Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Danger of Being Materialists

(Orthodoxy ought to
Bless our modern plumbing:
Swift and St. Augustine
Lived in centuries
When a stench of sewage
Ever in the nostrils
Made a strong debating
Point for Manichees).
W.H. Auden, from "Geography of a House,"

The really remarkable thing about this poem is that it really is all about excrement.  Several stanzas, deeply reflecting on humanity and our waste.  Frankly, I'm more than a little glad he wrote it.  To defend the goodness of materiality is easy until we deal with the frank protests of pungent odors and unsightly matter.  After all, isn't this the scandal of the Incarnation?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Prayer (1).

Prayer the church's banquet, angel's age,
God's breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav'n and earth
Engine against th' Almighty, sinner's tow'r,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness, and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The milky way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul's blood,
The land of spices; something understood.

- George Herbert (1593-1633)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bunny Culvin, The Wire's Bonhoeffer

In the final episode of season three of The Wire, Bunny Culvin the architect behind the infamous Hamsterdam project pulls a Bonhoeffer. After McNulty accuses Bunny of "cutting a few corners" Bunny replies, "I just did what I did, it felt right, and I'm fine with that". Sounds eerily reminiscent of Bonhoeffer's justification of his violation of his own pacifist code.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I get ripped off everywhere I turn in South Asia – higher auto ride fares, double parts prices, hidden labor costs, wacky weights and balances. I can’t buy a liter of petrol or a kilo of mangos without watching the vendor with eagle eyes. My white skin is a badge of wealth, an entry ticket into the upper economic echelon of this country. It also feels like a “kick me” note taped to my back.

World Bank says forty-two percent of this country live on a $1.25 a day. Oxford Poverty and Human Development says two thirds are poor on several dimensions. So the white skin test here is usually pretty accurate. My modest income makes me wildly rich. And it feels like my poorer neighbors are often more than obliging to lighten my financial load.

What does this mean for Christians?

My sense of justice rages inside of me: If I let these people take advantage of me, I’m teaching them it’s okay. I’m hurting the next guy they cheat. They need to learn justice and mercy, a just wage for good work. So I keep a posture of suspicion, double and triple checking, arguing at every turn, and squabbling over the last penny spent. It makes me miserable and miserable to be around I’m sure.

My sense of justice is pretty warped. A man born into poverty carts me around in a ragged auto rickshaw and charges me twenty cents extra to pad the couple dollars a day he earns. Who’s being cheated?

If a donor gives to a beneficiary, clear lines are drawn and we call it charity. If you let a poor person take advantage of you, is it still charity?

Jesus made some obscure references to offering the other cheek and parting with cloaks, of walking two miles and lending indiscriminately. Bonheoffer scoffed that even if we dared preach on this text, we’d try to come up with a costless application. He’s right. I’m already coming up with checks and balances to keep people from taking advantage of this. Which means I’ve already missed the point.

Grace-filled living paints a radical alternative. It would rather take a blow than give one; walk two miles than short an oppressor the one he didn’t deserve. It would rather be defrauded than sue a brother. It would hang around an opened prison cell to make sure the jailer is all right. It is so enamored by the gift given, the status lifted, the righteousness imputed, the payment sealed that it becomes reckless with rights.

I still prefer giving grace where clear lines on drawn. I want both parties to know who gave what to whom and why. I’d rather see the smile on a Compassion child’s face than hear the snicker of an auto driver who pulled one over on me. An ungrateful beneficiary is bad enough but an unknowing one is almost too much to bear.

Is it grace if you don’t get credit for it? Is it grace if you do?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time Isn't Money

Wendell Berry's book The Unsettling of America is a virulent attack against the rising tide of commercialized agriculture. But, it's filled with thoughtful and general remarks about American culture. For Berry, of course, an agricultural crisis is a crisis of deeper proportions. It is a crisis of American character and it is a crisis that is spawned by the degradation of our society as a whole.

In one of his essays Berry takes aim at the common slogan, "time is money". As I read his small paragraph devoted to debunking this myth I thought of all the times that phrase had been barked at me. "John, hurry up, we don't have all day, time is money". "John! c'mon man, you should've been done with that an hour ago, time is money". What's the problem with that? It's true isn't it? The longer it takes to do a specific task, that is paid for by a pre-determined price means that the money that is being paid per unit of measuring time (seconds, minutes, hours etc.) lessens. Baloney! Wendell Berry would say. Sure, if all you are thinking about is the mathematical formula between the given number of money and the allotted amount of time to make that money, time is money. But time is not money. It is so much more. A dying man wants more time, he doesn't want more money. He wouldn't trade a week as a millionaire for fifty more years as a pauper. Time isn't money because not all of our time makes money, thank God. And, as we can all attest our most valuable time rarely makes any money at all.

Berry goes on to connect this slogan with the idea that, "people are money". It isn't difficult to map out the connection once you play a scene out in your head in which the phrase above would be said. If a boss tells his worker, "time is money, hustle up", he is essentially saying, "all you are is money, hustle up".

Unlike money, time is something that can be redeemed (Eph. 5:16 check the Greek not the ESV). We aren't mere stewards of time, we are its participants. In it we live and move and have our being. In it we perform acts that money cannot buy. In it loving acts are performed on us that money cannot buy. Time's value is unquantifiable. A novel can be bought, but it takes time to read it. Whiskey can be bought, but it takes friends made in time, and time itself to drink it with. Love cannot be bought, and it takes time to make it, and to share it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Diversity

I know this is a well-worn issue, but I thought I'd post this since there hasn't been any action in a while. This is an excerpt from an email I sent to a professor. My reason for posting it is to bounce around the idea that racial diversity in local churches occasionally has in it an impulse towards legalism.

The issue of race is extremely complicated in my opinion. Racial tension, really, is a much more profound reality throughout history than any kind of tension that has existed between men and women. Racial disunity and harmony are issues that carry a profound pride of place throughout the Bible. Just to mention a few passages from the NT Romans 9-11; Eph. 2:11-22; Acts 15; Gal. 2, are passages that are deeply influential in my thinking on this topic. It is clear from these passages that race is not something that ought to ever determine the boundaries of a church's fellowship. Eph. 2:11-22 makes it clear that it was part of the design of the cross to reconcile human beings across racial divides. It is important to say that it was a part of the design of the cross, and not merely a convenient result. That being the case, I would think it to be central to my leadership to labor to see people in fellowship with one another regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.

That said, I am reticent to say that churches must represent the exact demographic of the neighborhoods they are in in a kind of "thus sayeth the Lord" sort of fashion. I don't see the biblical texts moving in quite that direction. The way I would want to approach a lack of racial diversity in a particular local church is by raising questions about mission. If the church finds that they are in a neighborhood made up of a demographic that is unrepresented in their church one wonders if they are taking their call to fulfill the Great Commission seriously. However, maybe they are. Maybe they are reaching out to people with the gospel, and people are simply picking other churches to attend. This can be a bad thing. It can mean that a particular church's worship is offensive, and therefore unpalatable for the people that actually take up residence in the church's neighborhood. In that case the church may simply need to disband. But, it can also be something that is quite tolerable. Forcing unwanted diversity can often create a distasteful homogoneity. That doesn't have to happen. Paul, of course, encouraged people to maintain their diversity, and to restrain themselves from passing judgment on each other (Rom. 14:1-10). But, it would be sad if the church lost its colorful differences in self-expression for the sake of not causing offense. Having bland non-offensive styles of worship and practice, and calling that diversity, in my opinion, lowers the bar. I attend a very white very traditional Presbyterian church. There are aspects of it that I find distasteful, but I also believe it would be a shame to erase the styles of worship that the congregation has developed over the years. Surely we would all want to say the same for churches that bear different stylistic characteristics.

The Church always must be moving forward evangelizing every people group. That alone will bring racial tensions into the Church's purview. Inasmuch as that is the case, the church must be willing to "welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God" (Rom. 15:7).

I hope this doesn't sound like I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. I have seen too much hand-slapping and back-patting from people who think their church's have arrived at a heavenly level of ethnic diversity. As if their services are straight out of Revelation chapter 7. I commend these leaders, but I am also aware of the pride that comes from faithfully fulfilling self-announced moral imperatives. Possibly the antidote for this is not forcing diversity, but letting it happen organically through obedience to the Great Commission. This would, perhaps, distract us from the temptation to be proud.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Absolutely Chinese

I couldn't help but post this.

"Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life with just Calvin."

Karl Barth, Revolutionary Theology in the Making: Barth-Thurneysen Correspondence, 1914-1925. 101

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wise Company

“…reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (9:8-9)

"...he who hates reproof is stupid.” (12:1)

The Proverbs are replete with pleas to gain wisdom through others. It is not a solo quest but a community affair. Counselors, parents, teachers, guides, friends, those who encourage, rebuke, reprove, and correct all contribute. The wise lean hard on others. The road to wisdom is filled with friends.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Despair Over the Church

Despair over the Church is the great vice of modern Christianity, even (and perhaps especially) when harnessed to strategies of calculated and frustrated renewal.

Page 9 "Hope Among the Fragments" Ephraim Radner

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Biblical Studies Toolbar

Cambridge's Tyndale House just put out a pretty sweet biblical studies toolbar.  Check it out/download it here.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

How They Miss the Point

I think biblical scholars are unique in that they have more time to waste than the rest of us.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Are We Still Evangelical?

This is partly in response to PD's comments on my most recent post, but it is also something I have been mulling over for a while.

A classic, concise definition for "evangelical" as it exists in the English speaking world (meaning, it does not necessarily entail Lutheran Evangelicals) and its antecedents has been put forward by historian David Bebbington.  According to him, there are four markers of an evangelical:

  1. Conversionism: Meaning that, as opposed to the Catholic view, evangelicals emphasize conversion as the real sign of membership in the Kingdom of God.
  2. Biblicism: Or known classically as Sola Scriptura.  This is fairly self-explanatory, but as pointed out earlier, variously understood among evangelicals.
  3. Activism: Whether its slavery in late eighteenth century Britain, women's rights in late nineteenth century Britain and America, abortion in the 1970s and 80s, or Southern Baptists boycotting Disney in the 1990s, evangelicals have always been very active in society.  In my opinion, this trait is one of the most interesting historically.
  4. Crucicentrism:  This ties in heavily to point number one, but this does tend to occupy a considerable amount of evangelical theology.  This is in contrast to, say, the Eastern Orthodox Christians who might emphasize the incarnation as the main soteriological event.
There are some more nuanced lists out there, but this one is the most concise, and tends to appear fairly often.  Interestingly, this is quite distinct from many parts of Pentecostalism, which can overlap with evangelicalism, but not always.

What do you think?  Are we still evangelical?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

An Evangelical Crisis, Again.

If Rob Bell's latest book has told us anything about the state of evangelicalism in North America today, it is that it is a very polarized entity.  The Gospel Coalition's virulent rejection of Bell as heterodox, Richard Cizik's dismissal as the president of the National Association of Evangelicals over his stance on homosexuality, and countless blog posts from disenchanted young evangelicals all suggest that evangelicalism is headed for yet another split.  This is, of course, nothing new.  Since British-American evangelicalism began in the eighteenth century, it has distinguished itself by its tendency to split, form a new group, and then split again. 

By looking at the present divide between what he calls "Meliorists" and "Traditionists", Gerald McDermott helpfully sizes up the present tension, warning of the inevitable outcome if the situation persists:
If history is a guide, the present divisions between Meliorists and Traditionists will widen. In another twenty years, Meliorists may not be recognizable as evangelicals, and, like the liberal Protestants they resemble, will likely have trouble filling their pews.[…]  If the evangelical movement does not learn from that experience, it will risk disintegrating into ever more subjectivist and individualistic sects, many of them neither evangelical nor orthodox.  (From "Evangelicals Divided", First Things, April 2011.)
I think McDermott is right.  The question that continues to persist is why this is the case.  What is it about evangelicalism that dooms it to this cycle?  He may be onto something when he points out that, "sola scriptura is a necessary but not sufficient principle for maintaining theological orthodoxy."  The problem with the present situation, and similar past situations, is that both sides appeal to the text, but do it with subtly different assumptions.  As in the case of Schleiermacher, the vocabulary remains the same but the meanings shift in seismic ways.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 Regent Theology Conference

There are many reasons to visit Vancouver, British Columbia. Mountains, an ocean-like body of water (but without the risk of tsunamis thanks to barrier islands), outstanding rose gardens, vegetarians, turkey-sized sea-gulls, palm-trees. All of these are good excuses for a foray into the southwest of Canada, each worthwhile in themselves.

But, here's the clincher: The 2011 Regent Theology Conference: Heaven on Earth? The Future of Spiritual Interpretation (Sept. 16-17, 2011). It may not be Wheaton tipping a star-studded hat to Tom Wright, but it comes close. We've got Kevin Vanhoozer, R.R. Reno, our own Hans Boersma, and for the first time in public, Peter Leithart.

If you didn't believe Christendom was awesome before, you will after the conference, and you might just want to inaugurate your new found love for the magisterium and Constantine on Vancouver's clothing-optional beach, a short walk from Regent.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Prop Christology

Our family is reading Sally Lloyd-Jones’ hugely successful The Jesus Storybook Bible with our kids. There is much good to be said for her work. She is an engaging writer, helps make the stories come alive, and Jago’s artwork is really well done. Our kids love it.

But her method of finding Jesus in the Old Testament leaves something to be desired. Regarding little Isaac’s birth, she writes, “And one day, God would send another baby…” At Isaac’s near sacrifice, she comments, “Many years later, another Son would climb another hill, carrying wood on his back.” The battle of Jericho points to “another Leader”; David and Goliath, “another young Hero”; Daniel looks to “another brave Hero”; Jonah, “another Messenger”; and so on.

No one would argue that Jonah alludes to another messenger and David another king. Jesus endorses those interpretations. But if that is all that can be said about Jonah or David, they become two dimensional sign posts, or props, which have value in themselves only inasmuch as things in their story relate to things in Jesus’ story.

Isaac’s sacrifice is prime prop territory. He’s got it all – wood, hill, son, sacrifice. The following chapter of Sarah’s death and burial, equal in length and of huge importance to the story of Abraham’s promise gaining fulfillment, doesn’t. A tedious land purchase for Sarah’s grave is harder to be overlaid by the Golgotha narrative.

The most troubling problem with this kind of reading is that Old Testament narratives can become negligible. You don’t even need the Bible. With a prop Christology it would be much easier to preach from Jack and Jill than Isaac and Rebekah.

“Jack and Jill went up a hill/ to fetch a pail of water./ Jack fell down, and broke his crown,/ and Jill came tumbling after…And many years later, on another hill, the Living water, gave up his rightful crown…”

I’m being goofy and giving Sarah Lloyd-Jones far more trouble than she deserves. But I am calling for expecting more from our Old Testament, more about God’s grand narrative and more about his Son. I for one am eager for the Gospel Coalition’s Conference this year to learn what this looks like.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Write a Theology Paper

John Frame (RTS) has written a helpful article on how to write a good theology paper. I present it here for your consumption and enjoyment.

How to Write a Theological Paper

Friday, March 18, 2011

On Theodicy

Response to question for Systematic Theology class: "In light of the common deadly occurrences of natural disasters, how can God’s providential care and goodness be realistically upheld?

This is certainly a timely question to wrestle with in light of recent events in Japan and New Zealand.

Three things are at play here; God, creation and us. In order to understand this we need to rightly understand the present relationship between these three things. As for the relationship between creation and God, we know that it remains intact (even though creation has been subjected to futility, presumably due to its human caretaker's derangement, cf. Rom. 8:23). Creation still submits to God (Mk 4:39) and carries out his purposes, however perplexing and mysterious they may be. What's more, creation remains fundamentally good by virtue of being created by a good God (Gen. 1:31 , I Tim. 4:4). Thus, while creation is certainly affected by the fall, the locus of the fall was not in it. Creation remains good.

The problem comes in humankind's relationship with God, and then has grave implications for our relationship to creation. Joseph [a previous respondent] is right to cite the garden as the tableau wherein our derangement began. The subtle questioning of the serpent enticed the woman to reason for the first time without proper relation to God. She lifts herself up on toothpick legs, takes the heavy fruit, and crashes to the ground, bending and denting her will–and all wills–in on themselves. It was the beginning of moral ambiguity, and the scene has been repeated in every human since, save one. Barth talks about how, as a result of this, every man is made his own judge, determining for himself what is right and wrong. In the fall, for all that was lost, we gained a damned, undulating, interior judicial system (which still, somehow, condemns us). Even the worst among us act according to what we deem "good". So, the murderer murders because that is what seems right to him. The swindler swindles because it is, within his private scheme, what is most appropriate. As the refrain from Judges goes, "each man did what was right in his own eyes".

Besides the implications of this fall for the field of ethics, it has an important bearing on the question of theodicy. Because we have been given over to our private morality, we are no longer able to discern the glorious ends for which God has prepared creation. A "natural disaster" is only a disaster as such for two reasons; that we have been subjected to an unnatural death, and that those left alive are left without the capacity to understand why such a thing has occurred. The hand of God which acts is hidden in a cloud, and, like the Israelites at Sinai, in our unholy baseness we cannot break through (Ex. 19:21). Without this ascendancy, our inward reasoning cannot provide an adequate explanation for that which is fundamentally outside of itself. It can only make guesses. When the hand that moves is hidden by a dark cloud, who can say what its reasons are? Its reasons and its movements are hidden, and we only see its effects, which is to say our perception is always partial. Thus, when a tsunami overwhelms a seaside town, it is tragic because of sickness, injury, and the loss of human life, and all without any satisfying explanation. Such an event would hardly seem so terrible if immortality and our relationship with God remained intact. It would merely be the thundering playfulness of a world praising its Creator in unison with a people free from the knowledge and experience of death.

What is the solution to this futility? Since the fall has left us without the ability to sufficiently understand this world (because such understanding had been the byproduct of our pre-fall interaction with God), the solution to resolving the tragedy of natural disasters lies in the restoration of our relationship to God. For this reason, the story of Job can be read as a reversal of the events of the fall. In it, we are invited to lift ourselves from the dirt, to dust off bloody knees, to "dress for action," (38:3), and consider God's own explanation as he breaks through our senseless palaver. As the book progresses, the private reasoning of man is frustrated and made incredible, and the answer which ultimately satisfies Job is God's demonstration of his sovereignty over creation (rather than an explanation of why such tragedies occurred; cf. Job 38-41). In terms of reason, the book is absolutely frustrating because it provides no other reason than that God is God. But in terms of resolving the enigma of a suffering world, the book is perfect, as it concludes by lifting the reader's focus to the very same place it was when God and humankind walked abreast without conflict. Our eyes are turned from the effects to the hands at work.

It must be granted that such an explanation does not invalidate the pain and suffering of us who live on this side of the resurrection. I do not think men like Pat Robertson have any right or ability to assign explicit meaning to specific events. Nor is it satisfying for those who stubbornly insist on maintaining their private morality (it is actually quite damning). While we still "weep with those who weep" (Rom. 12:15), instead of groaning against creation, we now groan with it, anticipating the day when "the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God," (Rom. 8:21). In that day, God, humankind, and creation will enjoy the fruit of a fully restored relationship.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Art and the Progressive Spirit of Christianity

“As a protestant, I might fear lest in doing so we confound the eternal spirit of Christianity with the mutable forms in which it has deigned so speak to the hearts of men, forms which must of necessity vary with the degree of social civilization, and bear the impress of the feelings and fashions of the age which produce them; but I must also feel that we ought to comprehend, and to hold in due reverence, that which has once been consecrated to holiest aims, which has shown us what a magnificent use has been made of Art, and how it may still be adopted to good and glorious purposes, if, while we respect these time-consecrated images and types, we do not allow them to fetter us, but trust in the progressive spirit of Christianity to furnish us with new impersonations of the good– new combinations of the beautiful.” (emphasis mine)

That's quite a sentence. Written in 1846 by Anna Jameson, its really interesting because she seems to believe that Art and the "progressive spirit of Christianity" will bring us into new understandings of the beautiful. I don't think I've come across anything on the subject of "Christian art history" like this. The context for this sentence comes at the end of her historical survey of the use of imagery in churches and into the museums. Here, she weds together something eternal about Christianity that is always subject to various forms, yet we ought to determine those forms according to tradition. Essentially her claim is that Art once was found in the church but has been exiled to somewhere else. Rather than getting more out of Art by liberating it in the museum, we have narrowed our experience of it as well as narrowed our experience of Christianity.

Postscript: Could it be said that the reformation forced art museums into existence? Like abortion in ghettoes of cyclical poverty? As Jean Cocteau once said: "By breaking statues one risks turning into one oneself." All this to say, Matthew Miliner is on to something with his  "post-iconoclastic calvinism". 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Suggestive Numbers on Global Christianity

In the west, it can sometimes feel like Christians are being ghettoized. But little murmurs from the global south remind us that, while the geographical pole of Christianity may be slipping at ever quickening rates from North America and Europe, it is accumulating in unprecedented levels south of the equator. Without saying anything about the quality of the Christianity being spread, it is remarkable to consider that the percentage of growth has not been seen in two millenia of Christian history (with the possible exception of 41% growth in the first two centuries).

The other component of this report will curb any triumphalism; Martyrdom is statistically on the rise as well.

Check out a summary here. For the full report, click here: International Bulletin of Missionary Research

Monday, January 17, 2011

VanDrunen and the Great Commission

Reading When Helping Hurts thrust me into David VanDrunen’s Living in God’s Two Kingdoms. I’m desperate for clarity amidst a cacophony of voices on mission. Authors of the former, Corbett and Fikkert, join the growing list of writers who see cultural renewal/transformation/redemption/recreation as part and parcel of the Church’s mission.

The solution to poverty, they write, is reconciliation: “moving people closer to glorifying God by living in right relationship with God, with self, with others, and with the rest of creation” (78), quoting 2 Corinthians 5. I appreciate the crux of what they’re saying but wouldn’t call that reconciliation. Would the apostle Paul recognize Alisa Collins from the Chicago ghetto, finding steady work and self-fulfillment, as the process of reconciliation he writes about in 2 Cor 5? No.

To be fair, they do write several pages explaining that “profound reconciliation” (as opposed to ‘half-ass reconciliation’?) “cannot be done without people accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior” (80, c.f. 94-97). My only concern is that there is already a host of members in the missions community who believe that sin equals poverty, that the gospel equals kingdom, and would be delighted to have an advocate saying that reconciliation equals a process of alleviating suffering.

Why is Renee Padilla being invited to Urbana to depict mission exclusively in terms of coming to the aid of internally displaced people? Why is Shane Claibourne growing in popularity for his message that the only hell worth fighting against is that of poverty? Why is Christianity Today including articles about environmental concern as a chief pillar of mission? Why did Ralph Winter argue that we must do missions on the microbe level, battling Satan in the realm of infectious diseases? Why has 2010 marked the year in which more North American Great Commission dollars are going toward social work than evangelism and church planting?

To David VanDrunen we must turn. Lumping neo-Calvinists, advocates of the New Perspective on Paul, and emerging church leaders together as those who believe “the salvation or redemption brought by Christ is essentially restoration or re-creation” (18), he mounts a compelling defense for a two-kingdoms theology.

It comes down to two Adams and two covenants. Transformationalists oft-repeat the line that the cultural mandate of dominion to Adam has never been rescinded in Scripture. Therefore, we inherit this mandate as Adam’s heirs. Not so, says VanDrunen. Better than never rescinded the cultural mandate has been fully fulfilled in Christ. What the first Adam failed to do as a righteous king and priest in creation, Jesus did, resisting and conquering the devil, becoming the perfect priest to God, and achieving the Sabbath rest intended as the culmination of the first Adam’s labors. The New Testament takes great pains to connect the two Adams (Rom 5; 1 Cor 15; c.f. Hebrews and many other allusions).

Jesus left nothing incomplete, not justification and not achieving the world-to-come. We add nothing. Our cultural engagement now does not make new creation, but is in response to new creation. Far from cultural isolation, we understand that we dwell in two kingdoms, both firmly under the Lordship of Christ.

God’s covenant to Noah established the common kingdom: it involved cultural activities, all humanity, preservation of the natural order, and temporary nature. In contrast, God’s covenant to Abraham established the redemptive kingdom, conversely: pertaining to faith and worship, a distinct people within humanity, bestowing salvation, and is everlasting.

Christians are not pseudo-Gnostic, isolationists denigrating the physical for the spiritual, awaiting heavenly ethereal bliss in the clouds. We are cultural beings in a cultural world called to honor God in an infinite array of cultural activities. But we do so as sojourners. We do so as members of a redemptive kingdom who understand a radical end to this world and its culture and wait for a new (not improved) heavens and earth.

That which does last is our primary mission. Paul describes it as a building undergoing fire (1Cor 3). John, alluding to Isaiah, as the glory and honor of nations entering the new Jerusalem. Both refer to the proclamation of the gospel and growth of the Church.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Evangelicalism and Environmentalism

It's true, Jesus said the gates of hell would overcome his church in the form of a "green dragon".

I would ask if this is worth responding to, but plenty of Christians really believe this, and what's more, they believe it's Christian. Doug Moo, this is your hour.

Recovering the Vocation of the Pastor-Theologian

This is a brilliant article on the growing gulf between academic theology and the pastorate that I think all of us can resonate with:

The Pastor as Wider Theologian, or What’s Wrong With Theology Today

One question I might ask would be, is their a connection between the structure of our churches and what he calls a lowering of the "theological water level"?