Wright or Willard Wednesdays: Power

NT Wright published a neat little book on faith and public life, basically a view of what a Christian politic might look like with the NT book of Acts as a starting point.

Near the end of the book, Wright suggests how God might be at work in the world:

As for power, when people say (as they often do), “Why doesn’t God do something?”, they always seem to assume that if God was really in control he’d send in the tanks and stop the bullies and the unscrupulous getting away with it. But according to the Sermon on the Mount…. when God wants to change the world he doesn’t send in the tanks… he sends the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the hungry-for-justice people, the peacemakers, the incorruptibly pure in heart. That was never a list of qualities you needed to try to work at in order to get into heaven. It was always a list of human characteristics through which God would bring his kingdom on earth as in heaven. That’s how God works. And by the time the bullies and the arrogant have woken up to what’s happening, the meek and the mourners and the merciful have built hospitals and schools; they are looking after the sick and the wounded; they are feeding the hungry and rescuing the helpless; and they are telling the powerful and the vested-interest people that this is what a genuinely human society looks like, thank you very much.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Apologetics

Dallas Willard passed away on May 8th, 2013. Truly a sad day for many in the Christian world. Dallas was in the midst of writing a book on apolgetics (defense of the faith) as he was passing. The book was completed posthumously and reveals many of his intellectual claims for the Christian faith. You can buy this book on Amazon. I highly recommend.

Here is a section of the where Dallas shares about the manner in which apologetics should be conducted:

Since apologetics is involved with ideas, intellectual claims, and reasoning, it is fitting for apologists to engage in intellectual debates and arguments. However, as we will see in this book, given we are seeking to do apologetics in the manner of Jesus, what is not fitting is for apologists to engage in debates and arguments with an antagonizing, arrogant spirit. Indeed, the best way to make the intellectual aspects of apologetics more effective is to combine them with a gentle spirit and kind presentation.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Jesus’ Appearing

Each Wednesday, I’ll try to offer a short thought from a couple of my favorite sages: NT Wright and Dallas Willard. Today, a long quotation from Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. In this quotation, Willard reveals how it was God’s plan to arrive among us through ordinary means:

He slipped into our world through the backroads and outlying districts of one of the least important places on earth and has allowed his program for human history to unfold ever so slowly through the centuries.

He lived for thirty years among socially insignificant members of a negligible nation – though one with rich tradition of divine covenant and interaction. He grew up in the home of the carpenter for the little Middle-Eastern village of Nazareth. After his father, Joseph, died, he became ‘the man of the house’ and helped his mother raise the rest of the family. He was an ordinary workman: a ‘blue-collar’ worker.

He did all this to be with us, to be one of us, to ‘arrange for the delivery’ of his life to us. It must be no simple thing to make it possible for human beings to receive the eternal kind of life. But, as F.W. Faber opens one of his profound works, now ‘Jesus belongs to us. He vouchsafes to put Himself at our disposal. He communicates to us everything of His which we are capable of receiving.’

If he were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles.

In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live within your family, surroundings, and time. None of this world be the least hindrance to the eternal kind of life that was his by nature and becomes available to us through him. Our human life, it turns out, is not destroyed by God’s life but is fulfilled in it and in it alone.

Taller and Taller

In Tom Wright’s Spiritual and Religious Wright has a fascinating chapter on idolatry on how humans can fall for lesser loves,

The process begins with a lie; it continues with the habitual lie; it goes yet deeper when we are unable to distinguish the lie from the truth; and it ends when our words are literally meaningless, the mouthing and mumbling of mechanical untruth that nobody believes but which functions like the clanking of the machinery that says the system is still working. This is the cost of human inflation. We may have felt ten feet tall, but it was a lie. That is the story, in essence, of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11: humans decide to make themselves taller and taller, but the end result is chaos, confusion, the disintegration of human speech.

Creative Minority (Book) – 6 Practices

I’m working my way through A Creative Minority by Tyson and Grizzle. It’s a neat little book that is worth the read for leaders within the church. I highly recommend it.

The authors are seeking to persuade the modern-day Church, which is diminishing in participation and power, to resist the urge to seek “cultural dominance” or to daydream of recovering its “unrealistic and nostalgic past.” Instead, seeking to be a counter-community within the world, not removed from it, or as Karl Barth suggested:

The church exists to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to the world’s own manner and which contradicts it in a way that is full of promise.

This counter-community must have two elements, working in tandem: radical dissimilarity and hopeful promise. There’s a good chance that if you or I have participated in a community that makes much of Jesus, we would recognize these two elements.

The authors provide 6 characteristics of this type of community. I’ll cover those in two different posts, later.

This content reminds me of a Facebook conversation that Ginger and I were in several years ago. I can’t remember the exact subject that sparked the “delightful” back-and-forth, but I do remember an interesting perspective that someone shared.

“Jesus didn’t ask us to win a popularity contest… Jesus told us to be ‘in the world, but not of it.'”

This person’s sincere sentiment is relatively helpful, as a reminder that any of us can be susceptible to waning faithfulness in order to be accepted by outsiders. However, to base one’s entire life on picking the least popular thing doesn’t always lead to a faithful end, either. Even though the earliest Christians picked the least popular option of defying the Temple leadership, they also enjoyed the favor of all people. (Acts 2:42-47) Their risky unpopularity pointed to a greater, distinct, and redemptive reality. I have always enjoyed this idea from NT Wright,

“Jesus said that his kingdom was not from this world, but it is certainly for this world.”

The outworking of that takes some creative ingenuity, a lot of prayer, and some guts. May we find ourselves dedicated to such a task.

Book- A Creative Minority

I’m working my way through a lovely, little book that I’ll read again and hope to work through with our leaders.

The book is A Creative Minority by Jon Tyson and Heather Grizzle. This book is self-published; some publishing house needs to pick it up!

The definition they provide for a “creative minority” is compelling:

A Christian community in a web of stubbornly loyal relationships, knotted together in a living network of persons who are committed to practicing the way of Jesus together for the renewal of the world.

I’m enthused by this vision and can’t wait to share more as I read along. You should pick up a copy and enjoy it too.

Rolheiser’s Nugget on the Body of Christ

 

I’ve just finished Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing. I enjoyed the read and have many things to consider. There are tons of pages “dog-eared” for future reflection. One of his strongest arguments is why one should be a part of a church.

He notes that a pattern exists in Jesus’ ministry. At first, Jesus is wildly popular, drawing crowds who are wowed by his goodness and power. “However,” Rolheiser says, “eventually something happens, a different understanding of his message seeps through, and his popularity degenerates and sours to the point where people want to, and do, kill him.” (96)

On one occasion, in John 6, Jesus tells the large-yet-“discerning”-crowd that if anyone wants to be a part of him, each must “eat his body and drink his blood,” a reference to the Eucharist, perhaps.¬†Jesus isn’t referring to cannibalism, a literal eating of flesh and blood. Scholars suggest that Jesus is calling people to be a part of the life of the the community that bears Jesus’ name.

What is interesting, however, is Jesus’ use (through John writing) for “flesh.” There are several words for “flesh” or “body” in the NT text.¬†Soma, in Greek, is the general word used to refer to a material body while sarx is a pejorative use of flesh, a description of a subhuman and depraved bodily experience.

Jesus uses sarx in this passage.

Jesus says, “If you want anything to do with me, you must embrace imperfect people within the community that bears my name.”

Rolheiser continues,

“By using sarx, Jesus is referring to his body precisely insofar as it is not simply his sinless, glorified body in heaven, nor simply a sterilized, white communion wafer in a church. What we are being asked ‘to eat’ is that other part of his body, the community, the flawed body of believers here on earth…

In essence, Jesus is saying: You cannot deal with a perfect, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-understanding God in heaven, if you cannot deal with a less-than-perfect, less-than-forgiving, and less-than-understanding community here on earth. You cannot pretend to be dealing with an invisible God in you refuse to deal with a visible family. Teaching this truth can ruin one’s popularity in a hurry. People then found it to be ‘intolerable language’ and it meets with the same resistance today.”

Go ahead, Ronald. Say it plain, brother.