Doug Green on Genesis: Part 3

This was the last session and concluded with a nice little summary of how these thoughts can be used in meeting culture with the gospel.

Self-rule and self-mastery

If we are to exercise dominion over creation then that should start with the creature closest to us – ourselves. This is one of the things that distinguishes us from the animals. Animals don’t exercise self-control. We can train them, but they are driven by instinct. We are humans who are less than human because we do not exercise dominion over ourselves.

Esau, the hairy baby, is portrayed as a beastly human – a hunter who is at home in the wild.  Jacob is more “ideal” – but he has to cover himself in goat skin, like an animal, in order to trick Isaac.

Esau lives on instinct, like an animal. He sells his birthright to satisfy his hunger. He’s not exercising self control.

This opens up some interesting angles on our culture – we define what it is to be human in degrading, instinctive, animalistic terms – “if it feels good do it” is the modus operandi of animals. Does our advertising sell the human experience or a sub-human experience?

Christian ethics – like abstinence before marriage – is decried as unhuman. It’s a case of exercising self-control.

We need a rich and diverse presentation of the gospel to reach our culture – because not every angle will hit every person.

The good news of the gospel is our hyper-restoration. We’re not just restored to Adam’s status but beyond. We go past the pristine. There’s a way out of our beastialised humanity. There’s a way for us to exercise dominion over creation, and ourselves. The gospel reconceives what it means to be human. The question “What does it mean to be human?” is a great way to address our culture with the gospel.

The good news of the gospel is not just about Christ – but about Christ and his Spirit. We’re often Christocentric in a way that forgets the Spirit. It can seem like evangelicals are a bit embarrassed by Jesus’ humanity – we like to focus on his divinity. Our definition of true and normal humanity is skewed – we talk about our reality, normal humanity, as though our fallen selves are the norm. Perhaps Jesus’ humanity is the norm – and is in line with our created identity (ie that which we were created to be prior to the fall). Jesus is the true bearer of the divine image. The true human (in his sinlessness). It’s not super humanity but true humanity.  It’s where we’ll be in our resurrected state. Sin is the aberration. We say “to err is human” but that’s really a definition of what it means to be fallen humans.

Jesus may, in fact, be no more than humanity as it’s meant to be. The resurrected Jesus is as humanity was always meant to be.

The writer of Hebrews reads Psalm 8 as a prophecy about the Messiah. “We see him for a little while made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour.”

True humanity submits to God’s authority – which is what Jesus did, in the extreme, at the cross.

The writer of Hebrews doesn’t limit this picture of glorified humanity to Jesus alone – but puts it as the destination for humanity through Jesus – the purpose of Jesus’ resurrection is to bring many sons to glory. Jesus suffered, died, and rose again so that we might become like him as “sons of God” – not in a vague liberal sense that we’re all sons of god, but to be what Adam was supposed to be.

The doctrine of glorification (eg Romans 8) – we need to think about this doctrine as a now but not yet doctrine – yes, it’s our condition in the age to come, but the power that will transform us (the Holy Spirit) is already at work in us. Mostly it’s not yet. But that power of transforming us into glorified people is already at work in us. The Spirit’s work in us is to make us human in a way that God’s breath into Adam made him human. We’re being made a new people, now glorious.

When we are speaking about what it means to live as true humans Jesus should be our starting point because he is the “true human.”

Ethics

Living as true humans has to mean living in Christ. Once you come at it this way, Christian ethics are simply to live humanly (rather than animalistically).

If we are to understand our fallen humanity as “beastly” where we live without self-control and on instinct. Peter uses the analogy of “brute beasts” when describing those who blaspheme – “creatures of instinct born only to be destroyed”…

Our tendency is to live by instinct. We should, instead, be living via the fruit of the Spirit, a redefinition of what it means to be human (Galatians 5), where self-control gets a Guernsey. Paul’s language in 1 Corinthians 9, with an athletic comparison, also uses self-discipline as a key for life as a Spirit empowered human. The new human is united to Christ and empowered by the Spirit and so is beginning to exercise the dominion that Adam was meant to exercised over creation.

Self-control is about every area of our lives – not just about sex. It’s about our tempers, about controlling our tongues, about controlling our diets, it’s about controlling our passions. This is counter-intuitive in our culture, which regards self-control as an unnecessary prohibition.  Our world looks at self-control and calls it a vice (cf Romans 1).

When we look at the fruit of the spirit we should think “this is what it means to be human, no more and no less.”

Fresh angles on evangelism.

We live in a world where everybody is questing to be truly human.

Every religion and ideology, every political vision, is built on the question of what it means to be truly human.

Our political debate is just an expression of what it means to be truly human. The health care debate in the US is also underpinned by what it means to be truly human. The debate about gay rights, our popular culture (eg Twilight), just about every expression in our world is undergirded by this question of what it means to be truly human. We say that the definition of true humanity focuses on the question of Jesus Christ – who shows us what it means to be God, and also what it means to be truly man.

We say “consider Jesus” the one true human, defining humanity by any other starting point is defective. We, as Christians, should be modeling what it means to be human. We are the ones living the truly alternate lifestyle. Our task is to live humanly and model what it means to be truly human.

We are united to Jesus and have begun the process of becoming truly human. We don’t get up and pronounce that we’ve got something that others don’t – but we do model this fuller picture of humanity. As we become more “godlike,” as the Spirit transforms us, we become more human, and then we become advertisements for the gospel.

Our gospel message is redefining and modeling humanity in a way that is hopefully attractive to the people around us.

Deuteronomy – when Israel keeps the law the nations go “oh what a wise God you have…”

Australia is ahead of the US in terms of being a “post-Christian” society – the US is moving that way and grappling with the question of what that will look like.

Doug Green on Genesis – part 2

More notes from Doug Green… including some more speculative stuff (by his own admission) that was pretty thought provoking. You’ll notice that in order to convey the essence of some sort of characteristic Doug would often add “ness” to the end of a word, and occasionally negate that with an “un”… my spellcheck didn’t really like that so much…

Evangelicals have a low view of what it means to be human even before we introduce the subject of sin. In our unfallen condition we were like God as a son is like his father.

The Fall Stuff – less pretty, and a little more speculative…

We know how the story in Genesis 3 transpires – the “king and the queen” reject their undergodness. The consequences of Adam’s sin have been understood conventionally in expressions like the WCF.

Five things that happened in the fall:

  1. Exile from God’s presence – there’s an interesting connection between Israel’s story and Adam’s story. Adam and Eve are tossed from the garden – which opens up an interesting insight into the human condition – do we live in a perennial state of homelessness. Sin has rendered us spiritually homeless and homesick. If we’re honest with ourselves even our experiences of being at “home” – family, tribal connections etc – are a longing for a deep feeling of home. Why does it feel so good to be “home”… Psalm 37 – we live out our days in a foreign land… there’s an interesting “human condition as homelessness” notion at play. Fulfillment is found in coming home to God. So Israel, when they return from exile, rebuild the temple. The Prodigal Son is a great New Testament example. Home and family is one of the new gods of Australian culture. But it’s a god destined for failure because humans (and thus families) are sinful.
  2. The king is dethroned and the son loses his inheritance – the language is of dethronement, of being cast back into humanity. The dethroned king is also the disinherited son (another link to the Prodigal Son – the father is willing to restore the disinherited).
  3. No longer “like one of us” – take this with a grain of salt… By sinning the first humans fell from the almost godlike status – Genesis 3:22 in the NIV is typical of the received tradition “behold, the man has become like one of us” – it seems to be saying that it was in the fall that we became like God. Which seems to completely contradict this position. Was the serpent telling the truth? When he said “you will become like God” – the Hebrew could be equally translated in the past tense – what he once was – “behold, the man was like one of us, he used to know good and evil. But now he is no longer…” This would be consistent with Genesis 1 – where humanity was created like God. That should have been Eve’s response to the serpent when he said “you will be like God” – “but we already are”… now, because of the fall they’re no longer entitled to the life of the Gods. In Doug’s opinion the serpent tricked both Eve and the translators of Genesis. If this interpretation is correct then the gospel story – the redemption – can be understood as taking us back to being like God. If this is correct then not only did humanity used to be like the heavenly beings but also that status was essential for understanding the difference between good and evil. Everything, under the one word torah, was good – other than disobeying and doing the one thing that God has prohibited. Because they had this “law” they were able to discern between good and evil. What do Adam and Eve have after the fall that would fit into the category of now knowing good and evil?
  4. After the fall we lose our moral compass and don’t think straight anymore. So. If this interpretation is correct – before the fall, Adam and Eve were like God and able to pick the difference between good and evil. The command gave them the guideline for making this distinction. The serpent lies. They already know.  Eve’s response should have been “you’re a liar.” The knowledge of good and evil is something they lose. That is compromised. As a result of the fall. This is part of humanity’s problem – we call good evil, and evil good [ed note – cf Romans 1]. Moral confusion, far from being marks of the true humanity, is a mark of fallen humanity. One dimension of the gospel then will be that through the Spirit, and union with Christ, will realign our moral compass and restore us to full humanity. The sinful nature has damaged our ability to think straight. Similar picture with Jesus and the demoniac – who is insane, and once Jesus heals him, he sits at his feet “in his right mind”…
  5. It results in the loss or reduction of our original glory – “the Lord God made garments of skin” – traditionally understood as requiring an animal sacrifice (which has been read in as atonement). God’s clothing of Adam and Eve is a symbolic act of changing their cultural status. A big deal in ancient culture – clothing carries symbolism of a change of status (white wedding dress). Clothing the man in skins may be the Lord identifying them with the animals. They become more like animals than gods. They’ve lost their godlike status and their new status is more like the animals. A stretch. Sure. But so is the atonement reading. Daniel 4 – one of the consequences was being dethroned as king, throughout the OT there are stories of kings being dethroned that are framed as a retelling of the Adam story. When you read them this way they can give us some insight into the human condition. So the story of Nebuchadnezzar is an example – what do you do when you have worldwide dominion? You wander around looking at what you’ve done – this is a picture of a king who thinks he rules the world. It’s arrogance and hubris. The words are still on his lips when a voice comes from heaven – “your royal authority has been taken from you” – echoing Adam’s dethronement. You will be “exiled from people” and will “live with the wild animals” until he recognises that he is not God. The description of Nebuchadnezzar is beastly – he has become an animal. He moves from the pinnacle of human experience, glorifying in his achievements to the humiliating state of “an animal” – this is the human story. We’ve moved from royalty to being beastly. Nebuchadnezzar’s redemtion is a gospel story – his sanity is restored, he praises the most high, he puts himself under God’s authority, he ends up in a better place (good, bad, better – the redemption cycle). Redeemed humanity is elevated from a beastly humanity to a humanity that exercises dominion – back to where we should be, but possibly in a better place than we began in. The transformation comes when we recognise God as God. True humanity will rule creation, rather than being a ruled over creature, only when we recognise God. Nebuchadnezzar “my knowledge, my understanding, returned to me” as a result of submitting. Sin makes us insane. The good news is that Christ makes us sane.

Romans 3:23 – because we’ve sinned we now fall short of the glory of God that attached to us as unfallen humans (rather than being a case of missing God’s standard of perfection). Psalm 8 – for all have sinned and we no longer have our heavenly nature. We are “falling short” humans.

Doug Green on Genesis

Doug Green is speaking at QTC today. His first session was on the “image of God” in Genesis (and a bit of Psalms, and a bit of Kings). Here are my notes.

Guilt and Depravity – the two problems facing humanity

Guilt is the bigger issue in western sentimentality.
Depravity concerns inner corruption.

This double focus means that when it comes to defining the gospel we focus on these two conditions.

The WCF mirrors this focus on these concerns. This is what our reformed minds are interested in. If we talk about the gospel it’s likely we’ll end up talking about these concerns.

Justification – we get a new legal position and inner moral orientation. This is how we define the work of Christ and the Spirit. These views have come under criticism in recent years (the justification debate). Our definition is possibly too individualised. We need to do a better job at describing the gospel as it applies to the cosmos – but that’s not our focus today.

The Human Condition

The atonement is incredibly important for understanding the solution to the human problem. It is the central element in God’s answer to the human condition.

Nothing today is a contradiction of that central tenant.

“The Gospel as the Way to be Truly Human”

The salvation or gospel story told from the perspective of what it means to be truly human.

Image of God – that was our original definition of humanity.

The consequence of human sinfulness can be enriched by saying when humanity sinned we lost our glorious godlike status. We metaphorically fell from heaven, and we became less human as a result. We became more like the animals we were supposed to be ruling over. All sin has a dehumanizing effect. It makes us more beast than human.

Imagine a sliding scale on a continuum with God on one side and the animals on the other – we were, in the beginning – closer to the God end of the spectrum than the animal side.

Doug is pushing a very high anthropological view – true humanity was more like God in the beginning than we often think. Sin tipped the spectrum.

The word “fall” captures the idea of this change in status.

We didn’t become mere animals, and the image of God was not obliterated within us (Genesis 9). Something happened there to decrease our “image of godness.” Before the fall we were “glorious” creatures – but there’s a sense that sin ripped away or diminished that glory. We now live in perpetual quest for our lost honour and glory – perhaps an interesting angle on our human condition.

The good news of the gospel is that you can become glorious again. You can become human again. This has implications for pastoral life and evangelism.

The Godlike Glory of Humanity

Genesis 1 v 26-27

When we read the text we focus on the word “image” and forget the “likeness” – what does this mean? It confirms the creator/creation distinction. WE are creatures like the fish and the birds, but on the other hand among the creatures there is one that resembles God. That is man. We have “one foot on either side of the creator/creature distinction” – in the ancient world if you wanted to know what a God looked like you were supposed to look at his image or statue. His physical resemblance. However you talk about the image of God in humanity you can’t ignore Psalm 8.

“You made him a little lower than (Hebrew) Elohim” – a little lower than divine beings. That’s an awfully high anthropology. That we were just a tad short of divine.

Instead of saying that humanity was created like God the psalmist says that we were made similar to heavenly beings. The main point is that there’s something almost divine about unfallen humanity. [ed note – which would be consistent with reading the passages in the light of an eschatological view of humanity].

“You crown them with glory and honour” – this divine glory, traditionally divine characteristics, rested on humanity.

To bear the image of God meant that the first human, Adam, bore aspects of divinity.

Our doctrine of “total depravity” leaves us with a low view of humanity – but that’s our post fall humanity – what does it mean for us if we’re in Christ. Sometimes Doug wonders if our view of who we are as Christians is a little anemic. “There but for the grace of God go I” – we’ve been transformed, on the road to glorious humanity, so we’re not just forgiven sinners anymore…

The Holy Spirit in us gives us an element of Godlikeness. Maybe we need to take that work a little more seriously.

We’re godlike – but we’re also “sons” – Genesis 5 gives us an interesting hint about what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God. “Adam had a son in his own image, in his own likeness who he named Seth…” Seth was to Adam what Adam was to God. Luke’s genealogy makes that point (Luke 3 – Adam the son of God).

“Son of God” is a way of referring to exalted humanity.

We were godlike. We were glorious. We were sons.

We were godlike, therefore we were kings over creation.

“then God said let us make mankind in our own image, in our likeness…” with a purpose construction in Hebrew “so that they might rule.”

Because the original humanity was created in the image of god they were created to be kings over the rest of creation – exercising dominion.

It’s a vice-regency deal. In the ancient world creation isn’t a neutral act. When gods create they gain mastery over their creation. [Interesting aside – perhaps our postmodern approach to literature (denying authorial intention) is part of this desire to not associate creation with mastery/ownership. It’s certainly consistent.]

God’s rule over the world is meant to be a mediated rule – through his creatures, humans. Who are designated to rule on his behalf.

The first humans were not kings over creation – they were “God’s kings” – like the governor general with teeth. With real power.

“You made him ruler” [ Psalms ]

“The flocks and the herds… all creation belongs to the Lord God, all creatures are the works of his hands”

Genesis 2 portrays Adam as a king (subtly). One is obvious – the naming of the animals. Name giving was also a way of exercising dominion and authority.

Genesis 2:7 – much more subtle. The language of being taken out of dust, throughout the OT, is the language of enthronement. 1 Kings 16 is an example. The prophecy against Bashar “I lifted you up from the dust and I made you a leader…”

Dust is the language of “nobodyness” this language of being created from the dust is the metaphorical “raising up of a king” – “dust you were, and to dust you will return” is the language of dethronement.

2:15 – the portrayal of Adam as a gardener – in the Ancient world the kings were the garderners who made their nations fruitful. Ecclesiastes 2 – “this is my greatness, I built houses and I planted vineyards and parks, I planted all kinds of fruit trees…” the proof of the author of Ecclesiastes’ great kingship is that he is a gardener.

We were created to be kings over creation, but we are also kings under God.

Humanity was godlike – but not god. And the godlikeness was subject to recognising this relationship. Should they forget that they would immediately lose their godlike standing.

“The Lord God commanded them: “you are free to eat of any tree of the garden…”

Adam receives a one word Torah. A single test of obedience, of creatureliness. Failure to comply casts him out of his kingly role.

To be truly human is to submit to God and to obey his commands.

Doug Green on Job

Doug Green, another member of faculty from Westminster Theological Seminary, is guest lecturing on Job now. This is some of his speculation. Let me stress, speculation, on Job. Here are my notes…

Questions of authorship and date are pretty irrelevant (Doug Green has shifted in his thinking on this). Job seems to be an ancient story, and the text of Job in our Bible seems to be the “God ordained” version of the text… the question he asks is: What is it about Job that encouraged or invited its readers to consider it worthy of its spot in the Bible?

How did they discern that it was actually scripture. What is it about the book that when we read it we say “it’s Biblical” – this question was settled long before any modern councils (or post AD councils) – Israel valued Job the same way it valued Torah and Prophets.

Theologically it doesn’t “become” Scripture. It is Scripture. But it takes people to discern that. The path to canonicity for the “writings” was more rocky than the law and the prophets. In the redemptive historical tradition in which he stands is that the Bible is an unfolding story of redemption (ie following Geerhardus Vos). The Bible is the product of, and gets its shape from, the great narrative of redemption. At its core the Bible is a history book – the history of a covenentally structured relationship. This relationship has an ethical dimension to it.

The Bible tells a story to people living in a story and tells them how to live in that story.

The Psalms are not just a hymn book, but a prophetic book and a redemptive history of Israel…

Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon – don’t seem to be reflections on redemptive history but on a creation theology. The first verse of these books all have a hook on them to redemptive history. The beginning of these books says “make a connection between these books and Solomon” – there’s something that connects them to this figure from Israel’s history. Could there be a post-exilic use of Solomon to make a point for post-exilic Israel? Doug hasn’t found the connection yet. I reckon it might be something to do with this

Job is an anomaly. He’s not Jewish, he’s not connected to Israel in any particular way, and yet the book is both now, and historically, part of Scripture.

Job is a blameless and upright man. He contends for his innocence in chapter 31.

The Satan in Job is not the devil, but rather the leader of the opposition.

Job’s friends appear to be applying Deuteronomic theology to Job (if you’re righteous God will reward you, if you’re suffering you’ve done something wrong). They work backwards from his suffering to prove that he is not blameless and righteous.

Job steadfastly maintains his innocence and calls for his day in the celestial court. Job eventually earns YHWH’s rebuke. But initially YHWH comes down on Job’s side (between Job and his friends). Nothing in the book suggests that Job is anything but blameless or innocent (this doesn’t mean sinless). He’s sacrificing, so he’s probably atoning for sin…

Job’s life moves through three stages – from the good, to the bad, to the better. That’s the Bible’s redemptive story in a nutshell.

Job’s recovery from his calamity involves a metaphorical resurrection from death. It’s proto-resurrection language. The concept of exile and the concept of death are closely related concepts. For example, the Garden of Eden – on the day you eat this you will die – he didn’t die, but he did get exiled. This opens up interesting readings of Ruth also – if exile = death and return = resurrection…

The transition from the bad to the better is summarised in 42:10 – the Hebrew should best be translated “The Lord turned/repented the captivity of Job” – elsewhere in the Old Testament this phrase is used with reference to Israel’s return from exile (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). This (Deuteronomy 30) is how Israel’s story will end. The language is picked up and used throughout the prophets to describe Israel’s return/restoration from exile.

By using this same language to describe Job’s return from his conditions is the author/redactor encouraging us to read Job as a parable of the righteous remnant of Israel as they join naughty Israel in exile. Does it answer the problem of why the righteous are lumped in with the unrighteous?

Is it expressing Israel’s hope of a blessed return from exile.

Objections to this treatment of Job are based on the Hebrew words in question – it’s only elsewhere used to discuss the treatment of nations, this is the only use of the word with regards to an individual.

Doug wants to avoid illegitimate totality transfer – but he thinks the original readers were more likely to draw parallels between this use of language and its common use with regards to national restoration.

Job’s description as a “servant of YHWH” could possibly, possibly, be a link with Isaiah’s suffering servant…

Job’s speeches throughout the book contain syntactical and lexical similarities to the suffering servant language in Isaiah.

Are our current readings of Job to sober – we’re trained as moderns to read very carefully and with discipline. Ancient Jewish readers draw connections between texts that we think are a little too long a bow to draw. They read with much more abandon…

Is there anything in the text that links Job to the suffering servants or to exiled Israel. Reading Job either as a type of the suffering righteous member of Israel in exile has been dismissed by sober “enlightened” readers who want one particular meaning or interpretation. Some have said this view doesn’t account for the richness of Job.

But are there enough things in Job that suggest we should read it in line with the Suffering Servant and Israel’s exilic context. The Targum (early Jewish interpretation) depicts Job as a Torah keeping Israelite. Perhaps even a righteous Israelite.

This pulls Job into the great narrative of redemptive history – like the latter part of Isaiah, and Daniel – books that are commentaries on the conundrums of exile – the suffering of righteous members Israel. It’s a reading that turns into an additional commentary, not just a generic commentary on suffering, but on this non-covenental treatment of the righteous members of Israel. Who should have expected to remain in the land…

Doug concludes: There is a huge circle in his argument – the assumption of redemptive history filtering through Scripture effects the way he reads Job. It’s not necessarily developed by the text itself without this framework.

But if it’s right – Job isn’t purely a “wisdom book” it has a connection to the history of Israel’s redemption. It’s a theological account of Israel’s experience. It can be read as a parable of the experience of the righteous suffering in Israel. It gets pulled into the orbit of the Suffering Servant prophecy. It takes on a prophetic nature when read in dialogue with Isaiah (eg Isaiah 53) we can now draw a connection between Job and Jesus. Christian readings are always Christotellic (directed to Christ) – not Christ under every rock, but a story that ends up with Christ. Christ is the archetypal innocent sufferer.

Christological ramifications – the incomprehensible sufferings of the righteous, the question of why the righteous suffer sits unanswered until Christ comes.

Job has this intriguing role as intercessory for his friends – “go to Job, he will pray for you”… there’s a hint that the suffering servant’s job is to mediate for the unrighteous.

One of the intriguing things at the end of Job is that the three daughters are named, and the sons are not… another striking thing about the three daughters is that they get an inheritance. Normally this happens when the sons are dead. But in this ending of Job (a picture of the age to come – perhaps) the daughters are named, and inherit alongside the sons. Job, the feminist. It’s an intriguing “age to come” ending.

He calls Psalm 44 “Job’s Psalm”…