WTC MOOC: TH49X1: Living the Christian Story: Sin & Redemption (Week 2) @WTCTheology


Core Reading

Genesis 3-4; 12: For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Romans 8: For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Revelation 21-22 : No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants[h] will worship him.

Tom Wright/Scripture

Scriptural authority – needs an integrated view, including listening, wresting with, obedience and proclamation.

Scriptural ‘reading’ may encompass a range of tasks but:

We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to be, and hence what our own part within it ought to be

The Bible (and not just the newspaper/latest political fashion) in hand, in which the church can go to work in the world – confident that Jesus is Lord, and Caesar is not. Not about ‘telling people what the Bible says’, but about radical transformation of life, a personalized faith. Can happen if just the Bible is read, but more commonly comes about through the work of God’s people – who understand it and apply it to their own lives. That authority works at the cosmic, political and personal level.

Church needs to pay attention to tradition, listening carefully/humbly/not uncritically to how read/lived scripture in the past… helps us understand what we read ‘naturally’. We should see the ‘living voice’ of the ‘very human church’ as it struggles with scripture… why this is a fresh challenge for each generation.

We need to pay attention to reason, to being attentive to context (especially our own biases), detail, etc. where public discussions and debates (NOT shouting matches) are so important… rather than trying to ‘wipe one’s opponent off the board’. Pay attention to the input of other subjects, such as science (which studies the repeatable) and history (which studies the unrepeatable?) – reason forms the language of understanding.

We need a multi-layered view of God, understanding genre, setting, literary style, etc… and take care when referring to The Bible as one book [especially when used for lifestyle understanding].

5-Act Hermeneutic: Creation, ‘Fall’, Israel, Jesus, the Church. Even if we don’t accept this model, we need some kind of overarching narrative, otherwise becomes mere ‘fuel for devotion’ – there is continuity with previous acts (as plays), but that continuity implies change. “We must be ferociously loyal to what has gone before and cheerfully open about what must come next.”

e.g. We can discuss how things were, but not directly change that (e.g. Garden of Eden) as it will be, as it will have been transformed and fulfilled. We should not imagine a world without redemption. We don’t need to rebuild [live by?] OT structures such as the Temple. We are not living in Gospel times so the rules may be different, but that is the foundation for our current lives – they are not relativized by the passing of time, or by cultural shifts. We are living in ‘the fifth act’, after which will come a new creation… we ‘improvising’, which doesn’t mean a ‘free for all’, but “a disciplined and careful listening to all the other voices around us, and a constant attention to the themes, rhythms, and harmonies of the complete performance so far, the performance which are now called to continue.” This may include ‘fresh expressions’ – all churches need to ‘play the same tune’, but may devise their own variations, though not from other tunes, or with a different ending … this understanding would lead to more respectful interactions.

Contextual reading of scripture – each word within a verse à within a chapter à within a book à within its historical, cultural and canonical setting. All is ‘culturally conditioned’, so cannot add/set some aspects aside. We need to understand both the culture of the time, and our own culture… this will be an ongoing project! Work with both the bigger picture and the detail.. read incarnationally – paying attention to both the humanity of the text and of its readers.

The key importance of corporate worship, where the Bible is read – we’re prepared for it, appreciate it, and given the opportunity to meditate further on it… not just to understand content, but to use the media to shape the mind and life of the community. The readings should be arranged so that glimpses into the story of both the OT and NT are seen, rather than lost as a pre-cursor to a sermon. At communion:

“Scripture forms God’s people, warming their hearts as with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, so that their eyes may then be opened to know him in the breaking of the bread.”

For life-changing transformations, then ordinary Christians need to read, encounter, and study scripture for themselves, in groups and individually. Since the enlightenment, the Western world has prioritised private reading, but Wright would emphasise communal reading/understanding. The church should understand what individual readers are discovering in the text, facilitating bringing a range of viewpoints to the wider body, enriching the larger community, and ensuring that maverick/misleading readings can be gentle/appropriately corrected. Fresh insights presented by churches should build up, rather than threaten – the mission and life of the church – scholarly research is encouraged, but the framework used should be taken with care, as scholars will always be working within a framework of some kind. The church needs to re-establish a hermeneutic of trust, rather than a hermeneutic of suspicion and anti-intellectualism.

Church leaders need to examine their practice, especially at the more senior levels, where life becomes so busy, there’s no time for fresh, careful, prayerful re-interpretation of the text, but rather an old sermon is shaken off… The importance of sermons as the place where heaven and earth meets .. as a time of sacrament.

Session 2:1 – Creation-Fall (Matt Lynch)

Act 1: Creational Shalom & Unfinished Tasks – humanity is not only to tend the garden, but to help it flourish and become what it has not yet become.

Act 2: Falling out between God, creation and humanity. Fallout was not just felt by humans, but by all parties involved. Not just humans implicated, but the serpent. Originally parity of humans, now we have hierarchy, plus shame, fear and hiding … complicating the ability of God to carry out his creational purposes. Sin as a theological problem – the serpent introduces the question of God’s goodness/abundance and blessing. As Adam/Eve questions this – they act in rebellion to God, as they seek an autonomous wisdom.

Sin and death are now in the picture, so how will God accomplish his purposes.

Session 2:1 Flood-Israel

Act 3: The floodwaters sent over the earth covered a world that was already ruined…. God (with Noah) is already preparing the way for a new creation. However, the ‘damaged’ humanity took their issues/damage onto the ark, so God promised never to destroy in the same way again – so what is he now going to do to uphold the integrity of creation? Creation post-flood is an act of grace.

Act 4: Most important part of this story is the calling of Abraham, as the start of the nation of Israel. In the Song of Songs we have a recapturing of the original equality, and – set in a garden – Eden can be recaptured if people live out God’s will in the world. Old, infertile couple to become immigrants in a foreign land as the solution to the fallen world… God chooses King David to represent Israel … Solomon is to build a temple – Kings has many high points with times of obedience, with glimpses of the Garden of Eden – but mixed with ongoing reaching for autonomy and idolatrous rebellion.

Session 2:3: Exile Jesus

Act 5: Exile and the death of Israel – back to Babylon – the land, the people, etc. were all devastated, so there was a question as to whether God was still good, and faithful to his people. Not a return just to the land, but the resurrection of a righteous people – God breathing in new life and becoming ‘covered with skin’. There is a return to the land – in Nehemiah, they are still in a condition of slavery.

Act 6: Jesus and the restoration of humanity. Previously was God focused on Israel? Is that scrapped to focus on the wider church? Think about the story in context of his Jewish identity. What is so significant as the Jewish story? He comes as the representative of Israel before God, but also the representative of humanity (what Israel couldn’t do on its own). With trust in Jesus, we get the benefits of his obedience.

Session 2:4: New Creation and Review

Act 7: The story of new creation … we as humanity have not yet reached this stage. We don’t know what this is going to look like – God isn’t go to start again, but burn off what doesn’t endure. Including the sea (seen as chaos in Biblical thinking).

Jesus came, as a human, to connect the past and the future … in this he accomplishes the tasks given to Adam and Eve in the beginning. By succeeding where humanity has failed, the reconciliation process begins, with the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit.

Col 1: 19-20 – Christ comes in weakness, something that we can see as a pattern of God, but works through them. The weak things of the world shame the wise. We need weaning off our idolatrous pretensions – our wish for fame, power, significance – our reaching after Godlikeness.

Now have a sense of the bigger picture, and next – unpacking the significance of living out this story as Christians in the world.


WTC MOOC: TH49X1: Living the Christian Story: Creation (Week 1) // @WTCTheology

So, I’m a little late starting this one, but I can see a two-fold benefit from it. 1) I do theology every day, but am “a little hazy” about the terminology, the core names (or ‘meaty theologians’ as someone put it earlier) 2) I get to see a second online course in action and think what works/what I’d improve:


Intro: Module Rationale and Overview: The premise of this module is that an enriched and engaged Christian life depends on engagement with the riches of the Christian story, a story told in the Old and New Testaments, and in the life of the early Church. This module explores that Christian story and then considers several ways that Christians can creatively and meaningfully live out that story in their everyday context.

Overview: Matthew Lynch – Biblical story in old/new testament, early testament creeds/doctrines, social practices/social justice and in the workplace and ministries.

Core Reading:

Genesis 1-2

‘The Drama of Scripture’ – the importance of the ‘name’(s) of God, the understanding that the moon/sun are created by God, so God the creator is to be worshipped rather than the sun/moon itself. Written particularly to help those in the ancient world who were promoting different worldviews.

The importance of understanding the way that the story is told is important, clearly crafted, with an overview of themes (pp10)

  • God is the divine source of all that is
  • He stands apart from all other things in the special relationship of Creator to creation.
  • The fashioning of humankind by God was intended to be the high point of all his work of making and forming.
  • God had in mind a very special relationship between himself and this last-formed of all his creatures.

We worry so much about how that we think less about the why, and of our own place in the divine story. The main ‘actors’ in the play are God and humanity, and the relationship between them.

Creation = an amazing piece of art, and Genesis introduces us to the artist. In OT times, there were lots of questions about ‘authority’, and God is introduced as the ultimate authority. There is a relationship between God and his subjects, and we are invited to partake in the task of filling/ordering the world, which is our home.

Whatever questions there are about evolution, etc. the important point is that we are not random products of time/chance. Augustine Confessions would say that we are made for God and ‘our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him’. We are distinct from God, but made in his image. We are not given authority for ruthless domination over nature/tyrannical exploitation, but to steward/caretake it well. It’s like being asked into the studio to finish one of Michelangelo’s designs, and ensure that his reputation will be enhanced by the finished product… God is revealed in work, art, music, life, etc… We are not fully human on our own, but built in a variety of relationships. The world is not something to be looked down upon by those who are ‘saved’, but described by God as ‘good’. We are God’s image bearers, but we are tarnished (unlike Jesus).

Session 1:1 (Introduction)

There are 2 creation stories, which help us understand (according to the Bible), what does it mean to be human? They are also ‘the background music’ to the rest of the Bible.

“God is at work creating a people and a place for his presence so that creation can share in his abundant life.”

There’s a people focus, but there’s also a place.

The Bible has given us 2 lenses through which to understand the stories – a liturgy of creation, and ‘the drama of dirt’.

Session 1:2 (Genesis 1 as Liturgical Poetry)

Genesis 1 is structured carefully/poetically, and therefore that should inform how we should read it.

What existed before Creation is not fit for any form of habitation by creatures. God ‘breathes’ creation into existence. Creation of domains, and the filling of those domains.

¼ Light/Dark // Create heavenly bodies

2/5 Waters above/below // birds/fish

3/6 Earth // humans

7 – Sabbath ‘a day set apart’.

This is to be emulated by God’s people, including animals. All creation is made for a rhythm of work and rest.

Materiality – God declares it ‘good’, it has a goodness apart from its usefulness to humans. Invites rhythm, and meditation upon the story itself, and our fundamental relationships in/within the world.

Other texts echo the idea of the importance of creation (the importance of the creation of the tabernacle), the number 7 is woven into other Biblical accounts. Ensure that creation is not squelched in its use.

Session 1:3 Humanity in Genesis 1

God does not make idols of himself elsewhere, but chooses to be present in “us” – in the Bible, with the exiles. God’s continual movement towards humanity, to be with them.

God shares his power/rule with humanity, which then has an enormous responsibility for both the environment, and to ensure that each human is dignified as an image bearer (OT – special concern for the poor). No such thing as ‘human-to-human’ encounter, are encountering the divine – so to oppress the poor is to oppress their maker.

God shares his abundant life through blessing and provision. It’s not just giving good things, but provisioning for a task, with male/female working together as equals.

Session 1:4 Humanity in Genesis 2

‘The drama of dirt’ – God gets his hands dirty in the creation of the world. This is an earth-oriented story, whereas 1:1 is heaven oriented. There was no human to cultivate the earth, til Gen 2:7, when God could begin to form humanity (unclear whether it was ‘a man’ or ‘a human’.

To be human means to live with ‘bounded freedom’. Eat from every tree (a generous, giving God), except the tree of good and evil. Important to hear that the first command is one of generous abundance, but there are constraints. If the playground is a place where everyone can play ‘freely’ (without rules) then there is no freedom to play within that space.

Humans are deeply connected to the earth – images are made in the image of God above, but formed from the ground below. Humanity has a God-given task, of work – not as cheap labour, but to tend the divine garden (in the OT East, an abundant garden was a sign of wealth).

Man & woman are made for co-equal relationship. There’s a belonging together, serving as partners in the task (not a subordinate). The term ‘helper’ is used elsewhere in the Bible to speak of God. The first words spoken about man/women spoken about how they are alike, rather than how they are different. Loneliness is not seen to be good in creation. The human need for relationship is not threatening to God, or a sign of weakness in human beings. We are made for community with others as well as with God. In the ancient world, women typically left their household to join the man, Genesis encourages the man to leave his household.

Session 1:5: Reading Genesis 1& 2 Together

Being human before God – we share God’s life, power and rule, but we are made from the earth – the two need to be taken together. If we’re feeling down, look up, if we’re feeling superior, look down…

Being human in Creation – we rule/subdue it, but we also serve and steward it. We’re to be kings, but also to be servants.

Being human in community- in relation to other humans. Gen 1 – corresponding to the divine, whilst Gen 2 – corresponding to one another. What does the Bible understand as the ideal purpose of humanity? Jesus is seen to come as the fulfilment of the perfect role model…

Next week: looking at the overall Biblical story, what happens when sin enters?