essentially docetist position.

It is of course our understanding that Jesus was fully divine and fully human - that is the formula hammered out at Chalcedon, and accepted as the orthodox understanding of the faith. The point is that Chalcedon marks the end of a long process of argument as to how Jesus could be both human and divine, and ended up by failing to explain it, but simply defining it. Fair enough - but there are implications of that understanding. The full humanity cannot be lessened by the full divinity, or it becomes Docetist. For example, when Heb.4:15 asserts that Jesus has been tested “just as we are - yet without sin” it would be meaningless if he had KNOWN he could not sin.

In short, there are some things which the incarnate Jesus could not have known, in order to be fully human. Which is why Phil.2 is so crucial - 2:7 “made himself nothing” (NIV) or “emptied himself” (RSV) renders the Greek “ekenosen” - the word which gives the hymn its name, as the kenosis passage in Pauline thought. Kenosis is the process of emptying or self-emptying by which Jesus set aside the attributes of divinity in order to “take the form of a servant/slave” and be fully human.

You said ” I don’t believe His divine forknowledge goes against His humanity.” As so often in our conversations here, we come back to this: “I believe…” as if that proved it. You have simply not understood the implications of the thought, and therefore what you believe needs further clarification. Think again, pal.

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Tony Buglass 05.01.09 at 9:49 am

DH: “the parable SHOWS that there WAS an understanding that Jesus was relaying to the people of the soul afterlife and death as I have explained.”

No. In the first place, it tells a story, in the same way as I can tell a story about meeting St Peter at the Pearly Gates which makes a point but does so with no actual factual information concerning the existence of said gates or a rendezvous with the saint. It’s a parable. That is a story, which makes (usually) a single point - in this case concerning the consequences of our behaviour in this world for our destiny in the next.

In the second place, it clearly does not describe disembodied souls, but embodied persons. As far as survival after death as an immortal soul is concerned, this is a very different understanding which I suggest contradicts the idea of the immortal soul.

DH: “Since the resurrection has not come, does a nonbeliever who died in 70AD exist?”

The question is what happens between the moment of death and the moment of resurrection. The point is that these events are separated only in time, not in eternity. In eternity there is no intermediate state, because there is no gap.

To illustrate, imagine a graph in which the base line or x-axis is time, while the vertical or y-axis is eternity. So the person killed in the siege of Jerusalem dies at co-ordinates 70-0, the person killed by Diocletian at say 310-0, and the person who had a heart-atack at my outrageous and heretical preaching last week (only joking!) at 2009-0. You see that they are only separate in terms of the x-axis, but have the same co-ordinate on the y-axis - so there is no point at which they either do not exist, or need an intermediate state to bridge the gap between the mortal body and the resurrection body.

Of course, this is itself only another parable, and it has its own weaknesses (especially, that it treats eternity as another kind of time, going in a different direction) - well, perhaps when I’ve been there, I’ll be able to improve on the illustration! It serves to make the point I want to make.

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DH 05.01.09 at 2:58 pm

It makes no sense that Jesus would use an illustration in a parable that clearly shows an afterlife/after-existence

Also, I’m NOT denying His full humanity. I have never said or believe that “He seemed to be human”. I have never said anything that agrees with a docetist opinion. You seem to suggest that have forknowledge denies ones humanity. I don’t believe this is the case. Having forknowledge doesn’t make Jesus any less human.

Being fully human is making Himself nothing and taking the form of a servent.

The fact is my view does NOT line up with the definition of doectism.

You say “In the second place, it clearly does not describe disembodied souls, but embodied persons. As far as survival after death as an immortal soul is concerned, this is a very different understanding which I suggest contradicts the idea of the immortal soul.”
Nowhere does it say that these were embodied persons. The passage mentioned these as people AFTER they have died.

You mention “That is a story, which makes (usually) a single point - in this case concerning the consequences of our behaviour in this world for our destiny in the next.” I believe that but I also believe it goes beyond that. Why would Jesus use the afterlife/afterexistance (depending on believer/unbeliever) as part of a parable if 1) all of the Hebrew people didn’t believe it and 2) if there wasn’t some measure of truth to it? On your pearly gates analogy. The fact remains there is some measure of truth to it. The entrance APPEARS to be like pearls. Just because it may not be literal doesn’t mean that the description is any less literal. So it is in reference to the “Abraham’s bosom” parable of Jesus. The passage is clearly in reference to afterlife/afterexistence.

I also don’t buy your little “parable” about x and y. Scripture says “absent from the body is present with the Lord.” It only makes sense that that happen in EVERY way not thise little excersize of x and y. I will say that your little parable works in regard to young earth. Maybe if you used that parablr to rethink your position about Creation you might rethink that position as well and believe in a young earth. ;) :)

Where did I say He wasn’t fully human? There are many aspects of Him that show He was fully human. Just because you say forknowledge makes Him less human doesn’t mean that is the case. The fact remains is that Jesus knew what His mission was and the difficulty for Jesus, the sweating drops of blood, temptations and all of the other human things, etc. was the waring of the nature of His humanity with His nature as God. That is not doectism because He was fully human and it wasn’t an appearance of being human. He was fully human but the fact is He was fully God. He obviously had Godly atributes He had many miracles, He raised the dead, He prophesied about the destruction of the temple (forknowledge?), He prophesied about His death and resurrection (forknowledge?), He walked on water, etc.
Do these things deny His humanity? Do you know any humans or any human that has done these things?

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Richard 05.01.09 at 4:20 pm

“Nowhere does it say that these were embodied persons”

Well, I haven’t come across many disembodied souls with tingues and fingers. But my expeience of these things is limited.

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Tony Buglass 05.01.09 at 4:52 pm

“Also, I’m NOT denying His full humanity. … Having forknowledge doesn’t make Jesus any less human.”

How many people do you know who routinely have foreknowledge? There are certain spiritual gifts, such as prophecy (not the same as foreknowledge), which have been given to people without impinging upon their humanity, but the attributes of divinity are quite specifically that - divinity, and not consistent with full humanity. What about Heb.4:15 - how could Jesus have been tested just like us, if he knew he couldn’t fall? Part of our test is the knowledge that we can fall, and the fear of falling it brings with it.

The problem with the Christology you seem to be offering is that it is an entirely exalted Christology, and ignores the places where NT Christology is subordinationist (eg “no one knows… not even the Son, only the Father knows.”)

“Being fully human is making Himself nothing and taking the form of a servent.”

“ekenosen” is quite specific in emaning: “he emptied himself.” In Phil.2:7, it follows the antecedent reference to divine attributes, implying that it was the “equality with God” that was surrendered. That doesn’t mean that he ceased to be divine, rather that he surrendered his awareness of that insofar as it was necessary to be truly human.

“Nowhere does it say that these were embodied persons. ”

What other sort are there? What constitutes a whole person? Come one, DH, think before you type your knee-jerk response - this is utter nonsense.

“Why would Jesus use the afterlife/afterexistance (depending on believer/unbeliever) as part of a parable”

Because it was a popular frame of language - like the jokes we tell about devils and toasting forks, or angels playing harps on clouds. That’s how parables work - you use something with which your audience is familiar to illustrate the point you want to make. It doesn’t mean that the details of the story have to be literally true - and in this case, they aren’t.

” Scripture says “absent from the body is present with the Lord.” ”

Not quite. 2 Cor.5:6f speaks of being in or out of the body in a discussion following on from 5:1f, in which Paul is making a contrast between the temporary earthly body (the ’skenos’ or tent, which he’d be happy to leave) and the permanent heavenly body (the ‘oikos’ or house). This is the same man who wrote just a few months earlier to the same church about the nature of the resurrection body - how can you take his words out of context, and make them mean something he would never accept?

“Maybe if you used that parablr to rethink your position about Creation you might rethink that position as well and believe in a young earth.”

Nope. All that says is that the x-axis starts a lot further back than you think.

The point is really quite simple. YOu may not intend to deny te humanity fo Jesus, but your understanding of the implications of affirming his full divinity is faulty, and has the effect of impinging upon his humanity in a destructive way. You are unwittingly sliding into a form of docetism.

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DH 05.01.09 at 5:44 pm

Do you know any humans other than Jesus who have walked on water, created a coin in a fish, turned water into wine, raised people from the dead aka Lazarus, etc.?

Do these things take away from His humanity?

It was His humanity crying out to God in Gethseme that asked if there could have been another way. God being a human was testing for Jesus. We as humans not being God and looking at this shows that what God experienced on earth was even more difficult than what we experience on earth.

I’m not sliding into any form of doectism because I understand that He was fully human and fully God and that Jesus was NOT a physical illusion in any way.

How do you know “….he would never accept?” The resuurection from the dead and eternal soul ARE compatible with the understanding I have realyed to you. I believe in the resurrection just as much as you do. None of my positions take away from that.

You say “Paul is making a contrast between the temporary earthly body (the ’skenos’ or tent, which he’d be happy to leave) and the permanent heavenly body (the ‘oikos’ or house).” This proves my point.

You say “It doesn’t mean that the details of the story have to be literally true - and in this case, they aren’t.” You mention that the Jewish people didn’t believe in afterlife/afterexistence but then Jesus uses this as a parable as an example. If He didn’t believe it He wouldn’t have used it as an example. I also do NOT believe He was phrasing it as a joke.

You say “What other sort are there? What constitutes a whole person? Come one, DH, think before you type your knee-jerk response - this is utter nonsense.” Can you say disembodied souls?

Again, I have changed my position and do NOT believe in the immortal soul for every person who has, is and will live. Only those who are Believers have that. Again I believe that existing and living are two totally different things.

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DH 05.01.09 at 5:46 pm

My prophesy thing was a bad example because at time God has used me for this. However, the point I was making is that He did KNEW beforehand His purpose while on earth, His nature while on earth as being fully God, etc.

I will say those questions in the previous first paragraph seem to show that “being like us in every way” is much deeper than the understanding you are explainning.

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Tony Buglass 05.01.09 at 6:54 pm

Jesus was known as a miracle-worker. He wasn’t the only one, and he wasn’t the first. The issue is not one of working miracles, but of the awareness that he was God, and could therefore dispense knowledge and wisdom far beyond that of his time and place in history. You suggested several posts back that Jesus knew the truth about life after death, and could transend the worldview of his culture. This denies the reality of the incarnation - it suggests a Star Trek Christ, an alien being who comes and lives among us, rather than the one who really became one with us.

“The resuurection from the dead and eternal soul ARE compatible with the understanding I have realyed to you.”

Perhaps, but they aren’t consistent with each other, and the Bible doesn’t teach of an eternal soul. It teaches resurrection of the body, eternal salvation lived in that body.

“You say “Paul is making a contrast [snipped]” This proves my point.”

On the contrary. It proves that Paul teaches resurrection of the body, not salvation from the body.

“You mention that the Jewish people didn’t believe in afterlife/afterexistence but then Jesus uses this as a parable as an example.”

No, I didn’t. I explained that the early Hebrews (not the same as ‘the Jewish people’ - I did explain that) had no belief in life after death, except as a shadowy existence in Sheol. As the centuries passed, hope in something more did develop, but there was still no belief in resurrection until the Maccabean Revolt. The earliest canonical reference is Dan.12:2. In the decades between the testaments, a very developed apocalyptic and eschatological framework was developed by the various intertestamental books. By the time of Jesus, this was part of popular theology and belief - hence my comparison of the parable with our jokes. He was able to paint a picture using what they believed in order to make his point.

As a side-issue, have you ever read a history of Israel? It often seems to me that you don’t see the real spread of the story - hence your confusion of “the Jewish people” with the whole Hebrew nation. I recommend “Israel and the Nations” by F F Bruce (I know Amazon have got it). Bruce was Professor of Biblical Studies at Manchester University for a long time, and was also well-known as a Bible teacher as well as an academic. Lovely Christian man - I met him once. “Israel and the Nations” is small enough to be an accessible read, but detailed enough to be worth having as a reference book. It also goes from ancient Israel right up to the fall of the Second Temple, so giving the historical background to both OT and NT, with a good account of what happened in between the two. I think you’d enjoy it!

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DH 05.01.09 at 7:28 pm

“This denies the reality of the incarnation - it suggests a Star Trek Christ, an alien being who comes and lives among us, rather than the one who really became one with us.”

Just because you think it suggests this doesn’t mean that it does for it does not.

I think you also misunderstand me. I never said there is a “Salvation from the body”. Again for the upteenth time I DO believe in the resurrection.

Also just because to you they aren’t consistent doesn’t mean that is not the fact. Your view of the “x” and “y” seems outside of Scripture as well with regard to the eternal existing soul.

You say in reference to the Jews, “…had no belief in life after death…”. Do we have to assume that they were correct? Wasn’t Jesus the one who presented many “paradigm shifts”?

Just because Jesus knew about life after death doesn’t mean that He wasn’t one of us or that He was some “Star Trek” human. I am NOT denying the incarnation. If you think I’m denying the incarnation which I’m not then it appears to me you are denying His deity by overstating His humanity. The fact remains He was BOTH human AND God.

The fact remains is that Jesus DID know that He was God. “I and My Father are one.”, “When you have seen Me you have seen the Father.”, The events of the Baptism of Jesus.

Tony, I do know the history of Israel. I happen to know that it wasn’t the race of the people that saved them for Salvation but Faith in the One True God that did this. I will say that the FF Bruce book looks good. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

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Tony Buglass 05.01.09 at 8:46 pm

“You say in reference to the Jews, “…had no belief in life after death…”. Do we have to assume that they were correct? ”

Well, of course not - because we do believe in life after death, and the NT teaches it. But we do need to note that stage in the development of the faith of Israel.

“If you think I’m denying the incarnation which I’m not then it appears to me you are denying His deity by overstating His humanity. ”

On the contrary. I’m trying to get the (almost impossible) balance between the two - and doing it while noting the problems caused by the philosophical shift firstly from a Semitic eschatological language-frame to a Hellesnistic-transcendent language frame, and then from the pre-modern to the modern. I became aware decades ago of the inadequacy of our langauge when seeking to define God. So I am increasingly dissatisfied with the kind of dogmatism which thinks it has defined God.

“The fact remains is that Jesus DID know that He was God.”

Jesus was aware of his special relationship with his Father. He would not have defined himself in the flesh as divine. “I and the Father are One” may mean “one in will, one in purpose, one in love” etc.

It staggers me that you simply cannot see that there are such differences between divinity and humanity that it is inconceivable for someone to be consciously both at the same time. The final orthodox decision (that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine) wasn’t defined until the Council of Chalcedon in 451 - if it took he Church leaders so long to argue it out, it is obviously not as simple as you suggest. I venture to suggest they noted the difficulties which you just haven’t seen.

“I happen to know that it wasn’t the race of the people that saved them for Salvation but Faith in the One True God that did this.”

Not an issue. But you will never truly understand the meanings of books of the Bible until you see them against their historical context, and to do that you really need the whole story. It helps, believe me.

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DH 05.01.09 at 9:31 pm

Tony, it isn’t inconcievable for God to be both fully human and fully God. None of my statements contradict that.

“So I am increasingly dissatisfied with the kind of dogmatism which thinks it has defined God.”

It seems that with dogmatism you are doing the same thing with the “x” and “y” comment.

Just like in the natural “x” and “y” statement seem inconsisent so it is with the “The resuurection from the dead and eternal soul ARE compatible with the understanding I have realyed to you.” Just because it appears to be inconsistent doesn’t mean that it is not a correct statement.

Your view implies that existing=living. If you look at the unbelieving soul after physical death as existing but NOT living then you can see that it IS consistent.

I still believe that Jesus definied Himself as divine that is why the Pharisee’s wanted to crucify Him.

People in the OT knew that it wasn’t their race that saved them but their Faith in the One True God. That IS the historical context AND the transcendent context as well.

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Tony Buglass 05.02.09 at 8:35 am

“It seems that with dogmatism you are doing the same thing with the “x” and “y” comment.”

How can a simple illustration, offered to illuminate a philosophical problem, be construed as dogmatic?

What I actually offered, if you care to read again more carefully, was a simple solution to a problem. I acknowledged in the same note the weakness of the analogy (namely that it treats eternity as the same species as time) but that it is only an analogy. Nevertheless, you deem it dogmatic (without noticing your own rigid dogmatism - you don’t argue a point, you salvo past it) and inconsistent (without explaining where the inconsistency lies). And then you can come out with such gems as “Just because it appears to be inconsistent doesn’t mean that it is not a correct statement.” Sorry, pal, but if that’s the best you can offer, there is no point in even trying to deal with it.

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