Colossians Remixed

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					Colossians Remixed
Subverting the Empire: Session 3
Opening Prayer:
        ―Ours is a seduced world‖
By Walter Brueggemann, Awed to Heaven,
  Rooted in Earth, p. 129
The Word of Truth
 Focus on Colossians 2:8-23
 What truth claims does Paul make in this
   Gospel as the ―word of truth‖ (Col. 1:5)
   Prays that the Colossians ―may be filled with
    the knowledge of God‘s will in all spiritual
    wisdom, and understanding‖ (Col. 1:9)
   Prays that the Colossians will ―grow in the
    knowledge of God‖ (Col. 1:10)
   Serves the Colossians ―to make the word of
    God fully known‖ (Col. 1:25)
   Teaches ―everyone in all wisdom‖ (Col. 1:28)
The Word of Truth
 More truth claims made by Paul
   Desires the Colossians ―have all the riches of
    assured understanding and have the knowledge of
    God‘s mystery, …,Christ‖ (Col. 2:2-3)
   Concerned that the Colossians be ―taken captive
    through philosophy and empty deceit‖ (Col. 2:8)
   Admonishes the Colossians to stay focused on the
    crucified, resurrected, ascended, ―coming-again‖
    Christ (Col. 3:1-4)
   Speaks of the Colossians‘ ―new self‖ as ―being
    renewed in knowledge according to the image of its
    creator‖ (Col. 3:9-10)
Colossians & Worldviews
 Aspects of worldviews
   Specific way to think about life that is
    identified as reality
   Tend to forget they are a viewpoint
 Walter Wilson‘s definition
   ―A person‘s comprehensive and pre-reflective
    understanding of reality, an integrating
    framework of fundamental considerations
    which gives context, direction, and meaning
    to life in light of one‘s ultimate
    commitments.‖ (as quoted on p. 100)
Colossians & Worldviews in Postmodern Era
 Colossians is a worldview
 Post-modernism seeks to deconstruct
 Texts presenting a worldview are read
  with a ―hermeneutic of suspicion‖
 ―Question authority‖
 Post-moderns see truth in terms of
Regimes of Truth
      ―Truth is a thing of this world: it is produced
 only by virtue of multiple forms of constraint.
 And it induces regular effects of power. Each
 society has its regime of truth, its ‗general
 politics‘ of truth: that is, the types of discourse
 which it accepts and makes function as true; the
 mechanism and instances which enable one to
 distinguish true and false statements; the means
 by which each is sanctioned; the techniques and
 procedures accorded value in the acquisition of
 truth; the status of those who are charged with
 saying what counts as true.‖ (Michel Foucault
 as quoted on p. 102)
Is Colossians 2:8-23 a Regime of Truth?
 Like regimes of truth
    Paul uses his letter to exert constraint on the
     Colossians confronting a different philosophy
    Paul invokes the authority of Christ in a manner
     similar to Foucault‘s ―mechanisms‖
    Paul speaks with apostolic authority, a specific type
     of discourse accepted as valid
 Reading this text with a ―hermeneutic of
    Raises the lost voice of Paul‘s opponents
    Questions the validity of Paul‘s claims
    Ultimately does to Paul‘s voice what it claims Paul
     does to his opponents
“What’s Sauce for the Goose…”
 What if we subject the opposing philosophy to
  the same type of scrutiny?
    Have to use the Colossians text since we don‘t have
     a letter from this opposing philosophy
 Are Paul‘s opponents a regime of truth?
    Exert a type of captivity based on deceit and
    Hide a merely human tradition behind this façade of
    Exerts its power of constraint with a multiplicity of
    Uses its power for exclusion
    Employs the ―mechanisms‖ of asceticism, fasting, &
Regimes of Truth & the Kingdom of God
 Looks like Paul is unmasking a ―regime of
 Is this just a battle between 2 ―regimes of
 ―Is the biblical metanarrative, together with its
  large-scale truth claims about the whole
  cosmos, inherently totalizing, violent and
  oppressive, or are there counterideological,
  antitotalizing dimensions of this grand story
  that militate against, delegitimate and subvert
  any ideological, violent, totalizing uses of this
  narrative?‖ (p. 106)
The Kingdom of the Beloved Son
 ―Antitotalizing‖ dimensions of the biblical
   ―A radical sensitivity to suffering‖ (p. 107)
     Begins with the covenant established with Noah
      in Genesis 6- 9
     God identifies with suffering of the slaves in
      Egypt (Ex. 3:7-8)
     Continues in the liturgy of the psalms of lament
      (Ps. 44)
     Reaches its apex on the cross of Christ
On Suffering
     ―By deciding to endure a wicked world, while
      continuing to open up the heart to that
      world…God has decided to take personal
      suffering upon God‘s own self.‖ (Terence
      Fretheim as quoted on p. 107)
     ―Biblical texts in this trajectory critique the unjust
      status quo that legitimates itself on the basis of a
      false presence (notably that of the temple and
      monarchy) in the name of a God of justice and
      liberation….A story that has God intimately
      involved with suffering and that sees violence to
      be the root of the human predicament should
      engender a worldview that eschews all violence,
      including violence to those who radically
      disagree with us.‖ (p. 108)
The Kingdom of the Beloved Son
 Israel as a ―light to the nations‖(Is. 49:6), ―a
  priestly kingdom and a holy nation‖ (Ex. 19:6)
       Purpose to bring about the restoration of all peoples
       To restore all of creation, a party to the covenant with Noah
       The emphasis on total restoration actually undercuts
        reading the biblical narrative as a violent regime of truth
 ―First, …a story rooted in and radically attentive
  to suffering is a story of liberation from
  violently imposed regimes of truth, not a story
  that legitimates newly imposed slavery.
  Second, a story with the redemption of all of
  creation as its focus subverts any partisan, self-
  justifying co-option of its message.‖ (p. 109)
Colossians & the Biblical Metanarrative
 Language of Colossians 1:12-14
   Recalls the story of the exodus
     Slaves are released from captivity
     Slaves are given an inheritance
     God responds to Israel with forgiving love, even
      when they turn against him (Ex. 32:7-34:10)
   Jesus re-enacts the story of the exodus
     We move from slavery to freedom
     We are rescued ―from the power of darkness and
      transferred …into the kingdom of his beloved
      Son‖ (Col. 1:13)
Colossians & Regimes of Truth
 ―In profound contrast to regimes of truth with
  their multiple forms of constraint, the kingdom
  of the beloved Son is a kingdom won not
  through violence imposed on others but through
  violence imposed upon the Son.‖ (p 110)
 Cross of Christ takes central place
 ―The cross was ‗the victory of weakness over
  strength, the victory of love over hatred. It was
  the victory that consisted in Jesus‘ allowing evil
  to do its worst to him, and never attempting to
  fight it on its own terms. When the power of
  evil had made its last possible move, Jesus had
  still not been beaten by it. He bore the weight
  of the world‘s evil to the end, and outlasted it.‖
  (N. T. Wright as quoted on p. 111)
Centrality of the Cross
 Paul uses inflammatory language (Col.
   Our trespasses are nailed to the cross as the
    charge against Jesus
   Jesus turns the tables on the authorities
    leading them captive in a victory parade
The Scandal of the Cross
    ―Instead of aping the enemy‘s act of
 violence and rejection, Christ, the victim
 who refuses to be defined by the
 perpetrator, forgives and makes space in
 himself for the enemy.‖ (Miroslav Volf as
 quoted on p. 112)
Colossians & Creation
 Paul‘s greeting points to a shalom that extends
  throughout creation
 Gospel ―has been proclaimed to every creature
  under heaven‖ (Col. 1:23)
 Sweeping nature of this gospel undermines the
  opposing philosophy that denies the
  embodiment of creation through ascetic rituals
 “All things have been created through Christ and
  for Christ. He is before all things, and in him all
  things hold together. Therefore through him God
  is pleased to reconcile all things.‖ (p. 112 version
  of Col. 1:16-20)
 Col. 1:20 pairs the concepts of ―creational
  scope‖ with ―embrace of pain‖
Vision of Colossians
      ―Here is a vision of radical,
  creationwide inclusiveness of the
  kingdom, in contrast to the dismissive
  exclusiveness of the regime. All things
  are to be reconciled—even the thrones,
  dominions, rulers and authorities that put
  Christ on the cross and continue to wreak
  havoc in countless human lives. But that
  redemptive inclusion comes via the path
  of the cross, the embrace of pain‖ (p. 113)
Truth Emerges from Praxis
 Paul doesn‘t debate theology with the
  philosophical opponents
 Paul points to the problems with faulty
 The fruit that the Colossian Christians
  bear points to the truth
Revisiting Moderism
 Upholds objective, rationalism as model for
  distinguishing truth
 Definition objectivism
    ―an approach to knowledge that attempts to eschew
     all perspective rooted in particular times, places and
     traditions, in order to aspire to the ‗view from
     nowhere‘.‖ (p. 121)
 How does the concept that ―truth will set us
  free‖ square with the violence and oppression
  that reached its apex in the 20th century at the
  height of modernism?
    ―‘Objectivity‘ does not set us free from oppressive
     regimes.‖ (p. 120)
Modernism Revisited
      ―The agenda of modernity has overreached
 itself. Its optimism about human capacities is
 misplaced and its assumption that there is a
 neutral standpoint wrong. There can be no
 indubitable foundation of knowledge, no
 uninterpreted experience, no completely
 transparent reading of the world. A cosmic or a
 divine language to express ‗what was the case‘
 is not available to us; all our languages are
 human languages, plural dialects growing on
 the soil of diverse cultural traditions and social
 conditions.‖ (Miroslav Volf as quoted on p. 122)
Modernism Revisited
 Overreaching  pride  idolatry
 Remember modernity was viewed as being in
  opposition to the Christian faith when it
 ―This is not a world of objects that sit mutely
  waiting for the human subject to master them.
  Rather, this (is) a world of created fellow
  subjects, all called into being by the same
  Creator, all born of the Creator‘s love, all
  included in the Creator‘s covenant of creational
  restoration, and all responsive agents in the
  kingdom of the beloved Son.‖ (p. 123)
Toward Biblical Knowledge
 ―Knowing‖ in biblical terms connotes
  intimacy and relationship
   Yada, the Hebrew word for knowing, is used
    for sexual intercourse
 ―Christians know the world from a
  committed place, a place of faith.‖
 Modernism replaces God as the judge of
  truth with ―reason‖
Criteria for a Truthful Worldview (p. 127)
 ―Comprehensive in scope‖
   Should address all of life
 ―Coherent‖
   Specifically in the way of life it endorses
 ―Sensitize its adherents to justice‖
   Do we hear the cries of the oppressed?
 Makes humble claims and is ―open to
 ―Generates a praxis … of life‖
Why Praxis Matters
 ―What our world is waiting for, and what the
  church seems reluctant to offer, is not more
  incessant talk about objective truth, but an
  embodied witness that clearly demonstrates
  why anyone should care about any of this in
  the first place.‖ (Phillip Kenneson as quoted on
  p. 128)
 Compare with Col. 2:1-4
    Paul wants to ―encourage the hearts‖ of the
    Paul wants the community at Colossae to be ―united
     in love‖
 Christian truth is embodied truth
When Christian Praxis Fails
       ―When the church fails to be a listening
  community, attentive to the cries of the poor,
  then the gospel is implausible and alternative
  social philosophies take on an air of
  plausibility. When the church becomes a site of
  bitter enmity while the world is spinning ever
  more quickly into war and violence, then the
  gospel is not only implausible, it is an
  embarrassment. In the face of such failures to
  be a community that embodies the truth that
  came to save the world, it is no wonder that
  alternative visions become more plausible to
  us.‖ (p. 130)
Notes on Targums of Walsh & Keesmaat
 Organize biblical story in 6 acts
   Act I - Creation
   Act II - Break in relationship with Creator
   Act III - Israel‘s story
   Act IV - Jesus‘ story
   Act V - Church‘s story
   Act VI – Eschaton
 We are in Act V acting with no script
   We need to improvise based on the script for
    Acts I – IV and part of Act V
Targums & Biblical Interpretation
 Improvisational nature of life requires a
  paradoxical reading of scripture
    Innovation paired with consistency
    Fidelity to the narrative paired with imaginative
    Stability paired with flexibility
 Justified by ―inner-biblical exegesis‖ within the
 Living a faithful life implies being in touch with
  the scriptures and with the world
 Suggest reading Bible using ―dynamic analogy‖
Targum on Colossians 2:8—3:4
 Read targum by Walsh & Keesmaat
 Background Clipart. Microsoft Office Online.
  (16 Jan. 2005)

 Brueggemann, Walter(2003). Awed to Heaven, Rooted in
  Earth. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress.

 Curran, Leo. Photo of ―Arch of Titus: Triumphal Booty‖.
  Maecenas: Images of Ancient Greece and Rome. (27
  Feb. 2005).

 Walsh, Brian J. & Keesmaat, Sylvia C. (2004). Colossians
  Remixed: Subverting the Empire. Downers Grove, IL:
  InterVarsity Press