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
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

Friday, March 3, 2017

Revelation: The Challenge of the Gospel to the Apostosies of the Present Time

When speed reading through the NT last fall I discovered The Book of Revelation for the first time as a letter written in encouragement by the Apostle John to the early churches he had founded. That they might greatly persevere in their Christian faith against growing Roman-Greek-Jewish oppression and persecution which was leading to the loss, displacement, even death, of early Christians for testifying to their faith founded in their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

A faith that challenged the early belief systems and paganisms of their day even as it does now in today's post-truth world devoted to patriotic nationalism to the exclusion of the civil and human rights of a society's populations. A nationalism that has slipped into today's undiscerning religious churches and is confusing the gospel of Christ with the gospel of an ungodly Empire regressive in its religious Dominionism; repressive in its anti-intellectual reconstructions of the bible; and holding so many more ungodly teachings and behaviors as to create an ungodly heathen altar upon which another sacrifice is being made to the exclusion of Christ, the Lamb of God, slain before the foundations of the world.

Not unlike today's outbreak of post-truth Nationalism which is contending for the soul of the church, so too The Book of Revelation is a letter displaying John's great heartbreak for his churches as they slipped away into the pernicious teachings of Gnostic mysticism; worldly racisms and discriminations; and a plethora of unchristian ideas and teachings challenging the early Christians founded in Christ and His gospel through faithful Apostolic teaching.

The Apostle's churches were being continually challenged by the incursion of untruthful false teachings and by disingenuous false teachers working hard against the gospel of Christ causing the churches of Asia Minor to slip away all too quickly from the ministries of John and his disciples. These false teachers were more than oppositional to the gospel of Christ. They were highly motivated, caustic, argumentative, duplicitous, conniving, and purposeful in destroying the hard-won ministries of John across Asia Minor.

A ministry which John's churches had testified to by word and by deed, had learned, had even discussed and witnessed, in the Apostle's very presence. At the time of writing Revelation John was discovering through the many emissaries he was sending out of the grave challenges coming against the gospel of Christ he and his disciples had labored so hard to preach and teach. Deeply oppositional challenges growing across Asia Minor's enculturated societies in anger and resoluteness to deny, resist, and remove from their older Hellenistic traditions and customs the Christian gospel that was replacing those beliefs and practices.

So then, the Book of Revelation was yet another letter by the Apostle John to the Asia Minor churches to hold fast to Jesus, to endure persecution, to forsake false gospels, and to grow in the faith and hope they had first learned in Christ. The apocalyptic imagery he used drew from popular "end-time" literature and spoke to their "present time" of hardship-and-trial - that it would continue to increase proportionate to the gospel's outreach into the tribes and nations of the ancient world.

John's final letter to his churches would culminate in what he had sown, taught, and exampled through his earlier visits, letters, and gospel, as the first century quickly drew to a close and a new era commenced far removed from the Jewish-Messianic Christianity John once had transitioned under in his Lord's day in the lands of Israel, his holy ancestry.

Now, into the pagan cultures of the ancient world had come yet another challenge from a foreign religion, Christianity, dismissed and despised as unworthy and unwanted. A religion founded in a Judeo-Christian ethic with the understanding of Christ's culmination of the Old Testament, it's laws, and salvation history to the nation Israel through its cycles of faithfulness and faithlessness. This Judeo-Christian faith was unknown in Asia Minor's Greek-Persian-Roman culture; spoken by a foreign tongue and descended from a foreign culture (Jewish); and didn't make sense to the Gentile populations becoming convicted by its strange teachings of love and sacrifice. And yet, under the hand of God, it was growing in its missional outreach to fast become a fundamental religious belief - if not religious philosophy - that all the Gentile nations across the ancient world were beginning to wrestle with as to its truths, cultural demands, and personal commitments.

So that in the midst of all this the dear Apostle John was sorrowfully witnessing a fundamental falling away of the church under renewed raw persecutions aggressively challenging everything he and his apostolic disciples had learned and taught. It held a renewed energy unlike what he had ever expected and would require a new generation of Christians to uphold-and-contest in vigor, and personal commitment, against the evils of their generations.

This was the energy of the gospel of God into the dark world of mankind lost in its blindness and sins. And it was the power of God through Christ by His Spirit to release men and women from their torments and chains to find a spiritual freedom unlike what they had ever known. It was the beginning of the era of the church of God speaking truth in love, duty, honor, and commitment that would be led by men and women of God trained to go forth to plant, defend, and wisely shepherd the flocks of God.

"Even so Lord, Come in Power, in Majesty, in Reign, into our hearts!"

R.E. Slater
March 3, 2017

* * * * * * * * *

Things You (Might) Mistakenly Believe About The Book of Revelation

March 2, 2017

If you grew up in Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism, you probably grew up with a doom-and-gloom view of the future and “end times.”

Me? I grew up with the whole deal: raptures, tribulations, the Antichrist, and even warnings that those things we first called “barcodes” might actually be the mark of the beast.

End times belief is so much more than an area of theology. It is a complex world-view that shapes every single aspect of our faith and the way we see the world, whether we’re able to recognize it or not.

The book of Revelation– the last book in the Bible– is perhaps the most complex book in Scripture. It is also in this obscure and highly symbolic book that much of the doom-and-gloom end times world-view is planted and watered.

There’s just one problem with building an entire world-view off the book of Revelation: it is a book that is notoriously difficult to understand or interpret. While it would be impossible for anyone to truly understand the book without sitting down for an interview with the author, John, there are some things we do know about it. In light of the few things we know for certain, here are a few corrections to things we were mistakenly taught to believe about the book of Revelation:

The Book of Revelation is not about the “end times.”

John’s Revelation was not something intended to be put in a time capsule and opened 2000 years later. Instead, it was a letter written to very specific churches and was addressing imminent events that directly impacted the people it was written to. John repeatedly uses terms like “soon”, “quickly” and “shortly” in reference to his prophesy– he goes out of his way to make it clear that he is writing about soon-to-happen-events, not ones distant in the future.

Simplified version: It was a letter written by one man to a handful of churches about imminent matters that were relevant to them. For us [today], this means that Revelation is mostly a book about past events.

Revelation is not a fear-based book of doom-and-gloom.

The book of Revelation isn’t a doom-and-gloom book at all, but rather is a very specific genre of Jewish literature where the main goal is to encourage the readers. Any interpretation that falls outside of encouraging the specific recipients of the letter, is an interpretation that is inconsistent with this literary genre.

It is a letter from one person to a handful of churches, addressing imminent events, and the entire purpose is to encourage them in the midst of these events.

The book of Revelation does not teach a secret “rapture” of the Church.

If I could count the times someone has told me to go back to Revelation to read about the rapture, the number would be considerable. The reality is however, that Revelation doesn’t teach a rapture at all. It’s simply not in the book. (It’s not even in the Bible.)

Those who believe in the rapture will argue that it’s “implied”, since the Church is only discussed in the first part of the book, but that’s silly. We can’t just make stuff up, but when we say that Revelation teaches the rapture we actually *are* just making stuff up. Rapture theology wasn’t developed for another 1500 years after John wrote this letter.

(Same is true for the Anti-Christ, which is a figure from the earlier letters from John and is not in Revelation.)

No one knows exactly what all if it means, and if they claim to, they’re lying.

Since Revelation is apocalyptic literature, it is by nature massively symbolic. Throughout the book we find symbols, numbers, and all sorts of other interesting stuff. While some of it can have an obvious meaning because of themes in the rest of Scripture (such as a symbolic lamb, which is obviously Jesus), much of what is found in this book has been endlessly debated with no clear way to determine a “correct” interpretation.

The reality is that without the ability to travel back in time and talk to the author who wrote it, and the recipients of this letter, we’ll never know the full and correct meaning of everything. While this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, it does mean you should be ultra skeptical of end-times preachers who claim to have it down to a science.

The book of Revelation is certainly interesting and filled with wonderful lessons to be gleaned, but it is notoriously misunderstood. It is not a book about the “end times.” It does not hold more news than your local newspaper, and it has very little to do with the future.

Instead, it’s a letter John wrote to several churches when he was exiled on Patmos. It was a letter he wrote in the Jewish apocalyptic genre, which was intended to foretell events to immediately occur, and which was designed to encourage those churches as they experienced the turbulent times of the mid first century.

The book of Revelation is a lot of things– but it’s not what your childhood pastor told you it was.

No comments:

Post a Comment