Empyrean Dialogues 4 – The Mandate

While Moses briefs the Divine Son in the Empyrean prior to the Incarnation, the subject turns to the difficulties inherent in the Incarnation Mandate, and the possibility of rejection by Israel.

MOSES:  All the saints pray for Israel’s acceptance of your mission, Sire, but anyone can see Father’s mandate for your incarnation is bad news as far as priesthood and temple are concerned.

THE SON:  No question.  Father wants me to feature nothing less than the whole truth about his divine forgiveness.

MOSES:  So he’s clearly talking about a complete de-authorization of the temple system of atonement – both ritual and sacrifice.

THE SON:  You know yourself it wasn’t Father’s idea in the first place.

MOSES:  We had no temple – nor any of the current sacrifices – during the 40 years in the wilderness, Sire.

THE SON:  Right.  But what is left of the sacred record of such truths?

MOSES:  The Book of Amos, Sire.  End of Chapter 5.

THE SON:  Yeah great.  It’s going to be front-paged when I’m finished.

MOSES:  Don’t be too sure.  Sacrifice is an ancient meme.  What if they spin you as the new sacrifice?

THE SON:  Oh God.

MOSES:   I’m just sayin’.  Never mind.

THE SON:  We know it won’t be popular with the priests and scribes.

MOSES:  But the temple sacrifices are a lucrative business for some of the biggest names, Sire.  They can invoke the highest sanctions against you and could really hurt your overall numbers.

THE SON:  And it’s not just the temple, Mo.  Father wants a new Sabbath as well.

MOSES:  I saw that.  So the temple gets common cause with the synagogues against you.  Terrific.

THE SON:  A perfect storm.

MOSES:  But I understand why He’s upset about how that day of rest turned out – we set that day aside for the people in order to free them from man-made taboos, not to bind them.

THE SON:  Well He’s calling it all in.

MOSES:  Clearly.  This is the big one.  The saints are in awe of Father’s new dispensation. It looks like He’s preparing to shake both the highlands and the low places.

THE SON:  Even the very foundations of Jerusalem.  Nevertheless I’m getting one more chance to gather her under his wing.

MOSES:  Nice, except she believes she’s already there.

THE SON:  Yes, but I find this very real and present trust in God an irresistible quality in this people Israel.

MOSES:  It can’t be denied – even in the face of all their historic failures.

THE SON:  Their sublime trust in Father’s faithfulness has surpassed in power all human intellectual assent to beliefs about Him and His Anointed.

MOSES:  And always will.

THE SON:  In fact, the hope inspired by such trust is what forbids my knowing their final decision until they make it.

MOSES:  Sire, everybody here is thrilled by your sworn faithfulness and hopes you will be preaching forgiveness in the temple right down to the elders’ last possible moment of decision.

THE SON:  Count on it.

MOSES:  It’s just … You may never be able to convince them.  I know this people.

THE SON:  Nothing is impossible with God.

MOSES:  Maybe not, but I think Father is showing a lot of wisdom in featuring both an acceptance scenario and a rejection scenario.

THE SON:  The thing with that is either one of Father’s scenarios manifests His will for man in full.

MOSES:  Believe me, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea which one is in play before the end of your first year in public.

(to be continued)

Empyrean Dialogues:

1 – Annunciation

2 – Of Times and Seasons

3 – The Forerunner

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12 thoughts on “Empyrean Dialogues 4 – The Mandate

  1. Still love these. I don’t see how Temple and even “Sacrificial” imagery can be given up without an ultra-Lutheranist grace/law dichotomy, though. Where does figurative and “metaphorical” language and truth come into your account? Or, how do books like Hebrews etc… fit in? Christological interpretations of the OT?

    • Tony, I follow Paul on what the word ‘temple’ should mean (figuratively) to a Christian. And I think the one element which redeems the life of the ancient (it is certainly pre-Abrahamic) religious concept of sacrifice must be centered in the great truth of self-sacrifice, obedience, etc. (and this is I think still applicable to Christ).

      My implied critique strikes against all notions of vicarious or substitutionary sacrifice as features of temple worship, which I am suggesting were pressed into service as interpretations of Christ’s work from a perspective which is that of mere evolutionary religion (i.e. non-revelatory).

      Your reference to Hebrews bears on the three offices of Christ as that author sees them?

      As for the alleged Christology of the OT, that is probably the one single area of Christian theology in which I admit the validity of the negative judgments of the Incarnation by Jewish scholars.

      Thanks so much for the questions. I really wanted these dialogues to be taken seriously (outside of their occasional resort to anachronism for a laugh).

      • Sure there’s Paul, but there’s a whole lot of other Scripture in there too. (I feel like I’ve run into this privileging of Paul a lot lately) Not that I’m pitting Paul against Scripture – far be it for me! – yet I’d go so far as to affirm the historical practice of the Church privileging the four Gospels and the Psalms as the interpretive keys to Scripture, less Paul in all his raging glory (ie – Romans and Galatians).

        I only brought Hebrews as a tangent which relates Christ’s work to the work of priest. Heck Paul envisions his work as a priestly offering, even vicarious as he offers up his converts to God as a perfect sacrifice.

        Beyond this, I’m afraid I can’t offer the deep systematic engagement someone as skilled as yourself would appreciate. I’m just too young and inexperienced and I don’t pray enough. Besides which, I’m not a systematition, so I wouldn’t be able really to make an account of “the atonement” or what have you. Of late I’ve become keenly aware of my theological limitations (this, btw, is not one of those covert attempts to get you to reassure me of my sharpness, lest my self-effacement seem ungenuine)

        Clearly though you are have an iconoclastic flare; God never even speaks in the Dialogues so far, s/he has instead made Moses the mouthpiece. I’m not sure what you mean then when you say “I admit the validity of the negative judgments of the Incarnation by Jewish scholars.” Does this mean you deny the Incarnation? I’m assuming not but I’m not sure how to interpret you there. If Christ is not the subject of the OT then we might as well become Marcionites.

        • I only agree with the centuries-long record of patient refutation by the Jews of most of the alleged OT references to Jesus as their Messiah.

          I believe the Incarnation was the real deal, but even the ‘suffering servant’ in Isaiah is about the entire Jewish nation, clearly.

          In the fall I posted here a 3-part essay on the possible link between failed Jewish eschatology and their tendency (at that time) to view their scriptures as inerrant. I see an almost total disconnect between what the Jewish OT and apocalyptic writers were expecting and what God was planning.

          I will be candid and admit that I agree with scholars who have found a lot in the OT that has merely local and anthropological value for the history of religions (priests, sacrifices, taboos, dietary laws, washings, rites), but I think the book is too rich in strands of revealed truth to ban it as Marcion would have done.

          • I suppose that we’ll just have to agree to disagree then. Not about “inerrancy” of course, but I take the NT’s appropriation (and it’s an appropriation, not a correlation) of the OT as theologically normative for prayer and reflection.

            Afterall Jesus announced his ministry by saying that Isaiah’s words had been fulfilled on that day, he didn’t say “It is unfortunate the sheer amount of leftovers of your early polythiestic and cultic days you have left in your imagination – Let’s do something about that”

            Ironically, the historical critical judgment that passages X and Y represent “earlier stages in the development of Israelite monotheism” are supremely beholden to a picture of “religion” as “evolutionary” – which is to say that the judgment is not revelatory!!

          • Good comments, all, Tony.

            I can at least say that I believe I have had sublime (to me) insights using the Psalms in prayer. Well, some of the Psalms.

            I’m OK with the OT refs which Jesus himself is reported to have used.

            I can’t make out the irony in your last paragraph. But the distinction between evolutionary and revealed religion is a bedrock principle for me – although I’d agree its results cannot be normative for theology.

            With sacrifice, for example, you must know that the anthropological record of such rites goes back much further than the written record. I would argue that the human need for atonement is inspired from the beginning – but not so much the very primitive religious methods which we see have been devised to satisfy it.

            That last sounds like influence from Schleiermacher, whose ‘Christian Faith’ I have been reading closely lately.

            The Bible writers I think recognized this ancient background in traditions that Cain and Abel made sacrifices – notice the narrator claims the Lord had regard for one and did not regard the other. Seriously? Normative for theology? In that case I would say the ‘revelation’ appears in Gen 4:7 – that it’s not about the sacrifices at all. 🙂

            You’re good, though. I really appreciate having the occasion to ponder these things.

  2. I only take the “irony” to be that for you, unless I’m misreading you, anything “revelatory” will be something that is by no means merely discoverable by “human” means, as in your opposing “evolutionary religion” to “revelatory [religion].”

    So using historical critical methods, ie – “non revelatory” means to determine the “historical shape” of Israelite religion, and then make determinative judgments about that religion doesn’t seem to follow that scheme very closely.

    My only caveat is that likely you deem this to be a theological judgment based on a particular understanding of what Jesus did and said with a dash of appropriate atonement speculation thrown in. In that case you might say that your judgment does in fact spring from true revelation.

    I’m just not sold yet that such a judgment on Israel, stretching all the way back to Torah “times” is sustainable from a traditionally Christian standpoint. After all even Paul saw Jesus in the Torah.

  3. Well I respect your position as one which I ought not to treat lightly. I should hope not to alienate open-minded scholars like you who are outside the inerrancy cults.

    But how do you read Amos 5:25 (my oblique citation in the post)?

    “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?”

    It sounds like an accusation of novelty to me (especially in view of what precedes it).

    • Ha! Me, a scholar. I’m a kid. I’m still doing my undergrad in Latin and Greek – I’ve always read theology on the side.

      For my part I don’t want to drag a dead horse into a field and beat it but I think the prophetic literature has plenty of ammunition against Israel’s religious system (I’m reading Jeremiah right now and he seems to have some choice words for the peace-speakers comfortable in their system); just as different “historians” are both for and against David and the monarchy. From what I’ve been taught there’s little in Israels’ unfolding interpretation of itself that is straightforwardly in favor of a novelty in practice. I hope not to alienate open-minded iconoclastic scholars like you who represent an important reign on theological speculation.

      There are just a couple things I’d note. 1) Very often as I recall, when the prophets get their panties in a bundle about religion you’ll not look far before or ahead and find denouncements of a) Idolatry – and not the abstract kind, but poles and orgies and dancing places and carvings and non-prescribed sacrifices, and b) Neglect of the poor, the orphan and the widow. Which is to say that at places such as Amos I tend to see something much more sinister behind the laments than the reality of bull slaying.

      And 2) I just try and find Jesus where I’ve been told I can find him, and I think we can find him as many things, the Lamb predestined to be slain, the prophet, priest, king, God – all of which potentially can be debunked by different Scriptural witnesses – But I tend to buy Ireneaus and say that the shape of interpretation handed to us by the Apostles, to the extent that it actually exists, is one of the ways we keep from falling too far into error, so I tend to error on the side of traditionalism.

  4. As it happens I’m up late doing a paper so I can respond! As a final note I wanted once more to say that I really like these. I’m sick to tears of the idea that anything truly worth hearing or anything that must be proven true must be said with torturous and laborious prose. This type of writing is affective, like a story it works on your unconscious such that people really learn but aren’t made to know that they are learning.

  5. Pingback: Empyrean Dialogues 5 – God’s plan, Phase 1 « Next Theology

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