Category Archives: Quotes

Boersma on How Not to Read Scripture

“I have chosen this passage from Origen because it illustrates that he regards metaphysics and biblical interpretation as closely connected.  The way we think about the relationship between God and the world is immediately tied up with the way we read Scripture.  This is something easily lost sight of, yet of crucial significance.  I suspect we often treat biblical interpretation as a relatively value-free endeavor, as something we’re equipped to do once we’ve acquired both the proper tools (biblical languages, an understanding of how grammar and syntax work, the ability to navigate concordances and computer programs, etc.) and a solid understanding of the right method (establishing the original text and translating it, determining authorship and original audience, studying historical and cultural context, figuring out the literary genre of the passage, and looking for themes and applicability).  Such an approach, even when it does recognize the interpreter’s dependence upon the Spirit’s guidance, treats the process of interpretation as patterned on the hard sciences.  In other words, the assumption is that the way to read the Bible is by following certain exegetical rules, which in turn are not affected by the way we think of how God and the world relate to each other.  Metaphysics, on this assumption, doesn’t affect interpretation.  In fact, many will see in the way Origen links metaphysics and exegesis the root cause of why his exegesis is wrongheaded: the Bible ought to be read on its own terms, without an alien, philosophically derived metaphysical scheme being imposed upon it.”1

  1. Hans Boersma, Scripture as Real Presence: Sacramental Exegesis in the Early Church (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017), 5-6.

Douglas Harink on “Messianic Anarchy”

A provocative quote from Douglas Harink for Canada Day from his insightful discussion of Romans 13 in his recent book Resurrecting Justice:

“What do messianics owe political authorities and institutions?  Not obedience.  Not loyalty.  Not flag-waving, anthem-singing devotion.  Not military service.  Not participation in their ministries of punishment and death.  But also, not violent resistance or revolution (Rom. 13:2).  Messianics are neither for nor against worldly political authority.  In this sense, they might truly be called anarchists, because for them justice and life do not depend on the “archys” – the ruling powers of this age.  Nothing truly messianic hinges on whether the ruling powers are for or against them.  Messianics are conscientious unbelievers in worldly politics (syneidesin = “conscience” in Rom. 13:5).  They practice holy, peaceable anarchy because they refuse to believe in and dedicate their bodies and souls to the political systems of this age.”1

  1. Douglas Harink, Resurrecting Justice: Reading Romans for the Life of the World (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 200), 184.

Barth on the Simplicity of the Gospel

“Basically, the gospel is a very simple thing.  The gospel is no system of this or that truth, no theory on life in time and eternity, no metaphysics or the like, but simply the sign that God has blessed the world, this poor world in which we live, with all its difficulties, with all its misery, with this whole ocean of death.  And in this world we dare to live in the knowledge that God loves us, but not only us Christians who believe that God loves the whole world [cf. John 3:16].  Every person, even the most miserable, the most evil, is loved by God.  This is the privilege: to be commissioned and enabled as a Christian to proclaim that.”1

  1. Karl Barth, Barth in Conversation: Volume 2, 1963, ed. Eberhard Busch (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018, 216.

Gregory of Nyssa on Prayer

In prayer, a person is present with God, for the person who prays is separated from the enemy.  Prayer safeguards self-control, controls the temper, restrains pride, cleanses us of malice, overthrows envy, destroys injustice, and corrects impiety.  Prayer is the strength of bodies, the prosperity of the home, the good will of the city, the strength of the kingdom, the victory in war, the security of peace, the bringing together of enemies, the preserver of allies.  Prayer is the seal of virgnity, the pledge of marriage, the shield of the traveler, the guard of those who sleep, the courage of those who keep watch, the productivity of farmers, the deliverance of sailors. . . . Prayer is conversation with God, the contemplation of unseen things, the fulfillment of things desired, equal in honor with angels, the progress of good things, the overthrow of evils, the correction of sinners, the enjoyment of the present, and the substance of things hoped for.1

  1. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Lord’s Prayer, quoted in Christopher A. Hall, Worshiping with the Church Fathers (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009), 142.

Easter Encounters

“For the Church does not exist just to transmit a message across the centuries through a duly constituted hierarchy that arbitrarily lays down what people must believe; it exists so that people in this and every century may encounter Jesus of Nazareth as a living contemporary.  This sacrament of Holy Communion that we gather to perform here is not the memorial of a dead leader, conducted by one of his duly authorized successors who controls access to his legacy; it is an event where we are invited to meet the living Jesus as surely as did his disciples on the first Easter Day.  And the Bible is not an authorized code of a society managed by priests and preachers for their private purposes, but the set of human words through which the call of God is still uniquely immediate to human beings today, human words with divine energy behind them.  Easter should be the moment to recover each year that sense of being contemporary with God’s action in Jesus.  Everything the church does – celebrating Holy Communion, reading the Bible, ordaining priests and bishops – is meant to be in the service of this contemporary encounter.  It all ought to be transparent to Jesus, not holding back or veiling his presence.” – Rowan Williams, Choose Life: Christmas and Easter Sermons in Canterbury Cathedral (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), 145-46.

Newbigin’s Prophetic Insight

When I was teaching in Toronto, there was a period of several years in a row where I read Lesslie Newbigin’s Foolishness to the Greeks with my students.  I consider the book, written in 1986, to be something of a 20th century theological classic.  As evidence of that, I did try a few years ago to blog through Newbigin’s seven essentials for a church seeking a genuine missionary encounter with Western culture.  I only made it through the first four before other endeavors required my attention, but you can find links to those previous posts here. Continue reading Newbigin’s Prophetic Insight