Post: Readers Respond
Thank you for making Pieisten available to me — nearly two years ago now. I must comment specifically on Bob Bach's article — the House at 349 Neilsen Road — I am proud to have known him. It was obvious that there was always something special about B.B.! Take care. Julie Aspergren, Dunwoody, Georgia.
This will be a short missive to acknowledge receipt of your note and Pietisten
I don't know who Clifford Biel is but his letter sure made you guys on the editorial board look like faithful followers of Cardinal Ratzinger (Congregation of the Doctrine — Holy Office — Office of the Inquisition); and your reply was rather piss poor. "Scientific criticism not only leaves scant room for God's revelation in the genesis of scripture, it leaves even less room for revelation to the hearer of the word" is a very fundamental — and deadly — critique that neither article of David Hawkinson addresses itself to in any precise way. You ladies and gentlemen of the editorial board seem to be sidestepping the issue or so it seems to this outsider.
Letters like that from Pastor Biel remind one that tribalism seems very much alive among you New World Nordics.
Tell Eric that his predictions are sheer baloney; the 49ers will take the Bowl and Minnesota with it with their eyes closed. A sport prophet!!!Robert Thompson, Geneva Switzerland.
Dear David, Peter, Phil, and Tommy,
It is a delight to receive Pietisten in the midst of Covenant parish life. For the past two months we have been using David's Bible Study methods which I learned from him at North Park Church this past spring in our Wednesday night Bible study. Our study has grown from 10 to 25 in 6 weeks, as the discussion permits sharing and vulnerability, We have even dealt with issues relating to the authority of scripture in an atmosphere of disagreement in harmony. Thanks David!
I have for some time wanted to write to you concerning some of the issues in the Sandstrom-Biel dialogue.
In Vol. II, No. 4, it seems to me that Peter is working on the premise that what is primitive is more authentic, and that what is written later is more liable to misinterpretation. It appears that Peter would prefer the proclamation of the early Aramaic speaking community as more theologically appropriate to the "Christian" message than the later written text of the Gospel of John whose language could be interpreted as theologically elaborate.
As I understand the response of Clifford Biel, his concern is not to whitewash these differences but rather to ask about their relationship to one another. What docs the Gospel of John have to do with the preaching of Peter?
At stake is not only our understanding of the notion of canon, but also our understanding of the function of "apostolic" witness in doing theology. I would concur with Peter that we need to use all the critical tools at our disposal, but these critical tools must also be applied to our conceptions of history as well. In other words, does later necessarily mean poorer with regard to Christian proclamation?
The recent history of cultural anthropology serves as a good case in point. It has been a history that has exalted the primitive as more authentic, more human than the modern. Contemporary anthropologists are correct to move away from a colonialist approach where white-European-male civilization was more human, because it was more sophisticated than other civilizations. On the other hand, the rituals and myths of more "primitive" cultures should open our eyes to the fact that they, too, indulge in victimizing and human destruction as much as we do. Primitive does not necessarily mean better.
In the same manner, New Testament scholarship through the "History of Religions" school has done the same thing — emphasized the superiority of the primitive over the modern. At issue is whether this approach is valid. As one looks at New Testament scholarship, which claims a history of being critical, e.g., Reitzenztein and Bultmann, is it fair to say that the view of history presupposed in that school of thought is beyond criticism? I think of the pioneering work of Hoachim Jeremias, extended by Martin Hengel. Both of these New Testament scholars would argue for a "development" in New Testament Christology from early to later that has its own inherent logic.
Peter is correct to speak of development in christology, but wrong to presuppose major thematic junctures that cannot be exegetically supported, while Biel is correct to argue for a consistency in New Testament christology but wrong to argue for the possibility of a monolithic "Biblical" theology.
As a Covenanter, I would agree with Peter that this dialogue is both fruitful and helpful. If nothing else, it allows us to sharpen our own positions in contrast to another brother or sister who is willing to be vulnerable and share their position. I would concur that we need to use all the critical tools at our disposal. The question is whether we will allow ourselves the luxury of constantly refining those tools as discoveries modify our theories.
Peter, I would contend that what is at issue between you and Clifford Biel is the nature of history. You (as we have discussed in past conversations) have been influenced by the pioneering work of the German critics, especially the Bultmannian school. I would encourage you to consider the criticism of that school, especially as relates to its poor categorization of the early Christian communities. See Martin Hengel, Between Jesus and Paul or C.F.D. Moule, The Origin of Christology.
I would contend that we no longer need to read the birth narratives or the Gospel of John through the lens of a PlatonicAugustinian influenced hermeneutic. I would contend that the criticism of such a reading, for example, by the late Adolf von Harnack, was on the money. Unlike Harnack, we can read these texts in a positive light, allowing Spirit to shape and inform Word.
What is called for is a hermeneutic that will allow us to read these texts anthropologically for, as Simone Weil has said: "In the Gospel is a theory of man." I am sending along a paper I am reading to the International Congress on Christian Counseling which delineates this hermeneutic and would allow us, I think, to remain faithful in our exegesis to our own scientific critical heritage as well as to Athanasius, strange as that may sound. The debate between you and Clifford Biel does not need to spin in circles. As I see it, you both can come together in the common enterprise in the deconstructing of our Augustinian heritage.
Thanks again for you work in this journal. May the grace and peace of God be with you all. I look forward to visiting you all at Mid-Winter.
Peace in our Lord Jesus, Michael Hardin, Floral Park, Long Island, New York