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: “A More Christlike God” by Bradley Jersak

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

Jersak

Jersak contends, if Christ is “the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God’s glory and exact representation of God’s likeness,” what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike—the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed—a God who Jesus “unwrathed” from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.

A friend of mine and Theo–Mentor Tripp Fuller often says,

“God must be at least as nice as Jesus.”

I really think that this “Tripps” people up a lot (pun intended) because they don’t really understand how angry or mean their God is. And if they do make the connection, they are soon to be in a deep struggle with the concept on a daily basis as it relates to their everyday life and experiences. This book directly confronts some of the most pertinent and engaging questions Christians are asking today of some very established and long held theological beliefs. Those brave enough to take this journey will gain much needed insight and options necessary to continue the journey forward.

The format of the book is very user friendly. Terms are well defined throughout, and the style is fluid and conversational with questions and a prayer finishing out each chapter making this a great resource for a small group study. In fact, this would be a perfect resource for a youth or college group.

Some of the most compelling concepts Jersak brings up center around alternative ways of looking at scripture and how God is perceived by both the writers of scripture and Christians throughout the ages. Anyone asking the hard questions like, “How can a loving God allow evil to happen” seriously and without haste need to read this book. And don’t expect the same fare served up in Evangelical camps. Expect a whole new vision and a God more loving and present than ever before.

This book is beyond a welcome addition to my library and I will highly recommend it to anyone beginning to think outside the traditional theological box.

Oh, and did I mention what Richard Rohr had to say about it???

“This excellent and much-needed book confronts with both open heart and very good mind the major obstacles that we have created for people in their journey toward God! “Why didn’t people teach us this many years ago?” so many of us are saying. I am so very grateful that Brad Jersak is re-opening the door that Jesus had already opened 2000 years ago. It is so terribly sad that it was ever closed.”
– Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M. Center for Action and Contemplation

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.

#SpeakeasyAMoreChristlikeGod

Links: 
Brad Jersak’s website
A More Christlike God website
A More Christlike God on Amazon
Review on The Imperfect Pastor
Review on Faith Meets World
Review on Redeeming God
Interview of Jersak by Peter Enns
Foreword by Brian Zahnd

 

 

Professor April DeConick On Studying The Transgressors

OK, I freely admit that football season here in the states has slowed down my progress on 1 Timothy.

In one sense, this is good. It takes time to think through the project and come up with more questions to ask and more options to consider.

As an aside, I happened to listen to a video today and just had to post up the quote because it seems to apply to the 1 Timothy study quite well!

Starting at about 8:29  in the video, Professor DeConick states that she likes to study “the transgressors”…those “on the edges” and states that one of her professors told her,
“If you want to understand the really early traditions look at the people on the edges about a hundred years later because as the tradition norms, as it becomes more normal and less radical, those radical people in the beginning are pushed toward the outside and so are their ideas.”
Further, she asks, “Why did they become outsiders? Because at some point they were insiders.”
Very good questions to ask in an examination of a letter that appears to have been a power play to create just such an insider/outsider division.
A little something to tease the mind and consider as we look at the early church, who was in, who was out, etc…
You can peruse her most excellent site direct at:  AprilDeConick.com

Mark – What does this mean???

…just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’

Exodus 23:20

“See, I am sending an angel before you to protect you on your journey and lead you safely to the place I have prepared for you.

Malachi 3:1

“Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. (NLT)

Isaiah 40:3

Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the Lord!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God! (NLT)

“All four Gospels include a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 (Mk. 1:3; Mt. 3:3; Lk. 3:4; Jn. 1:23) but only Mark combine this with words taken from Exodus 23:20 and Malachi 3:1”[1]

The importance of the composite quote:

  1. It is located at the beginning of the Gospel, even before John and Jesus have been introduced.
  2. This is the only editorial quotation from Mark – all the other quotations (about 20) appear on the lips of Jesus or other characters in the story.
  3. The composite quotation of Ex. 23:20/Mal. 3:1 [cf. Mt. 11:10 and Lk. 7:27] is included before the citation of Is. 40:3, even though it clashes with the introductory formula (‘As it is written in the prophet Isaiah’)[2]

There have been two main ways of interpreting this…

“we need an ideology that can explain how Mark can both appropriate Isaiah’s promise of exodus (itself a development of the original exodus tradition), while offering, in Marcus’s words, a ‘radical, cross-centred adaptation of it’ (1992: 36). In terms of this debate, what we need is a more sophisticated biblical theology that can encompass discontinuity as well as continuity, and a more sophisticated literary theory that can combine insights from narrative criticism with insights from intertextuality (taking ‘texts’ in its broadest sense).”[3]

France, quoting Myers states the following:

“by omitting that part of Mal. 3:1 which envisages the Lord appearing in the temple and linking the passage instead to the wilderness location, Mark is already signalling the dismissal of the institutional life of Israel which will be a recurrent theme of his gospel.”[4]

There is more to unpack here, but what seems clear to me is the following:

  1. This being the only editorial quotation is highly relevant to the author’s purpose.
  2. The author did not feel compelled to use literal quotes, but instead took no small amount of liberty in combining texts to prepare his readers for the story.
  3. The quote is both a nod in the direction of the past prophetic tradition as well as a nod to a clear and present change in the thinking and life of the reader/hearer.

I’ll have more on this later.

Meanwhile, let me know what you think!


[1] Steve Moyise, Evoking Scripture: Seeing the Old Testament in the New (London: T & T Clark, 2008), 6.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Steve Moyise, “How Deep is the Wilderness in Mark 1:1-13,” 2005, 86, http://74.125.155.132/search?q=cache:RyfmYOYFfK8J:www.chiuni.ac.uk/theology/documents/TheWildernessQuotation.doc+mark+1:2-3&cd=23&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a.

[4] R. T France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2002), 63.