restful fridays with ridderbos

restful fridays with Ridderbos

This installment is a bit lengthy, but in my opinion worth the time.  It is Ridderbos’ concluding paragraph in his treatment on the parousia, and it is the final paragraph for the entire book.  Enjoy:

With this twofold point of view, namely, [1] that God will be all and in all and [2] that we shall always be with the Lord, everything has really been said thta can be said on the consumation commencing with Christ’s parousia.  Paul’s attention for what is to be in the coming kingdmo is always concentrated on this twofold viewpoint.  This does not alter the fact that he gives expression to the content of this life with Christ and the “all” with which God will fill all in various ways: it is being saved by his  life (Rom 5:10); salvation with eternal glory (2 Tim 2:10); honor and immortality (Rom 2:7; 1 Cor 15:42ff; 2 Tim 1:10); eternal glory (2 Cor 4:17); seeing face to face (1 Cor 13:12); fulfillment of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom 14:17); perfect knowing (1 Cor 13:12).  All are concepts of salvation, descriptions of God’s imperishable gift, every one of which has its own context, origin, and nuance, and offers its own special contribution in order to make what is unutterable (2 Cor 12:4) nevertheless known even now in part.  But all these words, likewise as qualifications of the life of the consummation, receive their particular meaning and content only from the gospel of the revelation of the mystery preached by Paul in an incomparable multiplicity of aspects.

–Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 562

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restful fridays with Ridderbos

This is not so much a quote from Ridderbos as it is a wrestling with one of his key themes.  As such, this post will be more of me thinking out loud.  Spending any amount of time with his work on Paul will reveal that Ridderbos is deeply interested in the eschatological shape of Paul’s message (or, gospel) and its implications for the present world.  (By ‘present’, I mean Paul’s time primarily, but also our time by extension).

Much of what Paul teaches about God’s dealing with the world, the sending of a messianic figure to inaugurate God’s kingdom, the liberating of those in exile, the bringing about of justification for the unrighteous and the establishment of a restored cosmos (and a few other bits) are entirely congruent with his Jewish heritage and beliefs.  If Paul spoke in rather broad terms, very few Jews in his day would disagree with his the general substance of his proclamation.  To put it differently: Paul’s basic eschatological views would have been viewed as safe (or, non-threatening).

However, because he did not speak in broad terms but advocated specific ideas about God’s present interactions, a definite Messiah, the in-breaking of the kingdom, freedom from exile, first-fruits of justification and the beginnings of new creation, Paul would have been perceived as not only incongruent with the Judaism of his day but also an apostate to it.*  To say it bluntly: Paul’s specific eschatological views would have been viewed as disruptive.  As far as I can tell, and what I’m seeing implicitly argued in Ribberbos: one of the fundamental reasons for this deals with the issue of timing.

In terms of Jewish eschatology, and I’m using a rather large brush at this point, the general themes mentioned above (twice) were understood to be reserved for ‘the end’–i.e. somewhere out in the unknown/distant future.  Moreover, when the events described in those themes are actualized in the distant future, there is nothing else; it’s victory for the good guys and game over for the baddies.  Admittedly, in at least one Qumran tradition on what could be labelled, ‘eschatological messianism’ (or, ‘messianic eschatology’–take your pick), there is the belief that the messianic age will last for 400 years before God’s kingdom is firmly established and God’s enemies are overthrown.  However, even if we follow that tradition the central eschatological motifs are still presented as future events that brings all things to a close.

Where Paul’s eschatological teaching becomes disruptive is in the fact that he proclaims Jesus to be God’s Messiah, sent into the world to bring about freedom, to justify the unrighteous and to inaugurate God’s kingdom (i.e. new creation).  Paul emphatically announces that this has happened in his own time; it is not something waiting to be revealed in the unknown future.  For Paul, what was expected to be reserved for a later epoch in human history has been brought backward and (partially) actualized in the unexpected person of Jesus.  (I say ‘partially’ because the fulness of the eschatological hope will not be known until Christ’s return).  It seems as though this timing of Paul’s eschatological teaching is that which causes the most difficulty, because he now has to account for a dying Messiah, the persistence of evil in the world (whether it be spiritual forces or political tyranny), why the fulness of God’s kingdom has not been established, how it is that justification is present reality, etc.

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* David Kinghoffer’s book, Why the Jews Rejected Jesus (2005) essentially states that Paul’s teaching about Jesus is the leading cause for Jewish rejection of Jesus as God’s Messiah.

restful fridays with Ridderbos

Yes, yes, yes; I know I missed last week, but I was smacked with a massive headache, which could only be cured with massive drugs and a massive nap.  As a result, I wound up going home early on Thursday, doing very little on Friday and slightly less on Saturday.  Moreover, I forgot to take my Ridderbos opus home on Thursday, which meant I had no way of providing a quote.  Fortunately, things are back to normal . . . for now. 

With providing justification for lapse aside, I bring you the next installment in this series.  This time, the topic is specifically on Paul’s view of the church as the body of Christ.  (Well, I should say: Ridderbos’ views on Paul’s views of the church as the body of Christ).  This topic has become a greater interest for me, not just because it relates to the final portion of my research but also because it is something that seems to have become clouded in the past couple generations. 

There are some within the church who are calling for a re-examination (of sorts) in what the church–as the body of Christ–is meant to be and do in the modern world.  (I’m thinking specifically of Francis Chan on this point).  These people want to know how this identity and responsibility have become clouded and what needs to be done about it.  I think this is a healthy and vital exercise.  Today’s quote from Ridderbos could serve as an excellent starting point in this type of re-examination.  (It’s a touch long; but hey, I need to make up for last week).

[T]he church can and must learn to understand its unity and diversity, its limits and its universality from the fact that it is the body of Christ. . . . Because all believers together are one body in Christ, the dividedness of Christ is in conflict with its being, for Christ is not divided (1 Cor 1:13).  Nor can one restrict this unity to the sphere of what is invisible and hidden.  Not only does the word ‘body’ not denote an invisible but a visible mode of existence, but on the ground of being together in Christ Paul concludes the necessity of a visible, outward manifestation of unity as the body. . . . Diversity, breadth, difference in gifts, abilities, and mandate have been given along with the existence as body.  And Paul places no less emphasis on this diversity within and in virtue of the existence of the church as body over against all self-direction, sectarianism, and spiritual intolerance than he does on unity.  At the same time the universality and catholicity of the church are implied in its unity anchored in Christ; for in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free.  For this reason they all together form one body, and within the body of Christ all discrimination is excluded; as on the other hand the boundary of the body of the church is situated in this unity in Christ.  One cannot make the members of Christ the members of a prostitute (1 Cor 6:16), one cannot at the same time participate in the body and the blood of Christ and in that which is sacrificed to idols, for the one bread constitutes one body, inclusively and exclusively (1 Cor 10:16-22), and there is no communion of light with darkness (2 Cor 6:14ff).

-Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 393-94

restful fridays with Ridderbos

Yeah, yeah, yeah; I realise that I’ve fallen a bit behind in my Ridderbossing.  The past few weeks have been quite loaded with other responsibilities, which caused me to make decisions about what was essential and what was not.  With all due respect to the man, blogging about Ridderbos simply was not a top priority.  However, things have settled down a bit, which means I now have time to return this series.

As with the last instalment, this week’s quote comes from article and not the usual well that is Ridderbos’ tome on Paul’s theology.  I came across this article not only because I was searching for additional materials by Ridderbos, but also because it deals with a topic of growing interest for me: the canon of the New Testament.  In a few weeks, I hope to offer a response to a particular view of the canon I recently heard from Simon Kistemaker.  For now, I will simply offer this rather interesting observation from Ridderbos:

[T]he history of the Canon is the process of the growing consciousness of the Church concerning its ecumenical foundation. . . . [T]he Church had never wished to live by anything other than that which had been delivered to it as Canon by way of Christ [i.e. apostolic witness and tradition], and that the Church, in order to be able to continue to do this, as a matter of course returned to and concentrated on a scripturally-fixed tradition.

-Ridderbos, ‘The Canon of the New Testament,’* 198, 199 (emphasis original)

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* Full citation: H. Ridderbos, ‘The Canon of the New Testament,’ in Revelation and the Bible: Contemporary Evangelical Thought (ed. C.F. Henry; London: Tyndale Press, 1959), 189-201.

restful fridays with Ridderbos

Today’s installment comes from an article I had to read for part of my research.  Unlike the previous quotes in this series, the following is not only shorter (slightly) but also not concerned with the topic of eschatology.  (I noticed a theme starting to form with the previous quotes, so I wanted to make sure this series is not one-sided in focus).  Here’s today quote:

Possibly we would like to learn from Acts more about Peter and his ‘theology’.  But we must realize that Peter’s speeches are not given [to] us for this purpose.  Luke is not interested in what is specifically Petrine or Pauline.  Their joint significance in the service of Christ and the gospel is more important to his purpose than anything which is peculiar to the one or to the other.  That is why the speeches in Acts cannot serve as a primary source for the ‘theology’ of Peter and Paul.  For that, one must always consult primarly their Epistles.

– Ridderbos, ‘The Speeches of Peter in the Acts of the Apostles’ (1961), 7-8.

restful fridays with Ridderbos

This quote comes from an earlier portion of the book–earlier in comparison to the quotes I’ve already mention, but one that is certainly relevant to what has been considered.  Like the previous one, this one too is a bit long:

This revelation of the mystery is the real content of Paul’s gospel (Rom 16.26), the object of ‘the ministry which was entrusted to him’ (Col 1.25, 26; cf. Eph 3.2).  Therefore Paul’s preaching itself is taken up into the great eschatological event; it is rightly and in the full sense kerygma of the gospel, that is, announcement, proclamation of the coming of salvation.  That Paul’s epistles give what is no longer the first announcement of this gospel, but rather the further exposition and application of it, does not detrct from the fact that this gospel is the sole and constant subject of his epistles also; and that therefore, if one has to characterize their general content not only as kerygma, but also as doctrine and paraenesis, yet this doctrine, too, has no other object and this admonition no other starting point and ground than the fulfilling and redeeming activity of God in the advent of Christ.

-Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 47-48

restful Fridays with Ridderbos

This is going to be a rather longish quote, but it is one that has been resonating with me for some time now.  I originally encountered when I was reading Ridderbos’ book in a more sporadic fashion, trying to get my head around how to wrestle with Paul’s understanding of the cross of Christ.  I cam across is it again today when I was being more focused and purposeful in my reading.  I hope you enjoy:

For the proper understanding of the great theme of justification by faith it is necessary above all to obtain an insight into the manner in which it is connected with the basic eschatological-christological structure of Paul’s preaching . . . and, as it were, how it issues forth organically from that preaching.  Because this background has frequently been lost sight of, for a long time this theme was ascribed too predominating a significance in the whole of Paul’s proclamation of salvation and everything else was subordinated to it; at a later period, others have, leading to a still greater dislocation of the organic relationships in Paul’s doctrine, thrust this theme entirely into the background, in the interest of what was then regarded as the mystical-ethical main line.  The inadequacy of the one as well as the other of these two ways of judging Paul’s preaching can be recognized easily when we endeavor to understand Paul’s doctrine of justification primarily in the light of the general redemptive-historical or eschatological character of his preaching.

-Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, 161-62.