Wednesday, June 28, 2006

On Holiness

An interesting discussion over at Tobias' place touched on the nature of holiness. Assorted righties claimed (1) homosexual activity necessarily violates holiness, and (2) that we are called to be holy, thus (3) all homosexual activity is immoral. While I agree with (2), I think (1) is false, so that (3) does not follow.

Anyhow, I owe an explanation of holiness. I posted this, roughly:

At the core of the biblical notion of holiness is our being set apart for the use of God, with the understanding that we are not in our "fallen" state already available to God. We are thus faced with the problem of moving from being unavailable to becoming avalable to God.

Holiness is not achieved by obeying rules--that is necessarily always insufficient. To disagree would be to immediately move into a notion of holiness based on merely human works--an absurdity. The reductionist tendency to read holiness as nothing over and above obedience to a set of rules is just the type of legalism so tempting to us in all ages which Jesus protested in the Pharisees of his day.

The Holiness Codes of the OT operate with a background notion of perfection or wholeness, and behind that an inchoate apprehension of ideal types. Note the apprehension of ideal types is Necessarily always inchoate, i.e. screwed up, even if it were somehow directly revealed to the authors and redactors, such as whispered by lil' angels in their ears. To say a reception of such types constituting perfection is not screwed up somehow is to assert comprehension of God (theology being God's revelation of God's self-knowledge)--absurd.

The Hebrews may have figured our being set apart for God's use implies an approach to God, entering God's domain as he dwells among us. That is, the OT effort to be holy, i.e. obeying the Code, implies an effort to become godly or to participate in the nature of divinity. Thus, holiness and participation in divinity are the terms linked by the mediation of the code. They participated in divinity, becoming holy via obedience to the Code.

We still as Christians participate in divinity, obliged to become holy--think of our sacramental life as participation in the Person of God in Christ.

But whereas the Hebrews had the Code as their mediator-- from our point of view an exteriorized version of the Logos--we have the very Logos in the Person of Christ. We have no need of the Law in the sense of a Code when we have the very Person of God mediating our particiaption in God. This is what it means to have Christ as our one and only mediator.

That is not good enough for your some--they want something else in addition. Christ being insufficient, bring back the Law! This is pathetic--quoting Paul to subvert Paul.

As Paul recognized and the Gospel Christ foretold, the mediation of the Person of God fufills the Law. Remember the Law bridged a number of gaps, intending the Hebrews' becoming perfect, like God. The Law generally intending perfection, intends its own supersession in Christ; to deny this is to think it is part of the Law to be settled with the imperfection of the Law--again, absurd. The perfection of the Law implies the elimination of the Law--similar to the ministry of John the Baptist: the consummation of his ministry was its supersession.

But as Paul points out, the elimnation of the law is not a license to immorality. What you might ask in exasperation could the possible sense of immorality be with the elimination of the Law?

Remember, the Law never took its meaning from itself; this is the fatal flaw in divine command theory. It is not "These words are to be obeyed simply because these are the words I have spoken"--God could do it that way, but we know in Faith through Christ Jesus that he has chosen not to do it that way.

The Law always took its meaning from what is required for being in relation with God, being part of the divine community. Even in the OT this is the focus for the Law--entering into the presence of God as available to God is just being in community with God. That is why the new thing of Jesus as our One Mediator consummates the old thing of the Law in the very elimination of the Law.

But now our relation to God is constituted via our relation with Christ--there is no other way into the community of God. The proper question is: what are the necessary conditions for our community with Christ? It cannot, of course, be a matter of sufficient conditions in our grasp.


At 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a little news to mull over


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