Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reconciling the Irreconcilable

For Paul a lot more than a simple faith in “Jesus as Messiah” had to take place after his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. For Paul he had to “reconcile the irreconcilable”. The resurrection to him wasn’t just a signet proof of Jesus’ authenticity which thereby demanded a belief and following of "The Way". Remember, Paul was a devout Jew in the strictest sense. He was brought up at the feet of Gameliel, steeped in the customs & traditions of ancient Judaism and blameless regarding Torah. No, a simple posit of faith wasn’t suffice. What Paul needed was a radical shift in his thinking, (what someone today might call “a paradigm shift”), really, a re-theologizing of his current perspective of God’s plan for humanity and what that was supposed to look like. Again, the Jewish religion of Paul’s day was as much diverse and fragmented as the Christian religion is of our day. There were a variety of anticipations and explanations of what the coming kingdom was to look like and be. Paul held to a sect of Judaism which called themselves “Pharisees”. They believed in the resurrection of the dead at the final judgment. Thus Paul had to rethink his views as the “resurrection” had happened in Jesus. What did this mean? What were the implications, etc? These were the kind of things he had to grapple with and put into a context that fit not only his worldview but now this small growing cult called Christianity. This Paul did when he went to Arabia, he received what he calls the “revelation of Jesus Christ”. After those years he finally had his head wrapped around his gospel with all the apocalyptic implications i.e. resurrection of the dead, gift of the Spirit (God's Presence), gentile inclusion etc. etc.

This should lead us to an application today of perhaps the need to "reshape", "rethink" and/or even "re-theologize" our understanding of some of the key components of "the faith". I would suggest two aspects immediately taken from Paul's shift. One is the understanding of the Kingdom of God. Without being able to go into greater detail here, there needs to be a realization that its not off in some distant future, but has already intervened in time and history and began its rule & reign in the first coming of Jesus. Although, not fully culminated into what it will be, there needs to be a vital change in that we see it as already here. Think for a moment of the Gospels... How often did the phrase "kingdom of God/Heaven is at hand" occur. Also, remember the parables; specifically the one of Jesus speaking of the kingdom like a mustard seed, how it was the smallest of all their known seeds yet it grew to be one of biggest plants etc. The same needs to be thought of in terms of the kingdom, much wasn't expected in Jesus of Nazareth's life, death, etc. but look what grew out of it.

Secondly, i believe another major shift in todays theology should be our notion of inclusion vs. exclusion. Again, for Paul, he saw this effected in his gospel. An ecumenical shift needed to take place. This polarization of "Jews/non-Jews had to be reconciled if Abraham's seed was to bless all the nations, etc. His understanding of the gentile inclusion was vital in his thinking. So too, we would do well to reshape our understanding of ecumenism. For Paul (as should with us) there was a great amount of allowance for diversity in the church. No matter what your background: cultural, ethnical or religous, all were unified in Jesus the Christ. An amazing thought, that religous Jews could now participate at the table with pagan Gentiles. Today, there needs to be an "ecumenical reform" within the church, according to Paul's gospel...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Five Introduction Quotes Commenting On Paul's Letter To The Galatians

  • Galatians is "a singularly impassioned attempt, to get some early gentile believers to stay true to his gospel as they have first received it, when he was among them" ~Gordon Fee
  • "Galatians is the most pungent and forthright of Paul's expositions of his own understanding of the Christian gospel" ~James Dunn
  • "That the epistle breathes an indignant spirit is obvious to everyone even on the first perusal... since Paul then saw the whole Galatian people in a state of excitement, a flame kindled against their church, and the edifices shakened and tottering to its fall, filled with the mixed feelings of just anger and despondence... he writes the epistle" ~John Chrysostom
  • "The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle; I have betrothed myself to it; it is my Katie (my wife)" ~Martin Luther
  • "Paul's letter to the Galatians is one of the most fiercest and polemical writings in the Bible. It begins with a denunciation of those to whom it was written and of unnamed trouble makers (1:6-9), it dismisses another group of Christians as "false brothers", makes snide remarks about the leaders of the Jerusalem Church, (2:6) and accuses Peter of hypocrisy adn deceit (2:13-14). After two somewhat more restrained chapters, the tone of urgent pleading and denunciation is resumed (5:2-4, 7-10), including a rather crude and blackly humorous aside (5:12). And the final paragraph cannot resist a parting swipe at those behind the problems and challenges which the letter seeks to address (6:12-13)." ~James Dunn

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Interesting Statistics

A friend of mine emailed me these statistics regarding pastors in ministry:

According to Shiloh Place Ministries (, which drew its information from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups:

• 1,500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month in America.
• 4,000 new churches start each year in America.
• 7,000 churches close each year in America.
• 50% of pastors' marriages end in divorce.
• 70% of pastors continually battle depression.
• 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles.
• 95% of pastors do not regularly pray with their spouses.
• 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor. 
• 50% of pastors are so discouraged they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way to make a living.
• 80% of pastors spend under 15 minutes a day in prayer.
• 70% of pastors only study God's Word when preparing a message. 
• Nearly 40% of pastors have had an extra-marital sexual affair since entering ministry.
• 80% of seminary graduates who enter ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel their husbands are overworked. 
• 80% of the adult children of pastors sought professional help for depression.
• 90% of pastors said their training was inadequate for ministry.
• 85% of pastors report that their biggest problem is dealing with abstinent elders, deacons, worship leaders, worship teams, board members, and associate pastors. 
• 90% of pastors said the hardest thing about ministry is uncooperative people.
• 70% of pastors are grossly underpaid.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel unappreciated by the congregation.
• 90% of pastors said ministry was completely different from what they thought it would be. 
• Only 70% of pastors felt called of God into ministry when they began.
• Only 50% of pastors felt called of God into ministry three years later.
• 80% of pastors' wives feel pressured to be someone they are not and do things they are not called to do in the church. 
• Over 50% of pastors' wives feel that their husbands entering ministry was the most destructive thing to ever happen to their families.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The End has Come! The End has not Come!

One of the greatest needs in the church today is a shift in our understanding of the term "eschatology". There needs to be a dismantling of this "left behind" futuristic only ideology of the "end times" and a reshaping of it to what it biblically is. I'm reminded of a couple quotes from a paper I have just read by G.K. Beale entitled "The Eschatological Conception of New Testament Theology" where he quotes two people specifically who have helped shape and redefine a right paradigm of the "latter days"....

In his book entitled "Christ and Time" Oscar Cullman uses the analogy of World War II to help understand the events of the Eschaton. With D-day being the decisive day/battle of the war and V-day simply the culmination of what has already been done at Normandy. He writes:

"The hope of the final victory is so much more vivid because of the unshakeably firm conviction that the battle that decides the victory has already taken place."

Another quote by William Manson also helps our understanding:

"When we turn to the New Testament, we pass from the climate of prediction to that of fulfillment. The things which God had foreshadowed by the lips of His holy prophets He has now, in part at least, brought to accomplishment...The supreme sign of the Eschaton is the Resurrection of Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Church. The Resurrection of Jesus is not simply a sign which God has granted in favour of His son, but is the inauguration, the entrance into history, of the times of the End."

Also, he writes "Christians, therefore have entered through the Christ into the new age...What had been predicted in Holy Scripture as to happen to Israel or to man in the Eschaton has happened to and in Jesus. The foundation-stone of the New Creation has come into position."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Review of "The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham" Pt.1

This series (New Testament Theology, NTT published by Cambridge, Series Editor James D.G. Dunn) has been a successful endeavor of bringing out the various aspects of the theological threads that are found in the particular writings of the New Testament. It has (by its own admission) sought & remedied the gap that is often found in conventional or traditional style commentaries i.e. to bring to light, the author’s (often too marginalized) dense theological inferences that seem more often than not, to get brushed over or even in some cases sad to say, not even mentioned. Theology should always complete the circle in “biblical exegesis”. Whether throughout the interpretive task highlighting the overtones, or adding as a synthesis the correlative understanding. Either way, the importance cannot be overstated living in an age of post enlightened criticisms.

Bauckham, in this book demonstrates the art of handling the apocalypse as a mass treatise of theological density. He weaves together rather masterfully the distinguished nuances of the book, to name a few:

The structure and composition

The emphasis of a theocentric perception

A high view of christology

A pneumatic prophecy