Jesus the “Prize-fighter”?

I know some who read my blog don’t care for pastor-scholar Greg Boyd (who I don’t always agree with though I’d like to meet some time) – but he has a recent post confronting Mark Driscoll’s view of Jesus as a violent (and I imagine UFC type) “prize fighter.”  Boyd notes Discoll’s comments were from “a few years ago” so I don’t know if Driscoll has changed his perspective (probably not?) but he is quoted as having stated the following:

“In Revelation, Jesus is a prize-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” (You can find the original interview here). 

Well, now.  So Jesus is the lead fighter for the UFC franchise?  🙂  Along with Boyd, I am not surprised Driscoll has this perception of our Lord Jesus Christ – Driscoll wants to be a man’s man an seems to consistently present the need for men to be tough guys wild at heart who go out to conquer life (and a spouse) and get good jobs and have lots of kids, and consistently puts down other images of how Jesus might be portrayed and puts down men who do not or may not be able to live up to his standards of manhood. 

Frankly, this perception of Jesus by Driscoll it is a blantant text book case of imposing, if not transposing, one’s own personal  theology and cultural ideology on to the biblical text.  I cannot say that Boyd is not doing the same with is own pacafism but I find what Boyd is presenting significantly closer to the biblical presentation of Jesus than what Driscoll puts forth.  This isn’t to say that Driscoll isn’t a good pastor or Bible teacher or anything like that.  I just happen to think how he presents it is going the wrong direction. 

Pastor Boyd writes:

I frankly have trouble understanding how a follower of Jesus could find himself unable to worship a guy he could “beat up” when he already crucified him. I also fail to see what is so worshipful about someone carrying a sword with “a commitment make someone bleed.”  But this aside, I’m not at all surprised Driscoll believes the book of Revelation portrays Jesus as a “prize fighter.”  This violent picture of Jesus, rooted in a literalistic interpretation of Revelation, is very common among conservative Christians, made especially popular by the remarkably violent Left Behind series…..

The most unfortunate aspect of this misreading, as Driscoll’s comment graphically reveals, is that the “prize fighter” portrait of Jesus easily subverts the Jesus of the Gospels who out of love chooses to die for enemies rather than use his power against them and who commands his followers to do the same (see e.g. Mt 5:43-45; Lk 6:27-36)…..

The more significant point Boyd makes that I wanted to highlight here is this one (the bold is my emphasis of the important point being made:

At any rate, if we interpret Revelation according to its genre and in its original historical context, and if we pay close attention to the ingenious way John uses traditional symbolism, it becomes clear that John is taking traditional Old Testament and Apocalyptic violent imagery and turning it on its head.  Yes, there is an aggressive war, and yes there is bloodshed. But its a war in which the Lamb and his followers are victorious because they fight the devil and Babylon (representing all  governmental systems) by faithfully laying down their lives for the sake of truth (”the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony”), not by being “prize fighters” with “a commitment to make someone bleed.”

That’s the whole thing about following Jesus isn’t it?   He takes so many things in our world and in our lives and turns them up side down – up is down, down is up, leading is serving; instead of hating show love; instead of holding grudges, forgive; instead of agression, submit and so on.  A life of discipleship to Jesus is downward path not an upward one – it is a life of serving others and sacrificial living not asserting the self and so on. 

Well, the post is a good read and has a good list of books on the Revelation to add to your Amazon wish list for future reference!

HT: Dave Black

Voting has opened for the $50 Eisenbrauns voucher…

Joel has posted the entries he has received for a $50 Eisenbrauns voucher.  You only have 1 day to vote.  I recommended Mark’s post sharing about his journey out of the AU AoG.  Mark coped a fair amount of flack from a so called “brothers” in the Lord for both leaving the AU AoG and for sharing his story publically.  This should not have happened.  Alongside my own entry are some other great posts.   Mark was generous enough to recommend my post “The AG Paper on Creation and Ken Ham.”

So, head over to Joel’s blog and vote for either Mark or I….   🙂

yup, another shameless self promotion post!  lol!  oh well…

13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You

Dave Black, NT Greek prof at SEBTS, offers 13 Things Your Greek Teachers Won’t Tell You:

1. Greek is not the only tool you need to interpret your New Testament. In fact, it’s only one component in a panoply of a myriad of tools. Get Greek, but don’t stop there. (You’ll need, for example, a Hebrew New Testament as well.)

2. Greek is not the Open Sesame of biblical interpretation. All it does is limit your options. It tells you what’s possible, then the context and other factors kick in to disambiguate the text.

3. Greek is not superior to other languages in the world. Don’t believe it when you are told that Greek is more logical than, say, Hebrew. Not true.

4. Greek had to be the language in which God inscripturated New Testament truth because of its complicated syntax. Truth be told, there’s only one reason why the New Testament was written in Greek and not in another language (say, Latin), and that is a man named Alexander the Great, whose vision was to conquer the inhabited world and then unite it through a process known as Hellenization. To a large degree he succeeded, and therefore the use of Greek as the common lingua franca throughout the Mediterranean world in the first century AD should come as no surprise to us today. I emphasize this point only because there are some today who would seek to resurrect the notion of “Holy Ghost” Greek. Their view is, in my view, a demonstrable cul-de-sac.

5. Greek words do not have one meaning. Yet how many times do we hear in a sermon, “The word in the Greek means…”? Most Greek words are polysemous, that is, they have many possible meanings, only one of which is its semantic contribution to any passage in which it occurs. (In case you were wondering: Reading all of the meanings of a Greek word into any particular passage in which it occurs is called “illegitimate totality transfer” by linguists.)

6. Greek is not difficult to learn. I’ll say it again: Greek is not difficult to learn. I like to tell my students, “Greek is an easy language; it’s us Greek teachers who get in the way.” The point is that anyone can learn Greek, even a poorly-educated surfer from Hawaii. If I can master Greek, anyone can!

7. Greek can be acquired through any number of means, including most beginning textbooks. Yes, I prefer to use my own Learn to Read New Testament Greek in my classes, but mine is not the only good textbook out there. When I was in California I taught in an institution that required all of its Greek teachers to use the same textbook for beginning Greek. I adamantly opposed that policy. I feel very strongly that teachers should have the right to use whichever textbook they prefer. Thankfully, the year I left California to move to North Carolina that policy was reversed, and now teachers can select their own beginning grammars. (By the way, the textbook that had been required was mine!)

8. Greek students think they can get away with falling behind in their studies. Folks, you can’t. I tell my students that it’s almost impossible to catch up if you get behind even one chapter in our textbook. Language study requires discipline and time management skills perhaps more than any other course of study in school.

9. Greek is fun! At least when it’s taught in a fun way.

10. Greek is good for more than word studies. In fact, in the past few years I’ve embarked on a crusade to get my students to move away from word-bound exegesis. When I was in seminary I was taught little more than how to do word studies from the Greek. Hence, I thought I had “used Greek in ministry” if I had consulted my Wuest, Robertson, Kittle, Brown, Vincent, or Vines. Since then I’ve discovered that lexical analysis is the handmaiden and not the queen of New Testament exegesis. Greek enables us to see how a text is structured, how it includes rhetorical devices, how syntactical constructions are often hermeneutical keys, etc.

11. Greek can cause you to lose your faith. It happened to one famous New Testament professor in the US when he discovered that there were textual variants in his Greek New Testament, and it can happen to you. When the text of Scripture becomes nothing more than “another analyzable datum of linguistic interpretation” then it loses its power as the Word of God. That’s why I’m so excited about my Greek students at the seminary, most of whom are eager to place their considerable learning at the feet of Jesus in humble service to His upside-down kingdom.

12. Greek can be learned in an informal setting. The truth is that you do not need to take a formal class in this subject or in any subject for that matter. I know gobs of homeschoolers who are using my grammar in self-study, many of whom are also using my Greek DVDs in the process. If anyone wants to join the club, let me know and I will send you, gratis, a pronunciation CD and a handout called “Additional Exercises.”

13. Greek is not Greek. In other words, Modern Greek and Koine Greek are two quite different languages. So don’t expect to be able to order a burrito in Athens just because you’ve had me for first year Greek. On the other hand, once you have mastered Koine Greek it is fairly easy to work backwards (and learn Classical Greek) and forwards (and learn Modern Greek).

Okay, I’m done. And yes, I’m exaggerating. Many Greek teachers do in fact tell their students these things. May their tribe increase!

Now who wants to tackle “13 Things Your Hebrew Teachers Won’t Tell You”?

on knowing the will of God – pt 2

I posted already from Heibert, et al, Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices  Baker Academic, 1999), one of several points they make about misconeptions people have about God’s guidance and what church and missions leaders can do to help those caught up on folk religous practice, even folk Christianity understand the nature of divine guidance such as knowing God’s will.   In that post it was asserted that we do not have to “guess God’s will” for our lives for knowing the will of God is not a guessing game but something that is revealed to us and that flows out of our relationship with God

I want to blend the next two points Hiebert et. al., offer abot God’s guidance.  How I want to precent it is different from the book, only because it think it might work better this way.  The next misconeption I want to talk about here is the notion of God’s perfect will verses his permissive will.  Hiebert, et. al., write:

The third misconception is that God has one perfect plan for his children, and if they stray from God’s will for their lives they must settle for God’s second, third, or fourth best.  So Christians seek the perfect marriage partner, the perfect job, the perfect life, and in so doing miss out on a relationship with the planner.  Life should flow out of relationship with God, to know him and love him forever.  If the plan is the focus, it is doomed.  From Scripture, however, it is clear that God begins with believers where they are, and has his plan for their lives whenever they turn themselves over to his leading.  This does not mean that past losses are undone. It means that Christians can be sure that they are living in God’s will for them now (191). 

This is where I want to note the second point but thought it would better follow the third point than proceed it.  The second point they offer is:

The second misconception is that God will show his will to those who trust him as one option among many to be seriously considered.  God does not do this.  First, he asks Christians to make up their minds whether they will do his will when he reveals it.  Only when they are commited to doing so does he show the way (191).

So in a nut shell, God does not want you to take a lot of time praying about if you are going to follow him, and his direction in your life, wholeheartedly or not – God has a will for your life and wants you to live it out before him and in relationship with him – more importantly than what you do or how you do it, is that God is more interested in us and in a relationship with us, than he is in the things we do or how we live out his will in our lives (ie: what kind of vocation you go into or don’t go into).   This is why I am not convinced there is a “perfect will” verses a “permissive will” – I think God just has a will and purpose for you (that is more ethical than anything else) and he wants you to be fully committed to him and his purposes than anything else.  Besides, if we were fully consecrated to him, living before him as “living sacrifices” then why would you even be concerned about a second, third, or some other lesser permissive will anways?   I think this mentality is a bit like the whole “shoot for the stars, land on the moon” way of thinking – it is as if God is okay with us living less than fully consecrated to him – he is not.   He is merciful and gracious to us, but still – what is his will?  It is that we live lives of full consecration to God not settling for second best or cutting corners. 

Look, I understand it is not always easy to be fully committed to God – that is why we need the Holy Spirit who lives in us and enables us to live for God.   Much of it is a process and it takes time to grow in it.   

I heard a missionary to Russia once share about his calling to follow the Lord to live in Russia – he did not want to do it – no way – not there, anywhere but there.   Yet he talked about the transformative experience he had in learning to be willing to be made willing.   If and when we come to a place where the Lord’s will is revealed to us and we shirk back at obeying that direction for us – be willing to be made willing.   There is no better place to be in life than in the center of God’s will and purpose – nothing.  It may not be easy – but it is possible.  It isn’t always easy for us here living in the Grand Canyon National Park – especially after the whole ordeal with living in a moldy house and our daughter mercy being so sick from it all – I was ready to leave and get out – go somewhere else.    I had to learn to be willing to press on in what God has for us here. 

Living in God’s will does not mean life will be free of hardship and full of blessing – often it is full of hardship and blessing comes from knowing God is with us in and through the hardship living out his will for us.  This of course doesn’t mean life has to have hardships or that those who do not have them are not in God’s will – we just need to all walk in God’s grace (favor) for us living out fully consecrated lives to him – that is his will for us and for you!

on the issue of social justice

Pastor Geoffery Lentz, a Duke grad, wrote a blog post in response to Glenn Beck and his rantings about social justice in churches where Beck asserted that if you see the words “social justice’ on your church’s website, “run as fast as you can.”

Well, Pastor Geoff agrees!  Here is part of his response that I thought was awesome:

The radical social justice theme of Christianity is troubling.  The Old Testament is filled with troubling ideas like the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25) not to mention the prophets.  What would happen if we “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream” (Amos)?  It wouldn’t work out very well for me. I wish this “social justice” theme was limited to the Old Testament, so we could explain it away with dietary laws, but Jesus has to bring it all up again.  The Sermon on the Mount (Sermon on the Plain in Luke) is terrifying—blessed are the poor?  Not to mention Jesus’ ministry theme in Luke 4.  If only Mary could have sang a different song (Luke 1).  This year as my church is focusing on the Gospel of Luke (from the lectionary), it has surprised me to find such a focus on the social implications of the gospel.

He then writes:

Wouldn’t it be nice if Christianity was only about spiritual matters?  Loving God would be much easier if we didn’t have to love our neighborsUnfortunately “social justice” is not peripheral to the gospel it is central.  Maybe Beck misspoke, or maybe he said what we’ve all been thinking—following Jesus is hard work—too hard.    Reading the story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18), can keep you up at night.  One really can’t blame Beck or anyone else for wanting to go a different direction, the real challenge is for those that want to follow him.

Ha Ha Ha!  Excellent!  Now if we can all just get out there and live like Jesus!   He wrote a pretty good follow up post here on the issue of social justice in John.   I found Geoff’s blog via Dave Black.

Book Reviews: Preaching Christ and Heralds of the King

Thanks to Angie Cheatham of Crossway Publishers for graciously allowing me to review these two books, Preaching Christ in All of Scripture (2003) and Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (2009).   The latter was designed to be a follow up companion reflecting the tradition and pattern of teaching in the former.  I was first introduced to Edmund Clowney by my preaching professor in seminary who is a graduate of Westminster.  Not sure if he took any classes under Clowney but he used his book Preaching and Biblical Theology in his classes and also had his book The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament as a recommended book.  I failed to pick up the Biblical Theology and Preaching book but have the Unfolding Mystery one.

The notion of preaching Christ in all of Scripture (also known as Redemptive Historical Preaching) is an intriguing one to me because I know that many people have differing opinions about if Jesus Christ the Messiah should be preached from the Old Testament or not.  Some say yes in every case and others say only if the reference to Christ is explicit since we need to let the Old Testament speak for itself.  The strongest case for redemptive historical preaching lies in primarily one passage of the Bible:

Luke 24:25-27 where it reads,

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

It in this passage the primary basis for redemptive historical preaching lies – that throughout the Scriptures we see, through progressive revelation, redemptive history unfolding the knowledge of Christ, and that not just in the New Testament but throughout the Old Testament as well.  Sure wish we could have been there to hear how Jesus himself expounded the Scriptures to those two men.

It is on this basis too that Clowney writes his book Preaching Christ in All of Scripture.  He begins Chapter One:

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament means we preach, not synagogue sermons, but sermons that take account of the full drama of redemption, and its realization in Christ.  To see the text in relation of Christ is to see it in it’s larger context, the context of God’s purpose in revelation.  We do not ignore the specific message of the text, nor will it do to write and all purpose Christocentric sermon finale and tag it for weekly use.  You must preach Christ as the text presents him.  If you are tempted to think that most Old Testament texts do not present Christ, reflect on both the unity of Scripture and the fullness of Jesus Christ….” (11).

I think Clowney would agree that you may not have to bring out the Savior in every preachable passage in the Bible but if you can, you should, and must, for it is Christ whom the Scriptures proclaim.  In the book Heralds of the King, the contributors, some who were his students, reflect that Clowney was so immersed in the Scriptures he could hardly not see Christ in them and if a student preached and OT passage and did not proclaim Christ he would ask “Where was my Savior?”

After finishing a sermon in class Joseph Novenson recalls Dr. Clowney asking him “Where was my Savior?”:

My memory has likely edited the experience significantly.  But what followed seemed to be an interminable silence on my part and on the part of the rest of the students in the room.  The reality of my having opened the Word of the Savior, designed to disclose the Savior, and having not spoken of the Savior settled on us all.  (27).

Another contributor to the book Heralds of the King, Charles Drew writes in regard to his preparing a sermon on 2 Samuel 9:

But as I sought to do this, I heard the ghost of Ed Clowney whispering in my ear, “If a rabbi could preach your sermon, you will not have taught it as you should.”  To teach my people to love one another without giving to them the Lord of love is to miss the heart of Scripture’s purpose, since Scripture is designed to “make [us] wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” 2 Tim. 3:15).  To call for love without celebrating the Lover is to turn the Bible into a book of moral advice.  And to do that is to strip it of its power by urging people to look to themselves rather than the Messiah for the resources they need.  So, as I exegeted 2 Samuel 9, I kept asking, “Lord Jesus, where are you here? How does this text help make my dear self-isolating flock-and me-wise for salvation through faith in you? (104).

I think it is pretty clear from the perspective of redemptive historical preaching that the primary motive of the sermon should be to preach Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen and nothing else.  One strong point I find about this approach to preaching is that the focus is Christ and also the text – it is not a self help approach to preaching or one that focuses on felt needs and so on though I think there are times for that – our primary help should be Christ since he is the answer to all our needs, felt or unfelt – so preach and proclaim the message of the person and work of Christ.

So how do we do this then?  Well, seeing Christ in the Scriptures has to do with a way of interpreting the passages and interpreting the genre or literature.  Christ can be seen through symbolism and typology, memorials and through various speech-acts and words of the Lord.  One example of some symbolism might be with the passage in Ezekiel where we see the vision of the valley of dry bones.

The meaning of the vision is that the Lord has the power to deliver his people from exile and fill them with new spiritual life.  We know that this is exactly what Jesus did too in and through the cross – he brought us spiritual deliverance and new spiritual life – because his is the Word of the Lord.  Perhaps you may not agree with that but it is an example to consider.  We know most of the patriarchs are all “types” Christ in one fashion or another, that their work was merely a shadow of the work to come in and through Christ.  Jesus is the greater Moses, the greater Joshua, the greater David and so on.   By doing this, we preach Christ in all of Scripture.

So the heart of both books then are the sermons that model a redemptive historical approach to preaching the Word.  I do have to admit I had to read the first two chapters of Clowney’s book three or four times to really get the feel for what he is saying.  This probably isn’t a good thing as it could have been a bit more practical in figuring how to actually go about structuring a Christ centered sermon in the Clowney tradition.  His approach was more theoretical and theological.  This isn’t bad but might serve as a good companion to one such as Bryan Chapell’s Christ Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon which is significantly more practical in its approach.

The primary critique I might have about Christ centered preaching is one that seems to come more by implication and that is that as Trinitarian Christians, we know Christ isn’t the only member of the Triune Godhead – there is also the Father and the Spirit and we know they all work together as one.  But I think if one preached a sermon on the person of the Father that wasn’t expressly Christ centered, I am not sure that would in any way be dishonoring to Christ.

The same would be in preaching on the Holy Spirit – Christ isn’t going to be dishonored if we preach on the person and work of the Spirit in a way that is not expressly Christ centered.  At least, that is how I see it.  There is a strong case for Trinitarian preaching too – so the only danger I see in redemptive historical preaching is the tendency to elevate it over other forms of preaching as though other forms some how dishonor Christ when they don’t.

That said, I definitely encourage pastors and teachers to consider doing some reading and studying up on learning to do Christ centered preaching – it will only expand you preaching repertoire and bring theological depth to your preaching (and to your congregation, class, small group, etc).

In my opinion, if the text allows for it you should obligate yourself to preach Christ from the passage in the redemptive historical approach – how could you not?

If you would like there is a Edmund P. Clowney Legacy board that has put up some 100 or more of Clowney’s sermons and lectures that relate to redemptive historical preaching.  Try checking out a few of his sermons and see what you think about this approach to preaching. Feel free too to let me know what you think.

thought for the day

….creation depends on God for it’s present existence.  God did not create a universe that exists independent of him.  Satan and sinners, like all creation, are contingent, and continue to exist through God’s sustaining power.  Their very existence in their rebellion is testimony to God’s mercy and love.

gives some food for thought that each of us, good or bad, is only alive and functioning (or able to function) merely because of God’s mercy and love, nothing else.


on knowing God’s will – pt 1

As I have shared before I am reading through Hiebert, Shaw, and Tienou’s Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices (Baker Academic, 2000).  Maybe it is just the context I am in but this book is really challenging my thinking in regards to implications for pastoral practice and discipleship issues even though it is a book primarily for cross-cultural missionaries.

I have said this before but I think more pastors need to consider reading through this book because folk religion isn’t just practiced in remote jungle tribal situations anymore – people in our own congregations practice it everyday – even in their praying and reading the Bible.  Who’d think praying would be a form of magic to manipulate God for things instead of forming a relationship with him?  Or that in some ways, reading the Bible is a kind of divination to divine the future or to ensure health and protection in one’s life and family?  Maybe it is not prevalent but it is there.

The main issues for folk religious practice is because people desire safety and protection and assurance of health and general well being – they want to avoid misfortuneThey are also looking for guidance and they fear the unknown.  People need help with understanding the meaning of life and why death happens – how do we know what right and wrong is and why it is that way?  So many questions people have.  This is why if the church doesn’t address these issues with a strong biblical theology then they turn to folk religious practice.

Well, among all this are some misconceptions regarding knowing God’s will for our lives and Heibert, et. al., list 5 misconceptions and I want to list the first one in this post:

One common misconception is that humans must guess God’s will. Many Christians have the mistaken notion that they must somehow find God’s will for their lives, and if they don’t; they fail and are out of God’s will for life.  One version of this is a literalistic application of Psalm 32:8, which speaks of God guiding us with his eye: this view urges us to keep looking up at God to make sure we see whether he looks in another direction.  But we often find we must look down to avoid the holds in the road ahead, and in doing so, miss God’s glance.  Scripture makes it clear; However, God does not expect Christians to guess his will.  He wants us to know his will, and is ready to make it known to us if we are willing to listen and obey (191).

That bears repeating for us: God does not expect you to guess what his will is for your life or some situation you are in at the moment.  He wants you to know his will for you and is ready and willing to reveal it to you, it’s just you have to take the time to listen and obey.  Knowing God’s will for your life comes through relating to God – it flows through relationship – through our relationship with God we can know his will for our lives.

God’s will for our lives isn’t the Holy Grail – you don’t need to go search for it, you only need to spend time relating to God in prayer, his word, and in community to know his will for you.

Now I know you all are going to have some “yeah but”‘s and “wait a minute’s” to share but there is more coming!

Here is part two with the rest of the story!