10 October 2008

Yarbrough: Salvation Historical Fallacy

Finally finished digesting this fascinating book. Here are a few representative quotes that penetrate to the heart of Yarbrough's burden.

A definition of salvation history:

Salvation history is the totality of reality seen as history which interprets ostensibly immanent phenomena as the historically visible expression of God's personal sovereign purpose. (113)

A quote about Oscar Cullmann, perhaps the main proponent (along with Albertz and Goppelt) of a salvation historical approach to NT theology in the 20th century:

Cullmann argues . . . from New Testament evidence that "the announcement of redemption cannot be separated from the history of redemption itself." This general line of argument is to be found also in Hofmann, Schlatter, and Cullmann. . . . A result of his conclusion is, in contrast to prevalent views in new Testament criticism which separate New Testament faith from its historical moorings, to bring faith and cognitively apprehensible data back into mutual proximity. Just because the New Testament message is theologically appraised, this does not mean that its temporal or historical dress is superfluous or even detrimental to understanding it aright. The message of the New Testament books is bound up inextricably in their time-conditioned mode of transmission. Their theological content is of a piece with the historically conditioned expression of it. (208)

A strikingly relevant statement by Cullmann on the impotence of Bultmann and de-historicized neo-Kantianism in serving the church and transforming people. Cullmann speaks of

the danger that one is concerned only to speak in the contemporary idiom, and in doing so does not strive to preserve unadulterated the message itself at every transposition into a modern form of expression. Whenever one does not continually take such pains, it comes about that Christians, instead of proclaiming to the world the message which is strange to it, say to the world only that which they already say, and in part say better. Our witness of salvation in Christ should be understandable to the world, but it should truly remain a witness. In this way the world will more likely prick up its ears than if we say to it that which it already knows apart from us. (257)

A fascinating statement from Albertz on the counterintuitive nature of NT theology (quotes are Albertz's, italics are mine):

Albertz sees implicit in the New Testament message a consistent theme, namely that "the divine wisdom shatters the wisdom of man." The parables, e.g., "distance themselves immeasurably from rational deliberation"; again and again Jesus' message is "that God, contrary to expectations, is totally different than that which men in their cleverness imagine." Jesus' teaching and proclamation comprise "the overturning of [human] wisdom." Albertz concludes: "Intrinsic [to grasping the New Testament message] is that all of Jesus' wisdom sayings seek to be understood as revelation and speech of a divine wisdom which transcends and inverts human wisdom." (308-9)

I'm now reading the second volume of Goppelt's New Testament theology (1982) for follow-up, which is helpful, though not as much as I'd hoped--but, thankfully, extremely brief and to the point (too brief at times), since it is simply his teaching notes put in published form on account of his early death.

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