Posts Tagged ‘Richard B. Hays’

The book of Acts portrays a movement that is turning large numbers “from the power of Satan to God” (Acts 26.18) and re-socializing them into a community that lives by very different norms – the norms defined by Jesus’ life and teachings. Such a movement – when lived with integrity – inevitably has an explosive effect in the surrounding culture. That is Luke’s vision for the transformative power of the church: it turns the world upside down not through armed revolution but through the formation of the church as a counter-culture, an alternative witness-bearing community. (128)

Richard B. Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament

Ugo da Carpi, St Peter Preaching (14th cent.)

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Only if we back off some distance from the actual content of the Pauline letters can we posit a dichotomy between Paul’s theology and his ethics — or between kerygma [κήρυγμα] (the proclamation of the gospel) and didache [διδαχὴ] (the teaching of standards of conduct), or between indicative (what God has done in Christ) and imperative (what human beings are called upon to do). The more closely we read Paul’s letters, the more fragile there familiar dichotomies appear. In these texts, it is difficult to draw a clear distinction between theology and ethics. They are packing together, under pressure: specific pastoral problems in Paul’s churches elicit his theological reflection. Thus, we see theology in progress, unfolding. Paul is not simply repeating already formulated doctrines; rather he is theologizing as he writes, and the constant aim of his theological reflection is to shape the behavior of his churches. Theology is for Paul never merely a speculative exercise; it is always a tool for constructing community.(18)

Richard B. Hays, Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996)

El Greco, St. Paul (1606)

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“Converting to the God of the Christians was not merely an adjustment of this or that aspect of an otherwise unaltered basic cultural pattern; rather, worshiping the God of the Christians simultaneously involved an extraction or removal from constitutive aspects of pagan culture (e.g., sacrifice to the gods) and a concomitant cultural profile that rendered Christians identifiable as a “group” by outsiders. Yet the practices that created this cultural profile were themselves dependent upon the identity of God. Christian ecclesial life, in other words, was the cultural explication of God’s identity.” (246)

C. Kavin Rowe, “The Book of Acts and the Cultural Explication of the Identity of God,” from The Word Leaps the Gap: Essays on Scripture and Theology in honor of Richard B. Hays

n., the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.

[French identité, from Old French identite, from Late Latin identitās, from Latin idem, the same from id, it (cf., essentitās, being)]

adj., existing or occurring together; associative

[Late Latin concomitāns, accompanying; (cf., comes, companion)]

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Oh, that you would tear open the heavens and come down!
Isaiah 64:1

Isaiah blurts out the frustration and longing that seem to be our inevitable portion as children of Adam and Eve. Frustration: in the midst of conflict and pain, we sense that something has gone terribly wrong, and we are powerless to fix it. Longing: we yearn for God to break into our stifling world and set things right.

William Butler Yeats gave words to our dilemma:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

(Yeats, “The Second Coming”)

In the rhythm of the church year, Advent reminds us that we live in a time of groaning along with a broken creation, a time of longing for what we do not yet see (Rom 8:22-25). We yearn for the long-delayed coming of God’s justice. But Advent also reminds us that our longing is not futile, for we await the consummation of a sure promise. In the coming of Jesus Christ, God has torn open the heavens and come down. For that reason, Advent recalls us to the discipline of hopeful waiting. Nothing now can separate us from the love of God, and so we wait with confidence for the healing of all creation.

Richard B. Hays, Dean and George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament
Duke Divinity School

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