Monday, July 18, 2005

Two Scripture Ponderables 

I've been thinking about one of these for a few days now, and the second one came up tonight. The first originated in my work for the Disseminary, as I worked on Francis J. Hall's Theological Outlines. The passage in question is Luke 1:26-38, the Annunciation to Mary. As I was talking with a classmate, the question arose, "How much can we really say Mary consented to this whole business?" A fine question that Hall addresses some. The 38th verse is where we derive the idea that Mary consented, but could she have withheld her consent? Was the plan for the salvation of the world contingent upon the consent of a 12-15 year old Palestinian Jewish girl? Hall says no, for several reasons. First, Mary was predisposed to consent. Second, this predisposition was one of the reasons God chose her. Third, had she refused, God would have found another way/another virgin; Mary could not have thwarted the Master's plan. Well, that's all well and good, says my friend, but can we really call something consent if you're preordained, or even just predisposed to consent? I said, yes, we can. Because for this whole enterprise to work out, there must be an exercise of free will. By the will of one man sin entered into humanity, thusly, by the will of one man, sin will be defeated. Mary could have said no, but she would not have done so, because she was a servant of God and was predisposed to consent. St. Augustine reminds us that the only real definition of free will is to submit that will back unto God, who gave it. To thwart God is not so much an exercise of your free will as it is an indication of your continuing slavery to sin. So, what do you think, faithful reader? How far can we go in calling what Mary did "consent"?

The second ponderable came from the Vestry meeting at St. Luke's tonight. The passage in question is 1 Kings 3:3-15. This is the sequence in which Solomon asks God not for riches and military victory, but for a wise and discerning heart. Because he asks this, and not for the other things, God is pleased and grants to him that which he asked, plus those things for which he did not ask. Then, we find out (in verse 15) that Solomon awoke, and, the NRSV renders it, "it had been a dream". So, the question posed as the meditation tonight was, "Did Solomon actually get these things? Or was it just a dream with no actual consequences and Solomon gets all that stuff through his own saavy?" Interestingly enough, the Hebrew here leaves us a bit short and translation is left to fill the gaps, as it so often is. The words in Hebrew say that "Then Solomon awoke. Behold/See/Now, a dream." The phrase "it had been" is included to make grammatical sense in English that the Hebrew does not require. My answer to the question is that Solomon did receive all these things. The immediate textual evidence is the subsequent passage wherein he displays his newfound wisdom in the case of the two prostitutes arguing over motherhood rights. Then, throughout Kings, we see the wealth of Solomon displayed, his military victories are decisive, and he has more wives than he knows what to do with. The word for dream used is cholem, which is divided up into subcategories, and the editors of the lexicon place this usage under "prophetic dreams". I think they are justified and right in so doing. What is your opinion? Did Solomon actually receive these qualities as a gift from God because he asked for them in a dream? And, if so, as I think he did, what does that suggest to you about what goes on in your dreams, as well as having the courage to actually ask God for what you want and need? This is a courage I often lack.



Ryan, perhaps your education in OT has covered this imponderable: How did Adam "sin" when he had no knowledge of good and evil? Or is disobedience somehow not evil?

By Blogger Jim, at 9:50 AM  

I'm not sure how this connects to what I posted, unless you're just posting something else to ponder about or you're picking up on what I paraphrased out of the Pascha Nostrum. But, to quickly reply: Disobedience against God constitutes sin. I'm not sure I'll equate good and evil with non-sin and sin, either.


By Blogger Ryan, at 4:38 PM  

Here's the connection: you said, quoting from [?], "By the will of one man sin entered into humanity, thusly, by the will of one man, sin will be defeated."

Wikipedia's version of the Pascha Nostrum is, "For since by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead."

I didn't know if you were trying to extract a parallel there, or going off in a different direction.

My EFM seminar got bogged down on the good-evil-sin-disobedience question. Other than dogma, I can't find a rational link. That was the question. Maybe you can catch AKMA in a moment of repose and see what he thinks?

By Blogger Jim, at 11:54 PM  

I was paraphrasing from the Pascha Nostrum and what I was saying was that it seems to me willingness is an important part of the salvation narrative. The second Person of the Trinity willingly became human to suffer and die for the forgiveness of sins, thereby defeating sin's power, which is death. Likewise, Mary had to willingly consent to being the Theotokos. Like I said earlier (I can see why your EFM seminar got bogged down on that question) I wouldn't want to equate those things. AKMA's email address is posted at his blog, I'm sure he'd be happy to field your question; but, with all due respect to my friend and professor, this blog is a venue for primarily my thoughts, not his.

For some deeper answers to your questions, you and maybe your EFM seminar could consult Birch, Brueggemann, Fretheim, and Petersen in A Theological Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 53-59.


By Blogger Ryan, at 12:41 AM  

Glad to see you are pondering...

By Anonymous Trevor, at 1:26 PM  

Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?