Friday, March 11, 2016

A Post-Barthian Attempt at Genesis 1: vv 6–10

Okay, so where was I? Oh, yes: the creature was still only the nothing, a singular abyssal deep that had not yet been internally differentiated—but now it has a full day–night cycle consisting of the periodic alternation between light and darkness, with fades in between, even without there being celestial bodies involved.

I've already significantly departed from Barth's analysis, because he thinks that the nothing is a primordial chaos that God chooses against in creating something. The text, on the other hand, clearly imagines the nothing as a created something, even if it isn't yet anything in particular. The singular abyssal deep of the təhom cannot be chaos, as I have said, because true χάος is the yawning void between things—which requires there to be more than one thing. And that's important, because in the coming text God is about to create just such a χάσμα, which in English we know as the word "chasm."

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It's Always Better to be More Gracious than God

The most-often-adduced "defeater" for soteriological universalisms is the idea that we're trying to be more gracious, more generous with salvation, than God is. That damnation is a necessarily real thing, a consequence of divine justice that cannot be overcome, and that by trying to minimize it, we crazy universalists risk falling foul of God's will in ways we wouldn't if only we'd agree to condemn the right people.

I'm not often tempted to quote the late Justice Scalia—a cut-rate Rhenquist without the propensity for learned moderation over time—but the brutality of his derision toward what he believed were arguments unfounded in anything but wishful thinking should be applied to this faux-juristic argle-bargle by which the majority opinion claims that it is better—more like God—to condemn than to reprieve. (I won't even mention the fact that this same historical majority tends overwhelmingly to extend reprieve, rather than condemnation, to privileged offenders while chastising their victims.)

This is a place where the typical Christian paradigm of OT-judgment/NT-grace fails spectacularly to account for the superiority of the Old Testament as a testimony to grace over against condemnation. The Tanakh certainly does contain the three successively-iterated law-codes of Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Leviticus. Its organization, which even our Old Testament preserves to this extent, privileges these codifications as "torah," or instruction. But we fail to understand them as what they were and are when we take these three brilliant narrative and legal mosaics (see what I did there?) as a compendium of rules governing the applicability of grace.