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

Friday, April 22, 2011

A New Passover, a New Lamb, a New Exodus

 
 
10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of
the body of Jesus Christ once for all. - Heb 10.10
 
 
The Last Supper - Matthew 26
 
The Passover with the Disciples
 
17 Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18 He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19 And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.
 
20 When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve.[b] 21 And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23 He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24 The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25 Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
 
Institution of the Lord's Supper
 
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood of the[c] covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.”
 
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
 
 
 
A New Passover, a New Lamb, a New Exodus
 
 
After Jesus' sacrifice as the Lamb of God slain before the foundation of the world the Jewish ceremony of Passover was forever changed. Her pilgrimage in the old world of Canaan from Egypt had become transformed to God's new living promise of spiritual redemption, revival, and renewal, by His Son Jesus. Henceforth, after Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, the Spirit of God would forever blow upon the hearts of believing men and women to raise up a new body of redeemed as God's empowered people forever transfixed upon the cross of Jesus. Who have died in the name of Jesus to be raised up by that same power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave to live forth God's love and forgiveness, mercy and justice, each resurrected day.
 
With the church's birth on Pentecost began its new exodus from the lands of sinful humanity unto the lands of spiritual renewal and rebirth. It's celebration was on the basis of the Lamb of God slain at Passover for the sins of mankind to be raised three days later from death unto life. Thus replacing the Jewish tradition of Passover to that of the church's celebratory Eucharist or, Communion Table, where Christ's broken body is symbolized with the breaking of bread, and His shed blood by the pouring out of new wine upon the lips of all penitents.
 
By this transformation has Jesus become the new bread and new wine to the new life in the Creator-God whereby He transforms, reforms, and conforms, each believing heart to His Son's Cross of salvation and empowering resurrection. That none escape so great a sacrifice and privilege of new life created in Christ Jesus, and by His holy power. That this old world be forever left behind into the hands of God who spared not His Son for the joy sent before Him - namely for the joy of redeeming those who would follow in repentance and confession before His holy name and living atonement.
 
For the people of God have arisen from the grave of sin and death unto the living joy that Jesus saw before Him by the Spirit of God in the Garden of Gethsemane. So great a joy that it carried Him to the Cross of Sacrifice and held Him by no other power than by the power of His own will and testament. That by this certainty in the power of His resurrection and salvation to come would arise a new Passover, a New Lamb, a New Exodus, redeemed from the land of the living to the land of the resurrected.
 
Holding forth a new Kingdom, and a new World, and a new Earth, to all who would become pilgrims until Jesus' second Advent-Coming as King, Ruler, Lion, Suzerainty, unlike His first Advent-Coming as Shepherd, Immanuel, Messiah, Lamb, Prophet, Priest, Rabbi, and Stricken Servant. For how could the Prince of Life truly die - He who was ever the Living Lord and Eternal God?
 
Nay, but for Love's sake, and Love alone, did the living God forge in the fires of hell swords made for righteousness, and ploughshares for peace and justice. With shields of faith and sandals shod with the Gospel of Life and Salvation. With hands and ears, tongues and hearts, that would serve others no matter how batter and bruised, with the book of life until He comes again. Forging an earthly kingdom prepared for His reign in grace and peace, humility and justice, love and forgiveness.
 
By no other tools or gospel does the Church of God come to humanity but by these holy implements. By these works and words shall we know the true people of God who have hearts made obedient upon Christ's witness and testimony in this life so many long years ago. Who serve on bended knees and with helping hands. With humbled hearts and bowed heads. Dispensing God's rich blessings against this life of sin and death, cruelty and harm.
 
Praise be to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for their Almighty love and gracious mercy upon us poor sinners this day. To the God who is our eternal hope, and daily presence, be praise both now, and forever more, Amen.
 
R.E. Slater
April 22, 2011
rev. March 30, 2013
Observations on an Easter Weekend
 
 
 
 

McKnight - A Critique of Love Wins 9: Conclusion

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/04/21/exploring-love-wins-9/#more-15948

by Scot McKnight
April 21, 2011
Filed under: Universalism

Of the problems Rob Bell wants to deal with in his new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, two of them are what God is like in some (distorted) presentations of the Christian message and the focused intent of “evangelism” or becoming a Christian on the part of (perhaps) many. Let’s finish off the last chp of this series with this prayer again:

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.†

Caricature and ridicule have a place in Christian rhetoric, if done well and done with the right intent. Rob caricatures a view of God at work in some understandings of the Christian message. Here’s how he says it: “Because if something is wrong with your God, if your God is loving one second and cruel the next [no one says God is cruel, but he has caricatured the God who judges to hell as cruel], if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years [this issue deserves more attention in this book and more attention by all of us], no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good music or good coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring untenable, unacceptable, awful reality” (175).

And then this: “So when the gospel is diminished [and it often is] to a question of whether nor not a person will ‘get to heaven’ [and just listen to so many warrants for evangelism and you will hear this], that reduces the good news to a ticket, a way to get past the bouncer and into the club” (178). I agree: “The good news is better than that.” Again, “When the gospel is understood primarily in terms of entrance rather than joyous participation…”. Yes, yes, I agree. Enough preachers and parents present the gospel this that it deserves caricature and ridicule.

These are the two primary problems at work in this chp, and probably in this book. We need to get our view of God right and we need to see what the gospel is designed to accomplish.

In this last chp he begins with the two sons and the father in the prodigal son story. His point is that the younger son had a story: that he was not worthy. The older son had another story: that he had slaved for his father, and that his father was not fair. And the father had yet another story: come to the party, you have always been with me, I will accept you. In other words, “I love you.” Three different stories, and the point of the parable is to see if they will accept the father’s story and not theirs.

There is a fundamental problem here: the younger son’s story was true — he had sinned, violently in fact, and he came to his senses, confessed his sin — in terms of not being worthy (and Jesus says that very thing in Luke 18 about someone he approves) — and found the father forgiving. Rob seems to me to cut the fabric of the story’s plot: fellowship, sin, realization, confession, and the discovery of the mercy of the father. The younger son’s story was true and it was in telling that truth that he found forgiveness. Until we tell the truth about ourselves we cannot face God.

At the same time, the older son couldn’t bring himself to see the truth of his own condition, and so refused to join the party. The sons put on display what was at work in Luke 15:1-2: sinners (younger son) and the carping Pharisees and scribes (older son). Again, a good example of his emphasis on choice and freedom, which are at the heart of love (wins). I don’t see three stories with one being true, but two stories — the younger son’s story which was true and the father’s story meshed perfectly, while the older son’s story was false and didn’t mesh with the father’s story. It is tragic to miss the appropriateness of the younger son’s self-perception because it magnifies the gracious, forgiving, celebrating love of the father. In spite of the kid’s sin, the father loved him. And because he came to the father, he enjoyed the party.

Many do suffer from bad views of God and of bad views of the gospel, which he calls the gospel of goats. God is not a slave driver. The gospel is not simply about entrance but about enjoyment … he’s right about this, and too few presentations of the gospel are shaped in the direction that they can lead to this (except the health and wealth folks). The parable of the prodigal son is an excellent place to tell this story of God’s gracious love and offer of fellowship through forgiveness.

And again Rob trots out the all too familiar (and simplistic) stereotype that God punishes Jesus, and while I know some hear this sort of thing, one can’t simply wipe out Romans 3:26 without at least doing some serious thinking: God doesn’t — according to this verse that says God is both just and the justifier — just wink at sin or wipe it away without thinking, but God must do right when he forgives. The way the Bible puts it is that God has to be righteous in forgiveness or it is an unjust forgiveness. Yes, God is the rescuer. But the way the Bible is that God both absorbs sin and injustice — “he who knew no sin was made sin on our behalf” — and forgives. We are talking about God’s self-substitution and not a turning of Father against Son. Yes, I’ve heard careless preaching and I cringe at the way some have presented the gospel in these terms. But it is just as careless to flop in the other direction and dispense with justice in the forgiveness process.

One of his lines: “We shape our God and then our God shapes us” (184). So true: our view of God determines what happens to us. So let’s have a biblical view of God, and that’s what Rob is arguing for. For Rob there are two Gods: one God is Love, the other God is Cruel. No one wants the Cruel God, and I suspect that most who do convey a God who is cruel also think that God is loving. But there’s more here: Is the God who is Love capable of taking in the scope of the Bible or is this a select-some-passages God? Is this the God who is the Warrior-Lamb of Revelation? The God who stands behind Jesus’ warnings about Jerusalem’s destruction?

I want to push back by saying this: I am not yet convinced the God in this book is a God of justice. That may sound utterly nonsensical, but Rob has so distanced God from hell (hell is something humans do to themselves) and so distanced God from disestablishing injustice that the oppressed person may well find in Bell’s God little more than justification for the oppressors and the power of the already mighty. Just recently a friend sent to me a paper on James Cone, the well-known American Black liberation theologian, who argued that without wrath in God there is no love in God. If God doesn’t care enough to dis-establish injustice, God doesn’t truly love those who suffer injustice. Until we embrace the utter justice and justifiable wrath of God we will drive ourselves to a sentimental God or to Marcion’s God. The poor must have a God of justice and the rich need to hear that God is just.

God is Love, but that same God self-describes with “I am holy.” Yes, I agree — the witness of the Bible is that God is love, but how can we simply avoid God’s self-identifying words about holiness? And what does holiness say about some of the topics in this book? Can we simply dismiss the robust view of holiness at work in the Bible when it comes to descriptions of God? For some holiness is the defining attribute of God, for others it’s love. I don’t know why we get into such battles – both are true. God is holy and God is love, and God is lovingly holy and holy in his love. Holiness does not mean wrath; holiness means purity and moral perfection and utter differentness — the ineffability and the infinity of God. So I propose that there’s one expression in the Bible that puts these together in a way that needed more representation in this book: the God who is Jealous, the God whose zeal for his own glory is provoked when his people profane his Name and turn from him in sin. Jealousy and Love belong together and reveal the holy fiber at work in God’s love. Where is the jealousy of God in this book?

Rob says “We do ourselves great harm when we confuse the very essence of God, which is love, with the very real consequences of rejecting and resisting that love, which creates what we call hell” (177). Hell, in other words, is not part of God’s world — or connected to God. This problem isn’t this simple. The fact is that Rob believes in hell, and that means God has created a world in which hell can exist. Whether you say God made hell for sinners or whether you say humans make their own hell, you’ve got a God who is connected to hell. God made a world with consequences, and that means we are driven to connect God to the consequences, if only to say God made the possibility of such consequences. We need to ask what kind of God that is.

And I ask this to finish: Why the ridicule like this? “This is why Christians who talk the most about going to heaven while everybody else goes to hell don’t throw very good parties” (179). Those who believe love wins, and who believe God is love and who believe what we believe ought to matter ought not to ridicule others like this. The truth of the matter is that I’ve been to some mighty good parties by those hell-embracing folks and some bad parties at the homes of those don’t give a damn about hell.