Friday, May 16, 2014

Godzilla - in concept and story

Arguing with my friends about Godzilla in concept. I have not seen the new one, but here are some thoughts:

~ Why do they keep rebooting it? Has there ever been a good one? There must be something really compelling to story-tellers about it, but they have all been not good.

~ I think there is something beyond giant beasts destroying everything. That is not the compelling part of Godzilla. It is something outside of us with the power to destroy us. It is about the human ability to overcome.

~ The story is better than graphics. And there is something that deeply resonates with us. Too bad it's always awful.

~ Let's just say, it should be better than it is. They never are, but it should be. It is like lasagna to me. When I think of the perfect food, I think of lasagna, but it never matches up to my ideal. Godzilla is like Plato's ideal forms - when we see it we see something almost perfect but unable to make the leap to perfection. It pales in comparison to what is in us and what we know it could be.

Godzilla is more primal. She is the beast of our nightmares but the screen version is never really as terrifying as we want to be afraid.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Baptism of Politics and Terrorists

"If I were in charge, they would know that water-boarding is how we baptize terrorists."

In case you didn't know, former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said this very recently at an NRA convention.

In the most non-partisan way, this makes my skin crawl on so many levels. I hope it does yours too. Here are a few reasons why:

(1) Baptism is one of the most important sacraments of our sacred faith. It marks the beginning of our life following Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit as we publicly identify with his teachings by symbolically dying and rising with him.

(2) Jesus, our Lord, willfully laid down his life in self-giving love for the whole world against the tyranny of an empire hell-bent on power, wealth, comfort, and fame. Yet a major political leader connects that self-giving sacrifice of Jesus and the Church to the national policy of torturing perceived enemies.

(3) The grace of God is being used to legitimize violence against our enemies when Jesus clearly says, "I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven..."

Our religion, our faith, our God is being politicized to manipulate us and to perpetuate violence on our behalf - all in the name of Jesus. Worst yet, sometimes I think we're falling for it.

God have mercy on us.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter 2014 Reflection - Two Angels, Weeping, and the Temple

"But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher)" (John 20:11-12).

There are so many Easter significances that should roll through our mind. Jesus, being raised forever as the sign of the new age and eternal life, has paved the way through sin and death to God's Kingdom. First century Jewish women were chosen by God to have the resurrection revealed to the them. The early church referred to this day as "8th day" because it was the beginning of forever. The list could go on.

What I can't get out of my mind this year are the angel appearances in each gospel account. In Matthew (ch. 28), the angel comes down like lightening and thunder with a mega -earthquake, sits above the rock like the Bethlehem star at the beginning of the Gospel,  the sight of this angel causes the soldiers of death to fall down like dead people, and the angel commissions the two Marys to be the first evangelists of the Gospel. This angel gets all the lines in Jesus' post-resurrection scene.

The Mark version has a young man in a white robe sitting on the right side of the tomb. The group of women find this person as they come to do their burial duty. The identity of this young man is unknown, let alone we don't even know if this is an angel or not. He commissions the women to spread the good news but the short version of this gospel has the women fearfully disobeying.

Luke also mentions a group of women taking care of the business of dying with their spices and anointings. As they are in the empty tomb, two angels suddenly appear and tell them that this was all foreshadowed by Jesus. Luke plays up the marginalization of women by having the disciples initially disbelieve these faithful few.

Finally, John has something more to get to. Mary, alone, immediately tells the disciples and Peter immediately runs to the tomb. But after Peter and the "beloved disciple" leave, Mary remains weeping alone. As she stoops down to look in the tomb, she sees two angels strategically placed where Jesus was. They ask her one question, "Why are you weeping?" This word "weeping" occurs in a few strategic places and draws our memories back to John 16:

"Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:20-22). 
After the angels speak and she replies, she turns and sees "the gardener." A similar exchange happens with the gardener about weeping and Jesus' whereabouts until Jesus hauntingly says just her name, "Mary." We remember John 10, "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me." She lovingly calls him teacher and becomes the first person in history to see the risen Lord.

The Angels 
The Angels perform different theological functions in each account. Each Gospel has a theological bone to pick with the angels, their words, and locations. This year, John's angels have given me the most thought. First, unlike Matthew's account where there is one angel who steals the scene, there are two angels with one line (in stereo?).  

"Why are you weeping?" - This question is so important. First, it draws our attention back to Lazarus' tomb when Mary, the mourning Jewish friends, and Jesus weep at the death of Lazarus. In chapter 11, Jesus is "the resurrection and life" able to raise Lazarus from the dead. This helps us see that Jesus' isn't missing -  he's risen. This idea also points back to John 16 to help us recall Jesus' words about his leaving and returning, why it is good and necessary, and how our tears will turn to joy (see above).

"They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."- For the Gospel of John, this question is so ironic. Through the whole gospel the religious leaders who hated Jesus continually asked where Jesus came from. This faithful women asks where Jesus went. The first try to discredit Jesus, the second wants to be with him. And this faith allows her to immediately encounter Jesus.

Jesus as the Temple
If you remember the Old Testament descriptions of the temple - in the center was the Holy of Holies. Here was the room where God was. In the room was a chest called "the Ark of the Covenant" - "Ark" seems to be a fancy word for "box." In the box was a jar of Manna, Aaron's staff, and the 10 Commandment tablets. On top of the Ark there were two Angels at each end facing each other. God says concerning this, "You shall put the mercy-seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. There I will meet you, and from above the mercy-seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all my commands..." (Exodus 25). 

What does this have to do with Easter? A major theme in the gospel of John is that Jesus is the embodiment of God's eternal life. To begin his ministry, Jesus clears the temple and then makes his boldest Easter claim that eventually leads to his death, "Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken" (John 2). Jesus' burial in chapter 19 gives a ton of allusions to this temple theme, but nothing is more striking than these angels. Like the Ark of the Covenant, Mary sees "two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet." Where the Synoptic Gospels speak of Jesus' temple work with the tearing of the temple curtain (Mt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38; Lk 23:45), John's Gospel records no such event. Instead, John places these two angels at the head and feet where Jesus' dead body was. John uses these angels to remind us that Jesus is more than a dead man brought back to life - Jesus is the new temple of God.

What does this mean for us? For the world? Jesus' death and resurrection brings about the New Creation in such a way that God is revealed and encountered most fully in Jesus Christ. The temple, a place where we brought our sacrifices, atoned for our sins, and sought God, now gets eclipsed by Jesus. Jesus is the place where our sins are atoned. Jesus is the place where we meet God. Our conception of God is no longer confined by the box buildings and blood of animals. God is no longer "over there" somewhere and there is no longer a payment required to be near and with God. We are free of the tyranny of sin and death, more so, we are free from the notion that God is distant and with "those" people. These are the ideas that hinder us from experiencing a full life with God and others, but now, God, through the Holy Spirit, lives in us. God is for us and with us.

May we be free from any notion that God is far away and confined to the religious elite. May our weeping be turned to joy as we are released from sin and death, as we see Jesus' victorious and redeeming work. May we seek the Lord and hear him call our name. And may we come to experience the Easter blessing of continually dwelling in and abiding with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What is Good about Good Friday? Exegesis and Commentary on John 19:38-42

 Below is a my exegesis/commentary on Jesus' Burial scene in John 19:38-42. This is the scripture chosen for Year A from BCP  for Good Friday.

 Background on Good Friday
         Good Friday exists in the Triduum of the Paschal Season. St. Augustine calls the Triduum, beginning Thursday evening (Maunday) and ending Easter evening, “the three most sacred days.”[1]  Moreover, Good Friday was early on a commemoration and veneration of the Cross as noted in Egeria, Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose and Augustine. In fact, Holy Week may be the one true apostolic observance because of its orientation around the Jewish dating and the lunar calendar.[2]  Good Friday also plays prominently in the early baptism ritual where catechumens were often prepared for the ritual and brought into the prayers of the people. Also, traditionally this has been a time where, in the prayers of the people, there has been a concentrated time of prayer for the Emperor. As part of the season of Lent, and definitely in Holy Week, weddings have been historically forbidden. Finally in the observance aspects, since Friday was already practiced as a stationary fast, Good Friday took on a greater level of fasting. There is no consensus in the early church about how long, some fasting all week, some fasting 40 hours (the night before and all day), etc. One thing is for sure - the people fasted.

         As we enumerate the observances, practices, and traditions we fail to ask the central question – what makes Good Friday good? The traditional liturgical practices all want to point towards Easter. The fasting, the delayed baptisms, the mourning, the praying all convey a sense of being unfulfilled. I think the hymns are a place where the goodness of this Friday is brought to light. St. Cosmos the Melodist (c. 760) writes/sings:
“You, Jesus Christ, were consubstantial
With this our perishable clay
And, by assuming earthly nature,

Exalted it to heavenly day.
Amidst Caesar’s subjects Thou, at his decreeing
Obeyed and was enrolled: our mortal race
To sin and Satan slave, from bondage freeing
Our poverty in all points did embrace
And by that Union did combine
The earthly with the All-Divine”
Charles Wesley can follow in the lines of Gregory of Nazianzus and Martin Luther in worshiping God on the cross when he writes:
“GOD of unexampled grace, Redeemer of mankind
Matter of eternal praise. We in thy passion find…
Endless scenes of wonder rise, 
            From that mysterious tree,
Crucified before our eyes, 
            Where we our Maker see:
Jesus, Lord, what hast thou done?
                    Publish we the death divine,
           Stop, and gaze, and fall, and own,
   Was never love like thine

Never love nor sorrow was,
Like that my Savior showed:
See him stretched on yonder cross,
And crushed beneath our load!
Now discern the Deity,
Now his heavenly birth declare!
Faith cries out, ' 'Tis He, 'tis He,
My God, that suffers there!'”
The shameful rejection of the cross serves as the victory of God. This is the locus of our salvation. This is greatest revelation of God’s love. This is the only example for our lives of discipleship.

Book of Common Prayer, Year A, Good Friday - Gospel: John 19:38-42

Gospel: John 19:38-42 - Exegetical Observations
1.  Joseph of Arimathea – this tradition is found in all the gospel accounts. In Matthew and John he is a secret “disciple of Jesus.” In Luke and Mark he is part of “the council” and was “looking for the Kingdom of God” What council is he apart of? Why, in John, is he not mentioned to be apart of the council? Is this to distance him from the Jews? Probably not sense Nicodemus shows up, but his secret discipleship is because of the mean old Jews. The Greek word for “Arimathea” also brings up occurrences from 1 Samuel 1 as the birthplace of Samuel (vv. 1, 19). Any figural connections?
2.  Pilate – Pilate gets a more sympathetic representation in John. All of chapter 18 and some of chapter 19 portray this leader as trying to get Jesus off the hook, dialoguing about truth, and, as in this verse, being kind in the midst of tragedy (brought on by the Jewish crowd in this Gospel).

3.  Soma – this seems to be connected, usually, with dead bodies of humans and living or dead with animals. We have a reference in chapter 2 with Jesus calling his soma the temple. I wonder, in the context of all this “custom,” spices, linens, etc, if we are getting a picture of priests working at the temple? Is there other priestly language? Could this be the Samuel/Joseph of Arimathea reference? (Probably too far, but worth checking out). In John 20:12, we, with the woman, see two angels sitting where Jesus’ head and feet were before the resurrection. Is Jesus’ body the cherubic throne of the Holy of Holies? Is it his dead body, or in 20:12, his risen body? Is it his absent body? Chapter 2 and 20:12 seem to form an inclusio around soma if my haunch is at all correct.
  • Also interesting – in verses 38 and 40 – Jesus’ body is mentioned 3 times. But in 42, it is not his “body” that is laid but simply Jesus.
4.  “Nicodemus, who had first come to him by night…” – it must be day still. This is supported by 19:31 where the Jews ask for the killing process to be sped up so that the bodies wouldn’t be there when Sabbath began and the burial wouldn’t be work. Moreover, in themes of light and dark, especially juxtaposed to Joseph’s secret discipleship, Nicodemus must be coming into the light both in believing in Jesus and public declaration of his faith.

5.  Canonically speaking – could we call “myrhh” an inclusio for the Gospel sense it only appears here and the beginning of Matthew. It would seem to connect Jesus’ incarnation and death, which both illumine the other in powerful ways. 
  •    Bringing together the incarnation and death of Jesus is not uncommon in theology or hymns. Wesley writes, “He left his Father’s throne above, so free, so infinite His grace/ Emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race/ ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free; For, O my God, it found out me!”

6.  Litra(n) – occurs twice in John, and nowhere else in the NT, is found here for the hundred/seventy-five “pounds” of aloe-myrrh mixture. In John 12, the other occurrence, Mary takes the “pound” of expensive perfume and anoints the feet of Jesus, wiping it with her hair. The setting in John 12, Lazarus’ death and resuscitation, this anointing, Judas (the betrayer), Jesus predicting his own death, and, “the next day” Palm Sunday – the beginning of Holy Week. Clearly Jesus death and burial preparation is in view for both occurrences.

7.  Why is there so much spice and mixture mentioned and brought? Whether it is 75 pounds (CEB, NASB) or about 100 pounds (NRSV) that seems like a lot. Is that usual or is this for Jesus the King (John’s Jesus - see note on myrrh and Magi above)?

8.  “Bound” – Jesus’ body is bound here. We see a couple occurrences, the first being Lazarus’ bound body and Jesus’ command to unbind him (Jn 11). In John, we also see Jesus being bound in ch. 18. Jesus was also sent bound to Caiaphas the high priest. I wonder if “bound” in the death sense (here and ch. 11) for this author is being bound (in the captive sense) for death. Is Jesus being bound/captive for Death (personified)? I know it is custom to bind the dead, but I can’t seem to shake the notion that Jesus is defeating death by bringing the antidote – eternal life. Death and perishing are the enemies of God in this Gospel.

9.  “Custom”/ethos – this seems like it would be the word that would tie my priest/temple theory together in regards to Jesus’ body. The first use of ethos in the NT is connected to “priesthood” in Luke 1:9. Unfortunately John doesn’t have any other uses of the term. In Acts it becomes a key term “ethos of Moses” as Paul gets accused of violating these.

10.Kepos – “Garden” (more like "orchard") seems to be used here with some strategy. First, I would want to check to see if the same word is used in the LXX for Adam and Eve’s garden in Gen. 2. At first glance it would seem that this isn’t the case. Chapter 2 uses “paradise” and it is translated garden – or so it seems. Second, I would like to follow the word in John. In this account, the disciples enter a garden at the beginning of 18 (the first occurrence). This is where Judas betrays Jesus. Peter’s denial of Jesus is connected to the valley when a family member of the ear-cut victim recognizes Peter from the valley the night before (second occurrence). And now (third and last occurrence – unless you count 20:15) Jesus is placed in a garden. In a very figural reading, I wonder if this garden serves as a reversal of Adam and Eve. Jesus enters the garden, Judas betrays and Peter denies (the sins) and Jesus’ dead body is laid here. Later, the resurrected Jesus will be confused for the gardener (20:15 – kepouros). If the Genesis garden is being recalled, and I am critical that it is, it could be a theological interpretative move for a reversal of Adamic curse.  But more than reversal, Jesus is the gardener of new creation and this garden serves as the seed-bed where the grain of wheat goes to die so that it can rise again and bear much fruit (John 12 – “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”).

11. “Tomb” – of course we see the connection with Lazarus’ miracle, complete with a stone on top of it. Chapter 20 has 7 occurrences alone as the tomb seems to be a central point in the narrative, mostly to do with its emptiness. Jesus is in the tomb for precisely one verse (19:42). John’s Jesus is smooth like that.
  •  I wonder about the “newness” of the tomb. I would like for it to theologically signify new creation, but I doubt that. It seems more connected to the validity of Jesus’ resurrection. There are no other remnants of dead bodies, there was one and it is now missing. Also, the high Christology of Jesus and reverence therein probably makes this tomb unique for Jesus. Luke and Mark agree again and do not mention “new” in reference to the tomb. Matthew, again, agrees with John on the newness.
12. “They laid Jesus there” – tithemi is a pretty common word, but in John it does seem to occur in relatively significant passages. John 13 and 15 we have the connection of “laying down” of lives. First Peter refuses to hear of Jesus’ departure and swears fidelity through his willingness to die for Jesus. Second, Jesus equates love and “laying down” a life for friends. But the place where I see the most resonance is in John 10 where Jesus repeatedly (four times) says that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep and of his own accord. More important the Shepherd lays it down so that he can take it up again. Jesus being laid here, in this tomb, seems to be parsed through the good shepherd sermon in John 10. We may be seeing Jesus prepared, spiced, bound, and laid in a fresh tomb behind a huge rock, but it is all under Jesus’ control – he is laying down his life and he will, in all hope, raise it up again. Even in the most hopeless of moments, Jesus’ burial, in John’s Gospel at least, there seems to be some hope.

13. No mention of “stone” until chapter 20 – and only once (with the exception of Lazarus’ stone). Its only reference –it’s “taken” away.

Gospel: John 19:38-42 - Theological Observations
1.  Discipleship with Joseph of Arimathea (JoA)  and Nicodemus – these folks, previously connected with the opposition, are no longer acting as foes of Jesus. Though a lot of ink has been spilled over whether or not these two were true disciples, it is compelling to me that they publicly associated themselves with Jesus in his death. It is not coincidental that the exalted Jesus drew people to himself. And so, our discipleship journeys in Lent begin with hesitation, with equal distrust, with the recognition that there is something to this Jesus character. But in Good Friday, the exalted Jesus draws us to himself in a way where we honor in a similarly royal way. Nic and JoA remind us of Mary in ch. 12 who anoints Jesus’ feet and wipes them with her hair. Our worship and following of this exalted one requires much from us. The woman offered 300 denarii worth of nard. These men offered fresh tombs, fresh linens, and 60-100 pounds of spices. More importantly, each of these laid aside pride, dignity, reputation, and/or concern for safety to be with Jesus.

2.   Jesus' body is focused on so much in this text. 3 times it is mentioned and there are only 5 occurrences in John. Jesus' body is obviously what our attention is being brought to. It is significant that it is only in the tomb for one verse because John’s Jesus is divine, and the grave only holds him for a short time. Holy Saturday isn’t even alluded to. Here Jesus is both dead and yet still reverenced and focused on. There is something about the body of Christ that I think needs to be fleshed out by larger contexts. If John is the larger context, there could be a temple metaphor here. Aramithea could be a deep reference to Samuel. At the very least, chapter 2 and 20 outline Jesus’ body as the temple, the first being a direct correlation and the second potentially being the cherubic throne. Certainly Hebrews will flesh it out from a lectionary approach, but that is for my intertext. With Good Friday as the theme, we can feel the tension expressed in this text. Jesus is dead. Here is his body. Yet, it was the exalted Christ and his body that brought about these disciples (JoA and Nic). He is being reverenced by fresh tombs and extravagant amount of spices. Jesus’ fresh tomb lends itself to Jesus’ body being unlike any other dead body. Though he bleeds and waters is brought forth, this is a unique body (Origen). His death and body are meaningful, they are the stuff of goodness for Good Friday.

3.  Nicodemus comes in the daylight… Good Friday, as the locus of salvation is the grand rising of the sun. It is the revelation of God who is light. Especially in John’s gospel where Jesus continually pointed to the his own crucifixion as his exaltation that would draw people to him (John 3 - with Nicodemus). Theologically, the cross illumines the will and way of God. In my own theme, “from the wilderness to the cross” we focus on Jesus as unique author and bringer of life and kingdom, but also as the exemplar for how to live faithfully in the new paradigm. The goodness of Good Friday in the theologically significant notion of Nicodemus coming in the Light is that we too can now walk in the Light as Jesus was in the light (1 John). We come to him significantly in the daylight and to hell with our reputation and safety as our foes now becomes empire and religious fanaticism.

4.  The Garden is a significant theme in these later chapters of John. Ch. 18 initiates the reference where Jesus comes to pray. Judas’ betrayal takes place here. Peter’s denial is connected to garden as well (“last night in the Garden”). Yet Jesus is placed in this garden/orchard as his burial place and will even be mistaken for a gardener in the next chapter. It seems that in our time people have tried to make much of this, equating Garden with Eden and Jesus with New Adam. Certainly this would be a Pauline move. Cyril of Jerusalem typifies these two places separately. From the first, for him, comes sin and the second comes salvation. He does see trees as a unifying theme, but nothing much more. Later he will draw on John’s Jesus speaking of being the vine and this is where the vine is planted. If we are going to go this route, I would prefer a John 12 reference since there is already textual evidence to do so (litran). In this chapter Jesus speaks of a grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying -  he says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (Even the “bears” (phero) is the same word used of Nicodemus’ “bringing” the spice mixture – Jesus’ death brings about much fruit (i.e. Nicodemus’ transformation). The orchard-garden is the place where the grain of wheat “falls into the earth” – where it dies. Again, Jesus assures us that this is good in the grand scheme, for it will produce an abundance of fruit. The goodness is two fold in John 12 – Jesus death produces much fruit and it is the life to which he calls all his disciples.

5.    Laying down and taking up (tithemi) – Our section ends with Jesus’ body being laid in the tomb. It is ominous and final, at least at first glance. Jesus is dead. His body is placed in the tomb. Done. Jesus’ being ‘laid’ down here is mentioned twice in our section (41 & 42). Chapter 13 and 15 also have connections with laying down of life, the first being Peter’s and the second Jesus’ promise. John 10 has a 4-peat rapid-fire occurrence of Jesus laying down his life as the good shepherd. In all of this there is hope that it is not final. Even in our passage, the very historical reality that the women were coming back to do more work on the body after the Sabbath lends to the volatility of the situation. When placed in the larger Johannine text, this laying down of Jesus always is preliminary to him taking it back up. This is not final – though it is thorough and real. Jesus really dies, but he promised to rise. Even in our Good Friday/Lenten context, we have an Easter lens. We know the story, it is our hope and future. It cannot be understated that Jesus is dead, and this is for our glory. And we too must go through the pain of death both figurally and literally. But what Jesus lays down he will raise up. The death of Christ is necessary for our salvation, his resurrection for our glorification. Likewise, we must die to our lives. This is indescribably hard. But our hope is that Jesus will raise us up, first to “eternal life” and then resurrection in the last day. This is the whole paradigm that discipleship is predicated on. It is hard, it will kill us, but we will live holier and happier.

Commentary Work
Green, J. B. “Burial of Jesus” in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospels
  • Serves as transitional material, confirming the death of Jesus and preparing the reader for the empty tomb (88). 
  • Funerary Customs in Antiquity – Roman  
    • Burial was generally the norm with few exceptions, one of which was crucifixion. Often criminals were left on crosses to be eaten by birds as further deterrence for future lawbreakers. There is precedence for giving families the bodies on high festivals for burial (Philo, 89). 
  • Funerary Customs in Antiquity –Jewish 
    • Jews buried their executed criminals, but often without remembrance or allowing it to take place in family tombs 
    • There is strong evidence of a double burial. Buried once in a tomb and then, after 12 months of decomp, bones gathered and buried in family ossuary. 
  • Joseph of A 
    • Some traditions see this man as an enemy (see Acts 13:29), but Green sees Jesus’ death as the point of public declaration of faith for JoA and Nic. 
  • What sort of Burial? 
    •  Mark’s account is simple. Matthew adds clean linens and new tomb. John outdistances Matthew (and Luke) with the enormous amount of sweet smelling spices and aloe brought by Nic. This, coupled with the newness of the tomb, make Jesus’ burial a royal on.
Joseph of A and Nicodemus
  • John alone adds “a secret one for fear of the Jews.” JoA asked something out of the ordinary for both Jews and Romans in a way that “dissociated” himself with his Sanhedrin and showed sympathy for the Jews. It is not surprising that John’s Pilate gave in to the request he he, himself, pleaded for Jesus’ innocence (Beasley, 358) 
  • Nicodemus is a new addition with John. He must have gathered the spices and JoA the grave clothes. Quoting Hoskyns, “the two timorous believers are publicly and courageously drawn to the Christ after his exaltation upon the cross” (Beasley, 359). 
  • “Acknowledging Christ, when even his chosen disciples forsook him. In that extremity Joseph was no longer afraid, Nicodemus no longer ashamed” (Wesley).
Mixture of Myrrh/Spices/Aloes 
  • The weight is extravagant, but not uncommon for royalty. Nicodemus’ wealth is translated into reverence of King Jesus in the amount of spice brought for Jesus. Rabbi Gamaliel had 80 pounds burned by a follower, reported to have equated him to royalty (Beasley, 359). 
  • “a community that handles his crucified body in a royal way” (Maloney, 511). 
  • Nothing from Wesley or Beasley with the exception that Wesley wants to clarify that the cross wasn’t actually in the garden as the text is ambiguous. 
  • Though Jesus enters into the Garden with sinners and betrayers, “now he is surrounded by his new-found friends, a community that handles his crucified body in a royal way” (Maloney, 511). 
  • Paradise is where sin comes from, this garden is the source of our salvation. They are different and juxtaposed. But the latter redeems the former for Christ, through his death, is with the robber that day in paradise… this is where the vine of abiding is planted for our healing and growth (Cyril of Jerusalem).

Beasley-Murray, G. R. (1987). World biblical commentary: Orge R. Beasley-Murray. Waco: Word Books.

Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Green, J. B. “Burial of Jesus” in Dictionary of Jesus and Gospels.

Moloney, F. J., & Harrington, D. J. (1998). The Gospel of John. Collegeville, Minn: Liturgical Press.

Elowsky, J. C. (2007). John 11-21. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press.

Wesley’s Notes on the Bible.

Witherington, B. (1995). John's wisdom: A commentary on the Fourth Gospel. Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press.

[1] Ep. 55.14.24 as quoted in Jones, C. (1992). The Study of liturgy. (London: SPCK), p. 460.
[2] Study of Liturgy, 459.
*(For this assignment we were encouraged to use varied and wide-ranging sources)

James Cone

"No Christian can evade this responsibility. They cannot say that the poor are in poverty because they will not work, or they suffer because they are lazy. Having come before God as nothing and being received by God into the Kingdom through grace, the Christian should know that they have been made righteous (justified) so that they can join God in the fight for justice. Therefore, whoever fights for the poor, fights for God; whoever risks their life for the helpless and unwanted, risks their life for God. God is active in the lives of those who feel an absolute identification with all who suffer because there is no justice in the land."

~James Cone, "The Gospel of Jesus, Black People, and Black Power." (p. 45 - updated with inclusive language).

Friday, January 31, 2014

Hauerwas on Fasting

Hauerwas, S. (2006). Matthew. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press), p. 80.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Two dreams about My Grandfather and Faith

In honor of All Saints day I have been reminded of my paternal grandparents who we lost last year seven months and seven days a part. I haven't had many dreams of my grandmother and I find that strangely comforting. But I have had profound dreams about my grandfather. He was a simple man of few words and our relationship was always very distant as, I feel, most of his relationships were.

The first dream was while he was still alive, just after my grandmother died.

While my grandfather was in the hospital, the doctors told the family he had about two weeks left. Two days after hearing that news, my wife, children and I drove down from Seattle. 2 hours into our trip I got a phone call informing me that he had passed. The second dream was a few days after he died.

Unassuming Parousia and Inclusion
The dream began with my wife, Titus, and I living in a blue house in the middle of a grassy field. There was a knock at the door and our demeanor changed immediately to fear and panic. I grabbed a gun and had my family hide in another room as I answered the door. At the door stood another man and his wife asking for a place to stay. My default stance was distrust and I told them they could pitch a tent in our front yard. They were happy to do so as they also seemed paranoid. I  take this to be a symbol of the brokenness of humanity and the world.

All of a sudden there was a flash of light and I was in a crowd of people less than a hundred but more than fifty. We were in a glass dome about 500 feet in diameter. In the middle of the dome was a golden house. The house was small, maybe two bedrooms. It looked like it was built for a 60's suburb. The golden color was less gold and more brown mustard. There was a sidewalk in between two small, manicured yards and a mailbox at the end of the sidewalk.

The crowd and I stood looking at the house in confusion. The front door opened and Jesus walked out. The crowd gasped and fell prostrate as he walked to the end of the sidewalk. I, too, fell down and uncontrollably wept (this, falling at the feet of Jesus and weeping, is not an uncommon theme in my dreams). Jesus stooped down towards me, lifted my head and body with his hand, looked me in the eye, and with a slight, joyful laughter in his voice, said, "There is no need for that - I'm here now." I was overwhelmed with joy.

Immediately, as dreams do, I was on the outside of the crowd looking at others have similar experiences. Then my attention was drawn to the glass dome, or, more importantly, to the thousands of people on the outside of the dome looking in with melancholy faces. My heart broke. Soon enough I caught the face of my grandfather in the crowd outside. We looked at each other for what seemed like a long period of time with silence and stillness that spoke volumes. When all of sudden and without warning, automatic, sliding glass doors, like those at supermarkets, opened up and the outsiders flooded in with rejoicing and shouts. My grandfather and I hugged and my joy returned.

Pilgrim's Prayer

After my grandfather passed, my family spent considerable amounts of time cleaning up the house that my grandparents lived in for about 50 years. My dream begins here, in that process. In my dream my uncle Robert told me to go to my grandparents' house and take anything I wanted to have as a memento or any of my belongings that I had left there. When I first pulled up I saw this miniature 3-wheeled motorcycle near the water meter (which is not something any one in my family would have owned). I grab it and push it around the corner of the "old house" that my grandparents kept on the property. As soon as I rounded the corner, my grandmother walks over to me. And even though she had died about seven months before, in my dream I was not surprised at all. It was as if she hadn't died, which doesn't make sense to the logic of the dream as I was there to clean up the house left empty by their passing. She asked, "what are you doing with that motorcycle?"

I responded, "Robert said I could have it." As I finish the statement my grandfather walks around the corner. I am dumbfounded. He is supposed to be dead. We look at each other with the same understanding - both of us completely surprised at his standing there. We embrace and cry. My grandmother has no idea what is going on. I say, "I thought you were gone."

He tearfully looks at me and says these cryptic words, "If I have died already then don't worry about it, but if I am still lying in the hospital bed come to me and pray the Pilgrim's prayer over me." I assure him I will and the dream ends.

I love studying and reading theology and scripture, present and historical. I had never, in my conscious recollection, heard about a "Pilgrim's prayer." I knew that there probably had been many prayers for pilgrims, and, so, out of shear curiosity I decided to look it up. One of the most famous pilgrimages, still very active, is found in Spain and is called "The Way of St. James." The pilgrimage ends in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela, which is named after the Apostle James who, according to some legends, is buried there. There is an ancient prayer, the Pilgrim's Prayer, that is recited by pilgrims and reportedly offered in the Pilgrims' mass at the conclusion of the journey:

"O God, who brought your servant Abraham out of the land of the Chaldeans, protecting him in his wanderings, who guided the Hebrew people across the desert, we ask that you watch over us, your servants, as we walk in the love of your name to Santiago de Compostela.

Be for us our companion on the walk,
Our guide at the crossroads,
Our breath in our weariness,
Our protection in danger,
Our inn on the way,
Our shade in the heat,
Our light in the darkness,
Our consolation in our discouragements,
And our strength in our intentions.

So that with your guidance we may arrive safe and sound at the end of the Road and enriched with grace and virtue we return safely to our homes filled with joy.

In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen."

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Brief thought on Teenagers, Youth Culture, and Social Media

            In an online discussion group for Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian every single seminary student, with the exception of one, marked that technology, the internet, or social media was the biggest change since their teenage years. What is even more surprising is that this is coming from students who are as young as 23. The speed up and changing of technology and social media is so pervasive and shifting in our youth culture, and for that reason it deserves to be put under the microscope. I want to explore not only social media’s pervasive aspects into American youth culture, but also its volatility.
            First, it is no secret that the internet and, more specifically, social media has a very high use is in this country. According to Pew Research, “Fully 95% of those ages 12-17 use the internet. Eight in ten online teens use some kind of social media… Facebook, which attracts 77% of online teens.”[1] To basically sum that up, close to 75% of American teens are on Facebook alone. And this monolith shows no signs of stopping, except, of course, with American teenagers.
            Any teenager would gladly tell you’re their dislikes about Facebook, but they would tell them to you on Facebook. For the all the declining attitudes about Facebook, the American teenage demographic is only plateauing and not declining in their use of or signing up for facebook. [2][3] This is rather surprising considering the staggering amount of teenagers already on Facebook. But teens are diversifying their social media use for many different reasons. The top two reasons have to do with the monolithic culture of facebook and adults.
            Facebook may be too much for many American teenagers, with the information being shared, the relational aspects, and the other users. Teens report turning to other social media sites (i.e. Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and Vine) because of the constant need to be thoughtful about reputation or social interaction (“drama”).  “They …are drained by the ‘drama’ that they described as happening frequently on the site. The stress of needing to manage their reputation on Facebook also contributes to the lack of enthusiasm. Nevertheless, the site is still where a large amount of socializing takes place, and teens feel they need to stay on Facebook in order to not miss out.”[4]
            The second main reason youth are diversifying their time and interaction through social media is because of parent/adult participation in Facebook. . Pew Research reports, “In focus groups, many teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook. They dislike the increasing number of adults on the site…”[5] This should raise some eyebrows for parents and those who work with teens. In attempts to be relevant and connected to teenagers, teens are, for intents and purposes, leaving cyber-places of connection because of the mere fact that it is a place of connection with adults. What does it mean for parents, clergy, and youth leaders that teens want a place without them specifically? Should youth leaders be seeking to create or join parent-less spaces or helping the kids to act appropriately and with integrity when they are in spaces by themselves?
            While teens are always going to want to be in situations, places, and groups without the watchful eye of their ethical moderators, social media seems to be very precarious because of the anonymity and lack of experience from parents in being able to teach, inform, or interact. Continuing the dialogue, modeling appropriate technological behavior and guidelines, and entering into compelling “real-life” community with teens and peers may be good places to start as ever-increasing social media experiences present themselves.

[1] Madden, Mary, et. al. 2013. “Teens, Social Media, and Privacy.” Accessed from:

[2] ibid.

[3] Forbes article on teens leaving Facebook, “’Based on our data, that’s simply not true,’ [Zuckerberg] said. What may be true is that they’re not gravitating toward the service in increasing numbers anymore, but that’s just because ‘we’ve been fully penetrated in the teen demo for a while now,’ he said.” (

[4] Madden, accessed from:

[5] ibid.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Brilliance - Oh Gracious Light

I couldn't find the lyrics to The Brilliance's song "Oh Gracious Light," based loosely off one of the oldest Church hymns outside of the bible, if not the oldest, "Phos Hilaron" - so here they are:

O Gracious Light, so pure and bright
Dispel the darkness of our hearts
That by Your brightness we may know the light

Incarnate Word, grant that the light
Deep enkindled in our hearts
May shine forth and give us divine life

Dayspring of Life, true Light from light
Pour into every broken heart
Peace and virtue binded by the light

O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed
We sing Thy praises in our hearts
God of heaven, Giver of all life

Bring Your peace, hope, and love
Bring Your peace, Gracious One

O Gracious Light, so pure and bright
Dispel the darkness of our hearts
That by Your brightness we may know the light

In case any one wants the chords as well:

Verse chords
G                       C   G/B          Am   
O Gracious Light, so pure and bright
G              C            G/B    Am      G
Dispel the darkness of our hearts
        D                            Am                       G
That by Your brightness we may know the light

Chorus chords
                    C        G/B           Am
Bring Your peace, hope, and love               
                    C        G/B           Am        D    
Bring Your peace, Gracious One

Interlude: G    D     Em  C      G/B  Am


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stop believing in God

I have been noticing more and more this week that my friends are talking about "believing in God." Usually I think this discussion is a great thing, but lately I have been wondering if it is actually good at all.

Somewhere, in the mix of all the science and philosophy, enlightenment and post-modernism, "faith" has been merged with "belief." And, to be fair, I am sure belief is a part of faith somehow. But where the sacred scriptures talk about "faith in God" they rarely mean "belief in God." My sense is that the Bible spends little to no time at all talking about belief in God. And since we have a desire to talk about religion in dichotomies, theists vs. atheists, I feel that we are missing some key aspects about faith.

The simplest possible meaning for faith is trust.

Let that sink in.... .... .... ... can you already feel it? "I believe in God" is radically different than "I trust God." Isn't it? 

But this is where the rubber meets the road. Trust is where love happens. It is where relationship is. This is where our hopes, needs, desires, joys are met. We do God and our selves a disservice if we reduce the whole matter to a truth or opinion to be affirmed or "believed in." The God I know, the God who took on the flesh of humanity in the form of Christ and now dwells within our hearts as the Holy Spirit, does not need nor want us to "believe" but to have "faith." In fact, belief alone may actually hurt us more than help.

Look at it this way: do you believe in your mom or do you have faith in her? Of course she exists. You exist because she exists. But her faithfulness is another question entirely. Does she come through for you? Is she good to you? Does she love you? Is she reliable? Is she worthy of trust? These are the questions of faithfulness.

More so, belief does not require me to know you or even your mom. I can deduce the truth of her existence by the fact of your existence. But faith in your mom requires something altogether different - it requires a relationship and action. It is in knowing her and relying on her that I can come to trust her. So it with the Kingdom of God.

The greatest problem with believing in God is that belief alone allows us to objectify God. Belief allows us to make God into whatever we want whenever we want it. Scripture calls this idolatry. What is belief but a system of power and authority? When we decide to believe or not believe we are ultimately giving ourselves the power to recognize or not. But when we have faith/trust, we put ourselves in a position of vulnerability and weakness. It is in being vulnerable that we have genuine community and are nearest to the heart of God in Christ.

So let's reframe the conversation. No more "believing in" Jesus. That has got a lot of people going nowhere fast. Faith moves us. It shapes us. It defines us. It isn't just a characteristic we add on to our lives, but it transforms us. Faith makes waves in our lives. It causes us to act.

In teaching Christians about the deficiencies of belief alone, the apostle James says, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder" (James 2).

Here are the questions I am wrestling with as I think through what this all means:
  • What does "Jesus is Lord" mean through the lens of belief? Through the lens of faith?
  • What do positions of violence look like through faith? Why are we violent or support violence? Is it a lack of belief or trust?
  • What does charity look like through faith?
  • What does sacrifice look like?
  • What is happening in my life when I get unjustly angry, frustrated, or upset?
  • What would my daily life look like if I trusted rather than believed?
    • Beliefs need defending, but trusted relationships don't.
    • Would trusting allow me to operate from a more God-centered position or not? 
    • Would my eyes be more open to the Kingdom's abundance or to the world's perceived scarcity?

P.S.  In researching the etymology of "faith" and "belief" I came across a respected biblical scholar's thoughts on the same topic. It may be of some help:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Case for Commandments

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments... They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them" - Jesus (John 14).

It seems to be in vogue these days to want to talk about discipleship in the context of long-term transformation. Basically, the logic presents itself this way: as the Holy Spirit works in our lives over a long period of time, we will be better abled to love/forgive/reach/extend grace to/ give financially to - God and others.

The problem: the above statement is absolutely true. The wholer we become, the holier we can become through the power of the Spirit.

And for that reason we need counseling and small groups and worship and accountability partners and devotionals and prying questions and sermons. We need to grow and become whole. Our capacity at self-deception knows few bounds and our ability to be functionally broken is near limitless. We need to be transformed, to grow, to be whole.

The real problem with the above logic is that we can't afford to wait for our own healing before we interact with and minister to others. This is where the commandment becomes important.

Now, I am well aware that the existing generations have a knee-jerk reaction to anything involving commands and obedience. I know because of my own resistance to the ideas, but, nevertheless, we are presented with a scripture full of commands given to us - the imperfect humans beings we are.

Commandments serve, precisely, to meet us in our brokenness. When we become Christians, the veil is lifted from our hearts and we see Christ. We are being transformed from one degree of glory into another. But all the while during that transformation process, we are still accountable for our actions, our responses, our conduct. We are still called to be like Christ - and by "called" I mean commanded. You see, it is the commandment that trumps our transformation and brokenness. No matter where we are in the process, we are still called to obedience. We are not bound to our transformation for the ability to carry out the commands of Christ. And while our transformation may make it easier to obey, it doesn't do the obeying for us. In the same manner, our broken- and sinfulness doesn't have the last word in obeying an expressed command of God. The command trumps our sinfulness by being grace to us by allowing us, through the power of the Spirit, to move away from brokenness and sinfulness. We do not have to wait for perfection or fear our imperfection to obey the commands - the commands are there to help free us from ourselves.

Secondly, there is little transformation without obedience to the commandments. While it may be true that greater wholeness leads to greater holiness, it is also true that greater obedience to the commandments allows for greater wholeness and holiness. We will progress very little in our discipleship if we wait to follow the commands of God until they are easy for us. Commands become easy by practice and obedience - not necessarily by time or education. One only needs to look at the members of their own congregation. There are some who have been in the Church but a short time and their hearts are soft and open towards others. And then there are some who have been in the Church their whole lives and have hearts of stone. Time does not make us more mature or wise, experience and practice do. Likewise, while theological education is invaluable to any Christian, it does not secure our faithfulness to God. There are many people educated beyond their wildest dreams about scripture, theology, the Church, and God, and, yet, they have no faith to speak of at all.

Thirdly, commandments are in place because those things commanded are hard. If they were easy and only required us to become more mature then it would stand to reason that maturing in the faith should receive more weight. But that isn't the case. Commandments are commanded of things that God wants and we won't do if left to our own devises and ways. They go against our inherent nature. Maturity may produce right action, but it most likely won't - at least not by itself. The mere fact that commandments are commanded should give us pause as to their weightiness and difficulty. Their existence alone speaks contrary to who we were and points quietly to who we should become

Finally, the commandments generally try to get the focus off of our selves and on to God and others. This new logic of giving our personal healing priority places the focus back on ourselves. As big a fan as I am of psychology and counseling, which has helped me immensely and I could not recommend it enough, this new logic seems to be a part of the over-psychologizing of Christian discipleship where the self is the primary concern. We are all drawn to the metaphor of each of us being a cup that is so full of God's love that it spills over to others, but what happens when we aren't feeling all that full? Do we not love? The apostles tell us that love always perseveres - does it? By over-focusing on our selves, our journey, our transformation, and our boundaries, we have fallen into the old traps of sin and brokenness - namely, to focus on the self at the exclusion of others. Moreover, we have missed the one obvious function of the commands, which is to help us focus on our selves less. I am now wondering if the focus on long-term discipleship and transformation has not been the greatest cause of long-term discipleship and transformation. Our ancestors reported great and overwhelming instances of God's grace that helped them overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to our faith, and, yet, we imagine transformation taking decades.

For these reasons, and more, we should be leery of an ethic which over-emphasizes time and prioritizes the individual. Again, we all need individual healing and maturity - which requires time and somewhat of a prioritization of the individual. But it might be more worthwhile to focus on obeying the commandments of Christ. This just may be the greatest pathway to wholeness.

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Jesus (Matthew 28).

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Melting Elements and the evil spirits that roam the earth - 1 and 2 Peter

Below is something I wrote out in a discussion and thought it might be able to do some more good here as well:

2 Peter is a VERY difficult book to interpret. All scholars agree. The earth being laid bare at least means the earth survives. This stands with the creation account that the earth and creation are good and very good. But these stoichea/elements are not good. Where the earth is refined, the elements will be destroyed/melted.

Here is the Strong's parsing:

Notice Paul's use of the same word:

"So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the *elemental spirits* of the universe" (Gal 4:3). Though the RSV translates it "elemental spirits" the greek is "τὰ στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου" or "ta stoicheia tou kosmou" or the elements of the world (kosmou being our word for cosmos.).

Also see, "how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly *elemental spirits,* whose slaves you want to be once more?" (Gal. 4:9). Here the phrase is just "stoichea," same exact word as the 2 Peter passage above.

Paul, in Colossians, reiterates, "If with Christ you died to the *elemental spirits* of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world?" --- same phrase as above.

More important than the whole biblical witness is Peter's use. We see something similar in 1 Peter 3 where Christ proclaims victory over the spirits in prison after his resurrection, "in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah..." (3:19-20). Peter is probably referring to the extra-biblical witness of Enoch and a Jewish worldview where the Nephilim and sons of God in Genesis 6 were spiritual powers and principalities rebelling against God (this and human rebelling lead to the flood). Paul and Peter reveal to us that most of these dark powers were bound up in the death and resurrection of Christ, but there is residual evil entities roaming the earth that will be destroyed ultimately when the refining fire of God comes to destroy all evil and injustice.

2 Peter 2:4-5 drives this home, "For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgement; and if he did not spare the ancient world, even though he saved Noah..." Here we see both rebelling angels and the flood connected. The stoichea are probably, in some mysterious sense, the offspring or residual consequence of the sinning angels "in prison..." The the ultimate perpetrators are locked up, the residual is still wreaking havoc on earth. Whereas 2 Peter is the problem facing the Church in his time (false teachers and stoichea) chapter 3 is the promise of the destruction of evil so that ultimately God can finish the transformation of our current creation into new creation, bringing "new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home" (2 Peter 3:13).

At the very least, here is John Calvin's thoughts on the matter from his commentary on the matter. He has a great thoughts from 1 and 2 Peter but here is a snippet: "Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as it may be easily gathered from Romans 8:21, and from other passages" (He is talking about chemical elements, not stoichea -

We find the Christian response to all this in Ephesians 6, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bad Theology Leads to Bad Practice

“I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV." - Mark Driscoll

Prime example of why bad theology leads to bad practice. Also, great example of why he is such a polarizing figure and why we should be on the frustrated/dissatisfied side of that polarization.

The part that frustrates me most about this is that even the founder of his own tradition (John Calvin) totally disagrees with this interpretation of the Petrine theology. This is a dispensationalist rendering of 2 Peter 3, not a Calvinist or Wesleyan view.

2 Peter 3:10 & 12 says, "the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed... because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?"

Calvin says, "What afterwards follows, respecting the burning of heaven and earth, requires no long explanation, if indeed we duly consider what is intended. For it was not his purpose to speak refinedly of fire and storm, and other things, but only that he might introduce an exhortation, which he immediately adds, even that we ought to strive after newness of life. For he thus reasons, that as heaven and earth are to be purged by fire, that they may correspond with the kingdom of Christ, hence the renovation of men is much more necessary. Mischievous, then, are those interpreters who consume much labor on refined speculations, since the Apostle applies his doctrine to godly exhortations.

"Heaven and earth, he says, shall pass away for our sakes; is it meet, then, for us to be engrossed with the things of earth, and not, on the contrary, to attend to a holy and godly life? The corruptions of heaven and earth will be purged by fire, while yet as the creatures of God they are pure; what then ought to be done by us who are full of so many pollutions? As to the word godlinesses (pietatibus,) the plural number is used for the singular, except you take it as meaning the duties of godliness. Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same, as it may be easily gathered from Romans 8:21, and from other passages."

Let me paraphrase...
  • Calvin wants to use the word "purge" not "burn it all up."
  • Calvin says that this passage's main point is exhortation or encouragement to godly living. It is not speculation about the end times and people who use it to make grand speculations he deems "mischievous."
  • "Of the elements of the world I shall only say this one thing, that they are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same..." It will not be burned up, it will be redeemed, restored, re-created, re-purposed - in effect, it will be new creation, new heaven and new earth.
That is the theology, now for practice. Peter writes so that we will live proleptically. That means we live in such a way as to anticipate the future coming of the Lord and his actions. We live the future now because Christ has been raised and we too will be raised. Christ is the first-fruits, the sign of the coming Kingdom.  What are Christ's actions? New creation. What does St. Paul tell us about new creation? "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ..." (2 Corinthians 5).

Christ is making all things new. He has given us this responsibility, this ministry, reconciliation and new creation. Therefore, we live in such a way as to anticipate this. We make things new. We protect, steward, and facilitate people and creation towards new creation. We redeem broken and discarded things. We bring resurrection to everything we touch. We do not discard for all creation is very good and all of creation will be reconciled and made new. There will be a refining of creation. Evil, injustice, death, disease, and sin will be rooted out (those things not of God). But Christ is in the business of redeeming what he made. It was deemed very good and it will be good again.