Friday, August 29, 2008

Romans and Revelation

Joseph provides a quote from NT Wright's book, "Surprised by Hope":

"Maybe what we are faced with in our own day is a similar challenge: to focus not on the question of which human beings God is going to take to heaven and how he is going to do it, but on the question of how God is going to rescue the world through human beings ... if we could reread Romans and the light of this reframing... I think we would find much food for thought" (p. 185).

Let's accept the invitation/challenge: what parts of Paul's letter to the Romans, or John's Revelation, would you cite to support or challenge Wright's contention? Those who are reading "Surprised by Hope" should feel free to add material from that book to this discussion.

One favor/request: can we try to point to specific sections in Romans, Revelation, other NT documents, or Wright's book in making our comments?


smokin joe said...

great idea ... I started reading Romans this morning in the Message:

verse 7 (I think): Through him we received both the generous gift of his life and the urgent task of passing it on to others who receive it by entering into obedient trust in Jesus.

Bruce said...

Two things come to mind.
1. God has bound up all men in unrighteousness so he may show mercy to all. Romans 11:32.

I admit that this one messes with my mind. Especially because it caps a long passage of "go do something because they're all gonna die" speech.

For those of us not real happy with "sovereignty" (predestination?) talk--and I'm confused about it-- Romans 9-11 is required rumination.

The point, for our conversation, is that God is all about bringing His salvation to all people everywhere, and for the moment, he has bound up large numbers of people in the hardness of their hearts, and the gospel (salvation by faith in the substitutionary atonement) is the pivot piece to restoring people to favor with God. People are enemies of God--nice enemies maybe but enemies. They can be saved, when we persuade them--in harmony with God's working, and God's calling them. An important thought is that the restoring of the natural world and the social worlds is bottlenecked at the restoring of unregenerate people--at least until the Day of the Lord.

2. The last three chapters of Revelation--God will do the Day of the Lord work of restoring all things when He gets to it. Other than that, our best stance is the "now but not yet" place of Rev 22:1-5, a river of the water of life, and twelve fruits, and leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

That means to me to pursue both individual life in Christ and build the whole Body of Christ, and as a side effect, our works will spill over into the world for the healing of the nations.

By way of parallel, if not analogy, let us consider the disproportionate influence of the Jews on American life and culture. A tiny little minority, but immensely influential for good in many areas.

What this all excludes is an individualistic gospel, and also excludes a liberal anti-content church life.
Some of you might have Larry Christiansen's old tiny book "Social Action--Jesus Style." He pursues this line of thought.

Randy R. said...

HI Joseph, would you like some pics from Chuck and Cherie's wedding? RR

Brian Emmet said...

One of Wright's more intriguing contentions is that Romans 9-11, far from being an "excursus," parenthesis or digression from his main argument, is in fact the climax towards which the entire epistle is building (at least in its "theological" first section): in light of Christ, what about Israel? The climactic statement is thus not "Nothing can separate us from God's love in Christ Jesus" (8:39), but instead is, "Everything comes from the Lord. All things were made because of him and will return to him. Praise the Lord forever! Amen" (11:36).

I'm still hanging up on Wright's, "how does God intend to rescue the world through human beings?" Didn't God accomplish the rescue through the Cross and Resurrection? I can see Christian communities as witnesses to and examples of God's new life in Christ, but I don't yet see in the NT the idea that God "rescues" the world through the church. I don't see this in Revelation--those beleagured communities were exhorted to the faithfulness of worship, witness and work, but the "rescue" is effected when Jesus comes in on his white horse!

smokin joe said...

I would suppose, Brian, that Christ rescues the world through us by our martyrdom and the word of our testimony (Rev.11) ... plus our faithful obedience to Christ (John 15) and the worship of our lives as a living sacrifice (Ro. 12).

Thinking about your comment, two passages occur to me, the Genesis mandate in Genesis chapter 1 in which we are given the stewardship of creation, and Eph. 3:10:

His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms.

I would tend to think that this is a cooperative effort between God and us as the 'body of Christ' ... we must do our part (such as preaching the gospel of the kingdom in the nations--and doing 'greater works than these') but we will never complete the job without his final intervention.

just a thought.

Bruce said...
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Bruce said...

Brian, Rom 9-11 is the "locus classicus" for the Augustinian/Reformed doctrine of election, the very doctrine disputed by free will evangelicals. Wright's assertion that 9-11 is not an add-on but the capstone of the argument of chs 1-8 makes perfectly good sense. Would you be able to summarize in a paragraph exactly what Wright is getting at here--i.e., how 9-11 with it's predestinarian/election character, is the very point of the substitutionary atonement that we preach?
And ok, I can read the book sometime :-D

smokin joe said...

Randy: sure, send me a couple of the best pics ...

smokin joe said...

here is the verse I am meditating on this morning:

Romans 1:8-9; I thank him. And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son—the Message!—

it seems from this passge that one way that Paul 'worshiped' was through the spreading of the good news ....

Brian Emmet said...

I think pretty much every Christian believes that God has a part and we have a part in God's redemptive purposes. We define those parts differently, from "snatching a few brands from the fire" on the conservative side to "We can do it (bring in God's kingdom)!" on the liberal side. I guess we can't do much more than search the Scriptures as to what our part is, and then to play it as faithfully as we can, but always recognizing that God's final intervention will be decisive. I agree with Joseph that the Genesis 1 and Matthew 28 mandates are parallel, but wonder if Matt 28 reframes Gen 1? Christ is "second Adam" and we as his body are to live "in second Adam" as it were, but without denying the realities that we are all stuck in "first Adam" (Paul's "flesh" or "old/carnal nature") as well.

If I understand Wright--big if--I think he views Paul's primary concern in Romans as something like this: "how is God going to reunite Israel and the Gentiles into 'one humanity'?" (These are my words, not Wright's). Wright sees more to Romans than the "Romans road" of personal/individual salvation with which we're all probably familiar. So the early chapters of Rom point out, first, that the Gentiles are 'obviously' outside of God's will at present... but then, secondly, so is Israel ("There is none that is righteous...all have sinned"). So the Gosopel is not only about "how do I go to heaven?' (and Wright would say it isn't really about that at all), but how, through Christ, will God restore humanity to his original purposes? So chapter 4 is back to Abraham, chap 5 back to Adam, etc. and buildiong towards Rom 9-11 and "all Israel shall be saved."

By the way, Wright has a wonderful set of NT commentaries called "The New Testament for Everyone" (paperback, Westminster/John Knox). Here's how he puts it in "Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One":

"Evere since the Reformation... many churches have taken Paul as their main guide, and have seen Romans as the book above all in which he sets out the doctrines they hold. Since part of my own background is firmly in this tradition--which is why I began studying this letter intensively for myself, 30 years ago--I understand the power and importance of this tradition. But I have to report that it has only colonized certain parts of the great planet called Romans. It has mapped and discussed many craters, has analyzed many substances found in them, and has laid down well-trodden paths across some of the planet's surface. But there are other parts--not least the part about the coming together of Jews and Gentiles, which Paul comes back to again and again throughout this letter. It is time for a fresh probe, for some new mapping, for paths to be hacked through unexplored territory. We still need the old maps and roads, of course. We won't lose anything they gave us. In fact, we shall find that we get more out of them by seeing and using them within the bigger picture, Paul's own larger picture, of God, Jesus, the world and ourselves" (p. 2).

John M. said...

Steve asked me to let you all know that he'll be out of circulation for a couple weeks. He called me from the road traveling with his family to the north woods of MN

Bruce said...

Let me get this straight. The gospel is not about going to heaven when you die, and it's not about meeting your psychological/health/material needs either (Wright didn't address that part--the old school Reformed folks did). BUT the gospel is really big, really important, really radical and earth shaking. I don't think I understand where it goes then, if it's not the first or the second. Which, ostensibly, might be why Wright wrote his book.

I am assuming that the gospel isn't about building a personality cult around Peter, the Pope, or the brothers we used to follow. Ah, at it's not even a personality cult around Jesus, for it says somewhere that even tho we knew him according to the flesh, we know him that way no longer. And then we see him in his glorified state in Revelations.

If not "personality cult", maybe an Amish style community?

John M. said...

Since you all are reading Romans, I started in Revelation. By the way, it's hard to avoid the "Jihad Jesus" or at least his angels.

The focus is definitely on "peoples" [nations] and on cosmic issues: new heaven and new earth, satan's fate, Jesus reigning over the planet (new one or old one?) with a "rod of iron". Has anyone exegeted that phrase? It kind of jumps out after reading Mclaren's take on dominance and control. I wonder how he runs that phrase through his grid?

Back to the current post. People are judged on "how they have lived", not on their salvific faith. But then it speaks of those who have washed their robes in the Lamb's blood.

The one place that seems to be very "individual" is "those who have their names written in the 'Book of Life'". But it never really specifies how you get your name written there, contrary to our typical intrepretation that you get your name there by personally trusting Christ for salvation. Based on just reading this text (without referring to some of our favorite personal salvation texts in other parts of the N.T), it would appear that your name is written there based on "how you've lived". That flies in the face of the four spiritual laws theology that we've always been taught and subscribe to.

The main focus seems to be on the masses and the "nations", there is also attentnion given to individuals as well.

Bruce said...

There are a number of apparent conflicts with Revelation and the rest. We either have to make intelligent (=grown up) appraisals of the conflicts or bracket off Revelation, or possibly make Revelation the interpretive grid for the other doctrines.

I say "apparent" conflicts because I think that they aren't really contradictions. Individual vs corporate salvation vs cosmic salvation is one such. The place of works in salvation is another.

John M. said...

Another one that we evangelicals kind of like to just skip over is Matt. 25:31-46. The King separates the "sheep" from the "goats" and then proceeds to separate those who gain eternal life from those who are "cursed" and thrown into the "eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels".

The catch is that the whole judgment is based on feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming aliens, clothing the naked, helping the sick, and visiting the prisoners --or not.

There are a lot of scriptures that seem to clearly indicate "salvation totally by grace through faith,without 'works' on our part.

So, was Jesus just emphasizing a particular point here, or is he putting forth a different theology than Paul or...?

Help us out here, Brian and Joseph. Where is Steve Humble when you need him?!

John M. said...
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John M. said...

In case you're interested, the Sept. issue of Christianity Today has an article by Scot McKnight on Brian McClaren's theology. It focuses on McLare's last two books, "The Secret Message of Jesus" and EMC.

McKnight begins by distinguising between the "emerging" movement and the group called "Emergent". He says that the emerging movment is much broader than Emergent itself which is represented by McLaren, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt in "Emergent Village". The broader emerging goup would be represented by Dan Kimball (Several "emerging" books), Michael Frost and Allen Hurst (The Shaping of Things to Come), Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz). McKnight sees Leslie Newbigin's works as influencing this broader movement and makes clear that McLaren is not a spokesman for the entire movement, only "Emergent Village".

McKnight is positive about the issues McLaren raises and believes that the church should take his questions about social issues seriously. He is a little more guarded about McLaren's theology and raises some critical questions, basically saying that McLaren is still too fuzzy (my word, not his) theologically to satisfy him.

He calls Mclaren to follow what he preached in "A Generous Orthodoxy" by showing "the generosity he is know for to those [evangelicals] who ask theological questions of listen patiently and respond graciously" to those who ask theological questions.

McKnight doesn't feel that McLaren has done much patient listening and gracious responding, publicly at least, and makes a plea for McLaren "to enter into a more robust, honest conversation" with evangelicals who are open-minded but have honest questions.

What role does the Cross play in the emergent kingdom vision? is McKnight's biggest question for Mclaren. McKnight feels that what McLaren says about the Cross is good but "it isn't enough". McKnight makes the point that at the Last Supper Jesus did not talk about "violence and systemic injustice" but about "covenant", "forgiveness of sins" and "blood", poured out for many. He questions whether McLaren's current statements about the cross can really create a sustainable "understanding of kingdom".

McKnight's second question for McLaren is, "What is the relationship of kingdom to church?"
"Jesus' Kingdom Vision is not that far from Paul's church vision, yet there is little ecclesiology n either 'Secret Message' or 'Everything Must Change'".

McKnight reminds us that McLaren's books are works in progress; that Mclaren is working out his theology in front of us all. Because of this he holds out hope. "All in all I am hoping that McLaren's works will lead to a massive conversation on the meaning of one word: 'gospel'".

smokin joe said...

Thanks, John, for the overview. I finished McLaren’s book thanks to a little prodding from Brian, and I enjoyed the last part of the book the best. It sounds like McKnight has some concerns that are similar to Brian’s, although expressed a little differently. In my opinion, anyone who is interested in engaging young, postmodern secular people need to read through McLaren’s book and wrestle with the issues he raises, although, I agree that we must keep the cross front and center in our thinking. I’m still processing the part about the church and ecclesiology.

Here is my passage of Romans for today, from The Message. It does not really relate to individual versus corporate salvation, but it does have to do with exclusivism versus inclusivism:

Romans 3:30 - God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.

Romans 4:16 - This is why the fulfillment of God's promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God's promise arrives as pure gift. That's the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that's reading the story backward. He is our faith father.

John M. said...

I love those Romans' quotes and the way Peterson phrases them in The Message. They resonate deeply with me. One question. How do we reoncile Jesus comments in Matt. 25that I referred to above, with Paul's "free gift" ideas?

Regarding McKnight's comments about the Kingdom and ecclesiology. My impression from reading his blog is that his ecclesiology is pretty traditional. It seems to me that he's done his more creative thinking in other areas and pretty much accepts the current chruch structure as valid. I may be wrong, but that's my impression.

Based on blog observations and some pretty clear statements in his CT article, he seems to see the Kingdom as a subset of the church, and that if Kingdom work gets done it will be done through the church.

I see the church as a subset of the Kingdom. I think the Kingdom is broader than the Chruch, and that Kingdom work can occur outside the church -- even by unbelievers. This idesa seems to be supported by scripture, think pagan kings in the OT.

Truth cries out in the streets.

Perhaps some of us who read Scot's blog should pin him down on his own ecclesiology and get him to do some critical thinking about the question, What is the Church? Or maybe he already has if we check the archives. I've only been reading the blog a little over a year.

Bruce said...

Is there a problem with accepting church structures and doctrines as they are? One of our goals is to defend the faith that was passed down to us, not particularly innovate about doctrine and practice.

smokin joe said...

but handed to us by who Bruce? The Greek Fathers? (E. Orthodoxy), Jesus? St. Paul? Iraneus, Justin Martyr or St. Augustine? Pope Innocent III? Calvin, Luther or more recently, John Wesley? or perhaps Pope John XXIII (liberation theology)? or maybe D.L. Moody, Billy Graham or John Wimber or Chuck Smith? Bob Mumford or Charles Simpson? R. Grant or P. Petrie?

My personal preference is Watchman Nee ... but I realize that it just a preference, based on my perception of the congruence of his "structures and doctrine" with my own reading of the New Testament.

I know that Brian and probably Robert will disagree with me, but I don't think we can avoid "doing theology" or renewing wineskins by just accepting what has been handed to us. We still have to make a choice among dozens of alternative historical time-lines that have come down to us ... along with the corresponding structures and doctrines.

Bruce said...

Joe, you ask the question as if it were rhetorical (only). Now ask it seriously: "but handed to us by who?" The answer will have to seriously distinguish the nonnegotiable kerygma and apostolic traditions from so-called cultural imperatives.

I want to know if the emergings are challenging the nonnegotiables.

Further, I think we have to assert that some cultural conventions that the Protestant wings have developed are *not* mere tastes or preferences, but seriously consistent expressions of the ancient faith in the American context, expressions that must be defended against frivolous counter-tastes. This is a strange position in my own eyes, but I'm sure it's right. I'm sure, really sure, that a whole bunch of the 1920-1960 way of doing church in conservative Protestant America is really really faithful to the ancient faith, and "fix-ers" are pulling out weeds that pull up the wheat, to use Jesus' metaphor for fixing the church.

smokin joe said...

i was asking the question "seriousely". even in the way you are posing the question, will require you to examine between at least 3 different apostolic traditions .. Roman Catholic, Easter Orthodox and Anglican; two of which claim to be the only valid apostolic tradition.

And if you choose one of those three options, you then need to seriously consider deconstructing your own 'evangelical' heritage/accretions/customs and doctrines (such as personal, substitution atonement and individual regeneration)... and consider submitting yourself to one of those three (or four, now with the Anglican split) 'apostolic' traditions.

I find it just as faulty intellectually to want to toss out church history since 1500 as it is to think or act like there is no church history before 1500 or to privilege one of several currents of 'apostolic' traditions over the others.

We need a 'generous' orthodoxy that embraces the entire church and the whole of church history including all of our theological heritage... while rethinking our theology in the context of the 21st century with our entire spiritual heritage in mind ... pre AND post 1500.

John M. said...

We just opened a big discussion here. I wonder if Brian will approve? He doesn't seem to be around today, so I guess we don't need his approval at the moment He he!

Bruce, surely you don't mean that the 40 years between 1920 and 1960 is the best that we can do in expressing apostolic Christianity corporately? Or did I misunderstand what you said?

I agree that there are certain clear scriptural, doctirnal statements and beliefs (confessions) that the Churches (the dirrerent traditions) have affirmed always,and everywhere. These are well articulated in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed among others.

But, I separate those non-negotiable doctrines (the wine) from the structures of church, (the wineskin).

Personally, I'm not sure that the Protestant church has ever self-consciously evaluated her structures or even really seriously asked the question, "What is the Church?". We've been too busy running off to start more of what we already have to question if what we are duplicating is really the best and most biblical sturcture and form of the church.

I think that what we call the "evangelical church" in the U.S. is in a critical need of asking the above question and separating our evangelical tradition and our cultural assumptions about church from what the scriptures actually teach and/or strongly suggest about church structure.

That said I would also be quick to acknowledge that the wineskin takes many forms while holding the "wine" of doctrine intact. God seems to enjoy ambiguity when it comes to church structure and ecclesiology.

My main gripe with American evangelical ecclesiology is it's almost total dependence on and preoccupation with buildings, technology, land, corporate buisness gov't models and a "one-pastor" system that can't be found in the scriptures at worst and at best burns out and sometimes destroys many well-meaning passtors and their families while all the time keeping the "laity" chained to their pews instead of doing the work of the ministry. Even while the pastor teaches on spiritual giftings (not just I Cor. 12) and tries to mobilize them to get involved.

I think it is the structure itself that limits the Body from functioning. And who would be behind us pouring most of our resources into scaffolding rather than using them in actual Kingdom work? OK I'm going to jump down off my soapbox and go help my wife with some stuff.

John M. said...

Hmmm... Scot McKnight does not have a category for "ecclesioloy" in his archives. The only topic for "church" is "church history". Does that confirm my evaluation that he takes the present status quo to be normal, and that he has not self-consciously and intentionally thought about the question, "What is church?"?

smokin joe said...

by-the-way, I forgot to mention George Fox earlier of my heros.

John you said:
"I agree that there are certain clear scriptural, doctrinal statements and beliefs (confessions) that the Churches (the different traditions) have affirmed always,and everywhere. These are well articulated in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed among others."

I do not agree with that statement. .I think it is largely based on a mythical view of a unified patristic church that never actually existed. There never has been such a unified and homogeneous church ...except perhaps for a few chapters in the book of Acts ... but not even then. There was the Coptic church and the Nestorian church almost from the early 2nd century ... and the conflicts between Paul and Peter ... and Paul and the Judiaizers. The discussions in the NT about 'false apostles' indicates that there were false apostles ...

Also, I am starting feel that Protestants and Evangelicals are getting a bum rap in this blog. What would have been handed down to us if the Reformation had not happened? What Bible would we be reading? or would we even be reading the Bible?


John M. said...

Good points about Protestantism. I need to think some more about your first point.

My initial response: Conflicts yes, disagreements yes, but throught all of it -- at least -- since the creeds were hashed out there has been a "core" of universal faith. The creeds themselves basically articulated what the core had been all along and responded specifially in some areas to heresies that had developed.

So, yes, there are and have always been those who deviated from that universal core of beliefs, but they were outside the mainstream of what I would term "orthodoxy", small "o" to distinguish from the Orthodox church.

I'm not speaking here of whether or not those outside the core are saved (I would think they are) or whether they were useful to God or not (many were), but whether they affirmed and subscribed either formally or in their heart to that which has always been believed by Jesus followers.

I said I needed to think about it, and then went on to defend my postition. Actually, I'm "thinking out loud", or in this case "with my fingers". I definitely will think about what you have said. Could you elaborate a little more on your idea?

Brian Emmet said...

Man, where have I been? Hustling to catch up at this point...

I long ago gave up trying to 'control' our blog, but from time to time I may attempt to redirect... but now isn't one of those times.

More later...

smokin joe said...

aimple question: where the Coptic and Nestorian bishops consulted in the hammering out of the creeds?

Brian Emmet said...

Wouldn't we agree that Scripture is true? In other words, we read Romans and Revelation, along with the rest, because the Bible is God's Word, in a way that nothing else is (and no, I don't need to be reminded that Jesus is the Word incarnate--that's a different but obviously related discussion).

So the question becomes, at least for me, "Is there, for example, a closer 'fit' between a Protestant or Catholic understanding of salvation--which one aligns more closely with Scripture? The EMC's tendency to dismiss the Reformation as merely an argument between Luther and Rome over some arcane "sixteenth-century issues" worries me. Of course there were cultural, and political, and personal issues in play, but there were central theological questions at the heart of it, and I think the Reformers got that part of the question right in a way that Rome did not. This does not mean that the Reformers were right about everything--in addition to their "solas", they also had at least one "semper"--semper = "always", and the church is always in need of reformation. But it is a reformation towards the Word of God, towards a clearer understanding and practice of what God has given us in Scripture. And one of the primary sources for "what God has given us in Scripture" is the Church's history of interpretation. This does not automatically privilege the "old" as over against the "new," or vice versa, but suggests that the consensus of the faithful, proven over time (e.g., the Creeds), enjoys some precedence: the avant garde has to demonstrate a better, more faithful interpretation and application of God's Word, not just a new one. This the Reformers have done, at least in certain regards, and this is what I'm not yet sure the EMC has demonstrated, although it is very early in the game for them, and we should support them in their quest to "get it better" than we have... and actually join with them when they demonstrate that they have gotten it better! But all of us are required to constantly bring the old and new before Scripture. Scripture says some things, and not others, regardless of how we feel about it.

So Wright's question is intriguing; I wish he had put it differently. It seems to me that if you take off the board the idea that a person's "eternal destiny" isn't really all that important, you lose hold of some truth that I think it unwise to let go of. Is there more to the Cross than "Jesus died for me"? Absolutely, and Wright and others have served us well by wrestling with what else was "finished" by the Cross.

david said...

joe, i would assume that all bishops that attended nicea participated, which took place in 325 AD.

it wasn't until 431 AD at chalcedon that there was a separation of the current day oriental orthodox from the rest of the church at that time.

david said...

oops, ephesus in 431 when the nestorians separated and 451 when the oriental orthodox separated.

historical blunder :)

smokin joe said...

thanks David, I think part of the answer about the Coptic Church and the Nestorian is that for the most part, they were geographically outside of the Roman Empire. Which in itself gives me food for thought about the creeds and the Imperial church that represented "what Christians everywhere always believed" ... at least in the Roman Empire ....(sorry for the sarcastic tone)

Brian, I heartily agree with you about the reformers ... I am relieved to finally hear someone say something positive about Protestantism and the beneficial results of the Reformation.

However, I was not aware that the emerging church people were critical of the reformation ... I was under the impression that most of the participants in this blog have been critical of the reformation.

Can you point me to a book or passage from one of the e.c. guys that says what you mentioned about the reformation?

Regarding the Wright passage, wouldn't you agree that he is pretty biblically sound and Christ-centered in most of his writings? Why not take a fresh look at his point to see if perhaps he is attempting to adjust a scriptural imbalance in our own thinking toward excessively individualistic understanding of the purposes of God?

Bruce said...

We've been talking so fast that I got confused. Just a little recap. In a true missional incarnational approach, I see the 1920-1960 protestant way of church life as a valid and deep expression of the faithful. Stuff like what our grandparents had was really good. I'm not particularly into most of it (I love the hymns), but the command to honor your father and mother tells me to try to buy into what the parents in my own group did. That one's own heritage ought to be the default position for orthodoxy and orthopraxy, as well as for ethics and science--that's my reading on the fifth commandment.

Regarding the 1970s mix of CGM and the Catholic Charismatic Renewal brothers, I see the corporate expressions we and they all moved toward and thru as being valid expressions of the move of God in the varied ways that we all have gone.

For me, I set my face to never do church again. Only the real thing. In recent years, after studying the sociology of religious movements, I repent. When you get saved, probably the best thing you can do is sign up to work in the nursery or Sunday school, and get a decent day job. Mea Culpa, it's been Bruce Contra Mundum in a misguided way for too long.

Joe I think challenged me to go back to the sources. That's what the converts to Catholicism have been doing (some big name intellectuals), that's what the recent followers of the Reformers (e.g., Sovereign Truth, John Piper, R.C. Sproul) have been doing. And in the early 70s, about 7 or 8 apostolic-spirited guys from Campus Crusade did this and ended up founding a whole diocese of the North American branch of the eastern-rite Orthodox Church. For me, I find myself in the unpleasant position of staying in one place spiritually & ecclesiastically except for trying to know Jesus better.

John M. said...

Ala Brian, if the creeds disagree with or contradict scripture then they should be thrown out. Some movements have done this very intentionally, namely the Churches of Christ and Christian Churches. Their creed becomes "No Creed but Christ" and "Where scripture speaks we speak, but where scripture is silent, we are silent". They pretty much ignore Church history and tradition. A lot of low church evangelicals do the same, but more by default than intention.

I agree that the Empire played too much of a role in the church during the era of the church councils, but even though the emperor called the councils, the bishops who attended were the ones that actually articulated the creeds and the churches and bodies of believers themselves "ratified" them by accepting them as true and beginning to confess them over centuries.

The creeds were not "new". They were a satement of what was already believed and understood from scripture and the apostles' teaching, and they were a correction to misunderstandings and/or heresies that were beginning to take root. So they were primarily affirmational, and secondarily corrective. And thirdly as kind of a by-product they were instructional.

At least that's my understanding. Some of you other guys please add to or correct me if I'm not getting it right.

Nothing the Reformers did contradicted or added to the creeds. Really I think they saw themselves as correcting a Church that had strayed from it's core truth, rather than starting somethiing new. I'm sure there's a lot more to the Ref. than that, but I think initially that's where Luther, at least, was coming from.

To my knowledge the reformers never questioned the creeds and continued to use them in their worship. Is that correct? What about the Anabaptist's? Did they affirm the creeds?

My comment earlier about the Reformers is that with all they gave us, they did not question nor change the basic ecclesiology that they inherited from the Roman church. Doctrine yes, but church structure pretty much stayed the same. Again, I'm throwing out some large generalizations, which I would like to have clarified and corrected by those of you who are better versed than me.

What do some of the rest of you think about Joseph's contention that there never has been a unified patristic Church? It's rather a new thought for me, so I'm still chewing on it.

smokin joe said...

Hi john,

I am not trying to pick a fight, but you still did not answer my question about the Nestorian and Coptic bishops/churches who did not participate in any of the councils or creeds.

My point is that the kind of thinking that 'idealizes' the patristic church and the creeds must necessarily think 'inside' of the box of the Roman empire ... and must exclude those portions of the universal church that were not in the Roman empire, or dissented from the imperial church ... in other words, the universal church that authored the creeds and represented one single homogeneous church believing what all Christians always believed everywhere ... did not include all Christians everywhere and only includes what all "Roman/orthodox" Christians believed ...

in other words, this is a constructed view of history ... another variation of 'history is written by the victors.'

John M. said...

OK. McLaren is blowing a lot of my circuits about my idealized view of our American empire. So maybe it's time for my idealized view of Chruch history to get blown apart too. I just need a little more evidence and time to process.

I've only assumed my present understanding in the last 15 or 20 years through my personal reading, which broadened my understanding and perspective of the Church considerably. Do you have any particular reading that you would suggest to continue to nuance and broaden (or blow apart!) my understanding?

I understand the perspective of the "victors" writing the predominate version of history. I guess I wasn't really seeing the Roman and Byzantium Empires in that light, since they collapsed and were destroyed and the Chruch continued. But I see what you mean regarding the era of the Church Councils.

I would need to research the Nestorian and Coptic Bishops' participation in the Church Councils, which I can do. I thought you had accepted David's answer which would have put them at the early councils based on his later dates of when they separated from Constantinople. That's why I didn't pursue it any farther.

You seem to already know that they did not participate. What information do you have?

david said...

joe, i really don't have a good take on the nestorians - but with the coptics i know a fair bit. the egyptian christians were part of the entire church at the time of nicaea - and famous north african bishops lead the way in many cases. athanasius, for example, is considered a father of the church for both eastern and oriental orthodox (copts) as well as the roman church and he was most influential at that council.

christianity came to ethiopia in 300 AD and the historic church there is almost identical to the eastern orthodox church of today.

the churches that were begun by the preaching of the apostle thomas in india that still exist are set up governmentally and theologically like the historic churches that existed in the early days of the church under the roman empire (orthodox).

so my point is that even those churches outside of roman influence seem to have most things in common with the churches that existed within the roman empire of the time.

now, what this all might mean to modern american churches is something that has been discussed for many years and by better folks than me.

John M. said...

Thanks, David, for the info on the Coptic Church. Here's some info on the Church of the East or the Chaldean Syrian Church. They consider "Nestorian Church" as pujoritive, although they are still often called by that name, because they do not consider themselves to be Nestorians.

According to Wikipedia the Mesopotamian Church repudiated Antioch in 410 AD and accepts only the first and second councils as ecumenical. The rest of the Eastern Churches accept the first three Councils as ecuminical. They all accept the Nicene Creed, but do not accept the Chalceden Creed.

The formulation of the Chalcedonian Creed caused a schism in the Alexandrian and Syriac churches. Reconciliatory efforts between Oriental Orthodox with the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic Church in the mid- and late-20th century have led to common Christological declarations. The Oriental and Eastern Churches have also been working toward reconciliation as a consequence of the ecumenical movement.

That last paragraph is lifted from the Wikipedia article.

So was there ever a truely ecumeical church? It would appear that "on paper" one existed until the 5th century, but I'm not sure Joseph agress with that (not the dates, but the idea that there was truly one chruch), and I'm sure that he has allies who would agree. It appears that mutual efforts toward reconcilliation and common agreement have born fruit in recent Church history. Of course the East and the West (O. and R.C.) have not reconcilled, and then there's us Protestanats...

At some point it becomes futile to try to figure it out or debate it any longer. The fact is, that jurisdictionally the church is totally diverse.

The possibility of ever having another "Ecuminical Council" that would be recognized universally seems impossible -- and apparently only three of them ever were. So that's our present reality. The other fact is that Jesus does have a Bride, and he knows who she is!

smokin joe said...

thats cool... while you guys did some good digging in wikipedia ... my colleage Phil and I had a great time at the bar in Homestead with power encounters and some good discipleship while there was heavy metal rock playing in the background. The girl who is a shammanist wiccan interpreted a dream for me ... while Phil was fairly vibrating with his gift of discernment.

The point is, regardless of our view of the early church, at some point we have to put feet to our convictions and contextualize our theology for the 21st century.

John M. said...

Amen! Or as Peterson would put it Oh Yes!

John M. said...

Amen! Or as Peterson would put it Oh Yes!

John M. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bruce said...

Back in my mission field, Salem Massachusetts, Christians there offer dream interpretations for the wiccans. Whatever. :-)

I'd never heard the expression "laws without relationship yield rebellion." That's so true and such a good thing to know. Makes me wonder about how to do moral rehab, as in criminal justice. Paul said that the law is not for good men but for the ungodly, killers of fathers and mothers, and the like. Another old saying is, "you have to stop the bleeding first." In the order of preaching, we're told that God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe--Acts 17:30-31, and we speak on His behalf, (apostolically, missionally). So the Lutheran formulation of preaching Law and then preaching Grace is certainly a valid expression of this understanding.

A problem is that the preaching of the law doesn't have to be predicated on a relationship, any more than the preaching of grace needs to be. There wasn't any friendship evangelism going on half of the time in the book of Acts. Just people show up, preach, do what they do. (Paul stayed around for 2 years once, and people were scattered and preached as they went, presumably to their friends. And Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch has a friendly relationship.)

Bruce said...

Re Wright's new understanding of Paul, etc. If we accept this understanding, then are we to say that salvation, or being reconciled to God, does NOT mean an individual way of making sure you go to Heaven when you die?

I am pretty sure--based on the "judgment of works" passages you brothers have raised lately--that our individual salvation CAN'T mean "profess Christ once and you've got your final assurance of salvation." And that the sheep and goats parable does mean an individual sorting of individuals.

Now I'd like your comments here: Does Wright or anyone else go here: the Eastern church (e.g. Greek Orthodox) teach that salvation is primarily THEOSIS, our being elevated into the divine life. Derek, as well as the Eastern church, point to 2 Peter 1:4, that by the promises of God we become partakers of the Divine nature.

(The faith teachers sometimes talk about us becoming "little Gods" and I think this is what they mean, but they don't incorporate the understanding into a full picture, which makes them look bad.)

Brian Emmet said...

Backing up several comments: Joseph, to my point that the emc folks tend to be dismissive of the Reformation, both Wright and McLaren have stated that we need to remember the historical context for the Reformation; I think Wright maintains the value of the Reformation, while McL tends to treat it as more of a "past" event. You can see this in his caricaturing of "the conventional view" in the early part of "Everything Must Change" (hey, that lines up with "Emerging Missional Church"!!), along with statements like, "more of us are coming to see the Reformation as a struggle over 16th-century issues" (not a direct quote, but a papraphrase that captures McL's point), as well as his repeated references that (again paraphrasing) "there is much of value in the traditional view" without any indication of what the value might be. Add to this the disdain with which certain EMC guys like Mann and Chalke view the Reformational (actually, Anselm, 13th cent) understanding of "penal substitution", and I think a case can be made that a lot of these folk view the Reformation as "so 16th century." I think you see this especially in their view of the Cross and Atonement (although Wright is, to my mind, in the clear here). I have read 6 or more of McLaren's books, and 12 or more of Wright's, so I don't think I'm merely flailing here, although I am happy to be called to account for my opinions.

I also recognize my need to go beyond what I currently know/understand about... everything. However, I want to keep coming back to the question of whether or not the "new perspective" is in fact true, or truer, than the old perspective, which is why I suggested we take Wright up on his suggestion to read Romans and Revelation in light of the questions and issues he thinks these texts raise and which we may have missed.

To the Nestorians and Copts: I'm ignorant here. Is there some aspect of the Nicene Creed that would be altered had they been able to participate?

To John's points about creeds: what does "no creed but Christ" actually mean? I'm happy with brethren who are non-creedal, although I suspect it's more like churches who pride themselves on being 'non-liturgical." Every Christian community has creed and liturgy, we just need to be honest with ourselves and one another about what they are. We cannot pretend as if there is no content to 'the faith once delivered.'

When John says "the Empire played too much a role in the development of the Creed," what are the cultural forces that are playing too much of a role today? We've done a pretty fair job of critiquing what we've been handed, but less well at looking at what may be motivating us, kind of like the EMC's contention that now, at last, we're finally starting to get it right. Away with the dead hand of tradition and the detritus of the past: we are those who are beginning to see clearly! (All right, I'm venting here).

smokin joe said...

hey Brian, I don't even know who "Mann and Chalke" are, and I have only read about 1/3 of two of Wright's books so you are way ahead of me.

I don't know the answer about the Nestorians or Coptics either... I am just trying to challenge a little what seems to me to be a tendency to romanticize the creedal church, especially the frequently quoted comment about believing 'what the church has always believed everywhere.' I just don't buy it.

Now that you mention some of the comments of EMC guys about the Reformation, I recall some of them.

Here is a question that is a bit of a tangent: how does one actually go about critiquing (constructively) the present without sounding like what you describe in your well articulated post?

How does one function as a Jeremiah, an Ezekiel, a Micah or Obadiah... or even as a Martin Luther without sounding like "you guys got it wrong, but that now, at last, we're finally starting to get it right..."

I have learned to value peer criticism in the university in order to improve the quality of my academic work by getting the critical input of my colleagues.

Football teams watch their game film and go over their mistakes in order to play better.

I'm concerned about the current crisis of the faith in the West at multiple levels ... and I do believe that we are approaching a "kairos" moment to use Mumford's term, or an "epochal" transition to use Simpson's term.

But I cannot seem to find the right mechanism or forum to dialogue about it without running into these polarities.

I'm being serious here, not contentious. I'm not arguing with anyone ... I appreciated and agreed with much if not most of Brian's last post.

Do we just check out of the social changes around us and decide to just keep doing what we have always done? Or do we chuck everything that has been innovated in the 19th and 20th centuries and try to return to 450 ad? Do we just stick our heads in the sand and hope that God works it all out?

I am looking for a proactive place where there can be conversation and collaboration that leads to a setting where "the sons of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do"

Although I enjoy our theological conversations, and probably enjoy historical conversation even more ... the driving passion in my heart is to discern "where do we go from here?"

The wisdom I need to hear back from you guys is this: is this valid? Are we getting anywhere along those lines in these discussions? Am I off base?

I can easily be convinced by Brian that the EMC is screwed up and prideful ... but then my next question is, "ok, where do we go from here? What DO we do in the near future?"

If it is to just keep doing what we have been doing hope for better results ... I am going to come very close to giving in to despair.

As I alluded to earlier ... if I wrote a book, I would have to title it: "Something really needs to change, but what?"

John M. said...

Brian, who are Dunn and Chalke? I've never heard of them?

Actually according to my bit of research, both the Coptics and the Nestorian's did participate in the first two or three Church Councils, and they both embrace the Nicene Creed. It was on the Chalcedon Creed that they bailed.

Personally regarding the Church Councils, I think that even though the Emperor Called them, that God gave discernement and revelational understanding to the Bishops who participated and who determined the wording of the Creeds. My views on the Councils have been formed not so much from my heritage as from my reading of Eastern Orthodox writings.

It is true, though, that Calvin and Luther and the majority of the other Reformers did not repudiate
the historic creeds, correct? If I'm wrong on that please correct me.

Even though I have come to the above conclusions about the Creeds and the ideal that there really is a core that has always been believed (I'm talking about the core biblical doctrines, not all the nuaunces and split hairs.), at least in some kind of mystical way in the same way that we speak of the "Universal Church".

But I still want to hear Joseph's understanding and why he has come to it. And I'm open for my understanding to continue to change and develop. After all, my present understanding grew and developed over time.

Lastly, we need to listen to Joseph's heart because what he is saying is very important, obviously for him personally, but also for the Church and her furture.

Bruce said...

Joe, do we do what we've been doing, and that's going nowhere? You're probably right, but there's more to it. Your sentiment is pretty universal in the history of the church. Not to be too silly, but it's something that all Christians everywhere have believed.

That sentiment, of coming up with a better ecclesiology or doctrine, is part of almost all the American born & bred movements I know, especially born out of Finney's ministry from upstate New York thru Indiana. It shows up often in the first two years of New Wine Magazine (the archives are available on disc now). And out of my mouth pretty often, to be honest.

Brian Emmet said...

A fine conversation, and a frustrating one; it moves so rapidly that I sometimes feel we talk past each other, but that would happen if we were sitting around a table together as well.

To my question, "Is it true or not?", I think part of the answer is, "Well, let's find out." It is easier to see that our siblings "got it right" with respect to the nature of Christ in the Nicene Creed then it is to evaluate our own understandings and practices: there just hasn't been enough time that's passed yet for us to be able to honestly and accurately evaluate ourselves. We're just too close.

That for me opens up the need for innovation and experimentation. If what we know is all there is, I join Joseph in despairing! Maybe it works like this: from time to time, scientists "discover" a "law of nature," with appropriate fanfare and excitement (an dprizes and professorships and such). The dicovery is a step forward BUT that natural law has been faithfully operating long before we "discovered" it. So as we "discover" in Scripture God's "laws" (better, his ways) of accomplishing his purposes, we should be excited, and called to action. But we haven't really discovered something "new," we have actually found something quite "old" that's been happening right in front of our noses all along.

And sometimes we do discover things that reshape and reconfigure how we see and understand everything ("paradigm shifts")... but not everything that is trumpeted as a paradigm shift really is, and I think the only way to find out is by (a) holding it up to Scripture and (b)waiting and seeing (as long as that waiting and seeing includes some particpating as well, at least insofar as our Scripture-formed consciences permit!)

Keep in mind that all of this is written by a guy who, when it comes to technology, is probably the polar opposite of an "early adapter"!

smokin joe said...

good comments John, Brian and Bruce. I had a good prayer time with Debbie this morning (she is back from Ohio) that pulled me back from the brink of despair, at least temporarily. I think she is good for me.

Brian, I had to back up to your post to remember what you were referring to about "is it true?" I think there is a need to exegete the current culture as well as the scriptures ... although there is always a danger of placing a higher priority on the culture ... "is it true" is a teacher's question ... I tend to ask "does it work?" of course, thinking reaching new people ... evangelist.

by-the-way, the term 'paradigm shift' was coined by Thomas Kuhn in his book on Scientific Revolutions in the 1960s. I have it and have been trying to inch my way through it in my copious free time. He describes certain patters for the discovery of a new scientific paradigm that I think useful for us ... shifts such as from Newtonian physics to Einsteinium.

I can't resist sharing this quote that I found in Wright's book Simply Christian that I was reading while waiting with Debbie in the oncologists office:

OH SHOOT! I left the book in the car ... oh well, I guess that gives me material for another post tomorrow ...

off to Portuguese class!

Bruce said...

Joe that was a smokin' post.
People usually don't start following the Lord because they think the gospel is true but because He or church life is attractive (family, friends, say). But they have to be pretty persuaded that it's true to hang on after the bloom is off the rose. Like Peter when he said, Where else shall we go Lord? You are the one with the words of eternal life.

And if they think it's not true to begin with--only trouble can come from that.

Brian Emmet said...

Joseph, I think we agree that the truth always works, although not always in the ways, or on the schedule we might like! But yes, you're an evangelist and I'm... something else... so that does color how we see things, what we respond to, and how, etc. Just so you know, I often like the way you think better than the way I think, but the only way I can have any hope of learning to think, or live, differently and better, is conversations like these.

Know you and Deb have some concerns for her health; in the midst of discussion and debate, we are praying.

John M. said...

Brian, you definitely are "something else", I think we can all agree to that one! He He

Definite ditto to the prayer for Joseph and Debbie.

You guys might have noticed that school started on Tues. and my posts immediately fell off...

OK I'm off to watch the Sarah Palin speech.

david said...

bruce, i stumbled over a few pages about theosis after your post, you might find them interesting.

as to joe's comment of 'what the church has always believed everywhere' not ringing true, i wonder if this could be part of the discussion. from 431 AD to 1964 AD, the oriental orthodox (copts, ethiopians, indians) had no communication or relationship with the eastern orthodox. then in 1964 the two sides met to find that there were essentially no differences of substance between them. so it does seem at least in 451 AD that there was a fairly common theology and practice.

thinking about these things reminds me of several foreign born friends of mine that always say that part of being american is to be willing accept other's cultural tid bits, other culture's foods, other's words, etc and bring them into the american culture and way of life and think of them as their own. we love to try things on for size and see if we want to incorporate them into our lives.

the eastern church tends to want the individual to conform and to standardize their lives to the teaching of the 'fathers' and here we tend to understand the truths of Christ but mold them to our circumstances and needs. perhaps it is a western need to question, innovate, change again and continue to rethink things just to learn and grow. since we can't take the american out of the american christian, i'm wondering if changes and adaptation are more normative in the church here than they would be or need to be in others societies.

Bruce said...

Thanks David for the theosis links. Especially interesting (new to me) is the distinction they make between being made holy (culminating in the resurrection of the body and eternal life with God) and apotheosis, which is formally condemned as heretical, which is taking on God's own nature/substance directly, which is something of God that can't be communicated to created beings.

The understanding they have, then, is that we participate in God's own nature, and are transformed by His working in us, but we don't become God as if we were a fourth member of the Godhead.

People who are baptized in the Spirit, e.g., speak in tongues, will often freely move toward this kind of understanding. God's own nature moving inside of us becomes such a natural part of our experience that it unlocks, makes plausible, that whole theosis end of the theology of salvation. When I entered this kind of charismatic experience, passages like Jesus healing the woman with a blood flow--"I felt power go out from me..."--make sense in a way they didn't before.

I think that we can have both a strong theosis understanding and a strong legal (penal justification) understanding of salvation at the same time. The Orthodox tend to diminish the importance (or even deny) of the legal justification approach. New Age nonchristians like the idea of participating in the divine spirit, so they read Orthodox books, overlooking the work of Christ and (in the Orthodox view) the importance of participating in the actual Body of Christ here and now, the Church.

smokin joe said...

I don’t want to distract from the interesting discussion about theosis or Orthodoxy, but I did want to contribute a quote from Wright’s Simply Christian that connects with the earlier quote from Surprised by Joy about individual salvation versus the collective advancement of God’s purposes:

“Nor is Christianity about Jesus offering, demonstrating or even accomplishing a new route by which people can ‘go to heaven when they die’. This is a persistent mistake, based on the medieval notion that the point of all religion, the rule of the game if you like, was simply to make sure you ended up on the right side of the stage at the end of the mystery play (i.e. in heaven rather than in hell), or on the right side of the painting in the Sistine Chapel. Again, that isn’t to deny that our present beliefs and actions have lasting consequences. It is to deny that Jesus made this the focus of his work and that this is the ‘point’ of Christianity.” – Simply Christian, chapter 7, Jesus: the coming of God’s kingdom, p. 78.

If Wright (and by extension McLaren) is correct here, it implies that the whole ‘born again’ evangelical movement has been guilty of a slight (or maybe not so slight) distortion of the gospel -- a misplaced emphasis or imbalance. It also has tremendous implications for me in missionary-evangelistic work.

Bruce has access to the New Wine archives … I continue to have the impression that what Wright (and McLaren) is saying here is highly congruent with the message about the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ (at least theologically if not politically) that we heard from Simpson, Mumford and company in the 70s….


Bruce said...

I don't have access to them, but I read them when they were published, from about number 1; and heard all the brothers teach.

I think the theosis topic illumines Wright and McLaren, along with the corporate nature of God's forming a Body to inhabit. As we (the brothers) taught, we may be saved individually, but not for the purpose of being saved individually. We're saved for the purpose of God's redemptive work on earth. That redemptive work is expressed in the Body of Christ, which is close somehow to the Kingdom of God encroaching all things, here and now.

Bruce said...

The deliverance ministry, and signs and wonders are the cutting edge where we push the envelope out into the world. The well-lived out common life is the everyday presence of the Kingdom. And submission to people is awkward here, but it's an expression of the personal authority of God in His Kingdom.

That's what I understood we taught, and still believe it.

Brian Emmet said...

To echo something John said a bit back: the latest issue of Christianity Today has a very helpful overview of McLaren by Scot McKnight. There's a somewhat related piece in the same issue entitled something like "Have We Made the Gospel Too Big?" This author's point seems to me that the emerging recasting of the Gospel can run into the danger of making the Gospel so "big" (in reaction against the reductionism of much contemporar evangelicalism). that people know longer have easily accessible "doorways" into life in Christ.

I think this track is starting to flail a bit? I do not mean to be critical of anything anyone has been saying, just observing that we have run pretty far afield from where we started. Fine by me, as long as everyone's OK for now. Chime in!

smokin joe said...

that was well expressed Bruce. I especially liked the way you said "we may be saved individually, but not for the purpose of being saved individually."

Ultimately, we are saved into God's kingdom so that he will have sons and daughters who will partner with him in stewardship of creation ... and so that we will enter into the triune community and the community of the saints.

John M. said...

Where did everyone go? Is everyone taking the weeend off, or have we run out of steam on this one?

I'm enjoying rading Romans in The Message. I go back occasionallly to compare with the NIV. I don't really have any comments to add at the moment.

Another book that is on my "to read" list is Scott McKnight's "A Community Called Atonement". Have any of you read it? In light of some of the comments about "penal justice", it would probably be interesting to read together.

My understanding is that McKnight (in 156 pages I might add) reviews several theories and calls for a synthesis and recognition of them rather than an exclusive either/or position on any one of them. He appeals for the Evangelical community to each benefit and be enriched by each others' emphasis.

This is my understanding from reading the blurbs about the book. We could read it and see if I'm right, and most importantly see if there are ideas in it that we can benefit from (or not).

It is obviously written for a broad audience and does not attempt to be exhaustive. It exhibits good scholarship without being written in a "scholarly" style.

Here I am recommending another book when I'm the one who has yet to finish McLaren's EMC.

Bruce said...

In general, the framework that can incorporate the other frameworks without remainder is more true than the others. So historic, liturgical, doctrinal churches with theology work hard at incorporating the true insights of the others without yielding its own identity. Our stream is not known for that sort of reaching out, at least usually.

John M. said...

Bruce, that reminds me of Charles Simpson's teaching from the early 80's on "Internal Integrity, External Integration". His basic premise was that if we have internal integrity (as individuals, churches and as a movement -- at least at that time we were a movement) then we could reach out and integrate a broader understanding and perspective outside ourselves.

It's a great and true idea, just tricky to pull it off. I think we pretty much failed to do it and just majored on our internal affairs/integrity.

Bruce said...

Oh yeah, I remember that teaching well. More than an individual teaching, I took it as a basic change of direction, change of mentality for our whole movement.

Ah, but it was within a year (or so it seems) that the brothers dismantled things, so we didn't get to see where we could go if we had that approach inside covenant.

I'm of the opinion that ext-int/etc., was so much NOT an outgrowth of the spirit of our movement, that it could only be imposed and not grown into. Like when Jerry Falwell tried to change the direction of PTL ministries to an anti-prosperity gospel ministry.

We're touching on some pivotal things of how whole movements grow and change, and I'll go on at length if I don't stop--so I'll stop.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, I wasn't trying to put the kiss o' death on the discussion, just asking if it had run its course for y'all!

Back to Jospeph's post a while back, in which he quoted from NT Wright, suggesting that "born again evangelicalism" may have seriously misconstrued or misrepresented the "gospel." Any interest in running Wright's contention through the grid of our reading or Romans or Revelation? Or do we feel that Wright has proven the point and it's time to move on?

smokin joe said...

sounds good to me ... why don't you lead off?

I think the point about evangelicalism is the tendnency to over emphasize individualism and to neglect the 'weightier aspects of the law' such as compassion, social justice and the advancement of the kingdom.

In addition, after the 1960s with the 4 Spiritual LAws and E.E. there was a tendency to turn the process of personal conversion into a rational/cognitive procedure.

Brian Emmet said...

OK, lemme work on it... but anyone else feel free to make the first attempt!

smokin joe said...

great ... remember Brian, we not really talking about an either/or scenario here ... but rather a matter of emphasis and balance.

I have heard Simpson and Mumford make a distinction between the 'gospel' ... which has been preached pretty much all over the world, and the 'gospel of the kingdom' which has not (by their implication) yet been preached in the nations.

So my understanding of Wright is NOT that he is denying the new birth or the need for personal regeneration ... but rather that he is saying that individual redemption is not the ultimate end of God's purposes... rather similar to Simpson and Mumford.

do you read him differently?

Brian Emmet said...

No, I understand Wright the way you do, but tned to feel that McLaren loses grip on some aspects of truth in his desire to see neglected aspects receive their proper place and emphasis.

So: Revelation. Does this final book of Scripture teach what many of us perhaps grew up with--a dramatic, apocalyptice ending of this present world in all its aspects and a kind of complete starting over again?

Observations: in chap 1 there are several time references: "to show his servants what must soon take place" (1:1), "the time is near" (1:3), "Look, he is coming with the clouds" (1:7), "what is now and what will take place later" (1:19) We might add references to God/Jesus as Alpha/Omega, First/Last, and God as the one who was, is and is to come.

Jesus is identified as Christ/Messiah, the faithful witness and firstborn from the dead AND the ruler of the kings of the earth... he is also "him who loves us and has gfreed us from our sins by his blood and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father... the pierced one who will cause the people of the earth to mourn... and the one who holds the keys of death and Hades.

John's readers are those who are called into the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Christ (1:9).

There are lots of Genesis "echoes" throughout the book (as there are in the 4th Gospel).

Hmmm...not sure what this suggests. Is Revelation so far showing that the "present evil age" is completely discontinuous with "the age to come," the new heaven and earth discontinuous with the present heaven and earth?

Bruce said...

I need a little help here.
Are we trying to figure out what McLaren is saying, what Wright is saying, what we together believe to be true, what the brothers used to teach, or all/none/some of the above?

smokin joe said...

Bruce, you forgot to include St. Paul (Romans) or St. John the Beloved (Revelations).

Bruce said...

Hmm...don't we already have them down pat already?
Just looking for something more doable, something more rabbinic. All us old guys with beer and beards, citing rabbinic precedents, with an occasional young upstart in our midst remembering the exact citation from the fourth century. We've got Smokin' Joe, Bruce the Fool, and Brian the Great (lending some gravitas), and when we're done, we'll all go shoot some Caribou or fish for salmon by hand in the icy rivers.

steve H said...

I'm home, but doubt that I'll be able to catch up with all the threads of this conversation.

I can add one comment to the discussion about Wright's thinking. In "What St. Paul Really Said" Wright summarizes the gospel this way:

"My proposal has been that ‘the gospel’ is not, for Paul, a message about ‘how one gets saved’, in an individual and a-historical sense. It is a fourfold announcement about Jesus:

1. In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in his cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.

2.In Jesus’ resurrection the New Age has dawned, inaugurating the long-awaited time when the prophecies would be fulfilled, when Israel’s exile would be over, and the whole world would be addressed by the one creator God.

3. The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative king.

4. Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee would bow.

It is, moreover, a double and dramatic announcement about God:

1. The God of Israel is the one true God, and the pagan deities are mere idols.

2. The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus himself." (p.60)

Earlier in the same chapter Wright says that in some circles of the church the gospel has come to be considered a description of how people get saved -- that Christ takes our sin and we his righteousness. He goes on to say:

"...I am perfectly comfortable with what people normally 'mean' when they say 'the gospel'. I just don't think it is what Paul meant means. In other words, I am not denying that the usual meanings are things people ought to say, to preach about, to believe. I simply wouldn't use the word 'gospel' to denote those things"

smokin joe said...

I agree that Brian is 'great' but I seriously doubt that you, Bruce, are 'the fool' ... we gotta come with a better one than that ... maybe barbarian? (as in Irwin McManus' book, the Barbarian Way)

but please don't forget our dear fellow contributors and core covenant thinkers, Bro. John the Loquacious, and St. Steven the hugely Humble ....

then there are a bunch of others who have forsaken us in our hour of vacationer inactivity and blogger burn-out, Dr. Bob the wise, St. Michael the younger, disciple of George MacDonald, St. Mike the elder, lurking silently in the background... Bro. Jeff the timid, fearless apostle to his neighborhood with the gospel of the American Idol, the courageous young Curry brothers who feint on the way when there doth wax excessive theological jargon (and one too many book reviews), St. Jamie the younger in CR only slightly angry (but not depressed!) but out to save covenant "Y" from extinction, the reclusive monk John-the-musician, and who else? St. David the early church historian in North Carolina, and St. Don the cheerfully radical Methodist in Mobile ... St. LeRoy the silent, and "he-is-full-of-shit" Radical Randy Reinhardt giant and Watchman Nee devotee Matt 'bull-dawg' Brennan... and Jeremiah, the neo-platonic, 'rape and pillage before you burn' prophet...

... and we won't start on all of our fearless friends and fellow pilgrims who are digitally challenged ... St. Kevin, St. Gary, St. Dennis, and St. Paul...

I better stop here, this is starting to remind me of the final episode of M.A.S.H. where everyone said goodbye...

call me smokin' bar-hoppin, non-st. joe the slightly depressed but ever pessimistic, apostolically handicapped ... who won't take 'no' for an answer....

Brian Emmet said...

Ah, Bruce (and others), we are making another run at the Post entitled "Romans and Revelation"--check that out and please return! I was making an attempt (I suspect fairly unsuccessfully)to test Wright's contention that Revelation and Romans, properly read, give us an understanding of the Gospel that is wider than 'the gospel is how you go to heaven when you die."

For me, I don't find much to quarrel with in the quote that Steve H included.

Great list of honorifics, Joseph! Thanks for that delightful and enjoyable burst of creativity.

And to anyone/everyone who may be reading: blogs tend to track with the folks who participate, so please speak up! We're happy to try out some new directions, or formats, or topics, or whatever else you might enjoy responding to.

Randy R. said...

Ready for a new direction. Sorry for being so silent. I, too, have started teaching again . . . two classes of psychology at a Christian High School (all juniors and seniors). Love it! But it has filled a lot of my discretionary time. Of course, just catching up after being away almost a month has also been a challenge. So, I may be doing more "listening" than "talking" for a while. Thanks, Joseph for your fun post . . . I noted that I am not listed as a Saint or as a Brother, just a radical. Interesting, I will try to find a picture that would aptly match that description. :-}

Randy R. said...

How does this look?

Patrick said...

Smokin Joe, some of that had contradictory traces of sarcasm that would have gone unnoticed had you not encouraged me to read it.

I hereby commit to reentering the CovThinklings roundtable of cyber fellowship for another season, and to participate in the discussion as much as my finite understanding and limited experience permits, be it relevant.

For those that are unaware, I have relocated to San Antonio, TX, where I currently live with Thomas, Beth, Caleb and Alina Hernandez. I am working at Starbucks while freelancing minor graphic design jobs. There is an interesting church situation here and I do not believe it to be a coincidence that my desires and experiences would fit well with the local ecclesial landscape.

Patrick said...

Sorry for the unnecessary inflated vocabulary in my post. My "courageous" brother just wrote a couple paragraphs of the most bloated sentences I have ever read.

Brian Emmet said...

Hey, Patrick, great to hear from you and get caught up just a bit. We will designate you as Brother Pin, he who deflates the gaseous pretensions of ... some of us!

Randy, I assume that your desire to "move on" is either (a) a coded indication of your political affiliations (i.e., a secret member of, or (b) your indication that you think I'm full of

smokin joe said...

hi Patrick ...

Randy, 'radical' is high praise coming me ... notice I called myself a bar hoping non-saint ... truer than you think and not at all false humility.

Bruce said...

Hi Patrick, good to meet you here.
About bloated sentences, I learned how to write from Alistair MacIntyre's After Virtue, which commonly had sentences seven or eight lines long. The difference between his and mine is that his writing needs all those words to say what he had to say.

Bruce said...

So again, are we just trying to understand controversial stuff in Wright and McLaren or maybe--maybe?--digest everything we know and come up with something even better?

If so, then I ask, is there anything preventing us from wholeheartedly accept everything they both say, all at once, and with what we already believe? Just to light a fuse, that's all I'm doing.

Randy R. said...

HI Gang, "moving on" meant to a new topic. I thought that the question was asked, "Should we move on"? Perhaps, I misread an entry.

Saint Joseph, I do receive your characterization of me as a "radical" as a compliment. Mmmmmm, could I be regressing in my older age? In my BC days, my classmates at the Naval Academy nick-named me "Easy Rider" after Peter Fonda in the movie by the same name.

In fact, one "friend," whom I hope to see at our 35th Reunion in two weeks, stated (following my conversion, literally transformation), "First, it was Jimmy Hendrix, then it was Easy Rider, now it is Jesus. Just give it time and this phase will pass too." Thirty-six years later, I am still "stuck" in this phase!!!!

Patrick said...

Hello Brian, Joe and Randy! It's good to meet you Bruce. It sounds like the time is close for a new topic. I'll deliberate until it's birthed...

John M. said...

Wow, you guys sure blew a lot of hot air today while I was working my behind off.

Joseph, "loquacious"? -- thanks for the "compliment"! I've been trying to cut down, and now you've given me a familiar label to live up to. You may be sorry... I might even make a "Meadows move" at some point. For you later arrivers to the post, that is one very, very long post cut into two very long posts.

Also, Joseph, it's not politically correct to use the word "handicapped". You should call yourself apostolically "challenged".

I was just reading some of your post to Vicki, and she asked if you put the words "stubborn" and "good friend" in your self description.
I don't know if she meant that were both stubborn and a good friend or a stubborn, good friend.

Anyway, with all locquaciousness aside, you are a good friend.

smokin joe said...

me? stubborn? never! perish the thought....

by-the-way, I forgot to mention St. John the gentle, from way down south in Georgia ...

John, admit it, you ARE loquacious ... although I do admit that your recent emails have been outstanding for their brevity.

Brian Emmet said...

A suggestion for a next topic, one perhaps particularly pertinent in an election season. A group of evangelical leaders drafted "An Evangelical Manifesto" about a year ago. LeRoy sent us the link ( while back and suggested it might be a blog subject. We could tackle it a chunk at a time (there is a 6-page "executive summary" and the full manifesto, which runs about 20 pages). You can obviously use the link, read the document and let us know if you think there is enough kindling to start a fire.

The floor is also open for other suggestions.

steve H said...

The manifesto looks like a document worth thinking through to me.

Bruce said...

Yes, the Manifesto might work--but only if it seems compelling in some way. I haven't read it, but if Brian is struck by its surface plausibility, that its writers should be taken real seriously, then I'll take it seriously. If it seems to be a politically motivated mere statement of faith, it would be of less value.

I've got a Bible question, guys. I'm reading Deuteronomy 6 and 7. We're not to take the name of the LORD in vain. In ch 7 Moses says to take our oaths in His name, v. 13. MY QUESTION: do you think we should understand the Third Commandment strictly construed about our actual misuse of the name of YHWH/Jehovah/The LORD, or in the more general sense of never speaking His name at all, or bringing dishonor to Him by our sins.

I for one would like to interpret it strictly and consider sins as strict violations and the implications (as in Jesus's Sermon OTMount)as being ideals. As in: we need to repent and grieve our sins, and we need to just "try harder" when we fail our ideals.

Brian Emmet said...

Check new post.