Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Son, high upon his Father's throne

I once sat on a chair whose previous occupant was the Queen.  I would never have dared to share that seat at the same time as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.  How much more so would it be the highest blasphemy if Jesus Christ, seated at God's right hand and ruling over the universe, were no more than a creature?

One of the Old Testament texts that dominates the New Testament skyline is Psalm 110:1. It is the Old Testament text to which the New Testament most often alludes.

There are no fewer that twenty one references, quotations and allusions to this verse in the Gospels (Matt. 22:44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; 16:19; Luke 20:42-43), the book of Acts (2:33-35; 5:31; 7:55-56) and the Letters (Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; Eph. 1:20; 2:6; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). There is also a possible allusion in Revelation 3:21.

In Matthew 22 this text lies at the very heart of understanding the person of Christ. In Matthew 22:15-40 Jesus has faced a number of curved balls, a series of questions prompted not by a sincere desire to know the truth but with the desire to “entangle him in his words” (22:15).

After fielding these questions Jesus asks one of his own (22:42-46):

“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying “'The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet'? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word.

This text is key to understanding the divine identity of Christ. There are clearly two persons referred to as Lord. David's “Lord” has been exalted to God's right hand, he occupies the place of supreme authority, seated with God on God's throne. Christ is no second Lord of lower rank but shares in his Father's sovereign rule over heaven and earth.

It should not be lost on us that the category for thinking of Christ in this way was not invented by the New Testament writers. They inherited this category for understanding the supreme Lordship and divine identity of Jesus, without modification, from Jesus himself. And in Matthew 22 Jesus makes it clear that David himself held as high a view of the Christ as it was possible to hold. Jesus is Lord. It is worth pondering that David's confession, just like ours, was as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Atheism and the question of being

David Bentley Hart:
Far from draining the world of any intrinsic meaning, as many of the critics of religion are wont to claim, faith in the divine source and end of all reality had charged every moment of time with an eternal significance, with possibilities of transcendence, with a reason for moral striving and artistry and dreams of future generations. 
Materialism, by contrast, when its boring mechanistic reductionism takes hold of a culture, can make even the immeasurable wonders of matter seem tedious, and life seem largely pointless. 
And none of the customary post-Christian attempts to make the question of being disappear can possibly succeed: even if physics can trace all of time and space back to a single self-sufficient set of laws, that those laws exist at all must remain an imponderable problem for materialist thought (for possibility, no less than actuality, must first of all be); all the brave efforts of analytic philosophy to conjure the ontological question away as a fallacy of grammar have failed and always will; continental philosophy’s attempts at a non-metaphysical ontology are notable chiefly for their lack of explanatory power. 
And this, I venture to say, is why atheism cannot win out in the end: it requires a moral and intellectual coarseness—a blindness to the obvious—too immense for the majority of mankind.
From his review of Alister McGrath's The Twilight of Atheism

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The wrong kind of God: Tolkein on religion in The Lord of the Rings

Tolkein's description of Sauron's God-complex is reminiscent of the aversion-against-God language found in Pullman, Dawkins etc.:
In The Lord of the Rings the conflict is not basically about "freedom," though that is naturally involved.  It is about God, and His sole right to divine honour . . . Sauron desired to be a God-King . . . If he had been victorious he would have demanded divine honour from all rational creatures and absolute temporal power over the whole world.
J. R. R. Tolkein, Letters, no. 183

But that kind of bare monotheism is as far removed from Trinitarian thinking as night is from day.  The Christian God is not an oppressive tyrant in the mould of Sauron but a Being in Communion, a community of love.  Self-giving lies at the heart of the divine identity, and therefore at the heart of the universe.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Ring to rule them all: Le Monde interviews Christopher Tolkein

Here's a snippet from Le Monde's interview with Christopher Tolkein, son of J.R.R. Tolkein:
Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time," Christopher Tolkien observes sadly. 
"The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away."
You can read the rest here

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Skin Full of Chemicals (Part 2)

This is an experiment.  A piece of fiction.  The beginnings of a novel...

The atmosphere, expected and unwelcome, enveloped him.  The smell of heated, sinking putrefaction; cloying, disturbing, suffusing itself into every pore, clinging to every garment, a portent and foretaste of the grave’s greater appetite to undo the vitals of life.  The stench of sores, of infection, of ageing skin, of decomposition already working in the depths of the organs and forcing itself out, of dental rot. 

When John returned home he would furiously shower and scrub to remove the lingering odour of the place.  He glanced around the room to see a thinning number of shrunken, withered, human beings; of people embedded in permafrost.  Their years having drawn nigh, the make-up of homo sapiens was slowly, inexorably, being stripped away.  This was a charnel house for the living, a parlour furnished for those enduring a double death. 

The experiences of close relatives followed a familiar pattern.  Like a wound that never healed, each visit brought back the visceral awareness of first losing them in the consuming fog of dementia.  The memory of a life irretrievably lost, as the fragility of mind and will found no escape from the ineluctable reach of this preternatural shroud, abided as a mournful presence in the room. 

At times the pressure of this sadness seemed so great, so palpable, it was as if the room would soon totter and collapse under the weight of it.  John now belonged to the ranks of those who came to watch and wait for the body to give way.  He shared in this futility, belonged to a fellowship of fellow sufferers, knew their sense of emotional exhaustion and used up grief,  and counted down to the moment when a strange sense of relief would inevitably come.  But although his experience was not a-typical there was about his demeanour, as any health professional and close observer of human behaviour could see, an element of detachment more akin to indifference than to weariness.

A single thread, delicate as gossamer, held him to this place; a bond of nature tightly anchored, wearing thin, biologically weakening.   Across the room, amid the grotesque forms of what looked to him like so many animated cadavers sat listlessly on chairs, stood his father. 

A tall man in his prime, he had begun to bow and stoop.  Equine like strength having left him, his ill-fitting clothes hung loosely upon his rigid, calcified frame, giving him the resemblance of a badly dressed weather worn scarecrow.  His skin was sallow.  His pock marked face sported a day’s growth of greying stubble.  The eyes were as bloodshot and hollow as a drunk’s.  Vacant holes, bereft of the power of recognition. 

The lower lip glistened and protruded with a childlike defiance, bearing the sullen aspect of one whose ambitions had been curtailed by a superior force.  He was diminishing with every grain of sand that passed through the aperture of an egg-timer.  It was hard not to pity him, not to pity what he had become, what he had been contorted into by the downward drag of this mental illness. 

But there was a darkly comedic element to his appearance, an inappropriate adornment that struck a note of sick humour.  As a result of repeated bumps, scrapes, and falls, his wakening hours forced upon him the wearing of padded head gear that made him resemble an amateur boxer.  Without his knowing it George Daniels cut a tragic, pathetic, risible figure.  He was now a parody of the man captured in the photographs in his son’s home.

“Come on now George, your boy is here to see you”
“Your son, John”
“I’ve got a son?”
“Yes George.  He’s come to see you”
“I’ve never seen him before”
“Yes you have George
“Have I.  Oh.  That’s nice.  Is that him?  What’s he here for?  Has he been to seen me before?”
“Yes George”
“Why is he here now?  What does he want?”
“Come one now George, he always comes to see you”

This patient, reassuring note, daily struck in the tone of the staff nurse seemed illimitable.  It always did.  Her voice had in it a perpetual calmness, never once betraying a hint of anger, of annoyance.  Where did that kind of patience come from?  Was she born with it?  Was it a gift?  Was it cultivated?  Was it simply a fake professional demeanour, a façade concealing an interior of impersonal indifference? 

                 A vein of guilt opened up within him.  Guilt for the anger within him that contact with his father provoked.  Guilt for the frustration he felt that their communication, limited in the best of the years had drifted into the cacophonous exchange between the lucid and the disturbed.  Staccato.  Jarring.  A shambolic vocalizing of glottal sounds, verbal randomness, unblushing expletives, and ragged elements of cohesion.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Skin Full of Chemicals (Part 1)

This is an experiment.  A piece of fiction.  The beginnings of a novel...

Where do we come from?”
“What are we?”
“Where are we going?”

                John Daniels sat at a forward angle on the scuffed brown plastic chair in the Visitors Room of the Dementia Ward at St. David’s Hospital.  The low chatter of day-time television, with its seemingly ubiquitous stream of banalities, the same banalities that rolled and reproduced themselves into the small talk of the nursing staff and the two other visitors in that cramped, unpleasant room, hindered any possibility of gathering together his thoughts.  He had been sat there for a full hour and twenty minutes, his throat and eyes dry from the permanent stifling atmosphere of the place.  

                He dipped his hand into his rucksack and rummaged around for some painkillers lodged somewhere between the clutter of exercise books he’d vainly attempted to mark. There was an inch or so of lukewarm mineral water left in the bottle, just enough to wash down the last couple of tablets.  From as far back as he could remember the effort of swallowing the second tablet always brought with it a retching sensation, a reflex that persisted all the way to his forty-fifth year. 

Tension headaches were to be expected at this time of year as the steady stream of teaching and marking swelled to a cataract.  He held his palms against his temples and massaged them gently and rhythmically.  His eyes eventually scanned the sun bleached sheets of paper hanging from the cork-board enough times for them to irritate him with their child-like script, and seemingly unselfconscious display of ignorance in the small matters of punctuation and spelling.  But when your eye has been trained to assess academic work, errors and mistakes can’t help but stare blankly back at you every time you gaze at a text.  Those outdated messages and memos, whose fading legibility formed a written residue of what was once important, insistent, relevant, needlessly hung there.  Mistakes mingled in an intelligible code expunged of any usefulness.

“He’s awake.  You can see him now.” 
At the soft tones of the staff nurse John stood, discordantly scraping the metal legs of the chair on the worn, cracked, tiles of the Visitors Room floor and followed her into the Day Room. 
“How has he been?”
“Quite bright these last few days.  His sleep has been restful.”
He wondered whether the restfulness owed itself principally to an upping of medication.  No more words were exchanged between them.  The soft padding of their feet was the only sound as they briskly moved down the corridor. 

Crossing the threshold of the Day Room was like entering another world.  This was another world.  Mentally he always checked himself and, with conscious effort, adjusted his perspective, as he shifted hemispheres from his native environment of a bustling High School, a life of domestic  comforts and unease, of long worn and much loved social routines, to this asphyxiating domain of human deterioration and unravelling. 

The room itself was sparsely furnished.  The décor of pastel shades, of hospital bedside chairs pressed into service as casual lounge furniture, of an assembling of largely kitsch reprints of paintings by vaguely familiar artists – the kind only ever found on institutional walls – gave the impression of a contrived, makeshift, artificial homeliness.

                  It was the faux ordinariness created and provided by the State; a thin veneer of domestic existence roughly brushed over the reality of the situation.  Cast beneath the gaze of these cheap prints were the cumbersome, somnambulant movements of figures more at home in the stark nightmarish vision of Goya. The room was an ante-chamber between this world and the next.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

God and wish fulfilment (1)

We owe the assertion that God is merely a projection of human attributes on a cosmic scale to Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872).  Having no objective existence, God was no more than make believe, the result of wish fulfilment.  Perhaps the 21st Century gloss would be to stress that it is an infantile wish, cherished by the intellectually immature, and worthy of being mocked.

De Lubac's The Drama of Atheist Humanism has a helpful summary of the 19th Century dismantling of Christian belief:
As Strauss tried to account historically for the Christian illusion, Feuerbach tried to account psychologically for the religious illusion in general, or, as he himself put it, to find in anthropology the secret of theology.   
The substance of what Strauss said, in his Life of Jesus (1835), was that the Gospels are myths expressing the aspirations of the Jewish people.  In Religion Feuerbach was to make the parallel assertion that God is only a myth in which the aspirations of the human consciousness are expressed.  "Those who have no desires have no gods either...gods are men's wishes in corporeal form." (p. 27) 
For Feuerbach, then, God is only the sum of the attributes that make up the greatness of man. (p. 29-30)
Feuerbach's assertion had a powerful impact on his contemporaries.  Engels said that "we all straightway became Feuerbachians."  But it was an assertion all the same.

Does Feuerbach's assertion help us to assess whether the wish, or desire, for God originates solely in human experience?  Does it rule out the possibility that it has been implanted in us by a divine hand?  If so, how exactly?  Is it a given that presupposes atheism on other grounds to gain traction or to pass off as an argument?  The existence of the wish for God is one thing, the explanation for it is, after all, another.  The wish does not prove that what we desire does not exist.

C. S. Lewis replied to Feuerbach's position by arguing that the most probable explanation for the existence of a desire that no experience seemed to satisfy was the fact that we are made for another world.  Is there anything in Feuerbach's assertion that would invalidate Lewis' response?

Can some religious views be ascribed to projection?  Of course.  Does that demonstrate the universal validity of Feuerbach's assertion?  Hardly.  Unless of course we think it is permissible to lump all religious views together without making any distinctions.  But a case has to be made for that.

Can atheism's denial of God be interpreted as an inversion of Feuerbach's assertion?  In the flight from God could some atheists be driven by a desire to escape from accountability of their actions?  Alister McGrath's example of this (from memory, I've not read his book on apologetics since 1996) is that of a Nazi concentration camp guard who denies God in order to evade being judged.

The wish for a Godless universe does not prove that God does not exist.  But neither Feuerbach's view of God as wish fulfilment, nor the rejoinder about evading God, is necessarily true.  Both positions are assertions relying on actual arguments and evidences.

Feuerbach the atheist evangelist

Sometimes atheists have the same passion for preaching and conversion as evangelicals.

Here is Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872), towards the end of his life, oozing with missionary zeal, as he calls men and women to repentance (stop being religious and worshipping God), and faith (in generic human nature):
The goal of my work is to make men no longer theologians but anthropologists, to lead them from the love of God to the love of men, from hopes for the beyond to the study of things here below; to make them, no longer the base religious or political servants of a monarchy and an aristocracy of heaven and earth, but free and independent citizens of the universe.
(Quoted in De Lubac The Drama of Atheist Humanism, p. 33, n. 39)

And then along came Marx, and Lenin, and Stalin, and all that plausible rhetoric about freedom lay beneath an iron curtain.  If you want to know how that worked out then read Solzenhitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Is Christianity bad for human identity?

In The Drama of Atheist Humanism Henri De Lubac draws a contrast between the reception of Christian anthropology in the ancient world and its rejection almost eighteen hundred years later during the rise of modern atheism.  What once was liberty, the view of human identity in the image and likeness of God, a creaturely identity that gave dignity and worth to humanity, came to be seen as a form of oppression.

De Lubac articulates the emancipating force of the Christian doctrine of man:
From the outset  that idea had produced a more profound effect.  Through it, man was freed, in his own eyes from the ontological slavery with which Fate burdened him.  The stars, in their unalterable courses, did not, after all, implacably control our destinies.   
Man, every man, no matter who, had a direct link with the Creator, the Ruler of the stars themselves.  And lo, the countless Powers--gods, spirits, demons--who pinioned human life in the net of their tyrannical wills, weighing upon the soul with all their terrors, now crumbled into dust...
But with the rise of what the 19th Century French philosopher and politician Proudhon termed the "humanists" or "new atheists" the freedom of the Christian view of humanity was rejected.  Again De Lubac summarises:
Man is getting rid of God in order to regain possession of the human greatness that, it seems to him, is being unwarrantably withheld by another.  In God he is overthrowing an obstacle in order to gain his freedom.
Was it a fair exchange?
Did the perspective of seeing people as no more than a skin full of chemicals enhance human dignity?
Did it usher in compassion instead of cruelty?
Did the abandoning of the imago dei lead to an era where the weak and infirm, at the beginning and end of life, received more protection?

De Lubac got it exactly right.  By extinguishing God the modern atheistic humanists found that "exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism":
It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God.  What is true is that, without God, he can ultimately only organise it against man.

Christianity: Almost an illusion

If God has not spoken, if he has not revealed himself, then Christians would be in agreement with atheists.  The whole thing would then be a pious fraud, a psychological exercise in wish fulfilment, a colossal sham and masquerade.

Far from this being a fact unknown to believers it is spelled out clearly by the great Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck:
With the reality of revelation...Christianity stands or falls. 
As science never precedes life, but always follows it and flows from it, so the science of the knowledge of God rests on the reality of his revelation.  If God does not exist, or if he has not revealed himself, and hence is unknowable, then all religion is an illusion and all theology a phantasm.
Quoted in Avery Dulles Models of Revelation, p. 5

Read the Fathers

Here's a blog that will help us do just that, page by page, seven a day in fact, with suggested secondary readings too.

Can't be bad.

Take a look here

Monday, January 14, 2013

Get with the programme

Co-opting and approving the congenial bits of the Christian faith, and jettisoning the rest, in the name of a political programme or philosophical world-view is not only a contemporary issue but has roots that run deep into ancient history.

That said, the 21st Century politics of left and right rely on the isolation of key words (fairness, equality, justice) used with minimal reference to the specific content given to them by particular political ideologies, and with almost zero explicit connection being made between those words and the intellectual positions that underpin them.  That's hardly surprising given the intellectual muddleheadedness of trying to get ethics out of fundamentally atheist assumptions.

When you peer through the fog of political rhetoric and start looking for substance and arguments the whole thing unravels.  N. T. Wright comments "Oh you're taking the moral high ground, tell me about the moral high ground you are standing on."

Politicians pick and approve the bits of Christianity that seem to fit with their programme and world view.  Our answer to that should be the same as that penned by Origen in his response to Celsus (written in Caesarea in 248 AD, two years before his martyrdom after prolonged torture).  Celsus had argued that:
...the Greeks are more skilful than any others in judging, establishing, and reducing to practice the discoveries of barbarous nations.  
And therefore Christianity is to be judged by the Greeks owing to its Judaic origin.  To which Origen replied:
Now this is our answer to his allegations, and our defence of the truths contained in Christianity, that if any one were to come from the study of Grecian opinions and usages to the Gospel, he would not only decide that its doctrines were true, but would by practice establish their truth, and supply whatever seemed wanting, from a Grecian point of view, to their demonstration, and thus confirm the truth of Christianity.  
We have to say, moreover, that the Gospel has a demonstration of its own, more divine than any established by Grecian dialectics.  And this diviner method is called by the apostle the “manifestation of the Spirit and of power:”
The Gospel will not get with anyone's programme.

Original goodness

Non-dualism peering through the narrative of Middle Earth:
"And that is another reason why the Ring should be destroyed: as long as it is in the world it will be a danger even to the Wise: For nothing is evil in the beginning.  Even Sauron was not so."
Elrond, The Fellowship of the Ring (being the first part of The Lord of the Rings)

Friday, January 11, 2013

The ordering of our faith: the blessed Trinity

This, then, is the ordering of our faith....God, the Father, uncreated, incomprehensible, invisible, one God, creator of all.  This is the first article.

The second is the Word of God, God the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was revealed to the prophets...At the end of the times, to sum up all things, he became man among men, visible and palpable, in order to destroy death and bring to light life, and bring about communion with God.

And the third is the Holy Spirit, by whom the prophets prophesied and the patriarchs were taught about God and the just were led into the path of justice, and who in the end of times was poured forth in a new manner upon men all over the earth renewing man to God.

Irenaeus of Lyon, (130-202 AD)

When the Trinity Appeared

"At the time of the Epiphany [that is, the baptism] of Christ, the Trinity appeared at the Jordan."

Jacob of Sarug

Monday, January 07, 2013

Providence in The Lord of the Rings

"It was the strangest event in the whole history of the Ring so far: Bilbo's arrival just at that time, and putting his hand on it, blindly, in the dark.

There was more than one power at work, Frodo.  The Ring was trying to get back to its master.  

It had slipped from Isildur's hand and betrayed him, then when a chance came it caught poor Deagol...when its master was awake once more and sending out his dark thought from Mirkwood, it abandoned Gollum.  Only to be picked up by the most unlikely person imaginable: Bilbo from the Shire!

Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker.  
I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker.

In which case you also were meant to have it.  And that may be an encouraging thought."

Gandalf to Frodo, The Fellowship of the Ring

Suffered under Pontius Pilate

Here are the opening words of Luke 3:
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,  during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
The names Pilate, Herod, Annas, and Caiaphas, cast the shadow of the cross over the very beginnings of Jesus' public ministry.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Oops! Calvin and Cromwell bloopers

In Hans Kung's memoirs (Disputed Truth, Memoirs II) he refers to his travels through Cromwell, New Zealand, named he says 'after the famous Scottish Reformer, revolutionary and 'Lord Protector' Oliver Cromwell'...oops, that'll be the same Oliver Cromwell who was one of the most famous Englishmen ever to walk the earth.  Oh well, at least Kung never claimed to be infallible.

In the same ball-park is Mark Driscoll's anecdote in his book on the atonement (page 170), that James Arminius was in fact the son-in-law of John Calvin.  I have also discovered, claimed by another writer, that Theodore Beza was Calvin's son-in-law too.

Just imagine the fun the three of them must have had debating limited atonement.  I bet they teased him a lot, "Go on old boy tell us what you really think, stop messing about with all that ambiguous use of 'the world', and 'all'."  But I am sure that John just chuckled to himself and said "Wouldn't it be funny if several centuries from now people debated what I really thought about the matter."

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Christus Victor

Gustav Aulen's work Christus Victor is noteworthy for several reasons, not least among them being the astonishing fact that it is a book on the atonement that makes no mention at all of Isaiah 53.  But he was right to draw attention to the Enlightenment attack on the "church doctrine" of the atonement:
"The theologians of the Enlightenment were the declared enemies of orthodoxy; and a chief object of their assault was just the satisfaction theory of the atonement, which they described as a relic of Judaism surviving in Christianity." (p. 7)
An example of what Aulen was referring to can be found in Immanuel Kant.  Note the following from Religion and Rational Theology:
It is totally inconceivable, however, how a rational human being who knows himself to deserve punishment could seriously believe that he only has to believe the news of a satisfaction having been rendered for him, and (as the jurists say) accept it utiliter [for one's advantage], in order to regard his guilt as done away with...No thoughtful person can bring himself to this faith.
That is Enlightenment man showing incredulity toward the atonement.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Old school exegetical arguments for the deity of Christ

Old school exegetical arguments for the deity of Christ start from the Pentateuch.  The following is from Justin Martyr's (c. 100-165 AD) work Dialogue with Trypho:
When I had spoken these words, I continued: “Permit me, further, to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One, who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man, and who appeared in human form to Abraham and Isaac, appeared in a flame of fire from the bush, and conversed with Moses.”  
And after they said they would listen cheerfully, patiently, and eagerly, I went on: “These words are in the book which bears the title of Exodus: ‘And after many days the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel groaned by reason of the works;’ and so on until, ‘Go and gather the elders of Israel, and thou shalt say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared to me, saying, I am surely beholding you, and the things which have befallen you in Egypt.’ ” 
In addition to these words, I went on: “Have you perceived, sirs, that this very God whom Moses speaks of as an Angel that talked to him in the flame of fire, declares to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob?"