Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, April 8, 2011

Calling All Artists, Monks and Storytellers!


The Future of Evangelicalism:
Artists, Monks, and Storytellers

by Mason Slater, April 2011

"What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music." - Soren Kierkegaard

As I look over my bookshelves I’m struck by the thought that Donald Miller was right.

Yesterday Miller wrote about how the Western church is in essence “a robust school system created around a framework of lectures and discussions and study... Churches are essentially schools. They look like schools with lecture halls, classrooms, cafeterias and each new church program is basically a teaching program.”

It’s a fair point, even if he pushes it a bit further than I would. After all, turn over almost any book on my shelf and what does it inform you of? The author’s academic credentials. If they went to the right schools and got the right degree they have legitimacy, if not, well they get categorized under “inspirational”.

Even the fact that books are the medium of choice in Western Christianity is telling. Why books? And why books which, often, read like textbooks?

Nothing against books or scholars, I have a incredibly deep love for both and think both have a vital role to play. But theirs is not the only role.

If the Evangelicalism of our generation is going to be able to reach the world we find ourselves in, to address pressing issues of justice, or to retain some level of unity, we cannot rely only on scholars.

What we need are more artists, monks, and storytellers.

We act on the assumption that the textbook communicates more truth than the novel, that the lecture conveys more deeply than the painting, that a conference is more meaningful than street theater. That assumption was almost certainly misguided before, but in our present context it’s absolutely deadly to the church.

So we need artists (of every sort, writers included) to share our message in a way people will truly hear it.

We talk about justice, well some of us, but if all we do is talk that is no witness.

So we need communities like the new monasticism to give us a picture of what our faith could look like if we were the hands and feet of the gospel we pontificate about.

And finally, speaking of that gospel, we take the rich and messy story of the Bible and spend so much time debating and dissecting it that in the end we either have a reductionist four point track or a massive list of what constitutes the orthodoxy you must hold to be ‘in’.

So we need storytellers who can share the Story without either flattening it out or missing the forest for the trees. Storytellers who can make a point of doctrine come alive, and who can also present a way of talking about our faith which is harder to turn into team X vs. team Y.

When the story starts “once upon a time” it lends itself less to taking sides.

Do scholars and the academy have a place in the future of Evangelicalism? Yes! Absolutely! We need deep and critical thought, we need people who have devoted themselves to studying the history and theology (at least I hope so, or a lot of what I’m doing with my life is going to be a bit pointless).

But that isn’t all we need.

Maybe one way the future of Evangelicalism could look a little brighter is if we stopped deferring only to the scholars and instead had the scholars sit down at the table as equals with the artists, the monks, and the storytellers.

At least that sounds like a more hopeful starting place to me.

Grace and peace.

Why Pick Sides When You Don't Want To?


The Future of Evangelicalism:
In which I'm on nobody's side.

by Mason Slater, April 2011

"Pippin: "And whose side are you on?"
Treebeard: "Side? I am on nobody's side, because nobody is on my side, little orc."
-The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

This sums up rather well how I feel when I look at the fissures in the Evangelical community.

We have this impulse to define ourselves in opposition to others, to reduce the messiness of the life of faith into a question of this side or that.

There are plenty of examples of this, such as the recent obsession with [the newly released book,] Love Wins . It’s telling that, in many of the reactions, there was little room left in the middle. Either Rob was a heretic, or he was a hero tearing down an oppressive false Gospel.

Those who felt neither of those was the case, which is where I found myself, were left in the uncomfortable position of trying to hold out an alternative which those on either side of us had little interest in entertaining.
I understand that there are important issues at stake, but the more I look at the church the less that splitting into our own sub-communities seems like any sort of solution.

Yes, there are Emergent thinkers. Yes, there is a resurgent neo-Reformed movement that often feels like a new fundamentalism. But maybe tribalism in either direction isn’t the answer.

Because it’s too easy.

It’s too easy to split.

It’s too easy to turn life into a dichotomy where one side is all wrong and the other side (my side) is all right.

It’s easy to pick a side, because once you do you can stop thinking. You decided on your team, and now your team can make all your decisions for you. Word comes from on high to tell us what books or theological positions we should be excited about, and which ones we should attack (along with a helpful list of talking points for why author X is brilliant/a tool of the devil).

What’s difficult is being willing to read both McLaren and Driscoll and find things of value in both, while being discerning enough to critique both as well.

It’s not about sides we can split into life and theology are not that simple.

Sometimes I look at evangelicalism and I feel far older than I should have to feel. more worn, more bruised, like - in another Lord of The Rings reference - too little butter scraped over too much bread.

There is this constant move towards division and strife, and everyone is convinced it’s us or them, with me or against me.

In the meantime thousands of us who want to imagine a Church where unity is maintained amid the diversity [that is] left to the sidelines. Because we’re on nobody’s side, and so, sometimes, it feels like nobody is on our side.

Why Do You Find It So Easy To Believe?


Why do you find it so easy to believe?

by Rachel Held Evans, 2010

This post was originially published back in January of 2010. In light of our recent conversations about how changes in faith affect relationships, I thought this would be an appropriate re-post. More to come tomorrow and Saturday!


One of my favorite scenes from the TV show “Lost” occurs down in the hatch, between John Locke and Jack Shepherd.

Arguing about whether or not to press the infamous button on faith alone, John demands, “Why do you find it so hard to believe?” to which Jack furiously responds “Why do you find it so easy?”

It’s a classic moment in Lost history because it perfectly encapsulates John and Jack’s characters, and because it points to a predicament to which we can all relate: Some of us really struggle to accept things on faith, while others seem to find it easy.

And occasionally we get on one another’s nerves.

For example, I relate more to Jack in the sense that I’m a skeptic. I think critically, challenge authority, and ask tough questions about my faith. Many of my friends,on the other hand, rarely wrestle with doubts about Christianity, and can’t seem to understand why I would.“Why do you find it so hard to believe?” they ask.“Why do you find it so easy?” I want to shout.

There are several reasons why their confidence bothers me.

First of all, deep down I’m jealous of the fact that they don’t lie awake at night worrying if everything they’ve been taught is a lie, if God is good, or if He exists. I hate to admit it, but I envy their certainty and serenity.

Second, I’m perplexed because the things that move me to ask questions—disasters like the one in Haiti, religious pluralism, heaven and hell, science, poverty, injustice—don’t seem to bother them like they bother me, and I (unfailry) wonder if it’s because they are less compassionate or less intelligent than me. I wonder sometimes if they are in denial, if they’ve checked their brains and their hearts at the door in the name of blind obedience and easy peace.

And third, there’s that nagging fear that the John Lockes of this world relish in the opportunity to judge me for my lack of faith. We all have the tendency to return judgment with judgment, so the moment I feel vulnerable to attack, I put on the armor of resentment and pride and inform my perceived enemies that they’ve got it all wrong, that my faith is actually stronger than theirs because it can stand the test of scrutiny while theirs remains weak and unchallenged.

Clearly, my frustration with those who find it easy to believe has more to do with my own insecurities and fears than it does with them.

Perhaps this goes both ways. Perhaps the John Lockes of this world don’t find it as easy to believe as I think, and they get frustrated with me because my questions don’t make it any easier.

After all, John ends the conversation with, “It’s never been easy.”

So, to whom do you relate the most—Jack or John? Do you find yourself frustrated with the people who find it hard to believe or frustrated with the people who find it easy?

The Future of Evangelicalism

The Future of Evangelicalism:
A Twenty-Something’s Perspective

by Rachel Held Evans
March 24, 2011

The big debate over Love Wins has once again ignited speculation over the future of evangelicalism and the role that young adults will play in it. Last week, Scot McKnight posed a series of questions that I’ve been pondering ever since: Is evangelicalism in a major shift? Are we headed toward a split? Will young evangelicals stick around or head for mainline churches instead?

I grew up in evangelicalism, spent most of my twenties arguing with it, and as I approach my 30th birthday, am ready to rebuild and move forward in my faith. While I can’t address these questions on behalf of all young evangelicals, I can speak from my own perspective, which I suspect is fairly common.

The Divide

The media has focused largely on two movements within my generation of evangelicals.

The first is the young, restless, and Reformed movement, which despite some conflicting evidence, seems to be growing, especially if you take into account the surging popularity of young Reformed pastors like Kevin DeYoung, Joshua Harris, and Mark Driscoll. Along with Tim Challies, John Piper, Al Mohler and Justin Taylor, these guys are totally dominating the blogosphere, (I know, because I compare my stats to theirs more often than I care to admit!), leading many to predict that they represent the future of evangelicalism.

It’s important to note that this movement is centralized, with clear leaders and denominational affiliation (Southern Baptist & PCA). Leaders in this movement were quick to condemn Rob Bell and his book—many writing scathing reviews based on a few excerpts and some promotional copy

The second group—sometimes referred to as “the new evangelicals” or “emerging evangelicals” or “the evangelical left” is significantly less organized than the first, but continues to grow at a grassroots level. As Paul Markhan wrote in an excellent essay about the phenomenon, young people who identify with this movement have grown weary of evangelicalism’s allegiance to Republican politics, are interested in pursuing social reform and social justice, believe that the gospel has as much to do with this life as the next, and are eager to be a part of inclusive, diverse, and authentic Christian communities. “Their broadening sense of social responsibility is pushing them to rethink many of the fundamental theological presuppositions characteristic of their evangelical traditions,” Markham noted.

While young adults in this movement tend to identify similar influences (NT Wright, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne), they are significantly less organized. More importantly, most of the young adults in Marham’s survey reported that they didn’t like labels. They strongly preferred “non-denominational” or “follower of Christ” to “evangelical.” Folks who identify with this group would be more likely to welcome Bell’s ideas…or at least not condemn them as unorthodox.

A quick glance at my Facebook profile would reveal that I relate more to the second group than the first. And since I am therefore suspicious of labels and binaries and anything that smells of an us-vs.-them mentality, I feel compelled to point out that most young Christians do not fit neatly into one of these two categories. No one’s faith journey looks exactly the same, and there are many young evangelicals simply trying to faithfully follow their own conscience and conviction without identifying with one group or the other.

The Question

The release of Love Wins revealed some of the serious differences between these two groups the way a florescent light reveals all the blemishes on your face when you look in a mirror. This light’s been turned on before—(I think of the Evangelical Theological Society’s debate with Clark Pinnock and Greg Boyd, and the continuing debate between the BioLogos Foundation and Al Mohler)—and I suspect it will turned on again.

So the question is: Can young evangelicals get along well enough to create a new generation of evangelicalism that includes both of these groups?

I would really, really, really like to say YES—because I love my Reformed brothers and sisters, because love evangelicalism’s rich history of diversity, and because I love being a part of tradition that allows for spirited dialog.

…But there’s a problem.

The Problem

The problem, as I see it, can be summarized in the now infamous tweet issued from John Piper: “Farwell Rob Bell.”

Those three words triggered a profound reaction within a lot of young evangelicals because many of us have heard them, in some shape or form, before.

I heard them when Al Mohler dismissed me as “glib and irresponsible” for suggesting that perhaps Christianity is compatible with evolution. (He insisted that the two are not, in fact, compatible.) My friend Sarah heard them when her questions about women’s ordination were met with charges that she didn’t take the Bible seriously. My friend Steven heard them when he was told that his refusal to accept the doctrines of predestination and limited atonement represented a “rebellious spirit” against God Himself. And I’ve heard them over and over and over again as evangelicals in my community have questioned my commitment to Christianity simply because I’m not absolutely certain that Anne Frank is in hell.

See the pattern? It’s hard to maintain unity when differences in theology are met with accusations of heresy, and challenges to certain interpretations of the Bible are dismissed as challenges to its authority. I’m concerned that many of these Reformed leaders are fundamentalizing doctrines that need not be fundametnalized, to the point that a critique of Calvinism is cast as a critique of Orthodox Christianity.

Piper wasn’t simply bidding “farewell” to Rob Bell, he was bidding “farewell” to any of us who agree with Rob Bell, or ask the same questions as Rob Bell, or at the very least wish to stay in fellowship with Rob Bell. It is no longer enough that we too want to love and follow Jesus Christ, or that we too can affirm the creeds of historic Christianity. We’ve also got to ascribe to 16the century doctrines and 16th century interpretations of Scripture…or else be cast out.

If we are going to move forward together—building God’s kingdom together, glorifying and enjoying God together—then we’ve got to be able to disagree with one another without challenging one another’s commitment to the faith. I don’t agree with every aspect of Reformed theology, but there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that those who hold to it—including Piper and Driscoll and Taylor—are my brothers and sisters in Christ! I would break the bread of communion with them in a heartbeat!

But the problem is that after ten years, I’m getting tired of trying to convince fellow Christians that I am, in fact, a Christian, even though I may vote a little differently than they vote, interpret the Bible differently than they interpret it, engage with science a little differently than they engage with it, and understand sovereignty and choice a little differently than they understand those things.

And I think a lot of other young evangelicals are growing weary of those arguments too. We’re ready to rebuild in communities where a commitment to love and follow Jesus Christ is enough common ground from which to start.

My Predictions

Rumbling beneath all of the evangelical debates about sovereignty, science, heaven, and hell are some serious questions about the Bible. The divide was summed up nicely in a twitter exchange I had yesterday:

Me: @rachelheldevans Halfway through #lovewins and kinda wondering why it got the backlash it did. This is not even close to unorthodox, imo. Your impressions?

Cam: CamMohajerin @rachelheldevans It's unorthodox for people who think the Bible is authoritative and infallible...completely normal for McLaren

Me: @CamMohajerin I think it's unorthodox for people who think their interpretation of the Bible is authoritative & infallible.

So my first prediction is that in the next few years the evangelical community will engage in a serious conversation about the Bible. And I suspect that that will be the tipping point McKnight asks about. Let’s pray that this conversation will be as civil and as loving as possible.

My second prediction is that the so-called “new evangelicals” will in large part drop the evangelical label. We don’t like labels to begin with, and evangelicalism already carries a lot of political and theological baggage. Some will head to mainline churches, others will rediscover the rich history of the Catholic and Orthodox traditions, and some will leave Christianity altogether. Still others will remain evangelical in spirit, but without the label—opting instead for “non-denominational” or simply “follower of Jesus.”

My third prediction is that the word “evangelical” will go the way of “fundamentalism” as its adherents become increasingly homogonous and as the word becomes associated with dogmatism regarding politics, science, women’s roles, homosexuality, salvation, and biblical literalism.

THAT IS UNLESS my generation—both Reformed and emerging/progressive evangelicals—decide to intentionally preserve the diversity of our tradition, stop launching personal attacks, and move forward together. As I wrote in my “Letter to a Young Calvinist from a Young Arminian”:

As a new generation preparing to tackle the age-old debate about predestination and free will, our positions don’t have to change but our attitudes can. We can criticize one another’s interpretations of the Bible without assuming motive. We can point out the inconsistencies in certain faith traditions without attacking the people in them. We can talk about our disagreements knowing that what we have in common far outweighs our differences, for together we can affirm hat Christ has died, Christ has risen, and Christ will come again! We are the future of the Church and we have an opportunity here to change the tone.

While I find myself growing more and more pessimistic about that outcome, I still hope for it.

I hope for it every time my friend Amy and I have a healthy, productive conversation about theology, despite our differences. I hope for it every time I’m around my many Reformed friends who are kind, generous, and open. I hope for it every time I see young Pentecostals, Calvinists, Methodists, Baptists, and Mennonites working together to alleviate poverty, provide clean water, stop human trafficking, and live like Jesus in this beautiful, broken world.

I haven’t lost hope in the future of evangelicalism, but I’ve lost the desire to fight for my place in it. I’m tired of trying to convince other Christians that I am a Christian. As Dan and I enter that stage of life when we will likely start a family, we want to raise our kids in a community of Christ-followers where diversity is celebrated, questions are welcomed, and differences are handled with love and respect…not flippant “farewells.”

We want to get busy, get our hands dirty, start serving and growing and changing the world. This may very well lead us to the mainline, or perhaps to something associated with the Anabaptist tradition, or perhaps to something very similar to evangelicalism….but without the label.

The Use of Meta-Narrative in Hermeneutics

I had a friend recently tell me that Jesus would've corrected Joshua about going to war with Israel's enemies in the OT on the basis of his statements, "Love your neighbors as yourself as a way of showing that you Love God." It got me thinking two thoughts: one, could this be true; and two, am I witnessing a new type of hermeneutical movement that plans on grossly re-writing the OT from a NT perspective by way of refashioning a principle known as "meta-narrative"? The former thought is addressed by John Yoder's latest book and I think the latter is begun to be addressed as well.

I have always been of the mindset to let each Testament stand on their own equally, but of course this doesn't work in light of Jesus and the NT. Jesus (Christology) offsets everything from the way we look at Systmatics to the way we look at Biblical Theology. He is the midpoint of history and the circumventer of all of mankind. But I still think that Joshua must stand on his own and answer for the revelatory light that he had been given then (not now, in the NT era). It is actually our problem as Christians of the 21st Century to determine how, and in what manner, we will "love our neighbor" when dealing with nationalistic issues of security, defense, trade and basic communications. The onus is on us, not Joshua.

Moreover, I'm extremely skeptical of re-writing the OT by this newer, undefined principle of Meta-Narrative coming from the old school hermeneutic of contextual, grammatical, literal. DL Baker's "Two Testaments, One Book" as ever been my guide in this discussion as he over-weights the NT against the OT in light of the Incarnation-Event. So that, when we as NT Christians read the OT we understand its "higher" historical or redemptive significance in Jesus while we sympathize with our OT brethren struggling to obey God without knowledge of Jesus' set examples, words and ministry.

Used aright, I think that this newer Meta-Narrative hermeneutic will be another good addition to the contextual, grammatical, literal reading of the Testaments by postmodern emergent Christians; but used in another sense - in the re-writing (by adding or subtracting) traditional Christian orthodoxy into something else, it may become a mis-leading tool by Christians already given to subjective, eisegetical statements and thought (and this would include both camps, both traditional and emergent Christians!).




Book Review – John Howard Yoder’s, “Nonviolence”

by Scot McKnight
April 8, 2011

Just war is the game nations play but John Howard Yoder argued it was not a game Christians were to play. Inevitably, as we’ve already seen in this series, someone asks about the wars of Israel in the Old Testament and, to strengthen the argument, connect God to the justification of war.

John Howard Yoder’s last book, published posthumously on the basis of his lectures in Warsaw (Poland), Nonviolence – a Brief History: The Warsaw Lectures , devotes a lecture to “From the Wars of Joshua to Jewish Pacifism.”

Here are the points he makes in this chp:

Two approaches: (1) In the age of Moses and Joshua, war was morally obligatory; Jesus tells us it was wrong. There are significant problems here. There’s a plot in the Bible, to be sure, but it’s not OT vs. NT, Jesus vs. Moses. (2) Some Jesus’ teachings were for the church alone or only for face-to-face relations. He finds both of these arguments “legalistic.”

So he examines the holy wars.

1. YHWH is a warrior.

2. The gods of the ANE religions were warriors.

3. YHWH alone was the warrior in the Red Sea, Jericho, Gideon and Jehoshaphat. The Israelites didn’t fight in these battles.

4. The essence of the Israelite response was to trust YHWH, not themselves and not in their military strategies.

5. Israel had to remain faithful to the covenant.

6. Holy wars ended with David, and the nature of war changed with David. It was connected now to the warriors in Israel.

(But this pattern changes within the pages of the Old Testament — seen in the ambivalence about their being a king and in the lack of political sovereignty under Ezra and Nehemiah. See below.)

But what about today? Do these apply to today?

First, he says, those battles were unique and they were commanded by God, and we’d need prophets to reveal holy wars for today. And, second, Jesus’ listeners knew of mighty deeds by God that led to victory, so his peace plan was not something unusual and utopian and unrealistic.

He then examines, and he’s known for this argument, how Judaism became peaceful within the pages of the Old Testament and developed a pacifistic stance by its end and then on into rabbinic Judaism. He contends that among Jews more than among Christians we find the pattern and practice of Jesus’ own teachings! Few doubt the pacificist ways of Judaism.

Ezra and Nehemiah established a nation without “political sovereignty” (79). Jeremiah showed how to live among the nations peacefully and seeking the welfare of the city wherein they existed. Rabbinic communities were non violent. Why?

1. Blood is sacred.

2. The Messiah is not yet come, but when Messiah comes it will be peace. So be peaceful now.

3. They learned from the Zealot experience not to go that way.

4. How God directs the Gentile world can be trusted but not always known.

5. Suffering has a place in the divine economy.


Maybe rabbinic Judaism has embraced a pacifism, but the state and nation of Israel most certainly has not. But in this present age and time it seems obligatory to at least have the means to defend one’s citizens from invading nations. (Romans 13) A most dangerous entity on earth might be a nation or political party or any entity which calls itself Christian or imagines itself Theocratic. Exception being para-church organizations (I work for one) and of course, churches.

The church is the reality of the people of God today, certainly not meant to live on this world’s terms. To live in the world, while not of it, in and through Jesus. Walking in his way, following him. Which means carrying one’s cross, and never a sword.

Comment by Ted — April 8, 2011 @ 3:56 am

2. This is a good series! I’m a pacifist and dont’ involve myself in civil politics, either. I pay my taxes because I believe that’s all a Christian is suppose to do with the government (give unto Caesar…). I would go further than Yoder and say that because God slowly reveal God’s self to the world, the Israelites misunderstood God’s character. So because the other nations god’s told them to fight, I guess ours does too. Doesn’t this sound similar to the “god tells us to be wealthy.” gospel? You hear in the scriptures what you want to hear. Of course, to accept this view I have, to have to have a historical critical view of Scriptures and not an inerrant view.

@Ted, there are some that would argue even with Romans 13. They would look at the scriptures and say that we are to follow a government who only meets the description, and that there is NO government that does. The only who which does is God’s kingdom. We also have to put it to light that Paul was civilly disobedient and was thrown into jail a few times

Comment by Amber-Lee — April 8, 2011 @ 4:30 am

3. Does this reconcile with the current Jewish state?

Comment by DRT — April 8, 2011 @ 5:56 am

4. Again, hi Ted. And Amber, I agree with your comments. I believe the witness of Jesus and the early apostles is that we put down our carnal weapons. Period.

Comment by Diane — April 8, 2011 @ 7:19 am

The Atoning Work of the King of Kings


King’s Cross 9
by Timothy Keller

Book Review by Scot McKnight
April 7, 2011

ShareTim Keller’s newest book, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, examines big questions through the Gospel of Mark, and he knows that “The Turn” in Mark’s narrative happens when Jesus is confessed as Messiah — King — and Jesus reveals that, yes, he is King but as King he will die on the cross. That is “The Turn” and that is also the secret to life.

The text is well-known, but perhaps we’ve forgotten. Jesus asks who people are saying he is. They bumble along with a few names and Jesus then asks more abruptly — who do you think I am? Peter says “King.” (He says “Messiah” but Messiah means the anointed king.) Then Jesus says it is necessary for him to go to the cross and be raised.

Atonement theology/theory can be confusing today, in part because some think substitutionary atonement is wrong-headed and in part because others think Jesus dying as an example or dying as an act of service for others are actually all the death of Jesus really means. Both sides of this debate are in need of re-examining how Jesus (Mark 10:45) and the apostles (say Romans 3:21-26) talk about the death of Jesus as atoning. How do you explain the centrality of Jesus’ death in the Christian message?

The astounding connection of Jesus, the newness of which Keller may exaggerate just a bit, is that Jesus connects King to suffering. Here are his words: “Never before this moment had anyone in Israel connected suffering with the Messiah” (96). Yes, Jesus is King/Messiah, but he came to die. And it is part of the divine plan: hence, it is necessary.

Why? Keller points to three reasons why Jesus had to die:

1. Personal necessity: here Keller dips into William Vanstone (a new name to me) and shows that humans need unconditional love, being loved for who they are, and all humans know is a bit of that but their love is more mercenary (good term I think). We love and get something from it; Jesus loves and needs nothing from that extension of love.

2. A Legal necessity: debt’s can be paid back but justice is not established; justice can only be established through forgiveness. The debt is absorbed. [This section is a bit short and there's more he could have said but didn't have space for it.]

3. A Cosmic necessity: here he’s talking about the demonstrative power of the cross. The section seems to be a mixture of a Grotius and Girard, but I’m not sure. “The cross reveals the systems of the world to be corrupt, serving power and oppression instead of justice and truth” (102). But it also demonstrates the character of God and of the kingdom. He won through losing.

Finally, the text in Mark 8 goes on to show that if we want to be connected to Jesus, we have to die on the cross with him so we can reign through him.

McKnight - A Critique of Love Wins 4


Exploring Love Wins 4

by Scot McKnight
April 8, 2011
Filed under: Universalism

I will begin these discussions of Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, with a prayer. I am asking that you pause quietly and slow down enough to pray this prayer as the way to approach this entire series:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing:
Send your Holy Spirit and pour into my heart your greatest gift,
which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue,
without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you.
Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.†

The title for Rob Bell’s second chapter — Here is the New There — not only sums up the chapter (and book) but also a burgeoning movement in the evangelical world, and it is one inspired by N.T. Wright’s stuff on eschatology and — to be perfectly honest right up front — sometimes some of Tom’s readers make distortions of what Tom is actually saying. Tom has said over and over that Jesus didn’t save us in order to get us to heaven, but he saved us so that heaven and earth could meet in the New Heavens and New Earth. His emphasis on New Heavens and New Earth is right.

It is that theology that is at work in Bell’s second chapter, and we’ll see if his approach fits the NT.

His repeated words here is that heaven is understood by many as “somewhere else.” Salvation is a story of movement from here to somewhere else and somewhere out there. The Christian story has focused, and he’s surely right here, on heaven and almost as surely that heaven is somewhere else — it’s out there, up there, and somewhere else. And many in the church emphasize who will be there and who will not be there, and he’s surely right about that too.

In your church, is “heaven” somewhere else — ethereal and out there and beyond etc — or is it more earthy? How “New Heavens/New Earth-y” is the kingdom/heaven in your church? When people say “heaven” what do they mean?

The rich man approaches Jesus and asks, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus’ response is “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” This is from Matthew 19:16.

A summary. Jesus’ response surprises many Christians because he doesn’t give the man the plan of salvation but tells him to do the commandments and to give his money away to the poor. Rob says the issue was the question, and the question the man asked was how to get eternal life… but that didn’t mean to him to be a question about where he would go (to heaven) when he died. Rob says the man’s question was about how to enter into the kingdom life in the here and now. That’s where Rob camps in this chapter, and that is why he focuses on heaven beginning now. Thus, the here is the new there. [The old "there" was somewhere else, heaven in the skies, etc.]

I’ll get to something we need to interact with in a moment, but Bell observes that The Age to Come, or heaven on earth, is for everybody [developed later in his book], it is earthy, and that life will not be all new. There’s lots in The Age to Come that is not new. But it will be the world as God designed it — no more war, all peace and love and joy and justice. Injustices will be made right, our angers will be justified. It will be a “restored, renewed and redeemed” earth. This is typical Judaism and pervasively NT-like.

The way to enter into The Age to Come is to live the commandments. Here’s his theme of continuity: do now what will happen then and you will be ready and prepared. Back to the rich man… Jesus gave five commands, and it bugs me that Rob missed the love your neighbor from the Jesus Creed here, but I’ll forgive him. The rich man was greedy and greed will have no place in The Age to Come.

So Jesus takes the man’s question about his life then and makes it about the kind of life he’s living now. But the odd thing here is that Rob hereby flattens his eschatology, while I think Rob has a both-and in his theology, and I suspect that man did too, and I suspect Jesus did too. What happens now continues into the life of The Age to Come. That means it is not just now but both now and then. So I agree that what we do now is of immense (and eternal) value. If there is an afterlife or a “heaven,” and if it is eternal, then it an act of colossal foolishness not to live now in light of then.

And I agree that heaven will have lots of surprises. He seems to suggest that it is character that gets a person into heaven (on p. 53). Then this piece of poetic language: “heaven is as far away as that day when heaven and earth become one again and as close as a few hours” (55). He seems to be getting at heaven being super reality of the current reality.

I don’t know where he gets the idea that aion means “intensity of experience that transcends time” (57). I’m thinking it could come from something like John 10:10 where Jesus said he came to bring life to its utter fullness. But I don’t think the Greek term means that except by associations with ideas connected to The Age to Come.

And I agree on the eternal life that is something now and through and beyond death. We are now playing the piano while wearing oven mitts. Nice one. But that very point lands Rob right back where he began, and it cuts against the theme of his aversion to the “somewhere else” idea for heaven, which is part of biblical faith from the time of Daniel 12:1-3 on (resurrection to judgment or salvation; shine like stars).

This response has to be a little long so I’ve put the main points in bold. Just read those lines if you want to see the big picture.

Three points that deserve some scrutiny... the big point I will make is this: Rob sets up an either-or (heaven is out there vs. heaven is here) and pushes hard on Jesus talking not about an endless eternity but about the present, but closer inspection shows that Bell operates (correctly) with a both-and (heaven is both here and there, both now and then, both continuous and discontinuous). In the language of the scholars: he operates with an inaugurated eschatology but seems to overdo the realized dimension. Or he operates with a realized eschatology but also has a bit of an inaugurated eschatology at work.

First. There’s a reason why the ancients, both Jews and Greek and Romans, used a word like “heaven” for where God is and where folks go when they die. Yes, there’s lots of variety in the ancient world; and they used a variety of words, but the NT word is “heaven” and that word means “sky.” And there all kinds of Jewish texts about ascending into heaven. Why did Jesus and the early Christians fasten on that word for doing the lion’s share of work on where God is? Obviously this is phenomenology. God was above and beyond and when we die, if we are righteous, we go to be with God and that means we go to heaven (in the skies). This is at work in the NT but .., but… but… and this is where Rob camps and he’s right. The NT modifies this: it eventually lands not on just ascending into heaven (into the skies) but on a meeting of heaven and earth in the New Heavens and the New Earth. Most Christians need to learn this and the sooner the better. The “final” place in the Bible is the New Heavens and the New Earth — and these two meet in Jerusalem! Read Revelation 20-22. Bell’s emphasis here is correct and important.

Second, I want to argue the rich man in Luke 18 was asking about the future world too and not just the present world. For Jews of Jesus’ day, The Age to Come distinguishes itself from This Age. So, there was This Age and The Age to Come. Bell seems to equate Eternal Life with The Age to Come and to emphasize it as now, but Jesus says those who give up their lives for him will — and this is my translation of Luke 18:30 — “will not fail to receive [first] abundance in This Age and [second] in The Age to Come eternal life.” So it does not appear to me that “eternal life” is quite the same as The Age to Come so much as a property or characteristic of The Age to Come. Eternal life then is the kind of life one has in The Age to Come. [Rob somehow uses the word aion when the Greek word is aionion. The first means "age" with a beginning and an end, and he drives this idea hard. But the second one, the one Jesus uses, according to the standard specialist lexicon, means "pertaining to a period of unending duration, without end." The Latin equivalent of aionion was perpetuus. Rule for writers: use the standard lexicons and if you differ from them you better have good evidence because you are disagreeing with some mighty good scholars who have for centuries pondered the evidence in the original languages.]

So, let me put together what Jesus says in Luke 18: Jesus says his followers will acquire “eternal life” in The Age to Come, which is endless, and that means they would possess a kind of life appropriate to that Age. That eternal life, or aionion, is beginning to work its way into the present. It appears to me, then, that the rich man and Jesus were referring to a future endless reality; in fact they were referring to the future reality and saying it could invade time now — the future can begin now but it is still the future …

But Rob wants to push against this harder (p. 58): “heaven is not forever in the way that we think of forever, as a uniform measurement of time, like days and years, marching endlessly into the future.”

Third, Jews did conceive of The Age to Come in terms of endless time. Rob’s ideas need to be sharpened because Jews did think of The Age to Come in a measurement of time. I could draw on a number of texts but one NT that makes this clear is that the Book of Revelation describes the Age to Come with this description: it involves a Lake of Fire, and the Lake of Fire — which is John’s equivalent for Gehenna in Jesus, which is also called the “second death” — lasts “for ever and ever” (Rev 20:10), and there the words are aionas ton aionon, or “ages of ages.” Their way of saying this would be like this: The Age to Come is one Age piled on top of another on top of another. It is not some kind of abstract infinity but a measurement of time expressed in an endless quantity of Ages: Age after Age. [See below for more of this.] The New Heavens and the New Earth have that same property, but instead of a fire it is a place where all things become New (21:1-8). In fact, I would say the Jews did think of The Age to Come in a measurement of time. And they used what was the longest one they knew: ages upon ages.

Now let me turn this inside out, and for those who are deconstructionists, that’s what this is. “Here is the new there” is Rob’s line. OK, but… the new heavens and the new earth are different enough from what is now here that Rob’s here-is-the-new-there is actually somewhere else because it is not the same place as we have now right here. The here-is-the-new-there is all new so his now-here is not his there but a new-here and a new-there. It may be here, but here will be so different that we can take off our oven mitts and play the piano and dance to the eternal music. The minute you start talking about taking off our mitts you enter into the “somewhere else” (at least in part).

Now reduced to its simplest form: When the rich man asked Jesus about eternal life and Jesus used “life” in his response, they were both talking and thinking about what it takes to participate in The Age to Come, that future endless glorious rule of God when heaven and earth meet in the New Heavens and New Earth. Jesus was saying it can begin now, but that now will continue into The Age to Come, which is eternal and where death will be no more. The Here, then, is a foretaste of the There.

The rich man, I suggest, was asking a 1st Century version of what some ask today when they say “How do I get to heaven?” Our answers will nuance “heaven” but they aren’t in a different category altogether as Rob contends.

[Another Jewish expression for eternal as endless is found in the Jewish Josephus, when commenting on the Pharisees, and he was one of them at one time in his life, says the "souls of the wicked suffer eternal punishment." Jewish War 2.163. The term "eternal" here is not aionios but aidios, and that word (like aionios) comes from aei, which means "always." Josephus, the Jew, the former Pharisee, sees punishment as endless in duration. The good have a soul that passes into another (eternal?) body via resurrection. See also Antiquities 18.14, which gives a variant on this same idea with aidios again meaning eternal punishment and the good souls being given a new (eternal) life. More at Jewish War 2.154-155, where endless punishments are stated.]