Dave Black on Advent

He wrote on:

Sunday, December 2

3:15 PM So it’s the “first Sunday of Advent.” Lots of blog posts celebrating this day. Let’s see … we’ve got our advent services, our advent candles, our advent wreaths, our advent prayers, our advent sermons. Odd. The earliest church had no idea this season of the year was so important. “But we need the Light during this dark season!” Maybe I’m a little crazy, but I say, let’s embrace the darkness. After all, what’s crazier: spending millions of dollars on Christmas celebrations, or suggesting that if we gave that money away to the neediest among us, the world would be a better place? One site I read ended its post on Advent with these words: “May God be pleased to deepen and sweeten your adoring of Jesus this Advent.” No thank you. Jesus was not about Jesus. He was about others. He never said, “Adore me.” He said, “Go.” The person who loves Christmas will destroy Christmas, but the person who sacrifices for the people around them will create the true spirit of the incarnation. The Jesus movement is a revolution that shines brightest in ghettos and refugee camps, in the persecuted churches of China and Ethiopia, and in prisons and old folks’ homes. The reality of the incarnation should mess with our sense of normalcy at Christmas. Jesus’ incarnation tells us that we too have work to do in the name of the Slaughtered Lamb.

My heart sinks when I walk into a church sanctuary and see it full of seasonal decorations. It is a dangerous day when we remove the Bible from our altars to make room for manger scenes. For years Becky and I have been trying to think responsibly about this time of the year. That’s why we’re usually in Ethiopia during the month of December. We cannot “adore Jesus” and bypass our neighbor who is in need. I don’t know about you, but I think the church in America is ready for something new. In an age of conformity (even in the church), I say, dare to be different. The church in Laodicea was lukewarm — which is another way of saying that it was smug and self-satisfied in the midst of a needy world. The church is not just to enjoy the Gospel but to live it. May God give us grace by the Power of the Holy Spirit to see how deeply we have been polluted by the world and to learn to be faithful to the Way.

I have to say, I can see where he is coming from.

Co-creators with God?

Consider the following:

How are we co-creators with God in the world?  (via my friend Monte on Facebook and related to this post).

We create cultural artifacts. That’s a very simple answer. The cultural mandate.

A more relevant answer is that every true, good and beautiful thing we do that is born from the Spirit of God, God is using in the re-making of creation. The basis is the resurrection of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. The resurrection is God’s act of redeeming not just “souls,” but the whole material creation. What God is now doing in and through the Church, is a proleptic foretaste of what He is doing in all creation. He begins with the human, and through the human (the new human race of which Christ is the Head), renews creation. 

This is why our works shall follow us; what we do now will indeed echo in eternity. The good we do will in due time, become part of God’s new world. Every “good work” that is a true labour of Christ’s love, will find its way into God’s new world. 

Easter Sunday, actually every Sunday, is the the day when the Father proclaims in Jesus’ resurrection through the Spirit, “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.” (Isaiah 65:17). It begins with the “new humanity.” “Behold, if anyone be in Christ, He is a new creation.” On the basis of the resurrection, the Scripture thus reads, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that: your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

Every “good work” that is a true labour of Christ’s love, will find its way into God’s new world, and our works in Christ through the Spirit will commend us before God’s throne; there will be reward given for running the race well. So we are partnering with God in re-making, or “re-wiring” of all creation in the space-time continuum. In doing so, we manifest through word and deed, signs of God’s coming kingdom.

Spirit Baptism and Eschatology?

There is a connection.  Consider the following:  (via my friend Monte, and connected to this post):

Now we know the Spirit unites us in His mission towards shaping the entire historical direction of human history. We are thus become restored to our true human vocation as God’s co-creators upon the earth. As the Spirit restores in us our true face, our true voice and our true humanity, we discover that our life has historical purpose as we meaningfully contribute to the final consummation of God’s new world.

And again, I believe this sense of history clarifies the one important aspect of tongues speech: orally dramatizing the miracle of social and racial inclusiveness, and hence the reconciling of varied peoples into one common tongue of the Holy Spirit—thus prophetically visioneering through our gathering, God’s remaking of this present order into the moral and ethical likeness of His coming new world.

Pentecostal Eschatology pt 2

(see part 1)

This will be a bit of a long post but well worth the read!  :-)

Pentecostals in the States have been known to more or less be dispensationalists – you know, especially of the popular Darby-Scofield type.  Well, I think times are indeed a changin’!  :-)

Once again, my friend Monte shared the following reflection from Frank Macchia’s book Baptized in the Spirit:

The final chapter of Frank Macchia’s book Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006). Here are some interesting extracts from Frank Macchia’s book, has a section titled “Hope and Love” under the chapter on “The Spirit Baptized Life.”

There Macchia, who ordained with the American Assemblies of God, reflecting on Spirit-baptism as the outpouring of God’s love, states that, “Divine love is eschatological . . . calling forth dry bones from their graves and inspiring hope where there is despair.” Spirit baptism thus grants us “to a prophetic call” drawing us again to God’s “heart . . . and empathy . . . for the world.” Hence, “The central role of Spirit baptism for Pentecostal theology is eschatological through and through.” 

Macchia then addresses head-on, incongruencies of Darbyian dispensationalism in Pentecostal experience, spirituality, and theology. There he refers to Donald Dayton’s explanation [Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Hendrickson, 1987)].of how early North American Pentecostalism had no choice, given lack of available models to early forerunners of the movement, but to take on the apocalyptic dispensationalism popularized by John Nelson Darby, the Plymouth Brethren, and the Scofield Bible.

He states “I essentially agree . . . to distance Pentecostalism from dispensationalism.” One reason he gives is that, “My reading of early Pentecostal literature shows a nondispensationalist openness to different understandings of end-time events, even a certain lack of interest in such questions.” Here he refers to an article by Glen Menzies and Gordon L. Anderson, “D. W. Kerr and Eschatological Diversity in the Assemblies of God,” Paraclete (Winter 1993): 8-16. He then goes on to note that early Pentecostal approaches to end-time eschatology issues was to avoid any attempt to theorize time-lines, etc. 

He quotes an unknown author in The Apostolic Faith: “Dear ones, do not puzzle yourselves by theorizing, but tarry in Jerusalem!” (“The Apostolic Faith Movement” (author unknown), The Apostolic Faith (Los Angeles: Sept 1906), 2; cited in Macchia 275). Macchia thus writes, “Clearly, the Pentecostal priority with regard to eschatology was the empowerment of the Spirit for faithful life and mission rather than useless speculation about end-time doomsday scenarios.” 

Macchia cites Sheppard, who argued that Pentecostals did not deeply move into dispensational timelines until they where they sought to gain acceptance of conservative evangelical churches. (citing Sheppard, “Pentecostalism and the Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism,” 32-33,).

Meanwhile, following is a stimulating quote from Tony Ritchie, a bishop in the Church of God (Cleveland): “Dispensationalism, especially of the popular Darby-Scofield type, evidences innate elements essentially at odds with the authentic ethos of Pentecostal spirituality and theology. Pentecostalism is not dispensationalist. Elements of dispensationalism militate against Pentecostalism.  An unfortunate fact is that Pentecostals allowed themselves to be lured into accepting a dispensationalist theology that literally by definition undermines their own identity.”

A related problem is the very nature of privitised ahistorical readings of Scripture. Within Evangelical traditions this has historically contributed to a highly dogmatic ethos between and within separate Evangelical traditions, churches and movements, given their incapacity to maintain space for varied doctrinal nuances within their respective communities. Therefore, as denominations largely reflect varied readings of the Bible, so also, rather than allowing space for varied theological nuances, they have tended to gravitate towards singular meanings of core Christian doctrines such as the atonement, justification and sanctification, with each denominational or congregational network drawing their ecclesiological boundaries according to their presumed objective identification of biblical truth. 

This compulsive problem of having to gravitate towards singular, doctrinal positions thus gives rise to the problem of sectarianism, defined by Donald Bloesch as the “unduly narrowing the range of Christian experience and elevating marginal doctrines into dogmas.” Bloesch thus notes that, “Just as liberals, gravitate to eclecticism and latitudinarianism, so conservatives veer in a sectarian direction. Evangelicals and fundamentalists are notorious for majoring in the minors.” (Donald G. Bloesch, God the Almighty: Power, Wisdom, Holiness, Love (The Paternoster Press, 1995), Truth thus becomes detached from history and authority— though assumed to reside in a “singular, authorial meaning of Scripture, thus shifted to the peculiar privatistic readings of Scripture, reflecting a given interpretive community; hence also contributing to the fragmentation of Protestantism.

Bloesch thus argues that this compulsive problem of having to gravitate towards singular, doctrinal positions, coupled with Evangelicalism’s a-historicalism, has also contributed to the making of Christian eschatology a highly divisive trajectory, which has been especially characteristic amongst conservative Evangelicals who have embraced dispensational premillennialism along with its attendant doctrine of a “pretribulation rapture of the saints,” or other “rapture/tribulation” schemes.

Now to shift my preceding comments even more towards a healthy link between Spirit baptism and eschatology: Jesus is indeed the baptizer in the Holy Spirit— who restores our true historical calling and prophetic destiny, as God’s co-creators in the making of His coming new world. Spirit baptism is indeed then a baptism into God’s love— the inner life of the Triune God. Through Pentecostal experiences of Spirit baptism, God gives us new dreams of His coming new world of Perfect Love— hence, a true eschatological horizon. 

Because the Holy Spirit is for us now a down payment of what is coming, He indeed creates in us an “end-time urgency.” He gives us a providential-orchestrated destiny towards the shaping of history and even of God’s coming new world. We learn that everyday is “kairos” time. We receive a sense of history. We receive shattering, apocalyptic moments of destiny— restoring to us a sense of apostolic commissioning. We receive the profound knowledge of God’s own pathos for the redemptive liberation of all creation from its present suffering. 

So as we enter into His heart, God endows us with a prophetic imagination that causes us to see radical disjunctions between the prevailing order and the order that is even now breaking into the present— which is the kingdom of God.

Whew, that should be some things to think upon for a while!  lol!