What did Paul mean by not being ashamed of the gospel in Romans?

Ashamed – “embarrassed or guilty because of one’s actions, characteristics, or associations” or perhaps “reluctant to do something through fear of embarrassment or humiliation.”

In Greek, the word is epaischunomai ( ἐπαισχύνομαι ) “to be ashamed – of a thing” in this case, the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God.

Fair enough, right? Just a straightforward meaning. Or is there more? An undercurrent of meaning that most of us have missed that the first hearers of the letter would have caught?

Let’s look at the cultural context. Paul…writing to Romans…people he had not yet met. Rome was the heart of the Roman Empire. And that empire flourished because they had dominated the hearts and minds of its people – whether they liked it or not.

So, Caesar was the one who brought peace. Romans knew that the good news was that Caesar had conquered the barbarians and that peace in the world was possible because of him.

In fact, he was the savior of the world. That was the good news.

The bad news was to the conquered. Their lot was one of shame because they had lost. They were the problem and their culture and systems were simply inferior as proven by being overthrown. They were shamed into submission and were assimilated into the Empire.

Their shame was cause for celebration in Rome. Their shame meant peace. Their shame meant Romans had been saved from these people.  Their shame became boasting in Rome.

So, when Paul writes that he is not ashamed of the gospel, he is throwing down a clear challenge to Rome, Caesar, and all that the Empire represents. He is in effect saying that he is not ashamed – he has not been conquered, his God has not been defeated, the kingdom of God is greater than the Roman Empire.

This is a huge difference from the surface reading that most preachers and teachers propose.

Let’s first look at how John Piper approaches the subject. (Click here to go there…)

His logic goes like this:

  • The reason Paul was “eager to preach the gospel in Rome is that he is not ashamed of the gospel.”
  • The gospel was first the basis of Paul being shamed.
  • The gospel was secondarily the basis of freedom from shame.
  • Therefore, we should not be ashamed of sharing the gospel with others.

Like most Christian teaching today the emphasis is on two things:

  1. The individual
  2. The application

The focus is on you, today, here and now and on how you should live this out. Here is a link to another page that does this. Note this quote:

To be “ashamed of the gospel” is to allow willful sin to take over our lives and not look back because who cares what God says…To be “unashamed” of the gospel means that we not only speak this truth, but we also live it out in our lives.

Now, I am not against making a personal connection and I am definitely not against putting into practice what we know and love. What I am concerned about is that we may have missed the point…we may have shape-shifted the message into something it was not.

Indeed, the whole purpose of the book of Romans since the time of the Reformation has been largely accepted to be theological in nature…Paul’s “theological manifesto.” It’s where we got “The Romans Road.” (Interestingly enough, a “road” that the original hearers of Romans would not have grasped.)

But in missing the point right up front in the introduction to the letter, by veering off course just a little, I believe the destination we have arrived at all these years later is not the one the Romans arrived at when they first heard the letter. And that is something to be ashamed about.

Click Here! More on my take on Romans can be found in this post!

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Book Review – Jesus Untangled by Keith Giles

Jesus Untangled Review

In these days of political mayhem, it seems most Christians take one of two routes: check in and report for duty as a good Christian conservative or liberal or check out and watch cat videos instead of the news. Well Keith Giles shows us a better way.
A way that involves untangling Jesus from the madness that constrains Him…and us.
A way that recenters us on the Kingdom of God.
A way that encourages us to live for what really matters.
How in the world the church got wrapped up into politics is beyond the scope of Keith’s book. But I found a couple topics he addressed to be absolutely crucial to getting untangled.
The Flat approach to the Bible – Over and over again in Christian circles I am seeing a recurring theme of challenging the way we look at the bible. Keith’s take on a flat reading/approach was central to the theme of his book as it gives pause to pop interpretations that are in vogue today. The bible (I know it is typically capitalized) is far more dynamic than we will ever be able to discover. So, a simple “this means that” view does more harm to one’s faith than good…especially in relation to entangling faith with politics. Further, as Keith observes, a flat approach sees all of the scriptures as on par with one another…equally valid and in need to adherence. This goes a long way to putting empire back into the faith. The flat approach allows us to easily adopt a nationalistic view of our faith because that’s how it looks in the old testament. Yet, the scriptures of the new testament incredibly and increasingly challenge empire and warn against it. Keith does an excellent job of sifting through this and helping the reader see the nuanced differences in the ways we approach the bible.
The Sacral Society – Here Keith follows up what he started with the approach to reading the bible. The issue of a sacral society is more often than not assumed than it is challenged. Case in point, I grew up in a church that had both an American flag and a Christian flag to the left and right of the altar. I never questioned or challenged that until at least 30 years into my faith. Keith tackles this head on in chapter eleven and handles it quite well. The whole argument of legislating morality vs. the power of the gospel is laid out quite well by Keith and it becomes clear to the reader that one must at least question the association of the two. At best, we come to realize that the way of Jesus was never meant to be the way of empire.
So, I highly recommend this book. It was incredibly insightful and would be helpful to anyone enmeshed in both faith and politics. We can only serve one master…choose carefully, and with eyes wide open.

Check out the FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/JesusUntangled/

Book Review: Patmos

book-coverPatmos walks the thin line of narrative and theological contemplation quite well.

“With storytelling reminiscent of The Shack in its bewilderment, urgency, and epiphany, legendary independent theologian (and fishing lure designer) C. Baxter Kruger weaves a contemporary parable of truth and lies, revelation and deception, sorrow and joy.”

As the story unfolds, compelling theological insight is introduced in quite persuasive ways. For instance, it is one thing to look at theological issues from a purely academic view. The brilliance of this book is that it not only breaks these issues down to a more palatable size, but it also engages the characters in such a way that the issue becomes more real and relational. In short, the manner in which the topics are brought up allows for a more objective observation of them, which in turn results in a more compelling presentation of the point of view is being suggested.

The main idea of “union with or separation from God” is revealed throughout the book along with several other themes that, in the end, create quite a fresh way to look at and read the Gospel of John. One can’t help but want to dive back into John’s writings after reading Patmos because it seems as if you know him now as a brother…and that is the genius of the book!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story! It was one of those books you don’t want to end, and then you realize that it doesn’t end, really, it can continue on in each one of us!

Highly recommended!

Links:
Book site: Patmos
Patmos at Perichoresis
C. Baxter Kruger on Facebook
C. Baxter Kruger on Twitter

#SpeakeasyPatmos

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: Rewilding The Way by Todd Wynward

rewilding

I knew I had to read this book when it got rave reviews from three of my virtual mentors: Ched Myers, Richard Rohr, and Brian McLaren. It did not disappoint.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. So much so, that I read it twice before reviewing it!

Christianity in America is changing, and for the better. For this reason, we need a guide. This book is such a guide that can show us how to live out our faith in a more complete and active manner, not simply focusing on things such as dogmatic theology or worship, but getting us out into our community and world to seek, refocus, and wrestle with how to live our faith daily.

Written in three parts, Wynward describes our situation, gives practical examples of how to change, then outlines what to do next. Both highly practical and accessible to a general audience, the book would be great for the classroom or in a small group study.

I have to admit, chapter 4 was my favorite! The author’s take on “rewilding” The Lord’s Prayer is worth the price of the book alone. Indeed, it has become too familiar to us and has lost its edge. This rewilding of the prayer makes it truly revolutionary…it encourages us to meditate on the change Jesus sought and cuts to the heart.

The book is, in fact, all about “rewilding.” Taking a comfortable narrative and throwing it back out in a manner that challenges our relaxed perspective and causing us once again the reconsider the truth of the message.

It became quite exciting every time Wynward “rewilded” something, including The Pentateuch, or at least the naming of the first five books of the Bible. But the coup de grace was seeing The Beatitudes in a completely new light. We have to ask, just what was the point of the Beatitudes. According to the author, it was Jesus’ way of giving out a job description for those who would majorly disrupt the “business as usual” mentality. This take was both thoroughly mind blowing and encouraging at the same time!

Indeed, Todd Wynward has written a gem of a book that so many today need to read to enliven their faith to a literal world’s worth of work to attend to.

Buy this book…it will revitalize and deepen your journey.

Link-Love for Rewilding The Way: 
Todd Wynward’s website
Rewilding the Way website
Rewilding the Way on Amazon
Rewilding the Way on Goodreads
Todd on Facebook

#SpeakeasyRewildingtheWay

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

Book Review: “The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus” by Tripp Fuller

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I was so excited to hear about Tripp Fuller’s new book! The topic of Christology has shifted from the halls of academia to individuals and small groups and as such, needs to be accessible to a wider audience.

I had hoped that this book would do so, since so much of the content on The Homebrewed Christianity web site and podcast is so helpful. Yet, for some reason, I found the book more confusing than clear, and I am guessing it had more to do with editors than Tripp’s content, because he is typically such a vibrant speaker. For Pete’s sake, the guy has been a Youth Pastor for years, so I know he can break down the incredibly profound to its essence and make it understandable.

Unfortunately, that isn’t what happened in this book. I hope the rest of the HBC series fares better!

Though, I super-highly recommend the HBC Podcast on iTunes!

Nonetheless, here is my full review on Amazon.

And more links:

Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesuson Amazon | B&N | BAM | IndieBound |Powells | CBD
Homebrewed Chrisitanity – the website, the family of podcasts, the phenomenon.

 

 

Book Review: “Pray Like a Gourmet” by David Brazzeal

2015-08-02 12.08.55I loved this book!

So practical, so inventive, so real.

I have never been one to follow a liturgy or method of prayer. If it is a conversation and a relationship, it should be real. Yet, so many Christians either fall back on rote prayers or ask, “How do I pray…How do you pray?”

Get them this book…seriously! Very readable and entirely ready to put into practice. I was even bummed when I finished the book…it grew on me and I loved it!

Check out my full Amazon review here!

And check out more about the author here:

David’s blog: http://davidbrazzeal.com/
David’s book site: http://praylikeagourmet.com/
Pray Like a Gourmet on Amazon
Pray Like a Gourmet on Goodreads
Pray Like a Gourmet on Facebook