1 Call and Covenant

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Christianity The Creed Being Human The Call of Abraham Creation The Creation of Man

1. Christianity
This is course on about Christian doctrine, which is the teaching of the Church. As we ` so we discover some of our intellectual ancestors. By acknowledging our origins, we pay our dues to our forebears. We will meet Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Augustine. We meet Hesiod, Socrates, Plato, Cicero and then again Augustine, Aquinas. We will see how much of the Hellenic inheritance the Christians have interacted with and we may learn more about our own inherited identity through meeting them. This is our pietas, our obedience to fifth commandment, to honour your father and mother. It gives us the intellectual resources by which we ask about our own identity. Christianity is an education in being human. It offers a very high definition of human being. It is not only intellectual and cerebral and does not merely communicate information about being human. It is a course of training in becoming human, or more human than we presently are. Christianity assumes that the best way to be human is to be communion with all other humans, and the way to achieve this is by being in communion with God. The only God to be in communion with is the God who wants communion with humankind. God has initiated this communion, and enables all humankind to come into the communion in which we may be in relationship with one another and with him. Christianity sets out a course and a syllabus and it offers a set of teachers and of fellow students with whom you my learn. It forms us as members of a company, just as a training makes us members of a troop of soldiers, a football team or a member of a ballet corps, in which the performance of each individual fits within the performance given by the whole company. It involves minds, hearts and bodies, and brings these three components into correspondence, making us integrated persons, who are capable of relationship with those unlike ourselves. It is a discipleship which enables you to regard all your experiences as part of this course of formation. Christian theology makes a particular use of the term ‘Man’ that allows us to refer to the single person and to all humanity simultaneously. We will discuss the issue of gender and sex when we deal with the concept of nature.

2. The Creed

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The Creed is a statement of the Christian faith. It gives us a minimum. All our presentations of the faith have to measure up to this statement. The creed has been forged in the contest of ideas. In these contests our predecessors asserted smaller or larger accounts of what humans are capable of, and they have invited, or coerced, one another to understand themselves within the framework of such accounts and to be content with the status they concede to us. The Christian faith offers a very large and ambitious account of human capabilities and warns us not to be satisfied with any lesser status. The history of doctrine is the struggle to sustain this minimum statement about the faith, and so about the possibility of relationship with God that the Christian faith presents. .
I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

At the centre of the creed is the single phrase – of one being with the Father. The Son is consubstantial (Greek: homoousios) with the Father. The Father and the Son are two, but they are also one, because they share an underlying being. The God who is otherwise beyond our knowledge is of one being with God who has made himself known in the incarnation. The God we do not know is of one being with Jesus Christ who is known by the apostles and other witnesses. The unknown has made himself known. The Christian faith, and the homoousion in particular, assert the possibility of unity and coherence, not only in our knowledge of God but also our knowledge of creation and of ourselves. All things hold together; they make sense, and it is therefore reasonable to enquire into their sense. It is reasonable to assume that humanity is a unity and that it is possible for us to be reconciled to one another. The homoousion is the affirmation of our compatibility with one another and the coherence of all creation. The Christian faith has been forged in encounters with many rival worldviews. Christians have called these alternative theoretical systems, ‘gnosticisms’: they combine psychology, sociology and cosmology. In the ancient world they used the vocabulary of piety and of theology; in the modern period our gnostics have discarded the vocabulary of piety, and therefore of theology too. But though we do not make much use of the term ‘God’, but much of the conceptuality and logic remains the same. By giving up the conceptuality of theology, our modern Gnostics alternate between implausibly high and low accounts of man, in which man is either a god without equal or is nothing at all. In their views, God is either part of everything we already know, or is entirely beyond all conception. The result is that we have no confidence that anything we say, whether about God, or about ourselves, or the cosmos, is meaningful or true.

3. Being Human 2

Starting-places We want to be human, but we cannot be human on our own. Being human involves being in relationship with (all other) human beings, and this involves being in relationship with God from whom all human beings come. We are human and we want to become (more fully) human. Man grows up to maturity. There are two aspects to this story and two narratives . 1. As an individual each of us grows up to maturity. Each of us has our own path and career. This is our own adventure, which is as much in the future as in our past. 2. Mankind grows up to maturity, by discovering civilization and peace for example. The Western Intellectual tradition is about the growing-up-to-maturity of mankind, and then about our doubts about the possibility of this growing up. A first definition: The successful man can sustain relationships with all he meets, even with the difficult and antagonistic. The true man is not forced to give up on relationship with anyone, regardless of how that person holds out against that relationship. A first concept: Man is made in the Image of God: Upright Right, Justice Mutuality (male and female) Freedom Becoming human implies a creature with aspiration and ambition, forward-orientated. There are many versions of human being, and course of formation. In this course we contrast just two, the Christian and the Pagan. Initially we are going to assume that we can deal with Jesus Christ and Israel as though they are synonymous and interchangeable. Israel is an amplification of Christ, while Christ is Israel in miniature. We can make a contrast. On the one hand there is Israel, and on the other there is everyone else. We will start by contrasting Israel and all other peoples, with their worldviews and forms of life. Israel refers to all other nations as ‘Pagans’ or as ‘Gentiles’, and for convenience we will do so. We can compare their two rival worldviews. We can compare these worldviews by comparing the figures that they present to us. If we take Jesus as our representative member of Israel we can ask who is more successful at being human – Jesus, or... and here we can name anyone else we care. Who is more successful – Jesus, or Caesar? Or Socrates? Or Gandhi?

4. The Call of Abraham
Journey and Covenant – Israel’s account of human being We will start our examination of the Christian worldview by looking at the theology of Israel on which it is based. We will start by considering Abraham.

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The Call and the Covenant Israel’s version of this narrative is the story of Abraham and his Lord. As it proceeds Abraham grows, becomes a family, a tribe and a nation. It is an adventure. It comes with a promise, but Abraham does not know where this adventure will take him. This account starts with the call of the Lord. This gives us Israel’s conception of the Word. The Word of God, heard in this call, is an invitation and a command. As time goes on this voice gives Abraham more specific invitations and instructions. Abraham finds that things go well as he follows them. Abraham looks forward to more without being able to say what form that will take.
Leave your country and go to the country I will show you (Genesis 12.1-9; 17.1-6)

God is faithful to his promise
He is mindful of his covenant forever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance." When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it, wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, saying, "Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm." (Psalm 105.8)

The patriarchs receive the promise that they will be the father first of one people, Israel, and then that they will be the father of many peoples. Although the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are distinct figures, we can also see them as one figure. Isaac and Jacob are Abraham continued, or re-launched, editions two and three of Abraham. They are the way that Abraham continues to exist. We will return to his strong account of the continuity promised to Abraham and so to what it means to be his sons.

5. Creation
Creation as Speech Creation is summoned by the Word of the Lord. The Lord brought all things into existence by his command.
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth (Psalm 33.6)

The Lord spoke. He commanded and so it came to be. It exists because he commands it to, so creation is the speech-act of God. His words become flesh, for us. Every creature is a speech-bubble. He breathes life into them and they live as long as they have his breath in them.
These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die

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and return to their dust. When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. (Psalm 104.27-30)

Creation speaks, telling us that it is God who has given it all its glory.
The heavens declare the glory of God the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech… their voice goes out into all the earth their words to the end of the world (psalm 19)

Creation is fertile, and it gives us a share in its abundance.
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work. You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for people to use, to bring forth food from the earth. (Psalm 104.13-15)

The Lord divided…. The six Days of Creation are the six primal Decisions by which creation is rendered an amenable place for man. The Lord raised his arm and carved into two what existed– light and darkness. The Cuts: Gen 1.1 – 2.4. God takes something that he has made and opens it up for us. This shows us that every creature and all creation obeys him, and will obey us when we address it with the authority of God. The Lord passes through the created elements that Abraham offers to him to show him that the Lord will lead Abraham to his future homeland.
Abram brought these to him cut them in two and arranged the halves opposite each other… a smoking brazier and blazing torch passes between the pieces (Genesis 15.10-17).

Creation does not represent a closed wall to God. It is more like a crowd that opens to let him through as he approaches. All creation recognizes the Lord, acknowledges that he is its Lord and gives way to him. Creation observes its limits The Lord set the bounds of creation. The wild forces may not rage out of control. God holds back the forces of chaos and maintains the peace and integrity of all creation. The psalms tell us about God's ongoing act of subduing creation and preserving its peace and fertility for man’s sake.
You set a boundary that they cannot cross, never again will they cover the earth (psalm 104) He made the storm be still and the waves of the sea were calmed (psalm 107.29)

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‘The Lord makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick’ (Isaiah 43.16).

6. The Creation of Man
The climax of creation is man. The Lord makes a copy of himself. That copy is going to be like God in that he is free.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet… (Psalm 8)

Steward of Creation God has appointed man to be steward of creation. He is to be the deputy of God, who will exercise the authority of God, on earth. The Lord intends to let man join him in doing the work of husbandry for creation.
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work and take care of it (Genesis 2.15).

Man is the representative of God for all other creatures. It is his task to keep creation in order. He must not be afraid of creation, or of any creature in it. If he speaks to it with the authority of God all creatures will obey him. When man exercises this authority, all the elements of creation are content with their proper places. Man is to give justice to creation. Everything depends on man. If man does not carry out this office, creation grows out of kilter. As long as man fails to exercise this authority, creation is confused, violent and miserable.

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