Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Colossians Remixed 33

After mentioning that Paul’s ethic in Colossians is a resurrection, ascension, liberation, and eschatological ethic, Walsh and Keesmaat, in Colossians Remixed, contend also that the ethic of Paul is “relational” and “narrative” and (tomorrow’s post) an ethic of secession.
“Absolutes, William [imaginary character in this book] insists, are unrelated, timeless truths that come to us as nonnegotiable moral laws. Is this what Paul is up to..?” (157). Yes, but mostly No. Paul offers a relational ethic.
This section then explores, wondrously, all the relational “in Christ” language of Colossians. Here are some: from 2:9-15 we see this 7x — fullness dwells in him, we come to fullness in him, buried with him, raised with him…
The ethic is rooted not in Torah as commandment but in life in Christ … “because of a matrix of relationships that characterize new life in Christ” (157).
It is also a narrative ethic. “Praxis — that is, human culture-forming, ethical behavior in daily life — is narratively grounded because we act out of who we are” (157). And here I think W-K do some very important theologizing in Colossians: character is narrative formed and the narrative Paul forms them in is the narrative story of Jesus — his whole story is their story. He identifies them with every major event in the life of Jesus.
Here are those events:
Death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming.
“The story of Jesus is our story.”

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Jason Barr

posted October 31, 2007 at 2:53 am

When I commented on your other post I didn’t even see you were doing a series on Colossians Remixed. I wish I’d been reading from the beginning because I think you raise some good questions about what W-K do and the relationship between their treatment and the actual text of Colossians. I’d also like to shout out to Woody Anderson, since I saw him comment on one of your posts, if he’s still reading. We had a brief discussion about this book at Intervarsity’s School of Leadership Training this past summer.
As important as I think the connections between the USA and Roman empire are for reading the scripture in our time, and even though I think what W-K do is often useful, I have my own questions about just how rooted in Paul’s intent in writing the text their analysis is. Now, I would not say authorial intent is necessarily the litmus test by which we should judge readings of the scripture, but because W-K present it as such it’s hard to get away from the question. I think they would have been better off approaching it from the stance of “this text could very well carry this weight, reading it from the perspective of a Greek under Roman oppression”, I’m thinking of Brueggemann’s idea that doxology is not just a statement of what is, but also of what is not. The extent to which that was intended by Paul is certainly debatable.
All that is to say that, while I sympathize very much with what W-K try to do in the earlier parts of the book (which I very much like, so long as I maintain my stipulations), to me the book really starts picking up steam with the section on regimes of truth and then into the relational, narrative ethic, ethic of succession, and so on – though I do very much wish they would have done more with the actual text of the household code.
If the essense of the atonement is that cracked Eikons are being brought into the perichoretical life of God through God’s defeat of the powers of evil and his canceling of sin through the work of Christ and the Spirit, then it seems to me that a relational ethic is essential. If the essence of sin is hyperrelational distortion and atonement restores what was broken, then relationality is incompromisable. Despite my misgivings about some of what W-K do in the book, what they’ve done before really leads into what they do here: if the ethic of the church is narrative, we have to ask what kind of narrative it is. And in so doing, the implicit question is “what other narratives are excluded by this narrative?” This, I believe, is the main thrust of the book, that the narrative of empire is excluded by the narrative of Christ. The narrative of empire distorts relationships, dehumanizes people, and exploits God’s gift of creation, whereas the narrative of Jesus, the fulfillment of Israel and God’s agent to redeem the world, fixes broken things, makes beauty out of ugly things, and makes it possible for creation to experience God’s shalom.

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Beyond Words

posted October 31, 2007 at 7:41 am

Good thoughts, Jason. The power of a great narrative is its ability to help us re-tell the story in our own words (and lives) like you just did.

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