Neufeld thoughts on the Revelation

Henry Neufeld taught recently on the book of Revelation and shared some of his reflections about that experience:

  1. I’m more convinced than ever that we need to read Revelation more for theology and spiritual growth and less for trying to lay out timelines for the end of the world. I find good theology and good principles in many of these passages even if we continue to disagree on the specific referents.

  2. I have a great deal of sympathy for the preterist position, even though that is not precisely what I believe. Symbols generally do find credible referents in the immediate time and place. The problem with the preterist position, in my view, is that it is easy to leave all the book’s other lessons in the past as well. Revelation spoke to its own time, but it also speaks to the future.

  3. Revelation is possibly the most violent book in the New Testament. But it’s not about the violence. It’s about God’s faithfulness.

  4. Revelation is an unfolding of the gospel. It begins with Jesus with his church/people, and it ends with Jesus with his people. The rest assures God’s people that God is paying attention and is with them even when he doesn’t appear to be.

  5. In teaching Revelation we need to emphasize the persecuted church more. When you get to the fifth seal, for example, and the souls under the altar are asking “How long oh Lord?” it helps if we understand what persecution was and is like. I have always discussed persecution as an historical phenomenon. This time I spent more time discussing the present and what some of these passage might mean viewed from the perspective of people suffering persecution right now. Like Hebrews, Revelation speaks to people suffering or soon-to-suffer great hardship. We American Christians, in our ease, are likely to have a hard time hearing the message.

  6. The most important thing a Bible teacher can so, I believe, is teach people how to study for themselves. It’s not about getting across all of my beliefs or particular interpretations. What people need is to find a way to experience God for themselves—to hear God’s voice—through the pages of scripture.

I think these are some good thoughts!  I have never taught on the book of Revelation before, but I really like Henry’s reflections here.  Additionally, I agree with David Alan Black that Henry’s last point is his most important point.  🙂

On John 20:19-23 and Acts 2

One of my NT professors from AGTS, Ben Aker has written what I would say is a tremendous article on the Biblical distinction between Regeneration and Spirit Baptism in reference to John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. Trust me, its really good!

Dr. Aker writes:

There are two Biblical texts that scholars often discuss, frequently misinterpret, and thus confuse regarding regeneration and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. They are John 20:19-23 and Acts 2. In the first of these references the word “breathed” occurs. This study then will focus on the meaning and use of the word in John 20:22. I propose that “breathed” refers to regeneration and concerns an actual, supernatural event in which Jesus imparts eternal life to the first disciples through the Spirit. This paper will discuss“ breathed” under two main headings: its lexical and conceptual meanings and uses and the contribution of John’s theology to its meaning and use.

Well, it blessed me and I hope it will bless you too!

passage of the day: John 3:16-21

This really is such an amazing passage, there is so much here to take in:

John 3:16-21:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

While I think there can be a few different ways to go with this passage, I like to look at it from the perspective of the missio dei.  I think it has much to contribute to how we know and understand the mission of God.  In fact, I like to look at a lot of the Bible as a whole in the light of salvation history and missio dei.  I don’t own the book but I know Howard Marshall in his NT Theology talks about how New Testament Theology is missionary theology.   I think he is exactly right!  And I think the whole thrust of John’s letters is missional through and through.  Sure there is Christology and other issues but I would say the overall theme of the book is a missional one – it is seen in God giving his only Son, that everyone who believes in his name may not perish but have eternal life.  

What is the missional focus?  God so loved the world he gave his one and only Son.  He sent him not to condemn, but to save.

I think the missional focus of the Fourth Gospel can be supported by the Letters of John.  First John tells us, 

1 John 4:9 God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

So i think there is strong support for the missional elements of John (and I am sure the rest of the Gospels too).  It amazes me really.  Hebrews 3:1, too calls Jesus “the apostle and high priest of our confession.”   An Apostle is a missionary, one sent on the behalf of another to accomplish some purpose.  In the case of Jesus is was not to condemn the world, but to save it and see that all have a chance at eternal life.
This missional focus of John I think should be reflected in the mission of the church – that we go out not to condemn but to save.  Those who listen and believe on the name of his one and only son, they shall have eternal life and condemnation will not be on them.  To those who chose not to listen, they will be condemned already, and why?  This is the judgement, the verdict… Jesus has come into the world and those who like that will be drawn to him.  Those who don’t will resist and run to the darkness.
Would those who try to resist eventually be overcome because “light wins?”  Light always wins out over the darkness.  Jesus and his mission will be accomplished because like leven in the dough, the light will spread and the darkness will be overcome by the light (Christ).
Lots of interesting possibilities there!  It’s wonderful really.  🙂

 

Ephesians and the Drama of God

The other day I learned of Stephen E. Fowl’s recent contribution to the New Testament Library Commentary set, Ephesians: A Commentary.  I tweeted about it and asked if any one knew much about it since it was so new and I hadn’t seen any reviews.  Chris Tilling said to be sure to get it as Stephen is the real deal.   A little while later that day, a friend blessed me with a copy (Thank You!) and I can already tell it is going to be good and one you are going want to get your hands on!!   Dr. Fowl is a leading scholar on the theological interpretation of Scripture and he incorporates that into this work on Ephesians!  Michael J. Gorman calls it a “truly theological commentary.”

Well, for me at least, how do I know it is going to be good?  🙂  Feast upon this short snippet summarizing Ephesians chapter 1:

Following the opening greeting, Paul offers a blessing to the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the one hand, this directs praise to God and invites the Ephesians to likewise praise God. Moreover, this blessing also allows Paul to narrate God’s drama of salvation, a drama that was initiated before the foundation of the world and that reaches its climax as everything is brought to its proper end in Christ. This drama is cosmic in its scope and consequences.  In addition, God has graciously incorporated the Ephesians into this drama.  Indeed, the presence of the Spirit in the Ephesians’ midst confirms their incorporation into God’s drama of salvation (1:3–14).

This leads Paul to offer a prayer on the Ephesians’ behalf. The hope of this prayer is that the Ephesians will come to understand the significance of God’s drama of salvation and Christ’s particular place in this drama (1:15–23).

I love it!  Paul is narrating the great drama of God’s redeeming work in Christ to redeem all creation and especially to include us in that process!  A story that reaches back to the very beginnings of time and space!  A story that each one of us, who is “in Christ,” has a part in (he later talks about how Eph 2 tells more of our incorporation in to the great drama of God in Christ!)  A story that each one of us lives out in the different contexts of our own lives and situations and circumstances!

Yeah, this is gonna be a good one!  🙂

Blessings!

A Pauline Theology of Charismata

that is a book I learned about recently and picked up on Amazon… Siegfried S. Schatzmann’s A Pauline Theology of Charismata. It has Ben Aker’s name in it (my NT and Greek prof from AGTS) so I know it is going to be good!  🙂  (It is a bit dated though, 1987, so it would be nice to see an update).  As I see it, a solid theology of the Charismata is still pretty underdeveloped even today, let alone a good robust theology of the Holy Spirit though I know Levison has been making some headway with that.  🙂

Does Jesus Claim to be the Messiah?

Here is a 5 minute video with Dr.s Walter Kaiser, Michael Brown, and Darrell Bock (all contributors to The Gospel According to Isaiah 53) discussing whether Jesus claimed to be the Messiah foretold in Isaiah 53.

About the book:

Publisher’s Description: The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 presents the redemptive work of the Messiah to the Jewish community, exploring issues of atonement and redemption in light of Isaiah chapter 53. It is clear that Jesus fulfills the specifications of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. This book has many potential uses in its presentation of the gospel for Jewish people. Pastors who study it will find unparalleled help in preparing Bible studies and sermons, so that their listeners will become better equipped to tell Jewish people about Jesus. It will be beneficial as supplemental reading for classes on Isaiah, the Prophets, and Jewish evangelism. And believers will be trained to share Isaiah 53 with Jewish friends and family.

Christ centered only = Christo-monistic.

In responding to Jeff Clarke’s post here, in asking the question: Do Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave movements reflect the New Testament focus of the Holy Spirit?, Jeff makes this pertinent and hardly disagreeable assertion:

Every authentic move of the Spirit will always have as its primary focus the person of Jesus Christ.

For obvious reasons, at least to me, while a very good and quotable comment, so far as I see it, it is hardly disagreeable.  I mean, after all, is not the person and work of Jesus Christ front and central to the historic Christian faith?

At issue seems to be the notion the somehow a more “pneumatological” focus of Christian worship in Pentecostal or Charismatic settings somehow detracts from the person of Jesus Christ.  This is in fact, I think, a significant fallacy.   It is a fallacy because seeking the presence and power of the Spirit is a major element of the Christian live in relation to the Trinity.  To seek the presence of the Spirit isn’t taking from Christ nor the Father – if anything, most churches are Father centered enough.   Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are not less “Christ-Centered” than other churches – they may actually, in many ways, be more “balanced” (I would suggest rhythm more than balance), if not more Triune in their worship than many other settings.  This is of course not without exceptions.

But the main reason I wanted to post about this is to share my friend Monte’s thoughts of which he posted on the Facebook page.  He writes:

I thought I would offer several brief yet relevant strands for forwarding the conversation here, while acknowledging the warranted concerns and exhortations that Jeff has provided us.

PART ONE

Notwithstanding the excesses which Jeff calls attention to, I will first begin by pointing out, as has been argued by others elsewhere, that the historical Classical Pentecostal four/five-fold theological motifs of Jesus as Saviour, Sanctifier, Baptiser, Healer, and Coming King have in fact served, at least on a doctrinal level— to narrate the christocentric focus of a robust Pentecostal spirituality. Incidentally, the themes I am raising here largely reflect the following text: “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel,” ed John Christopher Thomas (2010). This is important to note because the four/five-fold motifs demonstrate that common Protestant/Evangelical assumptions that characteristically presume that Pentecostalism is largely pneumacentric are actually inaccurate.

As Church of God theologian Kenneth Archer points out, the experiential orientation of Pentecostalism is thus wholly centered on Jesus: encountering Jesus via the Holy Spirit. Yet also as Assemblies of God theologians Simon Chan and Frank Macchia respectively point out, this experiential orientation stresses coming to Jesus as our Spirit Baptizer. As both Chan and Macchia respectively demonstrate— “Spirit baptiser” is perhaps the most attested identity of Jesus in the New Testament, at least in the Gospels.

As many of the essays in the “Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology” text point out, and as consistently stressed in Macchia’s and Chan’s respective works elsewhere, we can attribute many of the failures that do occur in Pentecostalism, to a failure of adequately integrating the functional motif of Jesus as Sanctifier in Pentecostal spirituality. I moreover find this significant since both Macchia and Chan represent the more Keswickian orientation of Classical Pentecostalism (eg, AG).

However, while I appreciate Clark’s concerns, I am oftentimes a bit ambivalent when I read or hear admonishments suggesting that the primary criterion of an “authentic move of the Spirit” is that we keep Jesus as the “primary focus.” Well, on one hand, how can anyone argue with this? Yet on the other— I would argue however that the very weakness of historical Reformed Protestantism and much of Evangelicalism is— christo-monism, meaning, an overly nuanced stress on the Son, to the neglect of the Father and the Spirit.

Let me briefly further describe the problem of christo-monism. Given limited space here, I will focus on the “worship” of the Church. I would argue that actually, a consistent nuance on the Son as the centre of our worship and perhaps even preaching, is not healthy. What results is a very poor sense of spiritual direction in how, ironically, the life of Jesus should shape the direction of our life, both personally and corporately as a church. Hence, we end up with a very poor “via salutis” (way of salvation). We should rather consistently directly our address in worship and mediation towards the Father— and hence therefore more broadly— towards God as Trinity. I believe this is indeed a major theme stressed in Acts, which incidentally accounts for the greater emphasis on the “kingdom of God” in the preaching of both Jesus and the early church.

Both historically and existentially, we can in fact argue that “pentecostal experiences” in Spirit baptism are in actually, encounters with God’s Triune life and mission as Father, Son, and Holy Life. There is moreover, substantial literature arguing this thesis, which can be explored, including literature representative of early 20th century Pentecostalism.

We can conversely argue that a robust Pentecostal spirituality is not only primarily grounded on a strong consciousness of the Trinity, but conversely with primary understanding of Jesus according to recapulatory themes (eg, Jesus coming as the Perfect Human to re-script the human story) that are informed by the Spirit-Christology narrated via the Luke-Acts story. Hence, Christ is existentially present with us (christus praesens), He is “contemporaneous” with us (Kierkegaard)— and it is through the Spirit He is present with us. The recapulatory and Spirit-Christology themes of Luke-Acts also demonstrate that our coming to Jesus is indeed that of disciples following our model Teacher and Lord— looking to Him as our pattern for life. Given the true Trinitarian center of Pentecostalism, Pentecostal spirituality thus duly affirms on one hand, the Son and Spirit as the “two hands” of the Father,” while on the other— the Spirit as the “shared love” between the Father and the Son.

So to recap, the inherent resources within Pentecostalism that provide us the integrity we need as a healthy expression of Christian spirituality are:

1. Holding in tandem the Pentecostal vision of Jesus as both Sanctifier and Baptizer.

2. An understanding of Spirit baptism as existential encounter with the Triune life and perichoretic mission towards creation.

3. And a strong recapulatory understanding of Jesus as our standard for spiritual and life formation.

PART TWO:

Having shared quite a bit of theological musing in the preceding posting, I want to now add some thoughts more directly affirming certain experiential and transrational dynamics of Pentecostalism— with reference to how those dynamics are illustrated in the book of Acts.

I will begin here by drawing attention to Gordon Anderson’s illustration of Pentecostal resonance with spiritual encounter as narrated in Acts [“Pentecost, Scholarship, and Learning in a Postmodern World,” Pneuma 27, no 1 (Spring 2005)].

Anderson suggests: “If you want to see a funny movie, run this one in your mind. Picture Peter explaining what happened (Acts 11) to a . . . rationalistic . . . audience. His lines go like this:

“You see, I was in a trance, and saw a vision, and heard a voice, then some men came who had been sent by an angel, and so I went with them to the house of a Gentile and they were baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues, so I baptized them in water. And, despite my training in the scriptures, it just seemed to be the right thing to do!”

Incidentally, I would point out that every major missiological decision narrated in the book of Acts, was linked to some kind of transrational, “visionary” experience, usually involving hearing either the audible voice of God, or that of an angel, or some kind of visual vision. Of course, these dynamics are in truth, to be programmatically expected by believers— as demonstrated in Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2). Therefore, I whole heartedly affirm Terry Cross’ description of Pentecostals, as those who “are open to hearing voices.” [Terry Cross, “The Divine-Human Encounter: Towards a Pentecostal Theology of Experience” (Pneuma 31 (2009)].

Finally, I want to add a very shorter word about the Toronto Outpouring. As for myself, I was personally “touched” through one of the streams linked to the Toronto Outpouring back in the mid-90’s. the “touch” I experienced on several occasions included on one of those occasions, crawling around on all floors for some reason, then passing out for some time. It certainly does not make any sense, although I was obviously beside myself. Consequently, concerning other strange happenings and excesses that accompanied the “move,”

I don’t have all the answers, as I cannot help but leave a little bewildered space in my reflection— that allows the possibilities that sometimes such invasive outpourings of the Spirit may prompt people to behave a little strangely. Moreover, why else were also so many onlookers prompted to exclaim on the day of Pentecost, “Ha! These people have drunk way too much wine!”

The danger of opening windows on a very windy day, is that the neat and orderly piled papers on the desk might actually be blown everywhere on the floor. The alternative of course, is to lock up those windows.

Well, whew!  Now THAT should give some good food for thought for a while!

Blessings!

Some new books

Thank you to the anonymous donor of a few new books that showed up in my mailbox yesterday!!  (Well, I hope they were for me and not sent to my address on accident!  lol!)  It was very gracious of you, kind person!   Thanks so much I really appreciate it!

Here is what they are:

Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (IVP).

Gordon Fee’s New Testament Exegesis (WJK).

Gordon Fee’s Paul, the Spirit and the People of God (Baker).

Jurgen Moltman’s The Trinity and the Kingdom (Fortress).

So… pretty much , nothing less than the BEST!!  🙂