Shuck and Jive

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Relational Trinity and The Human Community--Bob

(Conversations with Bob! Join us for Virtual Sunday School!)

I said in my last post that one of the problems in talking about the Trinity is that sometimes the metaphors we use lean towards threeness and sometimes lean toward oneness. This post will lean toward the threeness end.

I’ve said that one of the metaphors for the Trinity that comes from our Easter Orthodox brothers and sisters is the metaphor of the Trinity as relational or community. In the words of Kallistos Ware:

God is not just self love but shared love. God is a triunity of persons loving each other and in that shared love the persons are totally “oned” without thereby losing their personal individuality . . . God is not just personal but interpersonal not just a unit but a union. God is social or dialogic; there is within him a timeless dialogue. From all eternity the First Person addresses the Second, “Thou art my beloved Son.” (Mk 1:11) From all eternity the Second replies to the First, “Abba Father; Abba, Father.” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) From all eternity the Holy Spirit “who proceeds from the Father and rests on the Son” sets the seal upon this interchange of love. It is this timeless dialogue that is movingly depicted in St. Andrew Rubelev’s icon, which shows the Trinity in the form of the three angels who visited Abraham (see Gen. 18:1-6). The three angels in the icon are not just gazing out into space or looking at us but they are looking at one another. Joining the three together – marked out through the inclination of their heads, and the lines of their shoulders legs and feet – there is in the icon an enfolding circle, the great O of love.[i]

When we see the Trinity as loving community and fellowship we also see one of the fundamental parts of the image of God in humans. God created us for community. We image God when we live together in loving peaceful community.

Is the doctrine of the Trinity practical? I mean by this does the doctrine have implications that should, (indeed must) affect the way Christians live? Ware asks these questions at the beginning of his article: “What practical difference does the threefoldness of the one God make to us most of the time? Can we say in all sincerity that it has a drastic affect on our understanding of human personhood, of society and politics?”[ii] I suggest that if the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but philosophical speculation it is meaningless and should be abandoned. But the doctrine does have practical effects. In a later blog I will talk about the effects of the doctrine on salvation. Here I will focus on the implications of God as community imaged in humans, creating the human community.

If imaging the Triune God means being in loving community with all other humans, as I suggest that it does, then how we treat other human beings is vital. As we look at another human being we should see not just a person but the image of God. We should see a partner in the human community. Notice I do not say that this community is limited to the Church. Since all humans are created in the image of God, no matter how damaged and broken that image may be through sin, all humans still are created in God’s image and therefore part of the human community.

I believe this doctrine, if correctly applied, has several important ethical implications:

  1. The image of God must not be killed by another created in the image of God. This has profound effects on such human behavior as war, capital punishment, abortion and the possession of weapons the main purpose of which is to harm or kill other humans. It even has implications for how one protects ones family and home. I believe this is part of the theological context of the pacifism of Jesus and of his command to love enemies
  2. Listening. If the other in the conversation is the image of God then how we listen and with what focus we listen becomes vital. John quoted St. Francis in an earlier blog to the effect that it is out duty to know the other more than to be known. Truly hearing others is a vital part of imaging God. This provides some (but not all) theological background for me in the work that John and I are doing. Hearing those with whom I agree or disagree is a vital part of imaging the God who is the triune God in relationship.
  3. The scandal of poverty. If all humans are created in the image of God we who are rich deny that the image of God exists in those who are poor. That malaria continues to kill children every single day when remedies are available for pennies is a scandal. It is a scandal that a large portion of humanity lives so far below the poverty line that they are in danger of starvation when a remedy could be made at little cost to those of us who are rich (rich means if you have a computer and are reading this you are rich. If you had enough food today and have enough for tomorrow you are rich. If you have shelter and more than one set of clothes, you are rich).
  4. Religious war. I am happy to say that most Christians around the world today have learned that conversion by threat of death is sinful. But the hatred of Muslims in the West and people who look like Muslims (what does a Muslim look like anyway?) must end. Certainly there has to be caution and care taken to prevent terrorism and much terrorism perpetrated today is done in the name of Allah. But fearing those who kneel and pray in an airport because it proves they are Muslims is foolish. Terrorists usually try to blend in, not stand out. Interfaith dialogue must continue.

The list of human sins against other humans is tragically long. If the persons of the Trinity exist in an eternal fellowship of love and if at least part of the image of God in humans is to reflect that love, then how we treat each other is vitally important.

The Triune God is, from one perspective, a loving fellowship. May we so image God that we are the same.

Grace and Peace


[i] “The Trinity: Heart of Our Life,” Kallistos Ware, in Reclaiming the Great Tradition: Evangelicals, Catholics, & Orthodox in Dialogue, Jams S. Cutsinger, ed., (Downers Grove, IL, Intervarsity Press: 1997), p. 136.

[ii] Ibid, 126.


  1. Bob,

    Thank for you this. This is something with I resonate. To paraphrase, the heart of the Trinity is love. Good stuff!

  2. See, I'm just not certain about this. I disagree that if a theological concept is purely "philosophical speculation it is meaningless and should be abandoned". It could most certainly still be true, whether or not it directly affects how we react to each other. MAJOR CONTROVERSY ALERT: I have always felt that the Virgin Birth falls into this category. I understand that it is necessary in order for the birth of Jesus to fulfill certain prophecies, but at the end of the day, whether or not Mary had fooled around with Joseph before they were married has no impact on the life and work of Jesus, which IS important. To put it another way, if someone were to show me incontrovertible proof that Mary was not a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus, it would not shatter my faith. Similarly, if the Virgin Birth is literally true, then I regard it with the wonder I have for the Great Mystery.

    I also think (though I acknowledge this isn't exactly the argument you're making, Bob) that the source of our sense of love for our fellow man or even our need to refrain from killing him comes from the idea of the Trinity and the interdependence of the persons therein. Indeed, the Christian faith itself was conflicted over the existence of the Trinity for centuries. Also, the lack of Trinitarian doctrine does not prevent Jews or Muslims from loving their neighbor.

  3. Also, the lack of Trinitarian doctrine does not prevent Jews or Muslims from loving their neighbor.

    I was going to make the same point. It seems rather denigrating to people of those other monotheistic traditions to suggest that they don't have the same humanitarian concerns that Trinitarian Christians do, or that they don't derive those humanitarian concerns from their monotheistic theology.

  4. I wanted to quote something that Heather wrote in her latest blog entry:

    One of the reasons I’ve heard for why the Trinity must be true is that God’s love had to directed “outwards,” otherwise it became a selfish love. Therefore, the love was directed towards the three Trinity members. I don’t think this is the case. Even without the Trinity, God’s love would still be directed “outwards.”

    I think she hit the nail on the head. God already exists in relationship--namely with creation. The Trinity adds nothing to this.

  5. Flycandler and Seeker,

    "Also, the lack of Trinitarian doctrine does not prevent Jews or Muslims from loving their neighbor."

    Since it is Bob's post, he can answer that or not.

    There is a sense in which one's doctrines can help do good or discover Truth.

    And yet, we have to realize that the doctrine doesn't make it happen or lack of the doctrine means it won't happen.

    I am happy that Bob's doctrine helps him do good.

  6. There is a sense in which one's doctrines can help do good or discover Truth.

    You make a good point. I would not take that away from Bob.

  7. Thanks John for the invite to respond.

    fly - Yes, something can be true whether we act upon it or not. I am fairly certain the Big Bang theory is true but can think of no way to act upon it. My point is a Reformation response to Medieval and later theological speculation. There is much that some in the Academy do that has no bearing on life. I think Christian theology should support the Christian in how to believe and how to live as a Christian.

    mystic and others - If part of the doctrine of humans being created in the image of God is humans in community then humans should respect that image no matter what they believe. You raise issues that frankly have not been my concern. My concern is the failure on the part of the Church over the ages to see the image of God in the other and love that person. I'm developing Christian ethics out of the doctrine of the Trinity. My concern is that Christians live daily life out of what we believe. And I see a great deal of caving in to the ways of evil among Christians. Support for the war in Iraq is a case in point. Too many Christians have allowed their nationalism to become an idol that replaces the love of the Trinity that should be mirrored in human community. Too many Christians hate Muslims. It is one thing to say, "I believe you are wrong," and another to say, "Because you are wrong or come from a particular part of the world you are not really human." That is my concern.

    Can and should others develop their own reasons for treating other humans with respect and love? Of course they should! There are other reasons for doing so besides the doctrine of the Trinity, reasons about which Judaism and Islam agree with Christian thought. Those of other faiths should develop their own reasons for loving others. I am a Christian. I develop ethics out of the Christian faith.

  8. Danger alert: I'm about to agree with Flycandler.

    I also believe that the philosophical truth of the Trinity is of immense importance, though this particular truth has little bearing on day-to-day ops. I believe that in the Trinity lies the answer to the philosophical problem of the one and the many. Trinitarian thought justifies several epistemological axia which most of us assume in order to function logically.

    If that whets your appetite, check out John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

  9. There is a phrase in our Book of Order that says "Truth in in order to Goodness." Which comes first or is that a relevant question?

  10. John,

    Haven't you already answered your question? The order of the wording is rather plain. Moreover, lies cannot be good because we are commanded to not lie. Moreover, lying is inconsistent with the character of God. This can't mean: "Humans declare what they think 'good' is, then that becomes 'truth.'"

    So where do we get this truth which leads us to goodness? Jesus had an interesting idea.

  11. Chris, I'd say "yahbut".

    I don't necessarily agree that the doctrine of the Trinity "has little bearing on day-to-day ops" for Trinitarian Christians. I think we can agree that for folks like Bob it does in fact have a lot of relevance to how they face life. I think that the (real) point Bob was making is that it is important to the understanding of compassion, interdependence and community for the vast majority of Christians today. The (real) point I was making is that it is not an exclusive way of bringing people to these same conclusions (which oddly could be a statement that might get me barred from ordination in some circles). Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and even some atheists can and do reach conclusions of compassion and solidarity. They obviously have to use some way other than the doctrine of the Trinity to get there.

    John, to answer your question, I'd first give the caveat that I am much more familiar with the Book of Confessions than the Book of Order (shocking that a Presbyterian would admit to that). The phrase you quote comes out of the very first (1788) constitution of the Presbyterian Church In The United States of America. While the BOO lacks the extensive Scriptural footnotes of the BOC, I think it's an interesting point (though not a conclusive one) that in the Westminster Confession (which was the one Confessional document in use at the time), whenever the word "goodness" is used in the context of God, it is usually somehow juxtaposed with "truthfulness" or "wisdom" (II.1, IV.1, V.1, V.4, Short Cat. #4, Larger Cat. #7). I submit that to the founders of the church in this country, "goodness" and "truth" are inextricably linked: there can be no good without the foundation of truth, and truth is considered inherently good. It is an idea both a product of the Enlightenment and the Christian faith as interpreted by the Reformers. The early church leaders were active advocates of both.


    As an aside, I'd like to make a point of order. Like good Presbyterians, can we agree to avoid prooftexting from Scripture? Quoting a part of a verse out of context doesn't really help. Thanks!

  12. Flycandler,

    Of course pagans come to the right conclusions on compassion, etc. (Jesus acknowledged that pagans do good things and Reformed Christians have consistently made a place for "civil righteousness" in the doctrine of depravity.) They may even do so out of noble aims and intentions.

    What they do not do is respond in kind to the truth of Divine community (co-unity?). They cannot do these actions with an intention for the glory of God. What is our chief end, Flycandler? To erect a "bridge to heaven" of human achievements (in technology or in social cohesion or temperate use of global resources)? May it not be so!

    As for you allegation of "proof-texting" I would love to see you prove that I have misrepresented the theme or context of those Scriptural references. The tired proof-texting canard is pulled out everytime someone shows how they are drawing their conclusions from Scripture. It's proof-texting if you misrepresent either the intention of the quote or actually alter the quote through ellipsis.

    However, providing biblical texts that make the same point you are making, consistent with their immediate context and (especially) the wider context of testament and Scripture, is simply naming your sources. If you don't believe that's Reformed, then don't complain about the absence of Scriptural references in the BoO (and ignore the ones in BoC and in Calvin's Institutes for being similarly "unpresbyterian.")

  13. Well, Chris, ya lost me completely now. You're trying to make several contradictory points simultaneously, so I'll address the ones you made in your latest post to the best of my ability.

    1. You start with an excellent example of why prooftexting is usually faulty. In this case, I think (but can't be sure) you picked the wrong section. Matt 5.43-8 is the section of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says that (wildly paraphrasing) "you've heard to love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say love your enemies too, as God blesses them, too. If you don't, you're no better than the Gentiles, who love their neighbors and hate their enemies. Be better than that." I do not think it means whatchu think it means.

    2. You link the entire fourteenth chapter of Institutio by Calvin with little or no context (while not Scriptural, this is another error of prooftexting--the dump. Give a long enough section and folks will assume you're correct b/c they don't have time to read it all). Interestingly enough, this contains one of the most controversial things Calvin wrote. I think he is either wildly misinterpreted or just plain wrong. In par. 2, he writes (after making the point I think you're making about how even pagans like Titus and Trajan were virtuous in their way) that "there would be chaos in the world if justice and injustice were to be confused. God rewards those who live good lives with many material blessings. It isn't that the outward appearance of virtue merits His favor, but He wants to show how much He rejoices in true righteousness. So he rewards even the outward show of righteousness. It is obvious that all virtues are gifts of God, since everything praiseworthy comes from him" (3:14:2, Lane trans). This has led to a lot of unpleasantness, including the 19th century perversion of both Calvin and Darwin to promote the idea that the rich are rich because they are inherently more worthy, and God shows this by making them wealthy as a sign of the even better stuff they're getting in Heaven. I don't think Calvin meant this, but if he did, I think he was wrong, as Jesus was very clear that the righteous and the rich have already received their reward, while the repentant and the poor will receive a greater reward in the Kingdom. (WHEW) Long and short, the bigger point IMO that Calvin is making is that yes, even non-Christians do good things, but ultimately (as he wraps up in par. 20), they (like us) shouldn't boast about our goodness, because goodness comes from God.

    3. The Tower of Babel example seems kind of meaningless in context of this discussion. I don't think the average atheist and certainly not the average Jew or Muslim (cuz it would be heresy to them) think that human achievement can reach divine proportion (indeed, that's the immediate point of the story, in context, in Genesis). Add to that the other readings of the text (the nomadic tribes' response to their urbanized enemies, the empire-freedom dynamic, an abstract retelling of the prophecies of the fall of Babylon, etc.), and this is a pretty weak foundation for whatever argument you were making (which was something about how switching to solar or wind power will cause God to scatter the civilized nations by giving them different languages or something???).

    4. My point about the particular prooftexting you offered in the post in question is that it is either unnecessary and circuitous (yes, we know that the Bible doesn't look kindly upon lying. Your point?), disingenuous (as you do with Paul: half a sentence from Hebrews extracted from a larger argument Paul is making about the Abrahamic covenant and the high priesthood of Jesus; a sentence fragment from the salutation of a letter; or the lead-up to a quote from Scripture, when the larger point Paul is making spans three chapters as we discussed earlier), or just plain out of context (the sentence from the prayer at Gethsemane where Jesus is commending his disciples to God). There are better places to bolster the argument that "God doesn't want us to lie" and "God doesn't lie". Giving more obscure, tortured references actually undermines one's argument by making it looks like one is grasping for straws.

    5. I have no idea what you mean about the Book of Order and Book of Confessions. I said that there aren't the handy footnotes in the BOO that there are in the BOC, so I can't immediately point to where the BOO points to Scripture. I did point out how the founders of the Presbyterian Church In The United States of America, who did write the line that John quotes, were well-versed in WCF (which was their only confessional document at the time) and would have recognized how Westminster tends to equate Goodness with Truth and v.v. How is that un-Presbyterian?

  14. This is off topic but I need to ask:

    How do you make hyperlinks in a blog comment? I've tried and failed!

  15. Bob, you said,

    “Can and should others develop their own reasons for treating other humans with respect and love? Of course they should! There are other reasons for doing so besides the doctrine of the Trinity, reasons about which Judaism and Islam agree with Christian thought. Those of other faiths should develop their own reasons for loving others. I am a Christian. I develop ethics out of the Christian faith.”

    I understand better now where you are coming form, and I find my mind and soul resonating with your insights regarding the Trinity. Thanks, John is right, “this is good stuff.”

    Regarding “prooftexting,” it seems to me that Jesus appropriated the positive portion of this Scripture while rejecting the negative part. I do believe Jesus was able to separate the chaff from the wheat, and drew upon the best of the scripture to use in edifying his teachings. His great exhortation, "Love your neighbor as yourself," he took from the Scripture which reads: "You shall not take vengeance against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself." Contrast that with “love your enemies,” and I think it is pretty clear that he did not worry about whether he was quoting the Jewish scriptures that erroneously misrepresented the character of our Father in heaven, but freely appropriated the best truth-gems and let the chaff fall to the side.

  16. One caveat:

    Jesus did say, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5.17-20 NRSV).

    One of the breakthroughs of neo-orthodoxy was to realize that often the best way to interpret Scripture lies in understanding it as a testimony to God in Christ. Jack Rogers calls this viewing Scripture through the "lens" of Jesus (who also said that on the Greatest Commandments hangs all of the law and the prophets). It requires a long view at the entire "story arc" of the Bible.

    Jesus was a devout Jew, and I don't think he picked and chose the parts of the law that suited him (though it looked that way to the Pharisees). He was clear in what he saw as inappropriate applications of the law (e.g., not helping one's neighbor through healing on the Sabbath). Certainly he viewed the law through the "lens" of love of God and neighbor.

    "Prooftexting", on the other hand, relies on extracting a phrase or sentence fragment completely out of context and using it as substantive proof of one's position. It is often used in eisegesis (reading into the Bible what one already thinks), and careful exegesis (roughly the opposite) requires a lot more work involving textual context, historical/cultural context, linguistics, the Rule of Love, the Rule of Christ, etc. etc. etc.

    Yes, the PC(USA) has written guidelines for Biblical interpretation! If he hasn't done so already, perhaps John can do a future post on the subject... ;-)

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. It seems to me Flychandler, one man’s “prooftexting” is another man’s “exegesis.” One of the weaknesses of neo-Orthodoxy was the irony of its inability to see its own “prooftexting” as means of justifying its own interpretation of scripture as THE correct one. The irony is that the use of scripture for such means was the fatal flaw of the Pharisees, in that they failed to recognize that the incarnate living Word as revealed in the Son of God, not only fulfilled law (the vision of God the prophets saw in part only), but enlarged and illuminated the revelation of God to man and our relationship to God and one another.

    I agree that in reading the bible one does well to take care to view the scripture in "textual context, historical/cultural context, linguistic" context; but in the end, even a careful reading is one individuals interpretation, which may well vary from anothers.

    Not long ago a pastor at a local presbyterian church preached a sermon, the intention of which was to justify the war Iraq. He quoted scripture about how Joshua had destroyed Jericho and slaughtered men, women, and children, and added, "But these were not nice people, they had sex with their own children." Some Christians call this "exegesis," but I have another far less fancy name. The irony here is that we now know through archeology that Jericho did not even exist as an occupied city during the times of Joshua. How is that for a miracle? Joshua managed to destroy and slaughter an imaginary city and all its imaginary inhabitants!

    The burden of Joshua's teaching was, "Yahweh is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins." The core of Jesus' teachings was friendship with God, our loving heavenly Father, who forgives us even before we ask. The prophets saw this God of mercy and forgiveness, this God of the individual opposed to the God of Israel, the so-called "chosen people," only in part, while Jesus, being the incarnate Son of God, saw God's character in all its fullness and revealed it to us in his life and teachings. Jesus did not come to destroy, denounce, or set aside the "law" of the prophets, but he did not hesitate to expose and denounce those so-called "laws" and teachings that misreprestented the truth about the nature and character of God. The Jews in their devotion to "law" taught that cleaniness was a matter of ceremonial washing and a plethora purity rituals; Jesus taught cleanliness was a matter of purity of heart. The prophets saw this vision in part; Jesus revealed it in the fullness of his life dedicated to the doing of the Father's will, and his loving service to his fellows, even his unworthy fellows.

    Holding one's own or one's "traditions" interpretation of scripture up as the gold standard is problematic in my view as it runs the risk of becoming complacent and failing to realize there may well be something that the Spirit desires to teach this generation that previous generations have failed to hear or learn. I suspect that like the neo-Barthians in their heyday, postmodern Barthians may well make the same mistake of being to quick to brand as eisegesis and prooftexting another' interpretation of scripture according to his or her understanding of the Spirit of Truth that they perchance to disagree with, and their own interpretation as exegesis and not “prooftexting.”

    I am reminded of the scripture: "Have you faith? Then have it to yourself."

    Since true religion is a matter of personal spiritual experience, it is inevitable that each individual religionist must have his own and personal interpretation of the realization of that spiritual experience. It seems wise in my view to let the term "faith" stand for the individual's relation to God rather than for the creedal formulation of what some group of mortals have been able to agree upon as a common religious attitude.

  19. Rob,

    You said: "The irony here is that we now know through archeology that Jericho did not even exist as an occupied city during the times of Joshua. How is that for a miracle? Joshua managed to destroy and slaughter an imaginary city and all its imaginary inhabitants!"

    When do you think Joshua existed? What is your source for chronology on Jericho and the conquest of Canaan? (I'm assuming you believe there is a historical person to whom the Joshua of Scripture refers, and that the events therein report some sort of historically verifiable event.)


  20. God bless ya Rob, but you have me banging my head against the wall. I think you're confusing eisegesis with exegesis. You say that "one man's prooftexting is another man's exegesis", but these in fact describe entirely opposite methods of Biblical interpretation.

    Once again, prooftexting means taking a single phrase or sentence out of context to justify a position one already holds. This is also a decent working definition of eisegesis. I would argue that the example you gave of the pro-war pastor is, if not prooftexting in the purest sense, a definite case of eisegesis. By saying that the pseudo-historical account of the destruction of Jericho (even embellishing with details not in the Bible) provides complete Biblical justification for a military action ignores much of the rest of the Bible, especially the New Testament.

    One great aspect of neo-orthodox thinking is that it acknowledges that one HAS to do interpretation of the Bible and that literal readings of English translations will likely get you to incorrect conclusions. I never said, and as far as I know Karl Barth never said that "Barthians" as you call them don't interpret the Bible. Neo-orthodoxy is a system of interpretation at its core and realizes it.

    Another great thing about neo-orthodoxy is that it is the ULTIMATE exegesis. The ENTIRE Bible has to be viewed in context of the ENTIRE Bible, as well as the other aspects I alluded to. Jack Rogers does a much better job of explaining this, but essentially the Bible can be viewed as a single narrative, and the single most important part of the story for Christians is the life and work of Jesus Christ.

    If anything, Barth serves to, if not explode, at least demote the traditional as a standard mode of interpretation. The "Barthian" accepts new and alternative readings of Scripture, but s/he wants you to show your work.

    I realize that faith is a deeply personal thing. I also think that all this theology and doctrine and methodology is just a fancy way for us to explain our faith to other people and to understand theirs in turn.

    I suppose experiential theology has its place, but it tends to be an incredibly slippery slope and needs to be approached with extreme caution.

  21. God bless you too Flycandler for pounding your head against the wall for me; and I really appreciate your points. When you say,

    "If anything, Barth serves to, if not explode, at least demote the traditional as a standard mode of interpretation. The "Barthian" accepts new and alternative readings of Scripture, but s/he wants you to show your work.

    "I realize that faith is a deeply personal thing. I also think that all this theology and doctrine and methodology is just a fancy way for us to explain our faith to other people and to understand theirs in turn.

    "I suppose experiential theology has its place, but it tends to be an incredibly slippery slope and needs to be approached with extreme caution."

    I think your points are well taken and persuasive. I agree, caution is in order when interpreting scripture, and we should be careful, critically considering all sources of truth (scientific, philosophical, and religious) when talking about God. I also sympathize that there is a source of insight that only the Spirit can provide, and that without it one may not be able to grasp the wholeness of truth.

    I like to think of it as a kind of critical openness to living dynamic truth that while recognizing that at any one point in my own interpretation I must always remain open to new truth, new insights, new facts, and be willing to follow the truth wherever it may lead. But the operative word is critical openness, not the so-called openness where one’s brains fall out or become solidified into rock solid dogma ;-)

    Thanks, you have helped me gain a better appreciation for Barth. And after all, he did soften up some of his more polemical rhetoric and publish in his later years his softer side in “The Humanity of God.”

  22. Chris,

    For a detailed analysis of the archeological record, see:

    Dever, William G. Who Were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? Cambridge: Wm. B. Eardmans Publishing Co.; 2003; pp. 37-50.

    Here is the scripture:

    Now Jericho was shut up tight because of the Israelites; no one could leave or enter. (6.1)

    The Lord said to Joshua, "See, I will deliver Jericho and her king [and her] warriors into your hands. (6.2) Le all your troops march around the city and complete one circuit of the city. Do this six days, (6.3) with seven priests carrying seven ram's horns preceding the Ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with priests blowing the horns. (6.4) And when a long blast is sounded on the horn—as soon as you hear that sound of the horn—all the people shall give a mighty shout. Thereupon the city wall will collapse, and the people shall advance, every many straight ahead." (6.5)

    (....) The city and everything in it are to be proscribed for the Lord; only Rahab the harlot is to be spared, and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers we sent. (6.17)

    (....) So the people shouted when the horns were sounded. When the people heard the sound of the horns, the people raised a mighty shout and the wall collapsed. The people rushed into the city, every man straight in front of him, and they captured the city. (6.20) They exterminated everything in the city with the sword: man and women, young and old, ox and sheep and ass. (6.21)

    [Commentary] 5: Archeological research has shown the the last city wall of Jericho no longer existed at the time of earliest Israel; therefore the story of its conquest may be more symbolic than historical. 17-19: Proscribed denotes the sacral extermination, or "herem," of the enemy, a linking of violence and sanctity common to war ideologies. The destroyed enemy items--people, animals, and objects--are consecrated to the deity who made the victory possible.

    -- Berlin, Adele and Brettler Marc Zvi wip, eds. The Jewish Study Bible. Second Edition of Revised Standard Version ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 2004; Joshua(6.1-27): pp. 473-474.

  23. Wow!

    Thanks for this conversation! I appreciate your insights. Nice to have intelligent folks commenting on Shuck and Jive!