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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Jesus Theology: "To Love God and Neighbor"

A Jesus Theology is one that continually seeks to "love God" and "love your neighbor". It was Jesus' very broad re-interpretation of the Torah that set the Pharisees and Sadducees on a direct path of conflict with Him. Why? The latter group read the Torah as a set of decrees from God that must be practiced in order to maintain holiness and receive God's blessing. Whereas Jesus said, this is impossible (as was reiterated time-and-again in Paul's letters). We cannot find holiness through obeying God's decrees because those same decrees will show our inability to maintain them. Though commendable, true holiness could only be found in Jesus' Himself... (yet another heresy to Pharisaical ears!).
 
Incredulously, it was the radical Jewish sect, the Essenes (John the Baptist was one), that heard Jesus' interpretation of the Torah and found relief from the law of God in Jesus, who become God's atoning sacrifice for our sin. And it is to Jesus that a Christian looks to today for empowerment and witness, mission and a semblance to all that life brings. Knowing that with Jesus comes God's Kingdom built upon love, sacrifice, and service. Not upon rules and regulations that are unattainable to keep.
 
Thus, to subscribe to a Jesus Theology is to subscribe to Jesus' sublime phrase, "Love God, love your neighbour." Which any good theology should hold at its heart, and commit itself through prayer and practice . And it is this theology that forms the heart and mission of today's postmodern Emergent Theology. A theology that preaches the love of God with the responsibility of man to love one another. This is the baseline definition of an Emergent Christian (and for that matter, any Christian knowing Christ as Savior and Lord).
 
May it then be so observed by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit granted all of God's children through Christ.
 
R.E. Slater
February 6, 2013
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 
 
Pharisees: Revisiting an Old Problem
So, what they of the charge of hypocrisy?
 
Five observations, leading to a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.”
 
 
Hypocrisy is…
 
1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one does (23:3-4)
 
2. Desire for prestige and power and congratulation (23:5-12)
 
3. Abuse of teaching authority through both false teachings and false practices (23:13, 15, 16-22, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28).
 
4. Overconcern with minutiae and lack of focus on the major issues (23:23-24, 25-26, 27-28): that is, moral myopia [("limited sight, a narrow vision of field, nearly to blindness") - res].
 
5. Inconsistency between appearance and practice (23:27-28).
 
Put together, Jesus accuses the Pharisees for “hypocrisy” because they had abused their teaching authority by teaching false things, not living according to what they taught, and for the desire for power. In addition, their teaching was a focus on minor issues to the neglect of major issues.
 
To be “hypocrite” is to be a false teacher who leads both self and others astray from the will of God. The term should not be limited to “contradiction between appearance and reality.”
 
Should we call anyone “Pharisee”? Be careful, that’s my rule. Think historically, my second rule. If some insist on finding contemporary counterparts to the 1st Century Pharisees, here are more suggestions:
 
First, use it only for those who are committed to the Torah as a comprehensive explanation for the will of God. (In this sense, it is pretty hard to use for any Christian.)
 
Second, use it only for those who through the abuse of their teaching authority are leading people astray. (In this sense, it is fit most for heretics.)
 
Third, never use it as a synonym for “Jews,” “Judaism,” or any other generic Jewish group. It refers only to one group of Jews, and that group eventually morphed into the rabbis but that morphing involved major shifts and moves. [Overall, consider it a highly offensive term - esp. to a Jew. - res]
 
In 1907, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes, said, “We are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is.” There you have a quintessentially view of a Pharisee, someone who both believes in the Torah and who believes its meaning is determined by its interpretive tradition.
 
On the other hand, a Sadducee would simply say, to use Chief Hughes’ terms, “We are under a Constitution.” We don’t need an interpretive tradition for we need only to seek out the original intent.
 
Pharisees were judicial activists; Sadducees were judicial conservationists. Now stick this in your pipe for a puff: Jesus was more critical of the liberals than the conservatives! And I’m willing to bet money that most think Jesus was opposing the conservatives when he took a swat at the Pharisees. Or did Jesus think they weren’t liberal enough or for those who didn’t get their liberalism right? Precisely.
 
Consequently, the Pharisees built up a body of interpretive tradition, which today is called the Mishnah and the Tosefta, with an even larger body of anecdotal reflection in the Babylonian Talmud and the Jerusalem Talmud.
 
At the time of Jesus, this interpretive tradition was merely oral tradition, but it carried the day. So, this permits us to see the Pharisees as those who both believed in the Torah but who knew it needed interpretation, applications, and it needed to do so along careful lines of thought and procedure.
 
 
 

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