Ephraim Radner - "Time and the Word"
2:48PM Jun 30, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
Today it's our huge privilege to be speaking with Professor Ephraim Radner, Professor of historical theology at Wickliffe college at the University of Toronto, and an ordained Anglican priest. He is the author of several books, including The End of the Church, A New Mythology of Christian Division in the West, A Brutal Unity, The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church, and the book that we'll be discussing
Time and the Word: Figural Reading of the Christian Scriptures. Professor Radner, we're honored that you'd be speaking with us today.
Thank you so much. It's my pleasure.
Professor Ranieri in the introduction of your work, you Chronicle your journey with figural biblical interpretation through your year years as a student at Yale Divinity School in Burundi as an Anglican priest and As an academic theologian in recent years,
how was it that you decided to write this book?
That's an interesting question. It's not quite as simple as one might like be able to say figural interpretation, and we'll get to that, obviously, in the course of the interview what it is, but it's something I stumbled upon as something to think about explicitly. I think one of my arguments in the book is that everybody, all Christians do figure weeding even many of those who claim either they don't understand it, or they don't agree with it, and so on. Everybody does it. So I think I did it. Along with many people. I read the Bible figure, but I wasn't aware of what I was doing until this was about 1997 or something I began to before that 96 I began to work on a book you mentioned at the end of the church Which is an attempt to understand what it means that the church is divided. And what that tells us about the Holy Spirit, and about what the Holy Spirit has been doing in the church that were divided. And in the course of doing that book and thinking through, I began to think about the church in terms of Israel. That is to say, the Bible doesn't talk much about the divided church. That's a modern phenomenon. And you know, Paul says something in First Corinthians and so on, we know about that. But actually, there's very little in the, in the Bible explicitly in the New Testament, about the church, living through division in a, in a way that lasts not just for a few years, locally, but for centuries across the world. And the only way to get at that question, I realized from a scriptural point of view was to think in terms of the Old Testament and so i and i already began thinking about this. But But began to work through this notion of Israel's division, as somehow telling us something about the church, we can go into that. But it was then that I began to think about this figural reality and in looking at how Christians in the past have talked about church division, not just between Protestants and Catholics, but between Greeks and the West, and within the western church, in the Middle Ages and so on. I realized that in fact, people had used Israel as a way of trying to open up the meaning of what God is about, in the experience, the sinfulness, the challenges of Christian division. And at that point, this issue of figural ism or figure ism, came up quite strongly I had done a dissertation on 17th 18th century Christian movement. France, especially known as Janssen ism, of which the Theologian and mathematician Pascal would be a key person people might have heard of, who was part of this movement known as Janssen ism in the Catholic Church in France. And in fact, I had already known that in Janssen ism, this question of reading the Bible figure early had become a central, a central concern and argument. So I knew about this, but I hadn't actually applied it myself in a kind of self conscious way to understanding but the church so my next book was this book on Christian division and that's where this issue of reading the Bible figure early with respect to the division of the church connecting with Israel came up. So I did that and and in the subsequent things I wrote about and so on, because I was very interested in ecclesiology. Again, the issue of the the division of the church, I wrote a number of different things about that. That I sort of practice figural reading in a straightforward way from my point of view.
And people would then say to me who read the book? Well, you read the Bible this way, but why I'm on what basis? So after several years of having this kind of question, Arise, part of me felt that there wasn't any need to try to explain this because we all did it. And I kind of wanted to avoid method and hermeneutics and trying to sort of get out of the Bible, get out of the churches life into this realm of absurd abstract theory, but enough people kept pushing about this. On what basis can you justify why you read the Bible this way? I decided this would have been, you know, maybe about five years ago that I really needed to try to think this through. I started doing it with a course that I taught here with graduate students on scriptural hermeneutical method. It was sort of limited. It wasn't everything but we we read early church writers we read modern writers like child's and others we, we looked at some of the questions people were raising. The other thing that in this course we did is we look specifically, on the one hand how people talk about reading scripture, and then how theologians read Scripture. So we looked at, in particular, the writings of Robert Jensen, who died recently, alas, a great, great theologian in American church in the world church. He wrote up, you know, he was a systematic theologian, but he was deeply interested in thinking about the world in scriptural terms. And he also wrote a commentary on Ezekiel, late in his life that was part of this brazzers commentary, series of theological interpretation. So I thought he would be a good person, we could look at what he said about scripture in a systematic theology and how he actually read scripture in his commentary on Ezekiel. So we did this course I did it a couple times. And I realized it was time for me now to do my own thing and just try to step back. So that's what I did in 2014, I began to write this book. And it was an attempt to try to try to be self conscious and explaining what figural reading is about. And if I can just go on to one thing, the book itself was really initially conceived as kind of a what would you call it a logical exercise? Given that people have read the Bible figure early? From the beginning, we can go into some of that. My initial question is, what what were the presuppositions that allowed them to do that? So he's doing an experiment, let's just lay out, not whether they're true or false. But what are the presuppositions that allow you to read the Bible figure out given that so many people have and continue to do so. That's what led me to this question about one of the key elements How we understand time, from the point of from a Christian point of view, theologically metaphysically, whatever, which led to this title, Time In the Word because I, I came to the conclusion that figural reading, or any reading of the Bible for that matter, it's not just for your reading, but any reading of the Bible presupposes an understanding on the part of the reader of what time is. And we don't necessarily think about their unconscious presuppositions, we all have them. And, you know, my conclusion eventually was that our understanding of time that we often bring to the text as we read it, is both probably more complicated than we realize, but in practice, when we talk about it far too simplistic, and that figural reading actually presupposes a very rich understanding of time that we we play with but Embrace. And then the question is What if you embrace that understanding of time that we bring? What would that tell you about the world and about scripture more broadly? And so the book moved from being just what are the presuppositions to actually saying, Okay, let's let's embrace those presuppositions and look at what the world of Scripture and the world we live in, might look like. I happen to believe it's the right way to understand and so the book, the book isn't so much an argument for that there's a little bit of an argument for it. It's sort of playing the playing the whole, the whole thing out in terms of what it would look like, but my own presupposition in the end is this is in fact the way the world is. And it's a challenge to me, and I hope, an invitation to others who read the book to rethink what the world is like that God has made such that scripture is what it is within it.
Thank you so much for that brilliant introduction to this extremely fascinating book. Professor Radner, you're a student of brevard child's at Yale and you posture your project as in some way a continuation of child's or hands prize project, in biblical interpretation, in your view is the historical critical method of biblical interpretation bankrupt.
That's that's sort of one of the big questions. Everybody's, not everybody, but a lot of people are talking about. Yeah. You mentioned two very key people in my own intellectual theological formation. But I think also very important in this period of theological development at the end of the 20th, beginning of the 21st century. Let's stick with with child's first, he taught Old Testament for many decades at Yale. I was a Divinity School student training for the ministry in the late 70s. And he was one of my professors who taught introduction to Old Testament Along with other people, so everybody studied with him. And he was trained as a historical critic in a method in Germany and Switzerland. He also studied with Bard actually, but but theologically, but he trained in Germany in many of the methods on rod and others were his great mentors himself and became one of the great What do you want to say practitioners of what we would call redaction criticism, where you look at the Bible in terms of the the sort of editorial traditions, not just individual folks, but editorial traditions that have woven together, different sources, perhaps of the Bible. So that's what he was trained in. And he continued to practice that at a high degree of sophistication all his life. One of his last words was a was a commentary on Isaiah which is still based in that that tradition. Reading. But he became increasingly concerned that the historical critical method that was so, so committed to figuring out the sources and origins of different documents within that were behind the Bible had basically torn the Bible up into bits and pieces so that they could no longer have any kind of coherent theological authority and message for the church. And the point about Charles I want to I want to stress is that he came to this out of his own, if you will, deeply formed and sophisticated historical critical training himself. And I don't think he ever wanted to throw that out. He was from a generation that's still engaged that if you look at some of his early reading writings, now even though he's becoming critical of the historical critical method himself, he is not saying let's go back to origin or Thank you Doesn't he doesn't believe in that. But you see in his own writing by the end of his life, he actually began to really appreciate people like origin in the early church and its tradition of allegorical reading. We'll call it that but more broadly figural, reading more and more. So when he starts writing about Isaiah at the end of his life, he writes two books. He writes, this, this, this traditional, although it's already quite, quite variegated, nuanced commentary on it. But then he writes this other book called The churches struggle to understand Isaiah, which is a survey and engagement with the whole history of the churches reading of Isaiah. He can't quite put them together. You see, he's got two books. The one on the struggle, churches struggle, understand Isaiah is very rich, and you can begin to see that he's not just sort of doing this historically. He's trying to get out what's the truth in the way the early church and media Evil church and others have engaged Isaiah. But he never got to the point where he put the two together. I know he made it he did in his own mind, but he never wrote about that before his death. I think that for me that struggle was when he passed on to any number of his students. I didn't study with him as a doctoral student, although he was somebody I talked to quite a bit still. And I think he encouraged many of us, especially theologians to take that step. How do you hold the how do you how or is it possible to integrate a history a sophisticated historical critical understanding the Bible as a text that has been put together through human history in certain ways? And how do you integrate that with the notion that basically the Bible is God's word that functions out of God's creative providential purposes directly? At a distance to shape, the understanding of who God is and what the truth of the world is for the church for believers, how do you put those two together?
So on Friday, I was doing something similar, actually, but from a from a critical historical perspective on the history of theology. And I could go into that there's no need to do that here. Because it was the same issue for him. He saw a huge shift taking place and how the Bible was understood somewhere in the 18th century, in which, even though he would say clearly that the early church of the medieval church, the reformed reformers of the 16th, and the early 17th century, all had a clear sense that the Bible spoke directly and truthfully about historical events. That what happens in the 18th century is that reality suddenly, suddenly but very clearly becomes detached from a rich understanding of how God is involved in the world. So that all that is interesting and key to readers of the Bible is that historical referentiality. That's his extensive reference. Pry uses that term. And as a result, the Bible gets attached from God's providential engagement in the whole creation in the history of the world. To the question of how do we determine through evidential? evidentiary means that what the Bible says about pecs actually happened in the way it says and that to fry that becomes a utterly constrictive way of understanding the Bible. I think that two things I would say about fry is that I think that This isn't a criticism, he was interested in sort of high, high culture, theology and biblical criticism. In fact, the 18th century did not bring an end to an integrated understanding of the Bible that continued, continued in a number of different traditions. That's where my Africa experience, if you will, that I talked about in the introduction and preface comes in I was, it took me a long time to sort of sort this through. But, you know, early 80s, I was working in Burundi and realized that of course, subsequently at the time, I didn't have all the equipment to understand it. The Bible was still being read the way it was being read in the early church, at least hermeneutical it was. And and we recognize today that that's the case all over the world. Pentecostalism is probably the most thoroughly figural Lee consistent, interpretive community with respect to the Bible that exists So the notion that the 18th century put an end to this integrating the Bible is historically misleading, except if one is going to talk about, you know, academically ology in the West, the global church as, as has opened our eyes to the fact that there's been a long tradition. And one of the things that my second chapter in uttering the word tries to do is to trace the ongoing reality if they go reading the Bible. Well, through the period that that Frye talks about, it's very vital amongst Puritans to the 17th century. It remains vital in various traditions in the 18th century, even in the West. But these are traditions that have been perhaps muted from the point of view of Western theology and remains very vital around the world through global churches that have grown out of a whole range of tradition. So one of my hopes was to try to try to lift up intellectual theologically what is still a lively way of reading the Bible and always ask that there is a consistent way of doing that, that should be taken seriously as a witness, hopefully to something that's true.
Professor render thank you so much for that reflection.
The early church fathers and even the authors of the Old and New Testaments themselves showcase
figural biblical interpretation.
What's at stake theologically, if we simply say that figural reading of the Bible was for another era and has become irrelevant in today's day?
Yeah, that's a huge question. I can't answer for late. I'm not totally certain. But I'm certain that there are some key things that I'd stake. But let's go to this issue of sort of this was an old way of reading the Bible. We've learned now that that's not that that's I don't know, based on I don't know, the lack of scientific historical consciousness and so on and so forth. And we know better now, and that the way we read the Bible now is yes. Somehow more attuned to the reality of human knowledge. One way to describe sort of what we would call the historicist attitude by which historical critical readings both for more conservative and more liberal or progressive Christians, they both share in that they're both at work there is that time is to be understood in a kind of chronological, unidirectional sequence, ie, time moves as an arrow, as some physicists would say, one direction. And there is such a thing is time and it's sequential. And we can measure it in a certain way, by years by minutes by whatever and we have this sort of uniform. Well, people will say, is it a container? Is it a thing, but in any case, it's consistent, and it's uniform. And this is what life is all about past, present and future in a measurable way that's uniformly direct. chronological sequence, that is the shared vision of what the world is about, and how the world is ordered, and how therefore God is to be engaged. You will get the old testament to the new testament to the present, it would move in this direction. The church hasn't always Christians haven't always understood the world that way. It's not that they've denied chronological sequence. But by and large chronological sequence was held to be but one way of experiencing the big reality which is God's creation, which he has given. And, you know, Christians from the early on, struggled with how to understand, let's say, chronological sequences, we experience it as creatures with the fact that God is eternal and is not time bound and that God create you know, Augustine is the greatest, and I spend some time on him in my book in the early chapters. He's the greatest or thinker about this. He spends a lot of of effort in his confessions in his commentaries on Genesis and more and more places in that, trying to figure out what does it mean to say that God, given who God is creates, such that we experience creation the way we do, and he has different ways of dealing with it. But the basic mystery is, how does time temporality that we experience, how does it come from somebody who's not time bound? Who has nothing to do with time time in any kind of essentially describable way, God is not a historical being. On the other hand, the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus of Nazareth is into history. How do we so we have to relate these things with God somehow. So people have different ways of going about Augustine has a notion that creation happens simultaneously. In our sense, all of it, but then is unfolded somehow. And he has funny ideas about how you can organize that. What's interesting is that to me anyway, is that these same questions are questions philosophers asked.
And they are actually questions that physicists have a certain kind theoretical physicists have a certain kind ask as well. I'm not I don't, I'm no knowledgeable person in all these things. So I, my book doesn't get into that. I would point out though, that there are physicists like Julian Barbour and others, who, who have tried to understand time, based on on their understanding just to physics, they're not Christians, in a ways that utterly complicate this, this unitary sequential chronological sequence of reality and in ways that you can actually relate to kind of the thinking that an Augustine was talking. To me that's important. One way Augustine deals with You know how miracles is? Again, I'm not saying this makes sense, but that God somehow has has, has woven any uses the uses the analogy of a tapestry, the tapestry is all done. every single detail in the tapestry is woven, woven in. That's a simultaneous reality of God's creation. And history is the unrolling of this big tapestry. And at this point, miracles pop up. Now, is this God's intervention into time? That's one way we tend to think of it. Although that's not as pointing out the way Christians is always taught. For Augustine miracles are woven into the simultaneous creation of all of all things from the sea from the beginning isn't the right term because what does it mean to say there's a beginning to time when beginnings only exist in time? God doesn't have a beginning. How can you have a beginning of time when you have have time to have a beginning. These are just paradoxes. People have talked about them. They do point to the fact that things are very complicated. All right, let's get back to this issue of sort of the early way of thinking about biblical interpretation with with today, I would argue that somebody like Augustine is far more sophisticated than we think. And secondly, his sophistication is far more inclusive than many of our own quite constricted ways of looking at the nature of the world. We have something to learn from him. It's not that he's passe. Because he didn't understand history, or he didn't understand cosmology, or I don't know what it might be. Not at all. Um, he thought deeply, he thought more deeply than most of us do. And the reality is, many other Christians did as well. Part of what's happened, I think, in the modern world, and we'll use these generalizations is that our understanding of God has become extraordinarily limited. extraordinarily limited. One of the points I try to stress is that figure the priest, one of the primary presuppositions for reading the Bible is that we have to get back to what figural reading is, by the way, we haven't actually said what it is yet. But one of the primary presuppositions is that God is omnipotent period. He is he is His sovereignty, power, his relationship to creation is everything, everything and beyond everything. I think that we actually do not believe God is omnipotent in the modern world, even as conservative so called Orthodox Christians in general, when we state it the way we do because we say things have to happen this way. So one of the questions man there there are people have argued against this theologians in the modern world, but actually I'm not that many. But we take take for example, what forgiveness is, this is A common topic that comes up in these discussions. The Bible tells us that God will wipe away our sins. He uses all kinds of, of language that makes it sound like sins disappear, they will be no more. Now, one way we tend to think of it is, well, that just means that he'll forgive us in the sense that we forgive people, which we never forget. He'll try to forget, you know, he'll treat us as if we hadn't done those things. He's kind in that in that regard. But in fact, some people have asked this question, well, if we really take, take the scripture at its word, and God has it at his word within scripture, for a literalist, in that sense, do we not have to at least entertain the possibility that the past will change? This is a big question Can philosophers ask us? Can the past be changed and the usual The answer is no. But some have actually raised the question why not? From a scriptural point of view, they're good reasons for raising the question. Why not? Can the past change?
Now let's let's move then. And and I guess my point is, if we say it can't have we not somehow shackled our understanding of who God is as our omnipotent, creator, to some vision about how the world has to work. Now, we might want to say, yeah, we should do that. Because if we don't do that, we are somehow throwing open experience to chaos to ignorance, we won't know how to navigate it. A God. Why not say that God lays things out in a certain way. And then we follow that's what it means to be a creature to have a creation and laws of laws of motion and so on and so forth. Well, yes, and I wouldn't deny those but at At the same time, we have to always be willing, it seems me to place that little sort of system that we figured out within this space, which we don't understand, which is God's ordering, according to a will that we cannot constrain. And scientists, you see, actually lead us to understand that this is new, though you say you did have to in the 18th century prize, right? On some level, the 18th century is a terribly important time, where we began to think about the world according to a uniform set of laws. And we have to keep those laws uniform. That is the basis of all reality, whether it's gravity or this that the other time being one of them. But you see, people don't understand time, even now, physicists will tell you that. But scientists now recognize that all the things we claim about the laws of the universe are actually humanly constructed. That doesn't mean they're false, but they're our ways of getting at describing something. When Can't get behind. So they're, they're they're they're culturally frame. They're cognitively frame mathematics or the laws of physics are actually as we describe them human language, that that is meant for us as well as we can to describe something we see. But they're not the thing itself. They're not the thing itself. And that thing itself, as even people like Kant, in the 18th century, realize it's not something we can penetrate. It's God's that would be true for all kinds of things. So we have to be even even philosophers of science, have taught us that we cannot engage the world, even scientifically on the basis of some set framework or system as if that framework or system that we're using, is actually the same thing as reality. Reality is not that we're only approaching it from the outside. So From the inside, as you want to put it, you know, we can't get outside of our skins to see what's really real. Let's go back to the question of them what for your reading is the old New Testament? So the early church looked at things like the question God became flesh in Jesus Christ and ask this question, you know, well, who was God before he became flesh? Who was the son of God? Now, here's where we get ideas of the Trinity and so on that emerge inevitably. But beyond that or not beyond it to the side of that are the questions of what does it mean for a God who became flesh in Jesus Christ, to be the same God? Can we speak of newness in God in the Incarnation? These are deep questions. I don't think there are any clear answers to but in other words, it's something new happened to God that had never happened before when he became incarnate
Can we say that about God on one hand? We can't, because there's nothing new in God. And we do have theologies of process now in the modern world, that God changes, that God is growing that you know, but but by and large, the the historic tradition of Christian faith and said, No, God doesn't have a before and after a God doesn't change the God. God is all God. Always whatever that means. Exactly. So once you start thinking in those terms, and people in the church did ask these questions, one began to talk about and you had little hints about this already in the scriptures themselves and what Jesus said, began to be thinking about what about Israel? What's Israel's relationship to the church? Paul says in First Corinthians 11, that Christ was this rock following Israel around in the desert. Now let's not go into what what that means, from his point of view, you know, historians can look at At the silo and rabbinic traditions and so on to try to say a little bit other people thought that and here's what they man. But whatever the case is, he has this idea that the Christ, the Messiah, is present with Israel in the desert. Or again, Jesus says, Abraham saw my day and rejoice and so on. Then these are these paradoxes that are that are that are embedded in in the New Testament, about paradoxes about God's presence as the God of Jesus Christ, the God who is Jesus Christ, in the sun and so on. already being present in things we're reading about in the scriptures that we say now the Old Testament course at the time was the scriptures. Only one which I never saw, you say, I mean, no, but there's no place where it says okay, and here's what we mean. There's nothing in the New Testament says, here's, here's our Glossary of time terms or relations. ship. People try to deal with these realities differently. You get issues of fulfillment of prophecy. that one that one works, but it can become highly constrained. If all you're working on is this chronological sequence, something happens. It's a promise. And therefore, like any promise that you make good on it later on, but this thing's like Christ, the Messiah in Iraq with Israel is not a fulfillment of prophecy. It can be engaged in that in some way. It's a statement about what is actually happening in the exodus or in the wilderness. Likewise, what does it mean that that I'm just using these these two cases, one amongst many that, that, that Abraham saw my day, and it was a vision, that God sort of, kind of implanted in Abraham's consciousness. Did he understand it? And people argued about this, but take another one Jesus's body as the temple to say when Jesus says, you know, the temple is my body that I'm going to raise, he's not speaking metaphorically in a kind of what we'd say literary sense. I think that's pretty clear. And people might argue he is, I would say, it's pretty obvious he's not. He's doing something in the same way that maybe Paul is speaking of the rock is Christ His, the temple is his body. So somehow, and hence, john won, the tabernacle rang in his flesh and so on. And historical criticism can be very helpful in showing us that early Judaism, intertestamental, Judaism and so on, had ideas about the temple than far beyond simply the building of stones that sits in Jerusalem. So we can we can we can be pressed to realize that whatever Jesus is saying about Israel, And being the temple, he's engaging something that is, if you will religiously metaphysically far richer and broader than a than a literary trope. The temple is part of who God is somehow Jews are already talking about this
with him, what does that mean?
Now the figural reading of the Bible that the early church engaged that that, from their point of view that did Jesus engage, you see that claim that the temple is my body is a figural claim. It's saying that whatever we're talking about whatever was physically, historically, the temple, or the tabernacle in the desert, the temple in Jerusalem, is connected to me metaphysically and by metaphysically, I'm not trying to be fancy philosophically, I'm just saying real what, in a really real way, that temple in Jerusalem for the glory of God dwelt in the tabernacle, it moved. I am engaged in that. Really, me and my body As it comes to be the early church that's already there. And they said that way of talking is a way of understanding that whatever is happening, let's say in the Scriptures, and we'll say, the Old Testament here, because that's what the early church initially viewed as the scriptures. Whatever is happening in the Scriptures, is talking about a reality of God, a divine reality that extends itself historically, in ways that can't simply be parsed by a year by a date by development, by the kinds of things we think about in terms of history itself. It's, it's embedded. The reality of the one reality of God is embedded in all of human history in our lives. But that means Jesus is that means the Jesus of the Gospels is and that's where they started working through. Can we find the Jesus of the resurrection? Can we find the healing of the blind man Can we find this, that and the other which is given to us in the scriptures? Can we find that imbedded in all of human history which we can read divinely in the in? We'll call it the Old Testament. We can read that there. And let's see where that is. Because that's a promise, which Jesus Himself gives. And then that my book then is again thinking about this presuppositions. It's because God actually holds human history as his own. And if it's his own, it's Jesus's human history belongs to Jesus. And my ultimate claim is that a truly robust figural understanding of Scripture which we do bits and pieces as we read it, but if you say this is actually what Scripture is engaged in a fully robust understanding of the Scripture. A figure only claims that scripture itself I take some steps to get to This point, but scripture itself is God's way of describing all of human history all the time. Scripture in some kind of logical metaphysical way precedes history as we experience everything we experienced and are chronologically sequential way, which is a major way that we experience our lives as creatures is already given in Scripture. That's why it's the early embedded in that we can find ourselves in the Old Testament, God already put it there. Yeah. You see, one of my points is we've always done that and reading the Scripture. Why would we think there's something to know about ourselves in reading the story of the Exodus? Why would we think that? I think in general, people in a modern age said, Yeah, we do that because it's a learning thing. It's a moral lesson. You know, we can see how Israel was was a stubborn and hard, have hard and didn't trust God. So we must learn to see that we do that too and we should be better. The Federal claim is it's more than that figural claim is that actually, my very being as a creature is described by is wrapped up in what God the Creator is doing in a world that looks like scripture that is scripturally described. We can go deeper than just trying to figure out moral lessons, which is a figure Oh, by the way, the medieval church use the term Trump ology to describe how we derive a moral lesson from Scripture. And that was one of the figural means of reading scripture. So that is a legitimate and a real figure a way of reading but there are other ways that go beyond that. itself. And you said What difference does it make in here, here's where the big I think big things come in. It isn't just that I have a lesson to learn. I actually can find my future chronologically speaking in Scripture. I can find out and let's go back I said one of the things where I got an interest in all this was thinking about the divided church.
How do we know what will happen to the church given who we are in our division? That was my question, but can we what do we know about what the church is given this thing? Well, go back to Israel, and we can discover what will happen. This is predictive, not in a in a simplistic way, but we can see how how our life is Christians in a divided church, what it means go to divided Israel, and look what happens. Look at that whole story series, Babylon, the exile, the press to repentance, the purifying the new kind of life that comes out of that as well as all the losses that are involved in it. That was certainly one of the things I wanted to, to play out both in the book end of the church and in the brutal unity is that we actually can see who we are not just a lesson about who we are, so that we can do things differently, but actually can understand what God is doing to us by reading the scriptures because we're there. That's the figural reality all of us are wrapped up in the Scriptures, in this way, where we were just as Jesus's body is there in the temple, and the temple is there in his body. So to the churches wrapped up in Israel, and thus in the body of Jesus as well. So we can read the scriptures and see who we are not just as a personal set of moral choices I need to make but as as the church, as groups of people as the history of the world. Again, I would say the church has has generally read the Bible This way without always being all that clear about what it was doing, and, you know, going back and forth and so on and so on. I would say that that the whole what's at stake in that is that we're responsible to scripture in a way that otherwise we're not responsible. So,
Professor Ratner, thank you for that incredible exposition, and you've, in fact anticipated all of my questions. So thank you for those beautiful statements and extremely enlightening and informative statements. If I could simply close by asking a question that I've asked all of the interviewees on this program, and that is this, what would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity? And what is it that we can do as individual Christians to pursue the Unity for which Jesus prayed in john 17,
which is sort of one of the great questions of our, our era? I think, number one to be said, is that our lack of unity? I mean, this has characterized my thinking and I think some people might think oh, So but I'm still believe that's correct. I think our lack of unity, just as Jesus said in john 17 is, is the same. It's not necessarily the ultimate cause. But it's sort of the presenting cause of the great stumbling block the Christian gospel before a world which is, as we know, deeply divided itself and endangered and its own well being. Because of that. I think it's very hard and increasingly hard for people to believe, what Christians say about who Christ is, and their life of following him and the church given the witness Christians have made not just in the past, but even today. So it's, it's the great challenge, and Jesus says so that the world may believe the world I would, I would argue, a main reason the world does not believe is because of Christians. vision in the face of their claim to follow Christ. And Paul says something like this about Israel. This is why this figural thing is true. He says, you know, you have blasphemy My name among the nations with respect to Israel, because of the way you've acted and so on. Well, the church has done the same. And so again, we can look at what happened. So your question is it we can look at what happens by looking at Israel. I think Paul says this in Romans 11. You know, you, you're being grafted onto a tree, but be careful. Because you can, you can have the same problems. The promises to the church are maybe indefensible. But the way we get at the fulfillment of those promises is not a given. Just as the promises to Israel are in detectable covenant with Israel is eternal. But how it plays itself out isn't the way we necessarily think it is as the coming of Christ and the Gentiles being grafted on. on and on. Well, this, the same thing is true for the Christian church as a mainly Gentile Church of the nations. That That way we get to the fulfillment of God's promises for the church is not a given. So the question to me is, how do we? Well, the question you've asked is, is, how do we pursue the Unity for which Christ asked and prayed in? Well, we're going to pursue it by what we learned to live as Israel. I don't think we can escape, if you will. Because I believe the Scripture is determined the whole of human history in some fashion, we are not going to escape the form of Israel and in our life as the church. Now that's could be very frightening. Because we look at the history of Israel. Of course, the history of the church is part of the history of Israel. So it's not that's just Israel. A bunch are the Jews who then rejected and then suffer and so on. No, the church is Israel is Well, I mean, this would be my view is the church is, is Jewish Israel and it is Christian Israel, if you will, as well. They're both part in a very complicated way of one thing. I've always claimed the greatest thing then that we are called to if we look at it that is under repentance. The church has to be driven to the same repentance that Israel is called to move to, not just that what we see in Nehemiah and Ezra, but ultimately in the call of Peter of Pentecost, Repent and be baptized.
I think the church tends to think that having repented and been baptized, there's no more repentance on some level except in some individual way. But actually, the Constitution of the church is repentance and baptism both that's the constant one baptism. Well, that's, are you willing to be baptized with the baptism I'm baptized with, which is a cross and the resurrection. So that that doesn't tell you that's not a strategic answer. I think strategically that's not the right word. Concretely, it means that every church in the world, whether we are a big formalized, you know, Roman Catholic church or a small Pentecostal congregation, and everything in between, is called to this repentance and baptism into the death of Jesus, as Paul says in Romans six so that we can then be raised with him. The only way the church is going to have unity is through God's resurrection of our body. And the question is how we give ourselves over to that. And ultimately, that's a sacrificial. Unity is a sacrificial act by churches. It's not waiting for somebody else. It's not waiting for somebody to make the first move. It's not waiting for somebody else to repent for I repent, and so on and so forth. ecumenical dialogues and so on, I think have been wonderful gifts, they have tended to get stalled just at this point. Okay, who who moves next? We can only move together, that kind of thing. I think that's absolutely the place where we have to go beyond we've reached the point. Now, I said at the end of the church book, you know, if the Pope, let's just take if the Pope and you know, by the way, john paul a second began some moves in this regard. But it wasn't actively pursued, as it as it will have to be. But if the pope could simply say, I give all this up for your sake, you Pentecostals, I'm using that as sort of as if it's the farthest away from the Catholic Church. That's probably not true. I will give all This up we will give all this up I will crawl on my knees to some Pentecostal Church in Indonesia. And I will say I we are yours. It that's what has to happen in some way by individuals by churches I whenever I don't see any other way.
It's been our extraordinary privilege today to be speaking with Professor Ephram Radner professor of historical theology at with Wickliffe college at the University of Toronto, and author of the texts that we've been discussing today time and the word figural reading of the Christian scriptures, Professor render thank you for sharing your morning this morning.
I'm delighted thank you for the privilege