Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chapter 8 of The Blue Parakeet

Chapter 8 – The Boring Chapter (on Missional Listening): What Does God Want to Happen to Listeners?

Scot begins this chapter by referring to Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine which is compared to the ancient church’s equivalent of our How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. Augustine’s book makes the claim that if the Bible leads the reader to be more loving, then the Bible has accomplished its mission. Thus the Bible’s main mission is to help us become people who love God and love others. If our reading of the Bible leads to this, the mission is accomplished. Any method of Bible study that doesn’t lead to transformation abandons the missional path of God and leaves us stranded.

The Relational Approach Is Missional
The relational approach to the Bible goes beyond normal methods to take us to the heart of what reading the Bible is all about. We examine 2 Tim. 3.14-17 and it tells us that God speaks to us so we will be the kind of people he wants and will live the way he wants us to live. When we read up until verse 17, we find that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, SO THAT all God’s people may be equipped for good works. This focuses on the outcome of the usefulness of Scripture. To get to the outcomes we have to go through a sequence of thoughts for Paul, unmasking the four stages for missional listening as he writes to Timothy – but remember that everything is aimed at that “so that.” EVERYTHING! Any reading of any passage in the Bible that doesn’t end up with the “so that” of 2 Timothy 3.17 is not done.

Missional Listening
Begins with the Wisdom of the Ages
Timothy had been formed by those who knew the gospel (2 Tim. 3.14-15). Education for the community that Timothy was raised in was not simply information; it was also formation. Education was training in righteousness and in good works.
Is Empowered by Inspiration
Too many of us spend too much time arguing about the meaning of “inspiration” and not enough on the point of it all. The Spirit who guided the author through a history and a community to the moment when he put quill to papyrus is the same Spirit at work when you and I sit down with our Bible.
It is a Process
God designs all biblical study to be a “useful” process that leads us to the Bible in such a way that it creates a person who loves God and loves others. Anything less fails to achieve why God speaks to us in the Bible. God’s got a mission in giving us the Bible, and that mission is “useful.”
Missional listeners discover we are in a process of being transformed from what we are into what God wants us to be. Here’s the process:
We become informed;
We get rebuked;
We are restored; and
We become instructed in righteousness.
The outcome of our learning process is righteousness. To be “righteous” means our minds, our wills and our behaviors will be conformed to God’s will. It means holiness, goodness, love, justice, and good works. It takes time, but missional listening leads to righteousness.
Blossoms into a Life of Good Works
The divine outcome, the divine “so that,” of missional listening to the God of the Bible is good works. Any reading and any interpretation that does not lead to good works aborts what the Bible is designed to produce.
What are good works? Peter urged the Christians in Asia Minor to be benevolent in their cities; Paul exhorted Roman Christians to love their neighbors as themselves; John urged his readers to walk in the light and to love one anther; James reminded followers of Jesus to care for widows and orphans, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked. Good works are concrete responses to the needs we see in our neighbors

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Somebody, Please!

Tell me what you are going to do when you get elected. Tell me how you are going to accomplish your lofty goals. Do not tell me about how bad your opponent is. Almost every candidate tells me what is wrong with their opponent, and almost no candidates actually tell me what they are going to do for their electorate. I am seriously not looking forward to punching the ballot for any candidate.
Can anyone tell me how career politicians (on local, state and national levels) are really going to effect change?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life Lessons from Joe Poz

Joe Posnanski was discussing some lessons he learned from a seasoned, creative reporter when he was younger. Here is a brief recap of some of the things he learned.
Lesson 1: NEVER assume anything.
Lesson 2: NEVER just wait around and hope.
Lesson 3: The “work harder than other people” concept is bigger than words, whether it involves reporting, sports, and life. Chiefs’ tight end Tony Gonzalez has made this point to me numerous times — after every practice he catches 100 or 200 extra passes. On the sideline, while others sit and wait, he is constantly asking someone to throw him more passes. Why? He says it’s because if you are NOT catching those extra passes, then you are doing what everybody else doing. “EVERYBODY practices hard,” he says. “That’s the part people don’t realize. When I hear someone say they’re working hard, I think, ‘No you’re not. You just practice like everyone else. You’re just doing what you’re supposed to do. What you do after practice tells me how hard you’re working.’”

Those last words struck me. I have been inspired by Jim Collins from Catalyst (author of Good to Great). Great organizations have a culture of discipline. I am seeking to foster in my own culture of discipline in my own little work station and seeking that example from Tony Gonzalez is further inspiration that greatness is fostered from working hard. We all have the Spirit of God and incredible power at our disposal, but how many of us are willing to do the hard work that unleashes this power?

Here is my question to you: What do you think the hard work is that unleashes the power of God in our lives?

Chapter 7 of The Blue Parakeet

Chapter 7 – God Speaks, We Listen: What Is Our relationship to the God Who Speaks to Us in the Bible?

Scot discusses some of his student’s questions over the issue of inerrancy. I resonated with this somewhat as I was trained in a denomination that fought the battle of inerrancy and one’s views on inerrancy were often a litmus test for their orthodoxy. Scot lists one student’s question (and it’s a good question): What good is “inerrancy” if you don’t do what God says? Too many of us know our doctrine about the Bible but don’t do what the God of the Bible says? Having the right view isn’t the point of the Bible, but having a relationship with the God of the Bible. Our relationship to the God of the Bible is to listen to God so we can love him more deeply and love others more completely. Reading the Bible is an act of listening. Listening is an act of love.

Listening in the Bible
Scot reminds us that the word “listen” or “hear” is found more than 1500 times in the Bible. After examining this, Klyne Snodgrass reached the conclusion: “The greatest command is to love God; the prior command [to loving God] is the command to hear,” (as evidenced in the Shema, Deut. 6.4-5). The word “hear” or “listen” in the Bible operates on at least three levels: attention, absorption, and action. Attention opens our ears. Absorption allows what we have heard to fill our being. Action puts legs on the ears, as Jesus says: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice…” (Matt. 7.24).
When we read the Bible as Story and develop a relationship with the God of the Bible,
• We learn to listen to and for God in the Bible as we read it;
• We are attentive enough to recognize God’s voice and let it in;
• We absorb what God says so that it floods our inner being; and
• We act on what we have heard from God.

Love Listens
Good reading is an act of love and therefore an act of listening. But good listening, good attentive listening, good loving listening, is more than gathering information. It is more than just sitting around the back porch with God as we sip tea while God tells us his story. God speaks to us for a reason – McKnight calls this “missional” listening. In brief, God tells his story so we can enter into a relationship with him, listen to him, and live out his Word in our day and in our way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Rabbinic Pattern of Discipleship

I have been reading a little book, The Origins of the Gospel Traditions by Birger Gerhardsson (95 pages). It is a distillation of two of his earlier works Memory and Manuscript: Oral Traditions and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity and Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity. In them he discusses how rabbis would have passed down their teachings to their students and how faithful these students were to commit them to memory. As I was reading, I noticed how the process of discipleship has been passed down from the rabbis through Jesus and Paul and what we can learn from this process. I have excerpted a few chapters that point us to proper discipleship techniques.

To learn Torah one must go to a teacher. Students would then flock around teachers. And such a group formation – teachers and students – become something of an extended family. The teacher is the spiritual father, the students his spiritual children. They spend their time with him, they follow him, and they serve him.
Students learn much of the Torah tradition by listening: by listening to their teacher and his more advanced students as well as by posing questions and making contributions of their own within the bounds prescribed by modesty and etiquette. But they also learn a great deal by simply observing: with attentive eyes they observe all that the teacher does and then proceed to imitate him. Torah is above all a holy, authoritative attitude toward life. Because this is true, much can be learned by simply watching and imitating those who are educated.
We see in the Talmud that it was not only the teachings of the great rabbis that were preserved but their actions as well: “I saw rabbi so-and-so do thus and so.” The rabbinical tradition preserves examples of how bright and eager students followed their teachers’ actions even in the most private situations, motivated by the belief that “This has to do with Torah, and I want to learn!” (This includes a humorous story of students hiding in a rabbi’s bedroom because they wanted to learn the Torah in that “situation.”)

In seeking to preserve their teachings on the Torah, the rabbi’s were not so much only interested in the “cramming and mechanical recitation” of their teaching. They were very conscious of the importance of comprehending and personally applying that which had been impressed upon one’s mind. For this reason they carried on an energetic struggle against lifeless knowledge. According to the rabbis a disciple ought not be a dead receptacle for the received tradition. He should rather enter into it so that he understands it and is in agreement with it. Only thus can he actually live according to it, be a faithful steward of it, and pass it on to others in an infectious way. A living bearer of the tradition is to be like a torch which has been lit by an older torch, in order that it might itself light others.

Paul picks up this mantle of a “rabbi” as he looks upon himself as a spiritual father to those who have been won for the gospel (1 Cor. 4.17; Philemon 10). He encourages his congregations to be imitators of him in all respects, even as he himself is an imitator of Christ (1 Cor. 4.16; 11.1; 1 Thess. 1.6; 2 Thess. 3.7).
Paul thinks of the life of imitation which comes into being when obedient disciples receive (and pattern their lives according to) the instruction of their teacher. After his admonishment to “Be imitators of me,” he follows with the statement: “For this reason I am sending to you Timothy…He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4.17).
When Paul speaks of “my ways” he is referring to patterns of his life and teachings. Imitating Paul means the same as to receive and live according to the teaching which Paul proclaimed in all of his congregations. Thus Paul is not only passing down tradition as oral or written teaching but also how he lives. We see this fleshed out even more in Phil. 4.9: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice.” The Philippians were even told to look in their own community for imitators of Paul, “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil. 3.17).

As I read this, I see that Paul is passing down a tradition of rabbinic discipleship. Just as the rabbis gathered students to themselves and passed on to them not only instruction in the Torah but also a lifestyle that exemplifies the Torah, Paul exhorts his followers to not only hold fast to his teaching but to imitate his lifestyle as well. We see that for the rabbis and Paul, discipleship is not a program or a book study to take someone through, but an opportunity to live out their teaching (in Paul’s case the gospel) in front of students and encouraging them to follow along. It seems deeply personal and time consuming but it is the model that we have been given.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Concert Review: The Old 97s

Saw the Old 97s last night at the Blue Note here in Columbia. I don’t own any of their cds (although I do have several of their songs on my iTunes). They are from Dallas so I’ve been hearing about them for years. They have a Ticket (Sports Radio 1310) connection, so that made me even more familiar with them. It would be hard to describe the style of music they play. They are described as “alt-country” but I bet they are tired of that label by now. I hear elements of The Replacements (power pop), Dick Dale (surf rock guitarist) and Johnny Cash (country-rock). They’re the kind of band that makes me miss living in Texas.
They are a fun band to see live. High energy throughout the show, sometimes cruising along at a break neck pace. Both Rhett Miller (lead vocals) and Murry Hammond (bass and vocals) are capable song writers with Murry’s contributions more on the country side. (He also looks like Stephen King from afar). They are a tight outfit with Ken Bethea (lead guitar) and Phil Peeples (drums) rounding out the combo.
At one time, they were on the verge of a breakthrough with the power pop tinged cd “Satellite Rides” but they never made that move. One of the songs you might have heard from The Old 97s would be “The Question.” I am not a romantic, love song kind of guy, but this song is a great, sentimental song about a guy proposing to his girl ("Someday somebody's gonna ask you/the question that you should say yes to..." heard on “Scrubs”). Two of my favorite songs did not make the set list (King of the World and Murder (or a Heart Attack)).
Highlights of the evening for me were “I Will Remain”, “Doreen”, “Victoria, aka Victoria Lee” and “Bel Air.” Another highlight was the slow, sad Hammond number “Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue” off their new cd. They played most of their new release “Blame It on Gravity.” A lot of good numbers on that cd. Perfect show closer was “Timebomb” which fast paced, energetic and left the crowd in a frenzy wanting another encore. Here is the set list for the show.

1. The Fool *
2. Lonely Holiday *
3. Melt Snow *
4. No Baby I *
5. Crash on the Barrelhead *
6. Designs on You *
7. I Will Remain *
8. The New Kid *
9. Doreen *
10. Color of a Lonely Heart Is Blue *
11. Question *
12. Niteclub *
13. Indefinitely *
14. Victoria *
15. Smoker *
16. My Two Feet *
17. Bel Air
18. Barrier Reef *
19. Rollerskate Skinny *
20. The Easy Way *
21. Stoned *
22. Won’t Be Home *
23. Dance with Me *
24. Time Bomb *

The opening band was The Spring Standards, a pop-Americana type band with a few blues tinged notes. A trio with tight harmonies. An odd stage layout, imagine the drum kit scattered across the front of the stage with each member playing a bit of the kit as well as their own instrument. Acoustic guitar player was tapping along on the pedal of the cymbals. The keyboard player had a snare drum in front of her as well as a melodica. The bass player was pedaling the bass drum as well. Pleasant group whose country roots got the crowd ready for the 97s.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Dave Kinnaman on the Perception of the Church in the US

Dave Kinnaman (along with Gabe Lyons) wrote the book UnChristian which examines our society's attitude toward evangelicals. He was interviewed in Rev! magazine and had this to say about looking at the church from an outsider's perspective.
One of the conclusions that I came to in looking at all of these negative perceptions - hypocritical, judgmental, sheltered, too political - is that they seem to be reflections of an American church that's had dominance for several centuries. The very early church would not be thought of as hypocritical, judgmental, anti-sinner, and too political. They would've been thought of as a fringe group, a cult, fanatics, and revolutionaries, and so there's something about the reflection that young people are providing to us about the culture today that ought to wake us up...Maybe we haven't looked at the heart of transforming people's ways of living and haven't though about how we can serve the culture rather than demanding our rights as American Christians.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Blue Parakeet – Part 2 Listening: What do we do with the Bible?

Chapter 6 – From Paper to Person – How do we read God’s words?

McKnight wonders aloud if we forget what we are reading when we read the Bible. We are reading God’s story. So, how do we read a story that we claim is God’s story? We need to ask, “What is my relationship to the Bible?” This really leads to the question, “What is my relationship to the God of the Bible?”

Deep Inside
A closer look at Psalm 119 reveals David’s heart for God’s laws. Instead of saying that: Your words are authoritative, and I am called to submit to them,” he was saying: “Your words are delightful, and I love to do what you ask.” The difference: one is a relationship to the Bible; the other is a relationship with God. Most of us have grown up within the authority approach to the Bible. (I personally remember a pastor leading his congregation through the pledge: “I believe the Bible. It is the Word of God. Where my life deviates from what the Bible says, I will change). This approach is not personal enough or relational enough. It does not express enough of why it is that God gave us the Bible. Scot next takes some time to build a relational approach to the Bible, one that finds resonance with the delightful obedience of the psalmist. He focuses on five ideas that will fill out what we mean by reading the Bible as Story so we can learn to live it out.

The Relational Approach to the Bible
God and the Bible
The relational approach distinguishes God from the Bible. God existed before the Bible existed; he exists independently of the Bible now. God is a person; the Bible is paper. God gave us this papered Bible to lead us to love his person. But the person and the paper are not the same.
Missing the difference between God and the Bible is like the person who reads Jonah and spends hours and hours figuring out if a human can live inside a whale, but never encounters God. Our first step in a proper relationship with the Bible is that we must distinguish God from the Bible.
Bible as God’s Written Communication
A relational approach also focuses on the Bible as God’s written communication with us. The Bible is like a spoken message or a letter from God addressed to his people. The Bible is God’s communication – in the form of words – with us. For the papered book to be what it is intended to be, God’s communication with us, we need to receive those words as God’s words addressed to God’s people.
A relational approach invites us to listen to God (the person) speak in the Bible and to engage God as we listen. The relational approach knows the Bible is filled with timely, divinely inspired stories of the Story by human authors. We are summoned to stand in front of the Bible as those listening to God’s story.
Bible and Big Conversation
One of McKnight’s favorite discoveries about the relational approach is that we enter into the Bible’s own conversation and the conversation the church has had about the Bible. Just as the biblical authors converse with one another, so Christians in the history of the church have conversed with one another – about the Bible’s own conversation. Our challenge today is to learn to read the Bible with tradition – compared to sitting down at a table with three of four generation in our family at Christmas – we can enter into this big conversation in which we can learn from the wisdom of the past.
Relationship with God
This relational approach believes our relationship to the Bible is transformed into a relationship with the God who speaks to us in and through the Bible. Our relationship to the Bible is actually a relationship with the God of the Bible. Scot emphasizes that we don’t ask what the Bible says, we ask what God says to us in that Bible. God gave the Bible not so we can know it but so we can know and love God through it.

Interesting and final point of the chapter – Without denying the legitimacy of the various terms in the authority approach to the Bible, those who have a proper relationship to the Bible never need to speak of the Bible as their authority nor do they speak of their submission to the Bible. They are so in tune with God, so in love with him, that the word “authority” is swallowed up in loving God. Submission becomes listening to God speak through the Bible and doing what God calls us to do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Few Thoughts from Catalyst

Here are a couple of things I took away from the Catalyst conference:

From Andy Stanley -

To reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing (Craig Groeschel) - we have 175,000 people within 10 miles of Northpoint, and we aren't reaching them. We aren't going to reach them by building another church building. We have to do something no one else is doing.

(This is really informing me in my goal of planting a new campus ministry at Mizzou).

From Seth Godin -

It is naïve to think everyone wants to be in your tribe. Your job is to find the people who want in your tribe.

No one is seeking a safe leader. You have to do something people will criticize.

From Jim Collins (who surprisingly enough was probably the highlight for me) -

Greatness is not a function of your circumstances; or good luck; it is a function of a choice and discipline.

Within every organization or company that is great…you will find a culture of discipline.

The greatest CEO’s from the greatest companies in history had one distinctive characteristic that separate them from other leaders. The trait is humility.

· If it is about you…you will not build something great. And only you know if you are all about you.

· If you make your church dependent on your powerful personality…you are being irresponsible.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Going to Catalyst

Posting may be few this week. I get to spend 14 hours in a bus tomorrow as we travel to Catalyst with our state collegiate ministry team. Wife is actually going this year. Hope to make a few connections with some others doing college ministry around the nation.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Chapter 5: Part 2

Covenant Community: The Struggle for Oneness

The temptation then, is to skip from Genesis three to the Gospels or Romans three. We need, however, to see the plot move from creation and fall to redemption. The story of the Bible is creation, fall, and then covenant community – page after page of community – as the context in which our wonderful redemption takes place.

If reading the Bible as Story teaches us one think, it teaches us that it is the otherness with others that most concerns God. Because we in the West are obsessed with our individual relationship with God, we like to read the Bible as morsels of blessing and promise. But reading the Bible as Story opens up a need so deep we sometimes aren’t aware we need it: oneness with others.

After the flood, God forms a covenanted community – a community in which they are to find oneness with God, with self, with others and with the world. This covenanted community will shape the rest of the Bible. Oneness cannot be achieved just between God and self. The way God works redemption in this world is through his covenanted community – first Israel, then the church.

Otherness Gets the Last Word

Here’s the massive problem in the Story: God’s people don’t get the job done. Something is terribly wrong with God’s covenanted people. Woven into this story is a deep thread of failure that creates otherness. Deep within the fabric of this story is that Israel won’t get the job done until the job is done for them. That job won’t get done until Jesus, Israel’s long-awaited Messiah, comes. He will bring the oneness.

Christ, the Perfect Eikon: Oneness Restored

The Bible’s story has a plot headed in the direction of a person. And that same story is headed in the direction of a community “in” that person.

Everything God designed for Eikons is actually lived out by Jesus. Everything Eikons are to do comes by being “in Christ” or by becoming “one” with Jesus Christ. God accomplishes four things in Christ, each of which contributes to the restoration of oneness.

Incarnation – this is where he becomes one with us. He is the Oneness Story in one person.

Death – Humans are guilty before God according to Genesis 3; the punishment for that guilt is death. Otherness leads to death (“you must not touch it, or you will die”). The problem is to resolve death. Because God’s intent is to make the Eikons what he designed them to be, God (in the person of Jesus Christ) takes on our death – our punishment for sin – so that we don’t have to die.

Jesus dies with us – he dies our death and we die with him.

Jesus dies instead of us – that final death is taken on board by him and we don’t have to die that final death.

Jesus dies for us – by assuming our death, we are forgiven of our sin.

But forgiveness is only the beginning of restoring us to oneness.

Resurrection – Forgiveness is not enough, the Eikons need life. Jesus is raised for us. By becoming one with the Resurrected One through faith, we are raised to new life. Why? So that we might stand up and walk again as Eikons are designed to live – with God, with self, with others, and with the world.

Pentecost – Here is where the power to create oneness is given, God sends his power in the form of the Holy Spirit. When we read Acts 2 (esp. verses 42-47) we see the gift of the Spirit is not tongues speaking but community formation. As we are reconciled to God through Christ, this leads to oneness (reconciliation) with others in this world (see 2 Cor. 5.18).

Consummation: Oneness Forever

Jesus’ first work stands now as partial redemption. The fullness of that work, complete union and perfect oneness will be consummated only when Christ returns again to establish the new heavens and the new earth. When that happens, Mr. and Mrs. Eikon will bask in the glory of union with God, where they will themselves be so radiant as to draw attention to God’s oneness as the origin of it all.

For Some Reason...

This does not delight me as much as I thought it would.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Chapter 5: The Plot of the Wiki-Stories

This chapter will have to be posted in two parts because it was longer than I expected.

How Does the Bible Work?

Saying the Bible is Story is not saying it is fiction. We say the Bible is Story because if we read it from beginning to end, we discover that it has three features: it has a plot (creation to consummation), it has characters (God – Father, Son and Spirit – and God’s people and the creation around them), and it also has many authors who together tell the story.
Scot imagines that each of the authors of the Bible has a way of telling the Story. But before they are given permission, Jesus gives them some instructions in the form of a plot to which they are to conform their story.
Scot then provides us the basic elements of the plot to which all Bible writers have been asked to conform. He identifies 5 themes which hold the Bible together:
Plot / Theme
Creating Eikons (Gen. 1-2) /Oneness
Cracked Eikons (Gen. 3-11) / Otherness
Covenant Community (Gen. 12-Malachi)/ Otherness expands
Christ, the Perfect Eikon, redeems (Matt. – Rev. 20) / One in Christ
Consummation (Rev. 21-22) /Perfectly One

One of the most exciting features of those who learn to read the Bible as Story is to see how each book or author shapes the various elements of this plot.
This is the important point of this chapter: The unity of the Bible is this Story. It is this Story that puts the Bible together.
Creating Eikons: Designed for Oneness
We begin at Genesis 1-2. The pinnacle of God’s speaking things into existence was creating human beings. I understood where he was going. He refers to Gen. 1.26-27 and allows some of the words here to be defined with alternate understandings. Let us make The Adam [human beings] in our own Eikon [image, likeness of God]. Then the Bible informs us (in the next chapter) that God chose to “split the Adam” into two, into an Ish (man) and into an Ishah (woman). (The odd part to me is that he uses the literal Hebrew term for human (Adam) here, refers to the literal Hebrew terms for male and female (Ish and Ishah) but refers to the Greek term for image (Eikon). I think I know where he is going with this, but it is a little confusing. Plus, it is further confused by the fact that the story in Genesis continues to refer to the male as Adam.)
The brief point is this: God wanted The Adam to enjoy what the Trinity had eternally enjoyed and continues to enjoy: perfect communion and mutuality with an equal. To make the need for communion and love abundantly clear, God openly reveals that this aloneness is not what God wants for The Adam. God wants The Adam to be two in order to experience the glories of communion of love and mutuality.
The creation story is a story of what we were made to be and do: God is a Trinity, three equal persons in one(ness).
God designs Eikons for oneness in love.
God makes The Adam, who isn’t one with an equal. So,
God splits The Adam, into two so Adam and Eve can enjoy oneness.
That is why the Bible says that they are one flesh. As God is One (see Deut. 6.4), so Adam and Eve are one. Scot tells us that if we get anything out of Genesis 1-2 this is it:
The loving oneness of God finds earthly expression in the loving oneness of Adam and Eve. When Eikons are at one with God, self, others and the world, the glory oof the One God illuminates all of life.
The Bible begins, then as a life of oneness – human beings in union with God and in communion with the self, with one another, and with the world around them.

Cracked Eikons: Distorting Oneness, Creating Otherness
Because the man and woman choose to do what God said not to do, they “crack the Eikon” and jeopardize oneness. The first impact of rebelling against God is their self-consciousness. Then continue to distort oneness by acting as if nothing happened. This is followed the evidence of how sin impacts their oneness further, they begin to blame each other. Instead of experiencing one another in oneness, they begin to experience on e another as “others.” The entire rest of the Bible, aiming as it will toward Jesus Christ, is about turning Eikons bent on otherness to Eikons basking in oneness with God, with self, with others, and with the world. This otherness problem is what the gospel “fixes,” and the story of the Bible is the story of God’s people struggling with otherness and searching for oneness.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Evolutionary Optimism?

I’ve been reading N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. I would love to blog a complete review like I am doing for The Blue Parakeet, but I checked the book out from the library, so I can’t mark it up. From time to time, a few thoughts leap out at me and I will post them.

In one chapter, Wright is examining two options for one’s outlook for the future and they boil down to progress or despair. He first examines Evolutionary Optimism. He does not discuss evolution as it pertains to creationism, but to the philosophical/political worldview of evolution. Those who hold to this world view have a belief in a myth of progress. Our political discourse in this season is evidence of this. Each candidate and/or party is espousing that their way is the way of progress and they will usher in a new dawn for a great America. We see this in social gospel circles, in that if we all just work for the Kingdom of God, here and now (without mentioning the cross or the need for repentance), then we will inherit a great society and banish the ills of our world.
Wright says that the real problem with the myth of progress is that it cannot deal with evil. Not just intellectually, but in practice.
“The myth of progress cannot develop a strategy that actually addresses the severe problems of evil in the world. This is why all of the evolutionary optimism of the last two hundred years remains helpless before world war, drug crime, Auschwitz, apartheid, child pornography, and the other interesting sidelines that evolution has thrown up for our entertainment in the twentieth century. We can’t explain them, given the myth of progress, and neither can we eradicate them…The world is in fact still a sad and wicked place, not a happy upward progress toward the light (85-86).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blue Parakeet - Chapter 4: It's a Story with Power!

How, Then, Shall We Read?

Scot reminds us of the number one rule of exegesis: context is everything. He gives us an example of whether we pay interest or not. If so, we are breaking the commands of the Bible about “usury” found in Lev. 25.35-38. (Although, Scot I think bends this example. The context is charging usury to your brothers and sisters, not paying it to institutions.)

The idea is, though, that the way we read such prohibitions is: that was then, and this is now. Reading the Bible like this is reading the Bible as Story. It unfolds and propels us to live out the bible in our day in our way. But how do we know when this principle applies?

In Scot’s eyes, until we learn to read the Bible as Story, we will not know how to get anything out of the Bible for daily living. God spoke in Moses’ days in Moses’ ways (here about interest), and he spoke in Jesus’ days in Jesus’ ways, and he spoke in Paul’s days in Paul’s ways. And he speaks in our days in our ways.

It’s a Story!

Going back to the Bible teaches us to read the Bible as God’s story. Read, for example, Acts 7. Stephen puts the whole Bible together for us. In his defense before the Jewish supreme court, he gives us an example of how to read the Bible. He didn’t do anything other than tell the story of Israel that had opened a new chapter – a chapter called Jesus the Messiah. With Jesus, everything changed.

Scot quotes former Wheaton professor Robert Webber: “So I invite you to read the Bible, not for bits and pieces of dry information [pieces in a puzzle], but as the story of God’s embrace of the world told in poetic images and types.”

Scot discusses something next that is so simple and so obvious, but is something at the same time is so profound. God chose to communicate in language, since language is always shaped by context, and since God chose to speak to us over time and through many writers, God also chose to speak to us in a variety of ways and expressions. The Gospel story is so deep and wide that God needed a variety of expressions to give us a fuller picture of the Story. No single story, not even Jesus’ story, can tell the whole Story. We need them all.

(Note: I am very encouraged by this last note, because there seems to be a movement among some evangelicals to hold the words of Jesus on one level and the rest of Scriptural revelation on a lower level. This can be seen in the "Red-Letter Christians" movement espoused by such evangelicals like Tony Campolo).

Why Wiki-Story?

Scot begins to look at the Bible as a “Wiki-Story,” a Spirit inspired Wiki-Story. This may cause you to shift uncomfortably in your seats a little. Most of us are familiar with Wikipedia. It is a collaborative, democratic, interactive, developing encyclopedia to which anyone in the world can make a contribution. Here is where Scot sees the connection between the Bible as Story and “wiki” type of applications, it is the ongoing reworking of the biblical Story by new authors so they can speak the old story in new ways for their day.

When we look at the major human authors in the Bible, each of these authors tells his version of the Story. They tell wiki-stories of the Story; they give interpretive retellings of the Story. Scot gives a great example of this. He looks at Matthew 4.1-11, his version of the temptations of Jesus. Far too often this story is read as a method for responding to temptations to sin, that is to quote the Bible at Satan. This makes sense and can be helpful, but it has nothing to with the text itself.

Scot sees this story as Jesus’ temptation by Satan the reliving of Israel’s wilderness testings. (Jesus is then recast as the second Moses leading his people to a new Promised Land, which fits perfectly into the theme of Matthew’s gospel). Matthew casts the story of Jesus’ temptations as an updated version, a wiki-story, of an older story – the wilderness story (although Scot does see the possibility that it could be Jesus reliving the Adam and Eve temptation in the Garden). Many NT specialists will tell you that nearly every page is a wiki-story on an Old Testament wiki-story.

Here is where Scot is up to this point:

  • The Bible is a Story
  • The Story is made up of a series of wiki-stories.
  • The wiki-stories are held together by the Story.
  • The only way to make sense of the blue parakeets in the Bible is to set each in the context of the Bible’s story.

None of the wiki-stories is comprehensive or exhaustive. Each of them tells a true story of that Story.

Thoughts on Cubes

I loved living in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. The sports scene was fantastic (three Cowboys' Super Bowl victories while I was there). Another was Mark Cuban. If you are and outsider, you probably hate him, but as a Maverick fan, I thought he was great. You would have to research and see where the Mavs were in the early 90s (they won 14 games one year). Anyway, he had some financial advice for the current crisis:
If you have less than $100,000 in your bank, you’re safe. If you have “investment money”, put it in a low-risk Money Market Fund with a guaranteed return.

“Take your two percent and sleep well,” he said. “This is the time to be safe and wait it out.”

Dallas Observer columnist Richie Whitt notes: Just shows you how surreal Cuban’s life is. While the rest of us are ransacking seat cushions and ash trays for enough coins to pay our light bill, he’s got $1 billion burning a hole in his pocket to spend on a baseball team.

Joked Cuban of the slow-moving sale of the Cubs, “I always thought if I wanted to spend $1 billion I’d be able to.