Showing posts from May, 2017
Herma and Herman Neutics on the History of Recent Biblical Interpretation
Actually, truth be told we found this on Lawson Stone's facebook page and was so taken with it we wanted to share it with you. It's broadbrush but we think its  good summary to keep in mind. (Used with permission.)
"First we killed God (divine inspiration) and were left with ancient literature; and then we killed the authors and were left with just the "text" as autonomous literary art (new criticism); then we killed the text and ended up with mere language (Structrualism); then we killed the language and ended up with the Reader As God (Reader Response Criticism) and finally killed the reader and ended up with the text as a blunt instrument (Deconstruction, Post-modernity)."
That's not to say there's nothing to be learned from these other approaches. On the contrary, there is much of value in them. However, when biblical interpretation is reduced to one or other of them, …

Resisting Trump with Revelation (32)

The Millennium: Rev.20:1-6
Revelation 20:1-3
Remember the flow of the story since the end of ch.11 in terms of enemies of God and God’s people: Dragon (ch.12)/Beasts (ch.13)/Seven Bowls of Wrath (chs.14-16)/Great Harlot (chs.17)/Destruction of Great Harlot (ch.18)/Destruction of Beasts (ch.19)/Destruction of Dragon (ch.20).Each divine opponent is introduced and the destruction of each is narrated in reverse order. We are now up to the Dragon’s demise.
This structuring in parallel reverse order alerts us to see each of these events as a different aspect of the exhausting of God’s wrath with the seven bowls and not chronologically sequential scenes. Thus, it is likely that Rev.20:1-7 re-narrates the (almost) battle scene Rev.19:11-21 with its focus on the fate of the Dragon. He is bound by a mighty angel and locked into the abyss for 1000 years (or, following Revelation’s symbolism a complete time under God’s control).
What is this 1000-year period tucked in between these two accounts of th…

Jesus "Christ"

Herma and Herman Neutics on Jesus "Christ"
One way we domesticate the biblical message is to regard "Christ" as simply Jesus' last name. It is not. "Christ" means "anointed one," Messiah. The special agent God would send to rescue his people, restore them to world primacy, and rule over the nations. By calling Jesus "Christ" we signal we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is that special agent. Yet not in the way expected.
-he rescued his people by his nonviolent life, his death, and his resurrection, thus redefining power and the nature of his "people."
-he restores this people to world primacy equipping and commissioning them to love and serve others rather than lording it over them.
-he rules the nations as the victorious "slaughtered Lamb" (Rev.5:6), is such an oxymoron be allowed.

Yes, friends, calling Jesus the Christ means all this and more and we ought to be mindful of that meaning when we call him that.

God or YHWH

Herma and Herman Neutics: God or YHWH
God is the generic name of the Bible's deity. YHWH (Yahweh) is the covenantal, personal name of that deity. He revealed it to Moses at the burning bush prior to the Exodus from Egypt and Israel becoming a nation under God. We ought to keep that in mind these days when we promiscuously throw around the word "God." It might behoove us to do as Israel did and call our God by his "given" name, YHWH. Especially as in the New Testament Jesus is often called "lord" or kurios, the Greek word that translates YHWH in the Greek Old Testament. [Actually it translates the word that Jews. spoke in place of the unutterably holy YHWH,]
God's purpose is to draw ever nearer to his people. Granting them his personal name YHWH was an unfathomable act of grace and intimacy. Israel revered and treasured it. Since his Son bears that same name it seems both churlish and foolish to spurn that gift and keep on blathering about "G…

5 Reasons the Ascension Matters

August 27, 2012August 26, 2012Marc CortezFeatured, Theology

[W]hy do heroes ride off into the sunset? Wouldn’t it be better if they stayed? Who wants a hero who skips town as soon as the crisis is over? The hard stuff is what comes next. Sure you beat up the big bad guy, but what about all the little ones? What about all the problems you didn’t fix? What about the daily grind of living in a broken world? Look at you on your cool horse. Who do you think is going to clean up all that poop it left behind?
Forget the sunset. I want a hero who sticks around, not one who takes off.
But isn’t that exactly what Jesus did? His people waited thousands of years for him to come. And finally, the Messiah arrived. Then….bam! He’s gone. One minute he’s there with the disciples, and then “he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9).
He ascended. He left.
I can just picture the disciples standing there, staring into the sky like a bunch of kids watching all thei…

Resisting Trump with Revelation (31)

the great battle – revelation 19
Revelation 19:1-10: From the Destruction of Babylon to the Marriage of the Lamb
Celebration is the name of the game with the destruction of Babylon. The dragon’s proxy through the beast, the great city, has fallen. Swift and complete has been its destruction. That blood it shed of Jesus’ witnesses and followers has worked its strange alchemy destroying Babylon and, at the same time, opening the door for its redemption. Grimsrud is right: “God’s method of gaining justice in relation to Babylon through persevering love even in the face of violent bloodletting by the structures of domination. And this justice will result in the destruction of the powers of evil and the healing of the kings of the earth and the nations.”[1]
A “great multitude ( Rev.7),” the twenty-four elders, and the four living creatures join forces for a massive unrestrained display of praise and worship.
The judgment and destruction of the great city also heralds the time of the end, the …

Cross and Resurrection in Christian Living

A couple of days ago Michael Bird wrote what I take to be the most important post I’ve seen in a long time. It’s titled “Living the Victorious Christian Life?” ( It’s a no-holds-barred, no-quarter given expression of that “not much loved” tradition (Moltmann) of the theology of the cross. Scrubbed free of sentimentality and false expectations (“Does it mean having sin conquered, success in your ministries, a fruitful spiritual life, healthy relationships, onward and upward all the time?”), Bird takes the cross as the “means and model” of victory in the Christian life and then claims that “victory looks like defeat, it feels like despair, and it smells like death.” He follows with a litany a la 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 closing with a echo of Leonard Cohen that “Victory is a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
In the midst of all this living for God that “doesn’t look like victory . . . doesn’t feel like victo…

Living the victorious Christian life?

May 24, 2017 by Michael F. Bird0 Comments
A central tenet in New Testament proclamation is that Jesus Christ has won a victory for his people, the famous Christus Victor theme of the atonement, where sin, death, and the devil have been defeated. You find this view beautifully enunciated by Paul in Col 2:13-14:
13 When you were dead because of the things you had done wrong and because your body wasn’t circumcised, God made you alive with Christ and forgave all the things you had done wrong. 14 He destroyed the record of the debt we owed, with its requirements that worked against us. He canceled it by nailing it to the cross. However, I’ve been wondering of late, how does this express itself in practice? What does it mean to live a victorious Christian life? Does it mean having sin conquered, success in your ministries, a fruitful spiritual life, healthy relationships, onward and upward all the time?
What is it? What does victory look like when worked out in the daily exercise of ministry …

Is Christ the Center of Scripture?

Herma and Herman Neutics: Is Christ the Center of Scripture?
Most Christians I suspect would answer “yes” in some sense to my title question. But that “in some sense” contains a diversity of meanings. Some of the key questions that move us toward an answer to what sense is Christ the center of scripture include:
-Does every passage somehow speak of Christ? -Is he the “hermeneutical key” that unlocks the mystery and meaning of scripture? -What about passages that seem to contradict what we know of God through Christ?
According to Luke, Jesus explains to the disciples after Easter, the two on the Emmaus road and those gathered in Jerusalem, everything in scripture that relates to him and what has happened to him (24:25-27, 44-49). In John Jesus asserts that the scriptures point to him (5:39-40). This does not mean, however, that every passage somehow speaks of Christ or to the circumstances of his life even if they point to him in more general ways.
If he is the “hermeneutical key” to the Bi…

Resisting Trump with Revelation (30)

the fall of babylon (Revelation (18)
Rev.17 details the “mystery” of the harlot, the beast, Rome. Only to eyes of faith does the true reality of this figure disclose itself. If you take the blue pill the glitz and glamor, power and prosperity will be what you see. If you take the red pill, however, you will see what John shows you, for Revelation is the red pill par excellence. This illustration from the movie “The Matrix” is a perfect example of how this book works. It unveils, or x-rays, the surface of things so the community of faith can carry on with a sure sense of the deep truth of God and the world it has been called to bear witness in.
Rev.18 details in horrible detail the demise of this figure. A great angel announces Rom’s fall, declaring it a wilderness, a haunt of every foul thing, who has polluted and deceived the earth with it oppression, injustice, and cruelty (18:2-3.
Another heavenly voice calls God’s people out of Rome. This is not a physical retreat or withdrawal. That…

Huxley or Orwell in 21st c. America?

"What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting plea…

Everythng You Need to KNow About the Bible is in Revelation 21-22!

Herma and Herman Neutics on Reading from the End
Perhaps you've been told not to jump ahead and read the end of a story, particularly a whodunit because it spoils the reading experience. And that mostly true, I suppose. But I heard Herma say one day, "You know, everything I need to know about the Bible is in Revelation 21-22."
"Surely you jest," I replied.
"No," she said, "not really. Maybe a little exaggeration but I think its true."
"Okay, I'll bite," replied Herman. "What do you mean?"
'It's pretty simple, really. We don't read the Bible primarily for aesthetic enjoyment (though we should probably do more of that than we do). We read it to gain some kind of direction or insight into faithfully for God, right? Well, then, our reading will be rather aimless until we know what God is doing and where God is taking us and history. Only if we know what God's up to can we live with direction, intention, …
Reading the Old Testament as a Christian Book
The Old Testament is the Hebrew Bible. At least taken by itself it is. But when the church added the New Testament to it, it became a Christian book. But what does that mean?  How does it effect the way we read it?
Herman likes to make a point of how much of it there is - way more than the New Testament. It must have some vital role to play in shaping Christian understanding if the church chose to put it together with the NT. That means we cannot ignore or neglect it as Christians started doing in the second century and in too many circles continue to do to this day. One has only to remember that this is what the Nazis did in Germany as part of their program of rebuilding the German nation of pure Aryan blood. We forget or neglect the Old Testament to our hurt!
So, how do we (Christians) read the Old Testament?
1. as part of the one story of God with his creation and creatures. It is chapter 1 of a 2 chapter story. The latter chapter is u…

Resisting Trump with Revelation (29)

The Great Harlot (Revelation 17)

As the bowls of wrath cycle brings home to us the finality, universality, and horror of divine judgment it concludes: “God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath.” Here the vision brings this symbol in greater focus.
The historical Babylon is long gone at this point but its symbolic value as “the” Empire continued on and is here applied to Rome. For us today the Roman Empire is long gone but “Empire: has not vanished. We live in one today in America (which is our focus of concern). Babylon = Rome = America = future empires. That’s how we have to read this symbolism today.
We met the Beast in Rev.13 (actually the two Beast; one from the sea, another from the earth). They are the Dragon’s minions. “In the Spirit” the Seer is taken to the “wilderness”and enabled to perceive the true nature of this Beast. “Harlot,” “prostitute,” and “whore” are what John sees. Ugly words; ugly reality. These terms are not directed to women…
Home»The World Together» How did political progressives think they were Anabaptists? How did political progressives think they were Anabaptists? May 15, 2017 by Let me tell you the story about how many politically progressive Christians came to think they were Anabaptists. (I’m mainly talking about post-evangelical progressives rather than traditional mainline progressives.) To recap, I’ve made the argument that many progressive Christians believe they are Anabaptists when, in fact, they are Niebuhrians. This truth was exposed with the election of Donald Trump. The rise of Trump has politically energized progressive Christians in ways that are hard to reconcile with Anabaptist theology and practice. Again, this is no judgment of Anabaptist theology or of all the political activism of progressive Christians. Not at all. This is just a description of the disjoint between political theology and political praxis. Most progressive Christians want to be politically engaged. Very…

Art, Passion, and Breaking the Rules

Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. – Pablo Picasso
Vincent Van Gogh is widely known today as a typically eccentric artist. He might not have invented Impressionism, but he was the first to paint stars swirling uncontrollably in the night sky, or to depict sunflowers as golden explosions, or the sky on fire above a wheatfield. His pictures were vivid, wild, daring, chaotic, full of bright yellows and deep blues.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and be surrounded by a room full of his work – SunflowersIrisesAlmond BlossomThe Bedroom and Potato Eaters – you’ll know the powerful visceral effect it can have. And yet, if you go to the 2nd floor to the “Van Gogh Close Up” exhibit you’ll find scores of meticulous drawings of hands and feet made by Vincent when he was beginning to learn art. And then it dawns on you – Vincent didn’t simply pick up a brush and start painting A Starry Night. He took boring art classes.…
Herma and Herman Neutics on the Gospels
Why do we have four gospels rather than one? Apparently one gospel was not enough! You see, the gospels are more like portraits than photographs. When we treated them like photographs it made sense to try and blend them all together into in one mega-photo. Tatian, a second-century church leader, tried to do just that with his Diatessaron. We call it a harmony of the gospels. Problem is, you can't make everything in the gospels fit into one! Not without twisting some of the details and data out of shape.
After many efforts at making this one mega-photo, we finally realized there are four gospels for a reason. And we started to read them more like portraits. Portraits attempt the capture the artist's view of the subject. His or her choices of background, use of color, attention to some details rather than others all matter to a portrait. Different artists will do all this differently and will produce an interpretation of the subject that …

A New Writing Project Begins!

(Here's the first paragraph)
It All Began With a Typo!
A few days ago I was trying to type "Bonhoeffer" but ended up with "Bonoheffer." I laughed, corrected it, and went on. The misspelling stayed with me, however. A few hours later I was musing about what a conversation between Bonhoeffer and U2 might yield. Now, a few days later, I am beginning to undertake that project. I am a retired Presbyterian (USA) pastor, formed theologically and pastorally by Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and John Howard Yoder, musically by U2. I'm a generalist, not an expert in these matters; a pastor who has always felt called to stand with one foot in the academy and one in the church and one in the culture (yes, I know that's three feet, but bear with me!).[1] I’m not trying to create a work of scholarship nor break any new ground. Just host a conversation these two formative influences not only in my life but in the lives of many in our culture and world.

[1] If this soun…
It's the Neutics (Herma and Herman) Again!
We promised some further thoughts on the Bible as a love letter to us. Here they are.
James McGrath, biblical scholar and popular blogger, says not. Recently he posted this on his blog. “Few assumptions prevent people from understanding the Bible as much as the idea that it is a love letter from God to them. Every part of that – that God wrote it, that it is a love letter, and that it is written with you in mind – is badly mistaken, and so the combination thereof creates a lens that radically distorts and obscures the Bible.” ( On the other hand, no less a theologian than Dietrich Bonhoeffer apparently did so describe the Bible. One of his students remembers this from him: "There, before the church struggle, he said to us at the new Alexanderplatz, with a simplicity like old Tholuck might have once used, that we should not forget…