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週二, 23 六月 2020 17:13

Book Report

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok
Anthor: Siu Tim Yuen

 

1 Introduction

This report summarizes and comment on the content from two sources:

1) Wright, Christopher J. H. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004. (Chapters 4, 5, 7)

2) Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vison of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. The Moral Vison of the New Testament. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996. (Chapters 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8)

2 Summary of content: Old Testament Ethics for the People of God

Upon Wright, Christopher’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. The scope of topics covered are as followings: Ecology and earth; Economics and Poor; Politics and the nations. Wright shows effort to interpret each of the topics as part of salvation history, and to identify man’s obligation upon the relevant issues illustrated under God’s plan of salvation.

2.1 Ecology and earth

The chapter “Ecology and the Earth” follows the chapter “The Economic Angle”. “The Economic Angle” illustrates the paradigm of covenantal relationship, and the theological implications manifested by Israel’s mandate upon the Promised Land. The coming chapter ‘Ecology and the Earth” applies the conceptions of “divine ownership” and “divine gift” illustrated in the previous chapter to the understanding of humanity’s relationship with the ecology and earth. The chapter embraces two core messages: First, man’s responsibility to the nature upon the order of creation; Second man’s responsibility to the nature upon the history of fall and redemption.

 

Wright’s approach to explore man’s right and responsibility upon the ecology and earth are four-fold: 1) Defining the intrinsic value of nature in the beginning of creation 2) Defining Man’s relationship with nature under divine purpose, and his responsibility upon such relationship 3) Illustrating the implication of fall of man to the nature 4) Discussing the issue of redemption and new creation: The eschatological implication to man’s responsibility to nature

 

2.1.1 Intrinsic value of nature under divine creation

Wright begins by recalling the intrinsic value of land by delinking it with the anthropocentric conception of man’s claim to nature while attaching the latter under the divine ownership[1]. Upon this, original value of nature is actualized upon 4 pillars, namely: 1) Goodness of creation[2], 2) It’s distinctive in existence and dependency on God[3]; 3) The de-divinized essence of nature in creation[4]; 4) The divine purpose of glorifying God[5] in creation of nature.

2.1.2 Man’s relationship with nature under divine purpose

Illustration of the intrinsic value of nature is followed by clarification of man-nature relationship in the chapter. Again, the creation narrative is applied to define the human dominion over the nature. Wright’s interpretation of human dominion over the nature is best conclude with the notion of “grace” – that man’s entitlement to claim to service of the nature is not found upon his will and capacity, but God’s purpose of presenting it to human as gift and God’s intention to equip man to manifest the “image of God”.

Man’s ethical obligation highlighted under the creation order are as following: 1) dominion over the nature in the image of God; 2) Exercising servant-kingship[6] in dominion; 3) Enjoy priority claim to nature[7] but excluded from the right o exploitation, abuse and rape the nature[8]

 

2.1.3 Implication of fall of man to the nature

 

Upon man’s fall and its implications, two events are explored in the chapter: 1) God’s curse to the ground after Adam’s fall in Gen. 3.17; 2) Noachian covenant. The first event explain the current broken relationship between man and nature, while the second event explains the covenantal obligation of man to the creatures under the cosmic covenant made in Gen. 9:1-6. Such responsibility includes upholding righteousness and justice upon the man-nature relationship.

 

2.1.4 Issue of redemption and new creation: The eschatological implication to man’s responsibility to nature

 

Upon the issue of redemption for man, Wright believes that nature in Old Testament serves as visible agent to manifest God’s work of redemption and liberation of his people (Exodus narrative)[9]; 3) Old Testament illustration of Israel-land relationship has eschatological implication that analogizes the ultimate redemption of all creation[10].

2.2. Economics and Poor

Wright attempts to address the biblical thought upon man’s right and responsibility upon different dimensions of economics within different stages of history of fall and redemption. The four dimensions are namely: 1) Man’s entitlement to access to resources of the nature; 2) The legitimate act of acquisition of resource; 3) entitlement to anticipation to surplus and exchange; 4) Distribution of product.

 

Special concern is given to man’s obligation to the poor in the fallen word at the end of the chapter.

 

2.2.1 Economic ethics in creation perspective

 

Four Old Testament economic principles for the purpose of collective prosperous of all human kinds, they are namely: 1) Share access to natural resources[11] 2) right and responsibility of work[12] 3) the expectation of growth and trade[13] 4) Fair sharing of product of economic activities[14] are highlighted

2.2.2 Fallen world and its implication to economics

 

Wright points out, under the impact of human sin, the 4 economic principles mentioned above have been distorted, resulting in the following phenomenon: 1) Conflict over resources and denial of universal access to resource 2) Corruption of work[15] 3) Uncontrolled growth[16] 4) Unjust distribution

 

2.2.3 Israel’s story of redemption and its implication to economics

 

Wright believes the story of Israel has three major issues: First, the stability and hope for new creation guaranteed by the covenant with Noah[17], second the covenant with Abraham: which bring along anticipation for restoration and removal of curse from the land, and adherence of God’s blessing through posterity and relationship under the notion of election[18]; Third, the exodus: which serves as prototype and paradigm of God’s redemptive work manifested in form of liberation from economic, social and spiritual oppression of Israel in history of exodus.

2.2.4. Creation value restored in Israel’s economic system

Wright views the story of Israel not only a story of liberation, but a paradigm of restoration of creation order in the fallen world. Through the governance upon his elected people, the creation value was restored.

2.2.5 Man’s response to the poor

In the last part of the chapter, special concern is given to the issue of poverty: an obvious violation of value of equal access to resource and fair sharing of economic product in the creation order. Wright summarized from Old Testament (biblical law, narratives, and words of prophets, psalms and wisdom literature) the cause of, and what to be addressed upon poverty.

Wright observes that Old Testament response to poverty could be found in 5 areas: 1) the Law 2) Through lesson learnt from narratives in Israel’s history; 3) through word of prophet 4) Psalms: which cry for, and arouse remembrance of the poor; 5) through wisdom literature: which advices upon social ethics, and the obligation of poor and those with power to the issue of poverty.

 

2.2.6 Eschatological hope to the ending of poverty

 

Wright is well aware of Old Testament’s prescription of man’s obligation to poverty through the paradigm of Israel’s story, he is always aware of God’s response to poverty through new creation – which is manifested in proverbial pictures[19] in the Old Testament. Ultimate elimination of poverty lies upon God’s promise of new creation – which is known as the eschatological hope.

2.3. Politics and the nations

This chapter concerns about the divine purpose upon civil and international politics of God’s chosen people in the Old Testament. Order of illustration, as usual, begins order the creation order and its fall, to the rise and fall of Israel. This chapter focus on the redemptive purpose of God upon: his chosen people (who has established covenant relation with God), the state of his chosen people, and its relationship with the other states (the outsiders of the divine covenant).

2.3.1 Political significance from creation and fall

 

Wright believes that creative narrative implies the creation purpose for ethnic and cultural diversity. Upon this man is created as relational beings[20] in image of God is accountable form maintaining the structure and order of relationship at the beginning stage of creation.

 

Divine purpose upon politics is distorted by fall of man that resulted in disordering of human society[21] (characterized by violence, vengeance, arrogance and division), rise of political geography[22], intervention of spiritual powers[23] to politics (civil and international).

 

2.3.2 God’s redemptive purpose upon His people and their state

 

It appears to Wright that rise of and fall of Israel presented the paradigm of tension between theocracy and monarchy. The triangulated relationship among people of God, state (of God’s people) and God, and how they interact with each other in God’s redemption history are illustrated. Wright analysis from Old Testament the historical shift from theocracy to monarch in Israel’s politics. While the former brings people towards liberation and justice[24], the latter led people to oppression, abuse of power and religious practice[25]. The reflection upon the dubious legitimacy[26] of Kingship of Israel and Judah recalls the divine standard for “shepherd-kings”[27] – who are accountable to God and are obligated to fulfillment of Law through implementing justice in the society.

 

Wright believes that fall of state and exile of God’s people is the manifest of God’s judgement upon the disobedience of his people. Prophetic instruction of the time recalls the priestly function of God’s chosen people – that reveals their authentic mission to blessing other nations.

 

2.3.3 God’s redemptive purpose upon other states

 

The final part of chapter deals with the value of other nations in the redemptive history of the Old Testament. They served as: spectators of God’s work upon Israel in the redemptive history[28], beneficiaries of God’s work upon Israel[29], part of the eschatological Israel[30], and preservers of diversity in eschatological unity of human race[31].

3. Summary of content: The Moral Vison of the New Testament

Upon the Richard Hays’ The Moral Vison of the New Testament, 5 chapters concerning the following topics are reviewed, the topics are: 1) Ethics of the Cross in Gospel of Mark; 2) Vision for Kingdom of Heaven in Gospel of Matthew; 3) Conception of liberation through power of the Spirit in Gospel of Luke and Acts; 4) Ethics of love in Gospel and Epistles of John; 5) Notion of resisting the Beast in Revelation.

 

The first four chapters reviewed here illustrate 4 streams of moral vision developed upon different Christology, and their eschatological and practical implications. The last chapter review here concerns about the moral vision presented through interpreting the apocalyptic symbols in the book of Revelation.

 

3.1 Ethics of the Cross in Gospel of Mark

3.1.1 Story of crucified Messiah[32] and the notion of “ethical being”[33] presented

 

Hays observes that ethics of Gospel of Mark is centered on the Christological understanding of a crucified Messiah. Hays presents his argument with the following flows: 1) Identifying the theme of “crisis of understanding”[34] in the book – showing Marks intention to prepare readers to reflect on norms they are used to 2) Presenting Mark’s conception of “Suffering son of man”[35] who adopts the cross as symbol of his identity[36] which contrasted with the norm of the time. Apart from notion of “Suffering son of man”, notion of Christ as an “ethical being”[37] is also presented in the book.

 

3.1.2 Following the Crucified Messiah in faith and obedience

Upon the notion of crucified Messiah, Hays interprets the ethics of discipleship that follows the model of crucified. Suffering and servanthood[38] is identified as main theme of discipleship. Hays believes that the book attempts to present the limitation of human capacity in understanding and fulfilling God’s will through portraying failure of disciples in the narratives. Faith and obedience to will of God is hence identified as the way to overcome the limitations identified above.

 

3.1.3 Notion of keeping awake in Mark’s eschatological expectation

Hay believes, Mark in the gospel he wrote attempted to communicate to readers about the “imminence of God’s kingdom”[39], and to keep reader “awake” in their eschatological expectation.

3.1.4 Re-experience the world through practicing discipleship of the cross

Gospel of Mark depicts several pictures[40]: 1) Abrupt intervention of God in man’s history; 2) God’s decisive campaign against the power of the evil; 3) challenge to normal understanding about positon, order and power, 4) Definition about power and suffering 5) Hiddenness and surprise in illustration about will of God 5) lack in closure in the narratives – all encourage readers to re-experience the world, and to look for God’s intervention in reality through following discipleship of the cross. This is a Gospel that inspires action.

 

3.2 Vision for Kingdom of Heaven in Gospel of Matthew

3.2.1 God’s providence manifested through Jesus’s teaching

Contrast to Mark’s ending without closure, Hays notices that Matthew ends with in immediate presence of the risen Lord[41]. Hays understanding of ethics of book of Matthews begins with his understanding of Jesus as a teacher. A significant notion Hay’s identified from Jesus’s teaching is the “scripted” character of salvation history presented in Jesus’ parables and teaching. Such notion constitutes sound support to the authority of God’s providence and the vision to messianic kingdom[42].

 

3.2.2 Value of ecclesial oriented training for the Kingdom

Hays believes the value behind the “great commission” in the book, together with the dominating content of Jesus teaching in the book attribute to the objective of training of disciple community to become the paradigm of the messianic kingdom. Hays identifies the following values upon Jesus training: 1) A community ethic of perfection[43]; 2) Pursue for quality of mercy[44]; 3) Formation of community with both discipline and forgiveness[45]

 

3.2.3 Christ’s presence with the church: Its eschatological implications

Hays believes the Gospel of Matthew carries 3 major eschatological implications: 1) It reaffirms the temporal duration of the present age through indicating its end 2) it affirms the presence of Christ with the church – that reinforce authority of providence of Kingdom on earth[46] 3) provide motivation for pursue of communal ethics with the eschatological warrant[47].

 

3.3 Conception of liberation through power of the Spirit in Gospel of Luke and Acts

 

Hays in his chapter believes, Gospel of Luke and Acts could be considered as the orderly account[48] upon the fulfillment of God’s plan in history through the Spirit-anointed Christ and his Spirit-anointed church.

 

3.3.1 The Spirit-anointed Christ

 

Luke’s developed his argument upon his illustration of the Spirit-anointed Christ who is depicted to be: The spirited-empowered servant[49] - symbolic figure attributing to God’s liberation of his people; The Moses-like Prophet[50] - the symbol of continuation of the Deuteronomy history; and the righteous martyr – reinforcing Jesus’s role as a true prophet.

 

3.3.2 The Spirit-anointed Church

 

Hays attribute the ministry of Spirit-anointed Christ to be the paradigm of the Spirit-anointed Church that narrative of Jesus in Gospel of Luke is in parallel with the narrative of the early Church in Acts upon the theme of “liberation”[51]. Such liberation is manifested in two aspects: first through the collective character transformation taking place within the church community[52] 2) through the formation of the counter culture (rather than political force) provokes by the Christian community that revolutionizes the world.

 

3.3.3 The Spirit empowers the church to realize eschatological liberation

 

Hays in his chapter believes, Luke’s illustration of eschatology are two folded: 1) both narratives and teaching in Gospel of Luke and Acts show attempt to diffuse any immediate apocalyptic expectation[53], 2) it emphasizes the work of Holy Spirit via the church in realizing eschatological liberations in temporal and historical world. All in all, Luke’s ethics attempt to manifest God’s providence in man’s temporal history through the Holy Spirit’s exercising of his power upon the church community.

 

3.4 Ethics of love in Gospel and Epistles of John

 

Hays believes the ethics illustrated in Gospel and Epistles of John has it foundation upon the “incarnational Christology”[54] that Jesus himself represent the union of divine and human nature. Such notion has a strong implication to the ethics of love as illustrated in Johannine literatures in the bible.

3.4.1 Union with Christ and union in Christ’s love

Hays in his chapter argues upon John’s incarnational Christology that Johannine literatures attempt to identify church community’s mission with Christ’s divine mission of love to the world[55], while enacting Jesus’ ethics of love on earth is interpreted as continuing Jesus’s divine mission in glorifying God[56]. Upon the divine command for love and servanthood, Hays believes that John discovered a new value for love that unifies and sets the church free from the Jewish culture.

 

3.4.2 Ethics of love as guarantee of eschatological hope

 

Hays in his examination of eschatological vision of Johannine literatures has made 3 observation in the literatures 1) reassurance of the eschatological judgment of Jesus upon individual choice between eternal life (faith in Jesus) and death, 2) ethics of love as the manifest of faith and guarantee to eternal life 3) Doctrine of Paraclete that guarantee the presence of God (Holy Spirit) with the Christian community. These observations provides biblical support for empirical account for eschatological hope in the salvation history. The notion of ethics of love as guarantee of eschatological hope promotes enactment of truth (through formation of community of love, and enactment of ethics of love) in real life.

 

3.5 Notion of resisting the Beast in Revelation

 

3.5.1 Interpreting the apocalyptic symbols

 

Hays begins this chapter by raising the issue of interpretation upon the symbols that appears in the book. The predicative strategy, the historical approach, and the theopoetic approach to the interpretation of apocalyptic symbols, while Hays presents his support of the use of theopoetic approach to the understanding of the messages about ethical implications of the various symbols in the book.

 

3.5.2 The Lamb that was slaughtered and the manifest of Christ eschatological Lordship and judgement

 

Hays believes that the image of “the Lamb that was slaughtered” presents the eschatological lordship of Christ[57] over the world, while the legitimacy of such lordship is not found upon force and violence, but through the suffering and death of Christ.

 

3.5.3 The vocation of the Saints

 

Another symbol concerned in the book is the 144000 redeemed[58] who follow Jesus. Hays believes the suffering of the redeemed in the book of Revelation implies the call for the church to endure “righteous suffering” – the suffering aroused from non-compliance to the beast – which stands for collection of power other than God such as wealth and idolatry. Sufferings relevant to such non-compliance act is considered to be the test to the community’s faithfulness to God, and those show their patient endurance would be praised[59] when Christ’s eschatological lordship is restored.

 

3.5.4 A New Heaven and a New Earth

 

Hays believes that the New Heaven and New Earth represents the realization of eschatological hope of which those faithful and obedient to God and has endure righteous suffering are rewarded and comforted in God’s redeemed and transformed creation. Eschatological reward as symbolized with the New Heaven and New Earth has become the confidence of Christ community in their endurance of sufferings.

 

3.5.5 Message of non-compliance and suffering and their implication to Church action in reality

 

The chapter attempts to explore the implication of conceptions of non-compliance and suffering to church’s response to the world context but found it complicated. The chapter prefers theopoetic understanding to the above conceptions while leaving some openness to the interpretations.

 

4 Comments

 

4.1 Proclamation of God’s sovereign

 

Wright’s understanding of Old Testament ethics is centered upon the proclamation of God’s sovereign in Old Testament. For example, his understanding of “human priority”[60] in creation order on one hand support the notion of human dominion over the nature[61], on the other hand it replace the anthropocentric understanding of purpose of creation (nature is ultimately created for man) with anthropic approach[62] which justifies priority of human claim over the nature, while it holds man accountable to God’s sovereign over the nature within the claim. Upon man’s obligation to the poor and to politics, Wright has special concern upon the divine command of righteousness and justice – such concern add credit to the sovereign rule of God over man.

 

Hays interpretation of New Testament ethics always bear the vision of the sovereign of God. Indeed, such vision is found upon the eschatological realization of God’s promise made in the salvation history. They are such as notion of Kingdom of heaven as illustrated in book of Matthew, God’s realization of eschatological liberation of man as illustrated in Gospel of Luke and Acts; eschatological judgement of Christ as illustrated in Gospel and Epistles of John and book of Revelation.

4.2 Ethical implication of the salvation history

 

Both Wright and Hays in their discussion of biblical ethics express the vision of the salvation history. Wright attempts to explore the ethical implication of Old Testament narratives according to the sequence of creation, fall of man, and redemption history of Israel; Hays also follows the timeline of salvation history in his search for biblical ethics: his exploration of biblical ethics begins with Christ event and ends upon the realization of eschatological promise of God.

 

4.3 Creation order and its value for universal moral vision

 

Wright approach to the understanding of Old Testament ethics through creation order shows remarkable contribution to the development of universal moral vision. Ethical implication of the creation purpose of man and other creatures held man outside the divine covenant morally accountable to God their creator. The interpretation of God’s elected people as the paradigm of divine restoration of creation order interrupted by the fall of man shows the ethical implication of God’s covenant with his people to all human beings. Wright’s conception of restoration of creation order in redemption history of Israel shows what man ought to become and what they are eschatologically accountable for.

 

 

4.4 Christology of New Testament: enrichment of servant-kingship in Old Testament

 

Upon man’s obligation to others (including man’s obligation upon nature, the economics and politics), the notion of servant kingship is always mentioned – that God will hold man accountable for the fulfillment of righteousness and justice in the latter’s act. The notion of servant kingship illustrated in Old Testament is always illustrated in hierarchical relationship: Upon man’s dominion of nature; upon those with power to the poor; and between the political authority and the people. It appears that Hays through his study of ethical implication of Christology has identified horizontal elements of ethics of servant-kingship, they are such as: love to each other, pursue of communal character transformation with the vision of kingdom of heaven, and also with the believe in liberating power of the Holy Spirit etc.

 

4.5 Restoration of creation order and realization of eschatological hope: Are they the same?

 

In spite of Wright and Hays’ sincerity in identifying the ethical implication of God’s salvation history. Hays studying of the Gospel shows very little interest upon restoration of cosmic order as Wright does. Hays ethical understanding about Christology concern more upon salvation of man. The illustration of New Heaven and New Earth appears to addressing the issue of creation order, however Hays theopoetic approach to the understanding of such illustration appears to diminish support to restoration of creation order in apostle’s literature. To what extent realization of eschatological hope as identified by Hays in the New Testament could be interpreted as the answer to the restoration of creation order as illustrated by Wright? To what extent realization of eschatological hope in the New Testament serves as the answer to the anticipation for restoration of creation order in the Old Testament? That seems to be a bigger issue for Biblical Theologist to answer.

 

 

References

Wright, Christopher J. H. Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004.

 

Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vison of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.



[1] Wright, Christopher J. H., Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004).P. 106.

[2] Wright, Christopher J. H., Old Testament Ethics for the People of God. (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2004).P. 106.

[3] Ibid., pp. 108-109

[4] Ibid., p. 110-111

[5] Ibid., pp. 112-116

[6] Ibid., p. 122.

[7] Ibid., p. 126.

[8] Ibid., p. 129.

[9] Ibid., pp. 138-140.

[10] Ibid., pp. 140-144.

[11] Ibid., p. 147.

[12] Ibid., p. 148.

[13] Ibid., p. 149.

[14] Ibid., p. 149.

[15] Ibid., p. 151.

[16] Ibid., p. 151.

[17] Ibid., p. 154.

[18] Ibid., p. 155.

[19] Ibid., p. 179.

[20] Ibid., p. 214

[21] Ibid., p. 215.

[22] Ibid., p. 217.

[23] Ibid., p. 218.

[24] Ibid., p. 232.

[25] Refer to double sin, Ibid., p. 235.

[26] Ibid., p. 236.

[27] Ibid., p. 233.

[28] Ibid., p. 250.

[29] Ibid., p. 250.

[30] Ibid., p. 250.

[31] Ibid., pp. 250-251.

[32] Hays, Richard B. The Moral Vison of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics. The Moral Vison of the New Testament. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996, p. 75.

[33] Ibid., p. 73.

[34] Ibid., p. 76.

[35] Ibid., p. 79.

[36] Ibid., p. 80.

[37] Ibid., p. 73.

[39] Ibid., p. 85.

[40] Ibid., pp. 88-91

[41] Ibid., p. 93.

[42] Ibid., p. 96

[43] Ibid., p. 97.

[44] Ibid., p. 100.

[45] Ibid., p. 101.

[46] Ibid., p. 105

[47] Ibid., p. 106.

[48] Iibid, P.113.

[49] Ibid., p. 115

[50] Ibid., p. 117.

[51] Ibid., p. 120-122.

[52] Ibid., p. 120-122.

[53] Ibid., p. 130.

[54] Ibid., p. 142.

[55] Ibid., p. 145.

[56] Ibid., p. 144.

[57] Ibid., p. 174.

[58] Ibid., p. 176.

[59] Ibid., p. 176.

[60] Ibid., p. 126.

[61] Ibid., p. 118

[62] Ibid., p. 129

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