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Showing posts from October, 2016

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (9)

9.Two matters continue to divide the church which in my opinion should not. One is “the devil” and the other is the “virginal conception” of Jesus. Not the “virgin birth” as it is usually styled. Jesus’ birth was the same as any other baby ever born. The Bible is clear that it is his conception that distinguishes him for all other babies. But let’s look at the devil first.


C. S. Lewis famously said that making too much or too little of the devil are equal and opposite errors we should avoid. What the Bible says, which is what we need to stick to in heeding Lewis’ counsel, is basically that God has some intentional, intelligent, and crafty opposition in the cosmos from a supra-human cohort of rebellious creatures who resist serving him. At the head of this cohort is a figure called (the) Satan or the devil, apparently the chief and leader of these rebels. This figure develops from Old Testament to New from a member of God’s heavenly council who task is to test the genuineness of human’s…

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (5)

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Ch.5: “In All the Scriptures”
What story does Jesus’ work in rescuing humanity and restoring them to their original identity and vocation organically grow out of. The story of Israel grows out the story of the creator and his creation. The Old Testament ends without a clear resolution to the dilemmas and troubles encountered along the way.
Exile is the summary name for these dilemmas and struggles. The big one is the deportation to Babylon in the 6th century b.c. But other smaller “exiles” punctuate the story leading up to this one.
-Abraham goes down to Egypt and gets in difficulty
-Isaac follows suit.
-Jacob has to flee to live with his uncle for fourteen years before coming home.
-Jacob’s family flees a famine to Egypt and stays, enslaved there for 400 years till Exodus.
-David has to flee internal insurrection during his kingship.
-In the divided kingdom, the north is carried off by the Assyrians in 722 b.c. and the south follows suit at the hands of the Babylonians in the early 6th centu…

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (8)

8.Talk of salvation as restoration to the genuine humanity God created us for raises the question of who God created us to be in the first place. Who we assume or think ourselves to be determines the kind of salvation we can envision God achieving for us. Our Western heritage of individualism, especially in the form we experience it today, has decisively shaped the salvation we believe we experience.


a.We think of ourselves as “Billiard Balls.” Complete, self-sufficient, independent, we fancy ourselves moving through life as though around a billiard table. We make contact with other balls and the table rails which changes our direction but these contacts make no difference to who we essentially are.
b.The Bible tells us, however, that God made us like molecules, a configuration of atoms connected by various sorts of relations. We are not complete, self-sufficient, or independent; rather we are who we are only in relation to God and others. Without these others we cannot become who God …

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (7)

7.Salvation can be rightly appreciated (and embodied!) only where the sin and disorder of creation and creatures are fully grasped (see #6).“Far as the curse is found,” as the hymn writer puts it. Against the backdrop of cosmic disorder through sin God intends a cosmic salvation through Christ to put all things back as they should have been (that’s righteousness in biblical parlance; Col.1:20; Rom.8:18-30).


a.Such salvation entails both reclamation and restoration. Through forgiveness we are reclaimed by God and restored to our primal dignity and vocation as God’s image-bearers, his royal priests in the temple of his creation.
b.Unfortunately, we have tended to forget the restoration part and see salvation as only reclamation (personal forgiveness of sins and going to heaven as a consequence).
c.Thus we think of ourselves and others as only forgiven sinners whereas the biblical story treats us as restored image-bearers who take up their rightful vocations again.
d.And that vocation is se…

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (4)

Ch 4: The Covenant of Vocation
The Heaven and Hell scheme the reformers brought forward from the late Medieval church congeals into a “gospel” that Wright claims is:
-Platonized: accepts the material (earth) – spiritual (heaven) dualism and favors the latter over the former.
-Moralized: believes the “sin” and its punishment/forgiveness is the basic human problem.
-Paganized: the solution is seen as an angry deity who has to be pacified by human sacrifice.
The biblical gospel, on the contrary, is about heaven and earth reunited in the new creation which will host God and humanity in living fellowship through the ages. The problem is not morality but idolatry. And the solution is a loving God who goes to the uttermost to reclaim and restore his lost creatures and creation.
While some versions of reformed theology teach that God created a “covenant of works” with our first parents in the Garden in which humanity had a set of divine commands to follow upon perfect performance of which they wou…

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (6)

6.After living, faithful relationships with the triune God, the church in North America, perhaps the next most important thing for us to come to terms with is what St. Paul calls “the principalities and powers” (or something close to that in his letters). These realities (whether one conceptualizes them as beings or forces or both is less important that acknowledging their reality) are neither demons or angels (fallen or otherwise). They seem to comprise a class of spiritual realities with a particular divine mandate. The “powers”
a.are created by God (Col.1:16) to establish and sustain conditions for the flourishing of human life; b.have rebelled against God seeking to rule creation themselves distorting and destroying human life (Eph.6:12); c.were defeated by Christ on the cross (Col.2:15); d.are being pacified by Christ back to their created purpose through the life and ministry of the church (Eph.3:10-11; Col.1:20); e.that their futile but continued resistance to God’s will and way in…

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (3)

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Ch.3: The Cross In Its First Century Setting
The original ancient setting for considering the cross is the Greco-Roman world of late antiquity. The ethos of that world as defined by its great poets and story-tellers was wrath (Homer, The Illiad) and arms (Virgil, the Aeneid). Gods or humans, everyone and everything was implicated in these two realities.
This is why that world executed certain people in the brutal and degrading way of crucifixion. IT was designed not simply to kill the criminal but to do so in a degrading fashion. As an example to break the spirit of any onlookers who might be contemplating actions of a treasonous or seditious nature. This assertion of sheer power carried the message of the futility of such actions. That crucifixion often left the condemned person hanging alive in torturous suffering begging for release brought the trifecta of degradation, show of power, and terror to its rousing climax. Though the Romans did not invent crucifixion they honed its practi…

Ten Reasons Why Theology Matters

Most Christians Agree Theology Is Important, but Can't Articulate Why. These Reasons Can Help.

David W. Congdon and W. Travis McMaken/ October 27, 2016
With recent polls showing a declining awareness and interest in theology among evangelicals, we thought of ten reasons why theology matters to every evangelical beyond simply avoiding heresy.

Theology matters… 1. Because even evangelicals need evangelizing. There is much handwringing today over what it means to be evangelical, and the temptation is strong to define an essential evangelicalism—to pin it down to one particular form. Theologically, the problem with this response is that “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5) is not a once-and-done proposition. It is a task that has to be taken up anew again and again. Just like God’s grace, this fundamentally theological undertaking is “new every morning” (Lam. 3:23). Evangelicalism is not a fixed and secure religious form or doctrinal system. It is not a…

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (5)

5.That brings us to the Holy Spirit, the most elusive yet important member of the trinity for us in North America. The Spirit has been called the “shy” member of the Godhead because his task is to keep our attention focused on Jesus and animate Jesus’ life in us. He is elusive in himself and in particular for us westerners, “can do” pragmatists, who prefer control and predictability. For the Spirit fundamentally means “out of control.” We know this from various expressions of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement. But even more importantly from the book of Acts where the Spirit instructs, guides, and countermands human plans and purposes. The church here desperately needs to recover the kind of relationship to the Spirit the early church had.


a.That relationship is best described, I think, by Buzz Lightyear of “Toy Store” fame describing flying to Woody as “controlled falling.”
b.The Spirit is animate, intimate charisma of the life of God restlessly and relentlessly prodding, wooing, and…

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (2)

Ch.2: Wrestling with the Cross, Then and Now
One of the chief claim NTW advances is that atonement must be congruent with eschatology. That is, the means (atonement) God uses must be congruent with the ends (eschatology) toward which he is working. How we conceive God’s goals determines how we will understand his works.
Medieval Catholicism bought into an eschatology of individual salvation from sin and life with God in heaven forever. This its theory of penal substitutionary atonement was congruent with this eschatology.
Luther and Calvin challenged the excesses that Medieval Catholicism developed but never challenged the Heaven-Hell schema that determined its eschatology nor the assumption that the cross had to do with pacifying God’s wrath. They could not, therefore, see the biblical eschatology of new creation growing out of Jesus’ resurrection and rethink atonement in its light.
On into the Enlightenment and beyond, Wright claims, this unchallenged background become more and more t…

Some theses on the Church in North America Today (4)

4.We talk about “God” too much and “Jesus” too little. Christians don’t believe we know who or what God is and then fit Jesus into that that picture we have already fashioned from whatever other sources. No, on the contrary, Christians claim that we only know God through Jesus. Our most decisive and provocative claim is not about how “godlike” Jesus is, but about how “Jesus-like” God is.


a.Much of our talk in church about “God” is simply ill-informed chatter that “no longer signifies” (Walker Percy).
b.With the Barmen Declaration we must again strenuously assert: “Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.”
c.“As he is attested for us in Holy Scripture” requires intentional and properly informed appropriation of Holy Scripture if we hope to learn to know Jesus Christ and, through him, God.
d.We must let go of all conceptions of God not filtered through and redefined by the…

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began:  Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (1)

Ch.1: A Vitally Important Scandal
The evocative and existential power of the symbol of the cross remains as potent as everfor believer and non-believer alike. Why is that? This is the question N. T. Wright (NTW) proposes to treat in this book. Why do Christians consider this event, so scandalous in so many ways, the day the world changed forever and for its good? This question resists easy answers. But fortunately its power and reality do not depend on such answers, easy or otherwise. Yet it is a question and as such demands an answer (as best we can supply one). So NTW sets his hand to provide one. He lays out an agenda for his answer at the close of the chapter (18). First, there’s the historical question (Why did Jesus get killed by Pilate at the insistence of the Jewish leaders?) followed closely by the theological (What did God intend this event to achieve?) question, both of which are inextricably intertwined. And then finally, and related to these two questions is a third – “What…

Some Theses on the Church in North America Today (3)

3.Church is first and always about Christ. “What keeps gnawing at me is the question, what is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today?”[1] And Bonhoeffer’s question must gnaw at us as well if we are to find our way to faithful witness in a world come of age.
a.But what Christ? That’s always the question. Throughout his writings Bonhoeffer insists on the unity of Christ and his people. From his early concept of “Christ-existing-as-community” (Sanctorum Communio) to his final rendition of this idea as Jesus – the man for others with the correlate of the church as the “church for others” (Letters and Papers from Prison) the identity of the church replicates that of Jesus. He is the identity and DNA of the church in action! And in Discipleship he makes it unforgettably clear that relationship to Jesus, sharing and participating in his life, is the motive power of following him.
Bonhoeffer insists that following Jesus is a conflicted and even dangerous undertaking (as he himse…

The Bible as a Fieldguide for God's Subversive Counter-Revolutionary Movement

In my continuing effort to rethink Christianity as God's Subversive Counter-Revolutionary Movement, I offer this take on the place and role of the Bible in this movement.

Bible

For God's SCRM the Bible is the sign, sacrament, and servant of God's self-revelation through Jesus Christ. And it is his self-revelation we are talking about – the presence of God himself as the One who has freely chosen to bind himself in relationship to this people so that they may be the people through whom God spreads his blessings to everyone else (Gen.12:1-3).

Entailed in the Bible's nature as sign, sacrament, and servant of God are functions such as:

-announcing the Vision of the Desirable Future that animates the SCRM/ the vision of God for creation
-narrating the Story of the Struggle with Visions of False Futures/ the story of humanity's rejecting that vision, and God's continuing passion and strategy for a pursuit of his rebellious human creatures and their communities
-highlighti…