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
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
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

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Paul, whom I have loved

A Map of the Travels and Voyages of the Apostle Paul

The novel idea in contemporary Christian theology is to bash Paul, or more accurately, bash our own ideas of Paul. But I will admit right upfront that I am a lover of Paul - but so am I of Jesus - and have found great help in the study of Hebrews that reclaims the OT through Jesus and the Gospels. However, since my early days in seminary Paul and Jesus have found a growing gap of misunderstanding between them through no fault of their own - for the onus is on us. We have been the ones that have allowed this gap and distance to grow. And it is also on us to reconcile the theologies, narratives, and ministries of Paul and Jesus back together again. Not seamlessly. But holistically. By recognising all the differences of character and location that comes through the marvelous synergies between meta-narrative and cultural import.

Paul in thought, by Rembrandt
Paul was the Pharisee's Pharisee if you will... the guy that knew Torah better than anyone else. And he's also the guy who was struck down in his great knowledge and zeal for his wayward faith upon the Emmaeus Road. To then spend a lifetime thereafter sorting out the Torah through the words and ideas of Jesus - who was no less a Rabbi except in name only - by Judaism's ruling clerics at war with a growing band of emerging Jewish faithful calling themselves Christ-followers (later to be named Christians). But Jesus had the upper hand didn't he? In that he was actually the God who had spoken Torah to his people Israel... to all the Paul's and would-be followers of OT faithful seeking obedience to God's words of self-proclamation and image-making activities. For over the centuries God's words became more-and-more confused through sin and distractions, judgments and exiles. What started out as a powerful journey of faith by their father Abraham had turned into a miserable mess of disillusionment, fear and confusion. A living faith had become distilled into a faith-killing religion of dogmas and rituals. Grace and Law were unnaturally separated and each had lost their way in the idea of what God and worship should be (properly described as covenantal nomism, sic. EP Sanders et al).

Paul writing, by Rembrandt
Consequently I find this newer focus of NPP (the New Perspective of Paul) refreshing in that it re-rights the distortions that have grown up through the church these past 2000 years. The question is not "Do I follow Jesus or do I follow Paul?" But the real question is, can we, like Paul, learn to re-learn our faith as exampled and taught by Jesus - that it might live and breathe as it should be? Apart from our many disillusionments, fears and confusions that we have placed upon our own selves, in our relationships with others, in our understanding of God and worship, within our faith communities, and the many work-a-day ministries of life, family, work and existence? And like Paul, we'll spend a lifetime trying to figure it out because of the many false distortions of the world that comes to us creating disillusionment, fear and confusion.

But I am a firm believer that our God is a "self-knowing Knower" (to use Barth's description of God) who will make Himself firmly known to us... perhaps not through our heads, or doctrines, or beliefs... but most definitely through our hearts, our faith, and our worship. Though I try my best in this website to lead and shepherd our thoughts and insights about God doctrinally I find our best apprehension seems to come when the Divine meets us in our hearts in worshipful moments of salvation, redemption, renewal, restoration, reclamation, resurrection, recommittal, restitution, reconfiguration, and release. And most usually during our times of deflation, defeat, disappointment, destruction, failure, death, sorrow and woe. Unhappily we will always be in the process of being destroyed in this sinful world. But happily, during this destruction, God is there, and will continually reclaim us as His own children who will never be loosed from His all powerful grip of grace, mercy and hope, in a never-ending process of rebirth.

So then, do not give up on yourself nor on others. It is all of God. And only of God. It is He who is our Faith. The Lover of our Souls. The only real Father that will form and fashion His sons and daughters through this sin-cursed world until we are redeemed fully, freely, completely by His Son Jesus' life, death and resurrection. When together we rise, and together arrive, to a final resting place of newness-of-hope and life eternal. But it begins in this life.... So then, be patient with yourselves. With others. Be steady in your faith and hope. In the devastation of your failures know that God's Spirit rests more powerfully on you than can be thought or believed during those times of abadonment and loss. For you are not abandoned nor lost. God is there especially at those times. And will ever be your inheritance. Your trust. Your Rock and Living Water. The High-Priest of your souls. The Cloud of Fire that abides in the tabernacle of your souls. The Lamb slain for your provisioning. The First Fruits of your Feast. The Slayer of death and sin and devil. God is boundless and is boundlessly-bound to you ever and always. And like Paul, rest ye and be at peace with the Jesus we have come to trust and worship. Who is the self-knowing Knower reclaiming all that you are through Himself.

R.E. Slater
February 7, 2012

God's Everlasting Love (Romans 8.31-39)

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? 32 gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Voyages and Travels of the Apostle Paul

Learning to Love Paul

by Scot McKnight
February 2, 2012

J.R. Daniel Kirk‘s new book, Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? A Narrative Approach to the Problem of Pauline Christianity (BakerAcademic, 2011) may very well be a touchstone for the next generation of Christians who can’t accept (i) the traditional Paul (on historical grounds) and yet who want to explore what Paul looks like if we begin with a more accurate understanding of Jesus, of Judaism, of the Bible’s Story… and of Paul himself [sic, the (ii) New Perspective of Paul - res].

What role does Paul play in your faith and in your theology? Have you struggled with him?

We begin with this: lots of Christians today are struggling with Paul. (For some that is just incomprehensible, while for many this speaks volumes.) Some are bothered that Paul doesn’t talk kingdom enough; others that Paul doesn’t even talk about Jesus’ teachings; others that Jesus was so activist and justice-oriented and Paul, well, those aren’t his gigs. Some find him “distasteful, offensive, oppressive, exclusive, confusing, arrogant, or just plain wrong” (3). Others wonder why he gets so much attention and why his theology is the lens through which the whole Bible is read [sic, Calvinism as expressed through Reformed Theology. - res]. Others think Paul was not so important until Augustine (c.354-430) and after him not until Luther (c.1483-1546) and Calvin (c.1509-1564). Kirk gives us more: Paul the angry Reformed theologian, the promoter of internalized Christians, the Neoplatonist, the exclusivist, the oppressor, the judge, the chauvinist, and the imposer of order.

Daniel Kirk thinks Paul’s been given a misreading. He thinks we need to get to the narrative shape of Paul’s thinking, to the Story at work in Paul’s letters.

But Daniel also thinks that many (post?) evangelicals no longer operate with the assumptions of the previous generation, including concern with inerrancy as the foundation. “For this generation (in which I include myself), a network of relationships and experiences fills the primary role of confirmation of our beliefs that earlier evangelicals would have located primarily in ‘objective’ truths such as the inerrancy of Scripture or, to take another example, proofs of the resurrection” (7).

Kirks strategy is to show that Jesus and Paul inherited the same story of God at work in Israel, and that Mark’s Story of Jesus and Paul’s Story of Jesus are very similar — that is, Jesus and Paul are at one on the Story. This leads, he argues, to a revolutionary reinterpretation of Paul (for some). That one Story is this:
The God of Israel acted decisively in the person of Jesus to restore God’s rule and reconcile the whole world to himself (9).
That Story is about God (and this God is known through the Story God is in, not through such terms as immutable, etc). This is a Story about Israel as God’s chosen way of blessing the world. No Story in the Bible without Israel. Israel has a future: new king, pour out Spirit, live in Land, free from overlords, the temple.

Big one: The Gospels are Israel’s future. The future tense becomes present tense. This Story comes to its “pointed realization” in the crucifixion and resurrection. Paul’s churches have been “scripted into Israel’s story” so that the whole Gentile theme in Paul is about realizing the promise to Abraham to be a blessing to the nations. They get to be part of Israel’s Story.

The center of this Story, of course, is Jesus. He is the King and brings the kingdom. The Gospels tell the Story of God ruling through Jesus, and the oddity of this Story is that God reigns through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He becomes King, as it were, via those acts. Resurrection is about new creation and about ruling creation.

Mark’s crucified King — first half about king, second half about how he rules as king — and Paul’s christology are very similar: it is about Jesus ruling as the one who was crucified and raised.

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