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Thursday, August 24, 2006


Miracles, part 2

So much for my busy posting schedule.

For my class yesterday I was reading chapter 5 of Thomas Rausch's book, Who is Jesus? and came across a quote that I thought was a helpful addition to my previous post on the topic of Miracles.

Chapter 5 explores "The Preaching and Ministry of Jesus." It looks at the three strands of Jesus' teaching, his sayings, his parables, and the image of the kingdom of God.

He begins by looking at the sayings of Jesus.

Many New Testament scholars would postulate that not all of the sayings attributed to Jesus were actually unique to Jesus. Some would have been popular proverbs at the time that either Jesus himself used, or were later attributed to Jesus.

Bultmann (a famous biblical scholar) would list 15 statements that he would conclude are pretty reliable as to the characteristic of Jesus' preaching.

Mark 3:24-26, Mark 3:27, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:62, Mark 10:23b, Mark 10:25, Luke 9:60a, Matt 7:13, Mark 10:31, Mark 7:15, Mark 10:15, Luke 14:11, Luke 16:15.

The themes picked up in these 15 statements are: the centrality of the kingdom of God, a final reversal of status, struggle or conflict, the danger of wealth and the call for a radical change of heart. (p79)

Some of these are themes we have been exploring in our Bible study group, a final reversal, struggle or conflict, the danger of wealth and the call for a radical change of heart.

We haven't really talk directly about the centrality of the kingdom of God.

Rausch's exploration of the Kingdom of God, and the role of Miracles within it, is quite helpful.

Rausch says Jesus' "healings show that with the arrival of the reign of God the power of evil over human beings was being broken; God's salvific power was becoming effective in the bodies and spirits of the people to whom he ministered." (p 86)

Tied to this is Jesus' proclamation of the forgiveness of people's sins (btw, that was before he died on the cross, for all you keeping score at home.) By which Rauch states that Jesus was saying, "The blessings of salvation were available now for those who trusted in him and the kingdom he proclaimed." (p 87)

Rausch then moves on to make a couple of cautionary points on understanding Jesus' miracles and this is where I found his chapter relevant to our previous discussion.

He suggests we need to avoid two extremes when interpreting Jesus' miracles.

"One would be the 'supernaturalist' or precritical approach that sees miracles as displays of divine power suspending or contravening the laws of nature ... There are two problems with this approach. First, in defining miracles as divine interventions from 'outside', it assumes a God who does not honor the causality of the created order. Such a God would be arbitrary and could equally be held accountable for natural disasters ... Secondly, a divine intervention that overpowered the causality of the created order would compel belief. This would violate the principle that God never violates our human freedom, for in such cases, belief would not be a free response to grace." (p 92)

The other extreme is seeing "Jesus' miracles from the perspective of their original biblical meaning." (p 92) The gospels do not use the Greek word for miraculous to explain Jesus' miracles, the Synoptics use 'acts of power' and John calls them 'signs'. So "in a prescientific age, the unexpected is always seen as an act of God." (p 92) He sees this viewpoint as reductive and unhelpful.

He finds Kasper's suggestion helpful, "moving to a higher viewpoint, which raises the question of meaning, not of particular events but of reality as a whole." (p 93)

He rejects the view of a puppet God as well as the view of God as the architect who leaves creation alone.

"Instead he proposes the biblical view, a living God in history 'who in constantly original ways offers his love to human beings in and through the events of the world.'"

I think his final sentences in this discussion are perhaps the most helpful.

"In recognising a God who acts in and through creation, it also safeguards the role of human freedom, since a miracle can only be recognised in faith and never forces it. Others may not recognise the miracle at all."(p 93)

Sorry for the long repost of his article, but do you think his discussion is helpful?

I did.

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Once again we see these scholars only focusing on bits and pieces of the Bible and not the whole thing!

Bultmann is known to many as a heretic, thats someone who holds and teaches false beliefs and so his scholary efforts always need to be met with caution!

Why Bultmann would separate the sayings that are unique to Jesus to the common ones that Jesus repeats is stupid!What is the point?Jesus said them all! Regardless of wether He was repeating stuff doesnt mean what He said was not truth!

The point Jesus was forgiving peoples sins before His death and resurrection is nothing new.The New Testament clearly shows that even the Jews thousands of years before Jesus were forgiven by Jesus act on the cross!

I think the way you have mentioned that can be quite unhelpful unless you explain the rest of the story to them...

I dont mind the quote about salvations benefits now. Isnt it great that God is both eternal and in the now?!?

Rauches critique of miracles is terrible.Saying God cant or wont or shouldnt intervene in the world because its the way it is is rediculos.

And the point about God not compelling people to accept Him is heretical and shows a complete lack of reference to the entire Old Testament where God time and time and time again says, 'I will do____ and they will know that I am God' God is in the business of letting His love compel people to believe in Him!

The reason why these acts are unexpected is simply caused by peoples lack of faith.God reguarly does the supernatural yet people still fail to believe stuff.In fact after Jesus fed the 5000, people would come and ask for more miracles, and Jesus said that 'people dont believe in me because of the miracle but because they had their fill...' This clearly shows that the miracle is the way that God shows them His transforming love in their lives!

I think his comments on how he dislikes God leaving the world alone is quite contradictory to his arguement.After saying God cant rule over creation by doing miracles that are 'supernatural' He says He doesnt like God being separated!But thats exactly what he is doing!

Why is it so hard to see that God is in creation and comes in weird, unexpected and supernatural ways?Perhaps Rauch doesnt like the supernatural as that is not part of his reality, however it is the reality of millions of people around the world!

Why can a miracle only be recognised in faith and never forced by it?People will recognise the miracle!They will see it happen!But the next step is who it is attributed to, which many will get wrong and why it happend, which many will get it wrong, That is why we need to attribute the supernatural to God and not ourselves so people may see the power of God in the world and have faith in God.

I dont think this discussion was very helpful to miracles, although it was good to disagree with some stuff...

Yes I agree that to many Bultmann is considered a heretic.
Because Bultmann calls us to look beyond a positivist, literalistic reading of the New Testament and that challenges people's understanding of the Bible.
Anyone who challenges the status quo, especially people's beliefs is going to get called alot of things.

To many others Bultmann is considered one of the most important Biblical scholars of the twentieth century, and I for one fall into that category.

A problem arises when people are unwilling to hear another point of view, because they claim that they know what is best. A claim, which I am sure you would agree, is only able to be made by God alone.

Even Jesus, when challenged by the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark 7:24-30, is forced to learn from someone else.

The only thing that I will point out is that in the gospels, the greatest miracle, the Resurrection, was only ever seen this side of the cross, by those who believed the other side of the cross.
The same is true today.
Faith preceeds the ability to see the risen Jesus.
i like your last point! However, people can still see the work (including supernatural miracles) of Christ without belief in Jesus... (Im pretty sure youd agree with that though...)

We'll save the Bultmann debate for another day! but just quickly... I dont mind reading him to get another point of view, and sometimes he does have good points (much to my disgust!lol) but we do need to approach him with care...

good blog topics liam!

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