Volume 40, Number 2 (2014)
Past. Present. Future. Our faith is living and active in all three tenses. And when our life is ensconced within the arc of the scriptures, the tenses of faith find their depth grammar in the beginning, middle, and end of the story of God.
The 2013 Theological Symposium, “From the Creation to the New Creation: Seeing All Things in Light of the Entire Story,” took up these themes. And when we indeed “see all things” in light of the grand narrative of God’s action in the whole of creation, it shifts our whole perspective. The plenary presentations—published here— begin to spell out what it all means for theology, church, and ministry. Moreover, it sets the stage for what will happen in conversations about mission and witness at the 2014 Theological Symposium (September 23–24), “Faithful Witness to God’s Story in the World Around Us.”
Often this shift in perspective is understood as a recovery of a more genuinely biblical vision of the world. Biblical scholar and theologian N. T. Wright has done an invaluable service to the church catholic in this regard. But it also reflects the current emphasis, in theological circles, on narrative. Narrative studies have come to the forefront of any number of disciplines in the last twenty years or so. At its root, it reflects the assumption that human identity and community are composed by any number of stories that give it meaning. This is a turn away from, on one hand, a purely rationalistic account of human being (think Kant), and, on the other, a merely psychoanalytical one (think Freud).
All of which provides a significant opportunity for mission and witness to church and world from within a confessional tradition that is centered on faithfulness to the whole narrative of the scriptures (think LCMS). From beginning to middle to end, we are “storied” people. Nowhere is this more evident than in the communion of saints storied by the scriptures, centered in the incarnate life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When I began to learn New Testament Greek, I keenly remember the awe I felt when I learned the perfect tense, that the language had its own tense for completed past actions that nonetheless reverberate with action in present time. It completely opened my mind anew to what Paul was up to when he wrote 1 Corinthians 15. We have no pure equivalent in English to the Greek perfect tense, but we still reflect these tenses of the faith in some of the most important things we say to each other as follow- ers of Jesus of Nazareth.
For instance, when we say, I am baptized into Christ. Not I was or I had been, but I am. Whether the water splashed our brow yesterday or forty years ago, its life is lived in the here and now. Nobody understood that reality better than Martin Luther.
Or when we say, in this season, He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Not He has been raised or He has risen, but He is. The joy of Easter is in the is, that the full impact of his full- bodied resurrection from the dead is in how its past action is bringing present time into the future hope of God’s new creation.
Or, finally, when we confess, I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Not I will look or I have been looking, but I look for how the firstfruits of all creation is bursting forth—past and future breaking into the present—in the life around and within us this day and every day to come.
I am. He is. I look. Past and future meeting in the present. Our faith is living and active in all three tenses, from beginning to middle to end.
A LIGHTHEARTED BOOK OF COMMON ERRORS. By Don Hoeferkamp
- Executive EDITOR
- Charles Arand Dean of Theological Research and Publication
- Managing Editor of Theological Publications
- Travis J. Scholl
- assistant editor
- Melanie Appelbaum
- Andrew Hatesohl
- Theodore Hopkins
- Andrew Jones
- James Kirschenmann
- Emily Ringelberg
- Michael Tsichlis