Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Bach's subversive, chiastic and non Joel-Osteen-y golf club: Where's the Christus Victor in THIS?

Bono once (in)famously asked (about terrorism),
"Where's the glory in that?"

I'll come back to that.

One day after asking about possible  new liturgical uses of a Christus Victor theme,

I have an answer:

Forget new.
Get back to Bach.

Like any theological golfer, what Bach did..

Okay, I know.  I need to unpack that Bach as golfer image.
I love Scot McKnight's work, especially on the atonement.
Yet I have sometimes felt his "golf club" metaphor for theories of atonement seemed--even though making a very profound and accurate point--seemed a bit crude:

Scot McKnight wants you to have your golf bag fully equipped—theologically speaking. That's the controlling metaphor of McKnight's 2007 study of soteriology, A Community Called Atonement (4 stars).
Here's how the metaphor works. Each "theory" of the Atonement is, like a particular golf club, better suited to some situations than others. Ministering the gospel is like playing a round of golf. Just as a golfer knows when to use a driver, a wedge, or a putter, the way we proclaim, teach, or share the Good News should be adapted to the situation. You can hit the ball out of a sand trap with your driver, but why would you if you had a wedge available?
The strength of the golf-bag metaphor is that it asks us to stop being partisan toward one particular theory of the Atonement and to minister with the best tools at hand. McKnight is a peacemaker and a bridge builder, which makes his book welcome.  link
But I have come to  agree with Frank Viola; and see that it works well.

I sometimes use Baker and Green's language of a  "constellation of images" of the atonement being needed.
 I sometimes apply NT Wright's language  (in different context) of four speakers with adjusted volumes to the atonement.

 But it just may be that as down-home,  utilitarian and Joel-Osteen-y as it sounds, choosing the right "golf club" might be one of most helpful ways of making the point that multiple (multiplex) "views" are in Scripture, and that the "theories" are indeed practical" (See  "God loves donkeys, sweat, entrails and menstruation" )and "Nothing is more practical than theory, and nothing is more theoretical than practice)")

Having said that, I must also say:

--In light of the fact that McKnight's point in the very title, and throughout the book, is that the community needs to interpret atonement, not just individuals, one is disappointed that there was no  team sport that would work better than the individual player nature of golf..Hmmm..

--I also wonder how best to communicate that atonement theories inevitably overlap and constellate/cluster/Venn--unlike use of a golf club for a particular shot, which rules out  simultaneous use of another. (Or does it?? Creative golf, hmm...)


Bach apparently wrote five passions, including one for each gospel.
Matthew's was based on a satisfaction theory of atonement; John's steeped in Christus Victor imagery.  Mark's survived only in text; and two were lost.

Wow, makes one wonder what we lost by not having inherited all of Bach's golf clubs.

In an article analyzing the underpinnings of CV in  Bach's St. John's Passion, Calvin Stapert notes that Jesus' words "It is finished," if indeed interpreted as Chistus Victor, should obviously be a victory  cry. Yet..

Bach set these words to a descending line that fittingly depicts the expiration of a dying man. 
But where, then, is Christus victor in this

Full article PDF here

Well, read the article to see how Bach--no theological and musical slouch-- brilliantly  and musically subverted desencion and death into ascension and joy.  (It's kind of a  holy hemistiche.  Note also that Bach weaves together three chiastic structures!  What a rock star.).

Music itself may be the only medium to liturgize our message.
As Happy Lee  and James Allison remind us, "theories of atonement" are better yet "liturgies."
Even though  in our day, we have forgotten that "worship is not music," 
music ..especially corporate worship music...can sure be worship. 
There's glory in that!

Ryan Schellenberg:

The actuality of the atonement exceeds our theologizing:

....people are more than the sum of their conscious ideas, and therefore any account of atonement in the New Testament should be curious about how the message of the cross connected with the rest of what makes up a human being. Surely it is instructive here that the earliest evidence we have for atonement piety is not theological discourse at all but rather ritual practice, specifically, baptism and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, both of which predate any extant Christian text by nearly twenty years. 17 We don’t know what the earliest followers of Jesus were saying about the atonement, but we do know that they participated ritually in his death and resurrection—they shared in his body and blood; they joined in his death and resurrection—and thus experienced themselves as redeemed people.

Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: A ‘Redaction-Critical’ Reflection, Direction, Spring 2012  ·  Vol. 41 No. 1

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