Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Green or Brown?

Innovative building design for appartment block design in Alès, southern France. 

Every time we drive past these appartments, my children (and me) are fascinated by the way in which the colour of the walls metamorphoses from brown through green and back to brown again. The other morning, while fetching birthday croissants from the baker's, I took the time to record the effect on camera.

The first photo gives a sweep of the vista in panoramic mode. But let's break it down.

The first two pictures give us an idea of how the colour appears when looking at the appartments from an angle.


The colour starts off a "pure" green and in the second photo the appartments appear to begin to metamorphose into brown.

The more we approach viewing angles that are perpendicular to the walls, the more the colour shifts to brown to such an extent that all trace of green is swallowed up in brown. 

Increasing the viewing angle still further slowly returns the apparent colour to green again.

Why am I telling you this? 

There are actually two applications, one is to a previous theme of the blog (development of a Triune God theology) and the other to the usage of "Lord" in modern Bible translations.

We didn't get to The Trinity overnight: more like a pregnancy

Let's take the Trinity one first. Readers of the blog may recall that I developed a historical model for the development of the Christian idea of a Triune God that I referred to as the Triune Hub. This is basically a cumulative summary of a number of well established "mutations" that Christianity brought to Judaism: see Jewish Roots Of The Trinity. In the same way that we cannot say that there is a snapping moment at which the appartment walls "switch" from green to brown, nor can we see early evidence for an instantaneous switching of God. It is false to say that in the first century and in light of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, that the Jewish Christians now understood God to be triune. It is also historically false to say that the way things had been reconfigured theologically for early Christians, was not significant enough to:
  • speak of a rejectable Jewish sect
  • centre Jesus and the Holy Spirit centrally in a theological conceptual hub previously populated or dominated by Yahweh alone
  • baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (as opposed to a Spirit-blank John-style baptism)
In addition to its subsequent enshrinement in Scripture, first-century Christian documents enter into a hermeneutic process that would be used to defend against a dissection or subordination order of the F, S & HS. Early and later "heresiarchs" would consistently provide negative threats to this recentering. This binding up together in worship, discussion and action of all three is reinforced for centuries to such an extent that eventually the notion of "substance" is introduced - and the walls are increasingly brown. Eventually, Godhood substance, equally shared, becomes simply God, thus the Triune God is "born" - after a looooong pregnancy.

From LORD to GOD

I sometimes wonder if I am even bordering on insanity for even thinking about the phasing out of "Lord" from Christian discourse and Scripture. But, I know it could happen. Not only could it happen, but it could happen without me even living to see it. Right now things remain very "green". Many Christian gatherings across the world today would make such a project seem about as likely as walking water. Every prayer is punctuated by "Lord", sometimes to a crazy degree, much higher than in any normal conversation we would use someone's name or title.

But then Peterson just went out there and splashed around a small splattering of very acceptable brown paint. He translated thousands of times over, in his early 2000s publication of The Message, the Hebrew Yahweh with ... GOD, not LORD.

Now, my research on the anarthrous nature of the Septuagint translation of Yahweh provides extra (dare I say more scholarly?) legitimacy to this translation choice. Maybe a tiny bit more brown. 

Where could extra brown-ness come from? My suspicion is that the church is going to have an ever-increasing battle with relevance to modern culture. Part of the drive for relevance concerns language. Old words, as invested with love and identity as they may still be today, are steadily disappearing and replaced with more meaningful equivalents. The greater the emotional investment, the slower that process is (and has to be).

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