Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Free of Charge: by Miroslav Volf

Chapters 1: God the Giver

(For those wanting my commentary and not the summary, skip to the bottom)

“There is God. And there are images of God. And some people don’t see any difference between the two.” In Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, Miroslav Volf attempts to separate out the difference between God in reality from our images and idols. And he does this principally around the themes of giving and forgiving. Proceeding by way of summary, paraphrase, and quoting, I’ll run through Chapters 1 and 4, offering a bit of reflection at the end. Chapter 1 now; Chapter 4 later.

God the Giver

Two particularly false images of God are God the negotiator and God the Santa Claus. When we view God as the negotiate we see God as one to whom we can pitch a deal, make an arrangement. If God will do this for us, we will give God that. All of us have lived this way, and know many more who do also, but Volf draws our attention to the fact that even if God were a negotiator, it would still make no sense to make deals with Him. He always has the advantage, the upper hand. There is nothing that God could need we could give him. Everything is already his. Volf makes clear that God is emphatically not a negotiator: “God’s goods are not for sale; you can’t buy them with money or good deeds. God doesn’t make deals. God gives” (26).

But if God is the God of the gift and not of the deal, is he then like Santa Claus? Does he give to all the little girls and boys gifts what they don’t need (or deserve)? Does he give without expectation or obligation? Does he demand nothing from us, giving indiscriminately and inexhaustibly? No! While God is the inexhaustible source of all gifts, he does also make demands. “Unlike Santa, God doesn’t just scatter gifts, smiling in blissful affirmation of who we are and what we do no matter who we happen to be and what we happen to do. God also urges us to do this or not to do that…God generously gives, so God is not a negotiator of absolute dimensions. God demands, so God is not an infinite Santa Clause. So, what is the relationship between God’s giving and God’s demand?” (28).

The answer is that while God gives, he also demands that we would give also; the obligation is to continue the giving. But of course we can’t gift a gift to God, for two reasons. He is already totally fulfilled, needing nothing from creatures, but gives and receives counter-gifts from each member of the Trinity. And everything that might be given to God is already God’s because he makes and sustains all things. So, “if we cannot return benefits to God, then how can obligations to God be attached to God’s gifts to us?” (42). Or, basing the question according to Romans 12:1-2, “what then is this sacrifice that is neither a gift nor a counter-gift to God?”

First, God’s gifts oblige us to a posture of receptivity, a posture where we “see ourselves as who we truly are, namely, receivers and receivers only. We do that by relating to God in faith. "The first thing to which God’s gifts oblige us is faith” (43). In reality we are all beggars. Our very existence and preservation are gifts from God of which we have not right. But this beggarly position is not full of humility, but rather is the apex of our humanity. “To receive from God in faith is the height of human dignity” (44).

Second, God’s gifts oblige us to gratitude. While when we give thanks we are not actually giving back anything, we are still honoring God and expressing our appreciation for the gifts given. Gratitude and faith cohere in that faith affirms that I am a recipient and gratitude affirms that God is the giver. “Faith receives God’s gifts as gifts; gratitude receives them well.” In neither faith nor gratitude is humanity diminished, but rather they complete us and acknowledge that life is not a self-achievement of independence, which leads to pride and sin.

Third, God’s gifts oblige us to be available to the Giver, available in the sense of being instruments and conduits of God’s gifts to others. Not only does God want to give us gifts, but He desires to impart within us the divine life of giving. The image of God in us is that we would be more than receivers, but also givers.

And in light of this, fourth, God’s gifts oblige us to participate in God’s gift giving. Not only are we conduits, potentially consumed by the task, or lose as the instrument, but we, through Christ dwelling in us, participate in Christ’s giving to the world. In this sense, we enter into the mission of God’s giving as we participate in Christ. But in the process we don’t lose ourselves, our identity as individuals. If we seek our own and a stance of pure receptivity, we will lose ourselves into the void of narcissism, but the paradox of love as gift is that when we give we find ourselves.

Here ends the summary; here begins the brief commentary.

A general and a specific observation. First it is of great merit that Volf has brought the discourse of the gift to a popular audience, allowing for an understand of God that is not strictly juridical, but rather based in the reciprocity and mutual recognition of giving gifts. The following chapters in part one of course spell out what this means for us. For those looking for a more scholarly/academic presentation of the ‘gift’ in its anthropological, phenomenological, and theological aspects, read John Milbank’s ‘Can a Gift Be Given?: Prolegomena to a Future Trinitarian Metaphysic’ in Modern Theology 11 (1995): 119-137.

Second, of Volf’s four obligations, the first is striking in regard to something I recently recently read in Jeffery Stout’s Democracy and Tradtion. In chapter 9 he outlines the rise of the discourse of ‘rights’. Against the authoritarian rule of feudal lords comes the a discourse of rights, a claiming to have certain rights that for which one ought not need to beg. The discourse on human right rises from the desire not to beg, but rather as something demanded.

In light of faith, which is receptivity of God’s gifts, which is to acknowledge ourselves as essentially beggars, what does this means for a Christians understanding of ‘human rights’? And also, what does that mean for our entire understanding of our relation to democracy, the discourse of right?

I think there are good and bad aspects of the discourse on right, but how do you think they relate?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Science Fiction Friday: Weekly Series

I'm out of town at a conference, so I don't have anytime to write another compelling and sophisticated post on science fiction and culture, and the meaning of the Borg in Star Trek. So until next time...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Without Money, Phantasms- and Webb’s Zeros & Ones

As many of us know, Changing Lanes is a story of the collision of two lives: Dolye (Samuel L. Jackson), a recovering alcoholic, and Gavin (Ben Affleck), a devious lawyer. It is a great movie that should be watched during Lent (b/c it all happens on Good Friday, a bystander let us know right at the beginning).

anyway, after bankrupting Doyle, Gavin cans and says, “You are now a spirit without a body.” This is an amazing reversal of things. Usually we would equal our money with spiritual life (as in Marx’s analysis of the commodity), and our bodies are what is most real.

But here is made explicit the truth of our consumer society: that, forthe world our, financial corpus (our bank accounts, credit cards, pay-pals, assets) is our concrete, physical existence, while our actual flesh and bones is merely a wandering phantasm. A person without money is a restless spirit, coming and going aimlessly.

Just think of the homeless, the jobless, the orphans, and widowed. They are the ones our society knows not what to do with because they can’t be accounted for (or rather, their accounts can’t be counted). Those reduced to merely their bodies, their physical existence, become the ghouls that haunt the civilized world, because they do not have the support of bank accounts; they are feared like ghosts in fairy tales who look for bodies to inhabit.

I know its harsh, but I think it is true. Everything is reduced to Zeros and One.

What do you think? Are those without money merely souls with bodies?

Zeros & Ones

(vs. 1)
this was real
oh this was what you’ve all come to see and feel
but i’m starting to doubt my reality
‘cause it does not last long
once the cash is gone

eventually all of this must become zeros and ones
everything, everywhere, everyone, zeros and ones

(vs. 2)
i’m in love
oh i love what i can convince you of
‘cause i’m a prophet by trade
and a salesman by blood
now i’m dying just to be
a filtered, sub-cultural version of me


my blood is red
dripping on a page
if i’m brave enough to cut myself
but the more it sells
it thins my blood

Saturday, January 21, 2006

mockingbird by derek webb, brutal and beautiful

This a great album and a searing social critique of conservative, evangelical christianity and its militant patriotism and consumer. Its brutal and beautiful.

Here are the lyrics to the second track: I would offer commentary, but does it really need any?

A New Law

(vs. 1)
don’t teach me about politics and government
just tell me who to vote for

don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music

don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law

i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me

i want a new law
i want a new law
gimme that new law

(vs. 2)

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law


what’s the use in trading a law you can never keep
for one you can that cannot get you anything
do not be afraid
do not be afraid
do not be afraid

I've heard these sermons and been to these churches...full of sadness.

Also, see Charles Marsh's article on Wayward Christian Soldiers (thanks thinktank), who is the author of Beloved Community which I recently commented on. The article and the song go perfectly together.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Science Fiction Fridays: Weekly Series

Gordon Hackman pointed me in the direction of c.s. lewis' on science fiction in On Stories.

There Lewis offers a taxonomy of sorts concerning science fiction. 1) science fiction by displace authors. This is when an other tells adventure/love/mystery stories in the context of the future, but is only doing it b/c it is a fad that he trying to cash in on, not b/c it is intrinsic to the story. Lewis destests this kind. 2) Satiric or prophetic: using the future as commentary on the present, here he lists Brave New World and 1984. Usually political and social critique. 3) Engineer's Stories: focusing on technological developements as real possibilities in the actual universe. Lewis not too fond of these but he sees their merit. 4) Speculative Stories: moving beyond the strictily scientific to speculations at the limit of human comprehension, the center of the earth, Hades, aliens. 5) Eschatological Stories: speculation on the ultimate destiny of humanity, of the universe. Not necessarily political/social, but cosmological. They present the big picture, and man's small place within it. and lastly, 6) Fantasy: "This last sub-species of science fiction represents simply an imaginative impule as old as the human race working under the specail conditions of our own time." Science Fiction has to leave earth b/c our knowledge of earth is geographically complete. Before, Homer set his character across the sea to find strange new world, creature, and mysteries. Because of our knowledge, fantastic stories can't be located in the forest next to the village, or the land across the sea, or even in the sky, they must leave earth and forge out into space.

For myself, I have always been attracted to the Satirical (think Gulliver's Travels) and the Fantasy.

For this reason I will use these Science Fiction Friday posts to explore the how science fiction is working to offer a social/political critique of our current situation (or its failure to do so while imagining it does), as well as its resources to reenchant our world.

Along those lines, next week I will explain why the ideology of aliens (as employed for multiculturalist reason) is coming to an end, and how the 'other' of humanity is not some strange alien but rather humanity itself. For me this is the fundamental turn in current science fiction.

Here's my question to you all: to what use (or what roles) do(es) aliens typically play in science fiction? They can be multiple. This will set up the discussion next week.

So that's my topic: what social/political topics are compelling for you in the genre of science fiction?


also, here is Gordon Hackman's peice on science fiction and theology. It is great. and I think i'll read it again and maybe work it into this discussion in the future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Close to the Concrete

I love being a pastor, because it keeps me connected to the concrete, linked to the practical, daily aspects of life. And even if there is some sort of academic future in/beyond a Ph.d., I hope to always continue in a pastoral role.

I’ve read two pieces recently that reminded me again hope important concrete life is, and concrete protest and reform. The first was The Beloved Community where Charles Marsh talks about the Civil Rights Movement, and how the dual moment of forgetting its theological roots and abandoning it concrete reforms (voting registration, changing concrete social practices, engaging in law suits and protest in favor of cosmic critique of the White Man and his society) was the movement the Civil Rights Movement began to break down. It went from the concrete to the cosmic, and died.

The second was an interview with Han Dongfang in the New Left Review where he describes his involvement in Chinese student and labor protests and how he has to stay connected to concrete situations, and help people organize for particular goals, even if meager. Otherwise things never get done. He sees a benefit of organizing concretely as being a way of instilling self-esteem to oppressed people. This is similar to how the Civil Rights Movements began.

So what does this mean for me as a pastor? Well, it means remembering that the concrete form, the daily fabric of every life in our congregation needs tending to (it needs re-imagining, re-narrative, re-ritualizing) and that we must always enter into concrete forms of ministry, rather than abstract forms disconnected from the life of our church. It means caring for marriages and relationship, cultivating virtues of stewardship of resources and time, the putting off of the old-self through putting on of Christ in each and every generous gift through words of encouragement, and every thing else I could think of.

But it also means encouraging concrete local involvement as expressions of love and justice to those in our community who are neglected and oppressed, forgotten or deemed worthless. It means finding a place outside of the walls of our church on which the Kingdom might slow seap through. That through the solid concrete of our selfish and unforgiving culture, there might bloom flowers of peace and generousity. Of course, most people think it annoying when the sidewalk crack and weeds spring up. But that is what we are called to do. Keep to the concrete until it cracks.

Really people; real situations. That’s my motto. Let’s see if I can keep it through grad. school.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Notes on Exclusion and Embrace- Chap. Three

Chapter III: Embrace

“The central thesis of the chapter is that God’s reception of hostile humanity into divine communion is a model for how human beings should relate to the other.” (p. 100.)

The Ambiguities of Liberation

Some claim that dignity and justice are based in freedom, the freedom to choose one’s own life. When this freedom is denied, we call it oppression. When it is restored, we call it liberation; Hence, the categories of oppression and liberation. This leads to the polarization of oppressed and oppressors, where everyone is trying to claim the high moral ground of the victim. But things are usually messy, difficult to sort out. And this can never lead to reconciliation, only blame, guilt, and vengeance.

Reconciliation and lasting peace can not be reached through oppression/liberation, which is based on freedom as the goal. Really, love is the goal not freedom. Freedom is the process which leads to the goal of love. (p. 100-104)

Adieu to the Grand Narratives

“Instead of calling into question the primacy of freedom, should we not critique the pursuit of universal emancipation?” p. 105. “From the postmodern critique of emancipation we can learn that we must engage in the struggle against oppression, but renounce all attempts at the final reconciliation; otherwise, we will end up perpetuating oppression… [we] must be guided by a vision of reconciliation between oppressed and oppressors, otherwise it will end in “injustice-with-role-reversal”(p.109).

The Politics of a Pure Heart

The first move is to call to repentance of all involved. Through the call to repentance, Jesus removes the oppressor/victim distinction. “Jesus Call to repentance not simply those who falsely pronounced sinful what was innocent [pursuit of false purity] and sinned against their victims, but the victims of oppression themselves… The truly revolutionary character of Jesus’ proclamation lies precisely in the connection between the hope he gives to the oppressed and the radical change he requires of them”(p. 114). All, the oppressors and the oppressed must change their hearts and their behavior. For, although it may be impossible to keep hatred from coming to life, the victim must not nurture it; otherwise they will soon become oppressors and perpetrators (117).

The Practice of Forgiveness

The second move is for forgiveness. Yet forgiveness is complicated (p.119). But why forgiveness? Because, if not forgiveness, we end up with vengeance. Why not justice? Because Forgiveness really is an affirmation of justice (p. 122). But where do we find the strength for forgiveness when we are so full of rage? As the imprecatory Psalms reveal, anger is not wrong when it is brought before the Lord. “Rage belongs before God” (124). Forgiveness is the echo of forgiveness received from God when we repent.

Space for the Other: Cross, Trinity, Eucharist

The third move is peace. “Forgiveness is the boundary between exclusion and embrace”(125). Forgiveness breaks down the dividing walls, but leaves a distance between people. Peace is the bringing together of those who were previously at enmity with each other. “Peace is communion between former enemies.” “Forgiveness is…not the culmination of Christ’s relation to the offending other; it is a passage leading to embrace. The arms of the crucified are open a sign of a space in God’s self and an invitation for the enemy to come”(126). The cross is the beginning of the embrace. The life of the Trinity shows us what this embrace might look like. The Eucharist is the ultimate place where we must make space for the other. It is table fellowship, eating.

Paradise and the Affliction of Memory

The final move in order to embrace is to forget. “After we have repented and forgiven our enemies, after we have made space in ourselves for them and left the door open, our will to embrace them must allow the one final, and perhaps the most difficult act to take place, if the process of reconciliation is to be complete. It is the act of forgetting the evil suffered.” (131) But does not forgetting really means that the perpetrators have won. Those who oppress re-write history. To forget is to insure that injustice continues. However, “forgetting is itself therefore not so much our enemy; father, it is those who would rob us of the right to decide for ourselves what to forget and what to remember, as well as when to do so” (132). Remembering and forgetting is essential to the creation of our identities. We are constantly forgetting things. But how will redemption be possible if we forget? And how will heaven not be corrupted if we remember? (see 135-140)

Yet it is possible because God is the one who forget properly. God forgets sins because he can not help but not forget Israel, and the Church, who He has call into fellowship with him. If God did not forget sin, then he would have to forget all sinners. Remember, at the center, the cross, God forgot Christ. (140).

The Drama of Embrace

There are four movements in the drama of embrace. They are opening the arms, waiting, closing the arms, and opening them again. Opening arms shows desire for embrace. It signifies that I have made space within myself for you, and that I am inviting you. Waiting is the decision to let the other come, or not come. The other is not coerced or forced to embrace. Waiting is the first real encounter with the other as other. Waiting seeks reciprocity, but might be left unfulfilled. Closing the arms is the mutual self-giving of the pairs of two arms forming one embrace. A soft touch and the willingness not to understand are required. Not understanding is the decision to let the other stay as alterity. Opening the arms again is the final movement of embrace. If I don’t open again then the other is diffused into me.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Science Fiction Fridays: Weekly Series

Science Fiction vs. Sci-Fi: What is the difference between Science Fiction and Sci-Fi? (I'm basically using a distinction my cousin, Kevin Reed, proposed to me.)

Science Fiction: A form of social critique or investigation set in the future (distant or near), or set in the present amid highly anomalous circumstances. Science Fiction is what you see in Cyber-Punk books, the Dune series, Philip K. Dick (and the movies based on his stories), and films like (well, I can't really think of any that weren't Dick stories...anyone want to offer a couple?) Actually, the recent Serenity counts but I'll get into that in later posts.

Basically, science fiction offers a utopian/distopian vision of the future as a critique of the present, and therefore is not supportive of the status quo.

Sci-Fi: Roughly state, Sci-Fi is strictly entertainment of the futuristic type (somewhere in space) or concerning dangerous scientific research (think Mutant X or X-Men), and it is not different than the status quo. Just about everything is Sci-Fi now on film and the tv; there are few view science fiction movies or tv show which actually critique rather than support the current system of thought.

So, basically, I want to commit to a regular reading of the difference between Science Fiction and Sci-Fi, which I am calling Science Fiction Fridays (because I'll post new thoughts every Friday, duh!). Through this series I'll engage in ideological and theological critiques of the consumer american lifestyle in which I live and minister.

My initial and principle texts will be the TV series "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica" (as the protagonists), and everything else will be ripped to shredded (especially Star Trek and Star Wars).

Please join me and let me know you questions and ideas, and what other text I ought to be using.

So first off, how might I refine my definitions of "Science Fiction" and "Sci-Fi"?

Friday, January 13, 2006

Notes on Exclusion and Embrace- Chap. 2

Chapter II Exclusion

The Dubious Triumph of Inclusion

The Western story of progress/civilization is told as one of continual inclusion. "The history of modern democracies is about progressive and ever expanding inclusion, about "taking in rather than... keeping out". By contrast, stories of ethnic cleansing are about the most brutal forms of exclusion, about driving out rather than taking in. Hence they strike us as "nonmodern," "nonEuropean," "nonWestern." (p.59) Yet the nonWestern world points out that the inclusion of the west was always predicated on a previous exclusion, destruction, or colonization of the other. The real question is whether we are really as "civilized" or "rational" as we think. Is not inclusion really just a way of normalizing all that we wish to exclude? (p.60) Exclusion is not the absence of Inclusion, but the result of Inclusion.

The postmodern move, after critiquing this modern tendency to exclude, is toward a distinctionless world, a world without boundaries or divides. Yet this desire towards radical inclusion through indeterminacy destroys the possibility of a true, or just, inclusion (63). To move forward we must "satisfy two conditions: (1) it must help to name exclusion as evil with confidence...(2) it must not dull our ability to detect the exclusionary tendencies in our own judgments and practices (64).

Definitions: differentiation- "consists in "separating-and-binding" (as in creation)." which results in interdependence. "by itself, separation would result in self-enclosed, isolated, and self-identical being." (p. 65) Human identity is not simply self-differentiation from the other, but is intimately connected to the life of another (p.66) Exclusion- "the sinful activity of reconfiguring the creation" (66). It is the "cutting of bonds," "taking oneself out of the pattern of interdependence and placing oneself in a position of sovereign independence." It is the "Erasure of separation". All exclusionary practices are a result of an already excluded self. (67) Judgment- is not necessarily an act of exclusion, but is the first act of inclusion. Judgment that names exclusion as evil and differentiation as good, is the ground for inclusion.(p. 68)

The Self and Its Center

What type of person is able to stand against exclusion without continuing the exclusion through a struggle against it? Only the person whose center is Christ. The person who is centered in Christ is not lost in Christ, but given a new center, the de0centered center (p. 71) "The center of the self--a center that is both inside and outside-- it the story of Jesus Christ, which has become the story of the self. More precisely, the center is Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected who has become part and parcel of the very structure of the self (70). See page 69 for a profound description of the complexities of the inner life of the self.

The Anatomy and Dynamics of Exclusion

Jesus' battle against the sin of exclusion is based in re-naming and re-making. "The Mission of Jesus consisted not simply in re-naming the behavior that was falsely labeled "sinful" but also in re-making the people who have actually sinned or have suffered misfortune (73). This two fold strategy is used against the sin of "the pursuit of false purity... the enforced purity of a person or a community that sets itself apart from the defiled world in a hypocritical sinlessness and excludes the boundary breaking other from it heart and its world” (74). This is the sin that locates sin as other, outside of ourselves.

Exclusion is manifested in many actions. Exclusion by elimination is to throw out. Exclusion by assimilation is to swallow up. Exclusion by domination is to press down. Exclusion by abandonment is to walk by. Exclusion is first done symbolically as a distortion of the other, not mere ignorance, which refused to know the other. This leads the way to physical/practical exclusion (p. 76).

Contrived Innocence

“From a distance, the world may appear neatly divided into guilty perpetrators and innocent victims. The closer we get, however, the more the line between the guilty and the innocent blurs and we see an intractable maze of small and large hatreds, dishonesties, manipulations, and brutalities, each reinforcing the other” (p. 81). All have sinned, perpetrators and victims. But this does not entail equality of sin, nor the loss of justice here, while we wait from judgment day.

The Power of Exclusion

Where does the will to exclude come from? It comes from the desire for identity (p. 90). The separation necessary to constitute and maintain a dynamic identity of the self in relation to the other slides into exclusion that seeks to affirm identity at the expense of the other” (91-92). Going back to the understanding of differentiation, the self separates itself, destroys the proper bind-to another, primarily God, in the search for a ground of identity which is not tied up with another. This is the original self-exclusion which leads to other-exclusion.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Notes on Exclusion and Embrace- Intro and Chap. 1

Here are my notes on Exclusion and Embrace which I'm reading again in light of the Emergent Theological Conversation with Miroslav Volf in a couple of weeks.

The Cross at the Center
p.22 For Moltmann, God's solidarity is revealed through his suffering on the Cross. God is for the weak and the oppressed. But what about the oppressors and the enemies, asks Volf.

Theme of book: "Without wanting to disregard (let alone discard) the theme of divine solidarity with victims, I will pick up and develop here the theme of divine self-donation for the enemies and their reception into the eternal communion of God."p.23. The reason for this is that Volf wants to move beyond the oppressed/liberation dichotomy, which only perpetuates itself. (see p. 24)

"A genuinely Christian reflection on social issues must be rooted in the self-giving love of the divine Trinity as manifested on the cross of Christ; all the central themes of such reflection will have to be thought through from the perspective of the self-giving love of God. This book seeks to explicate what divine self-donation may mean for the construction of identity and for the relationship with the other under the condition of enmity." (p.25)

Chapter I: Distance and Belonging


“What should be the relations of the churches to the culture they inhabit? The answer lies, I propose, in cultivating the proper relation between distance from the culture and belonging to it.” (p. 37)


Abraham is the paradigmatic figure for one departing from his own culture. To be God’s he must leave his native land, even though his wife was barren. What would his future be? “The only guarantee that the venture will not make him wither away like an uprooted plant was the word of God, the naked promise of the divine “I” that inserted itself into his life so relentlessly and uncomfortably”(p. 38). “To be a child of Abraham and Sarah and to respond to the call of their God means to make an exodus, to start a voyage, become a stranger”(39). Abraham’s departure is not a life as a nomad, never desiring or unable to commit (postmodern restlessness, p 40-41), nor is it the penultimate masculine will to power to go and establish himself (modern transcendental self, p. 41-42). Abraham’s mission and success are demanded and given by Another, nor from himself (contra Babel, p42).

…Without Leaving

The problem is that God is truly universal. So, how is it that the true universal God of all mankind is revealed to a particular people? How does the promise to one family, tribe, people, become a blessing to all nations? The question is resolved in the scandal of the incarnation, esp. the cross of Christ (p. 47). Difference is not the same as enmity, and sameness is not the same as peace. Christ came to abolish enmity and bring peace, but this does not means the difference is overcome in sameness.

The solution: “Paul’s solution to the tension between universality and particularity is ingenious. Its logic is simple: the oneness of God requires God’s universality; God’s universality entails human equality; human equality implies equal access by all to the blessings of the one God; equal access is incompatible with ascription of religious significance to genealogy; Christ, the seed of Abraham, is both the fulfillment of the genealogical promise to Abraham and the end of genealogy as a privileged locus of access to God; faith in Christ replaces birth into a people;. As a consequence, all peoples can have access to the one God of Abraham and Sarah on equal terms, none by right and all by grace. The one body of Christ, the crucified body, is the one body that unities, in the bread of communion, which constitutes the Body of Christ, the Church and is many members.”(45).

On this view, unlike Abraham, departure does not entail leaving a space (49). Why? Because following God does not means joining a people of a place. Yet we do leave to follow God while we stay in the same location.