Tag Archives: community

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
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Toward A Functional Ecclesiology… (Part 1 of 2)

Church

Image by Chewbacski via Flickr

…or, as Dave Black put it, “What Does a New Testament Church Look Like?

I liked what he wrote so much I will simply quote it verbatim:

I am convinced that the house church rather than the sanctuary church was the New Testament norm.

I am convinced of the normacy of tentmaking leadership.

I am convinced that the church exists in part to equip all of its members for ministry.

I am convinced that the leadership of the church should be shared for the health of the congregation.

I am convinced that top-down structures of leadership are unquestionably more efficient — efficient in doing almost everything than equipping, which is the primary task of leadership.

I am convinced that the process of appointing new elders is best done on the basis of recognizing who is already serving as an elder in the church.

I am convinced that any local church that takes seriously Jesus as the Senior Pastor will not permit one man to become the titular head of the church.

I am convinced that the essential qualifications for ministry in the church have little or nothing to do with formal education and everything to do with spiritual maturity.

I am convinced that the church is a multigenerational family, and hence one of the things that makes the church the church is the presence of children, parents, and other adults.

I am convinced that because every local church has all the spiritual gifts it needs to be complete in Christ, believers should be exposed to the full expression of the charisms (grace-gifts) when they gather, in contrast to specialized ministries that center around singularly gifted people.

I am convinced that the local church is the scriptural locus for growing to maturity in Christ, and that no other training agency is absolutely needed.

I am convinced that the local church ought to be the best Bible school going.

I am convinced that Paul’s letters were not intended to be studied by ordinands in a theological college but were intended to be read and studied in the midst of the noisy life of the church.

I am convinced that the church is a theocracy directly under its Head (Jesus Christ), and that the will of the Head is not mediated through various levels of church government but comes directly to all His subjects.

I am convinced that the goal of leadership is not to make people dependent upon its leaders but dependent upon the Head.

I am convinced that since all believers are “joints” in the body, ministry is every believer’s task.

I am convinced that pastor-teachers, as precious gifts of Christ to His church, are to tend the flock of God by both personal care and biblical instruction, equipping God’s people for works of service both in the church and in the world.

I am convinced that the role of pastor-teacher is a settled ministry in a local congregation.

I am convinced that leaders should communicate that every part of the body is interrelated to the other parts and indispensable; every member will be appreciated, every charism will be treasured.

I am convinced that the whole church, the community of all the saints together, is the clergy appointed by God for ministry.

In conclusion, the fundamental premise upon which I operate is that each believer in the church needs to be equipped for his or her own ministry both in the church and in the world. If the church is to become what God intended it to be, it must become a ministerium of all who have placed their faith in Christ. The whole people of God must be transformed into a ministering people. Nothing short of this will restore the church to its proper role in the kingdom of God.

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God, Gentiles and Grace – On the Essence of the Inclusion Debate

Capernaum synagogue

Image via Wikipedia

I recently heard Alistair Begg give an excellent summary (found here, about 17 minutes into the broadcast) of one of Jesus’ most compelling confrontations.

The text at hand is Luke 4:14-30:

14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19 and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.[f]

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

22 Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”

23 Then he said, “You will undoubtedly quote me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.

25 “Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.”

28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. 29 Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, 30 but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way.

Why were those in the synagogue so angry?

It is here that Alistair gives the following maxim (in a paraphrase):

The salvation which Jesus proclaimed they [the Gentiles] need, but don’t deserve.

and

The salvation which Jesus proclaims we [the Jews] deserve, but do not need.

Brilliant!  I am not sure if this is his own idea or if it has been passed down, but this is the essence of one of the primary early church debates – How do the Gentiles fit into God’s plan of salvation.

The legalists knew the Gentiles needed the One True God, but could not comprehend them receiving it simply by faith.  Surely, they must conform…look, walk and talk like us.

The legalists also knew that Jesus’ teachings bothered them.  They were just too easy, too open compared to what they knew the religious life to be.

As a result, they believed that they deserved what Jesus was offering, but did not want it as he presented it.

Alistair Begg continues by making the comparison with modern Christians:

Surely those outside the church need Jesus, but they don’t deserve it…just look at how they live.

We Christians deserve salvation, look how obedient we have been!  We just want it to look like something we would design…a nice orderly, religion that can be left at church on Sundays.

I thought this to be quite a good, though basic, summary of one of the earliest debates among the church – that of inclusion of “outsiders” and how that works out in practice.

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Things That Make You Go, Hmmm – Romans 1:11-12

OK, so Paul is introducing himself to the church in Rome and he needs to gain their trust and respect.

How does he do it?

He writes:

“For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord.  When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.”

So, bringing a gift, that should help.  But more importantly a spiritual gift, something expressly given him by God to give away to the churches for their spiritual gain.

Then, he further expresses what will happen when they meet.  Encouragement between them – Paul to the church in Roma Rome (tip of the hat to my ancestors!) and the church in Rome to Paul.

Now, how does that happen?  What does it look like?

Paul knew that Christian ministry flows two directions.  The church, after all, is a body.  All the parts serve, nourish and enhance one another.

He shares and encourages others and the church shares and encourages him.

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On Genre – Part 2

Going a step deeper into the genre of Mark’s gospel with H. C. Kee’s work Community of the New Age: Studies In Mark’s Gospel, I found it interesting that he promotes Mark’s structure as being based on “an apocalyptic community.”

Indeed, there are apocalyptic themes and language in Mark, as is clearly attested in many introductory works (cf. Bailey and Vander Broek’s Literary Forms in the New Testament pgs 122-129), but what caught my eye was Kee’s implication that the gospel of Mark came out of, was developed, or was formed in an apocalyptic community.  In my mind, that takes the whole discussion of genre/structure to another level.

Kee cites the Old Testament book of Daniel as “the classic document produced in the apocalyptic category.” (65)  Next, he goes on to cite thematic and structural similarities between Daniel and Mark.  Finally, he reveals the aims of apocalyptic texts as follows:

  1. The rule of God and its triumph
  2. The defeat of the hostile powers
  3. The redefinition of the community
  4. The certainty of the outcome
  5. Stand firm!

Now, while I certainly see these elements in the gospel of Mark, I think that the attempt to link the literary structure to Daniel and further to ascertain the writer and readers of Mark to be “an apocalyptic community” stretches the plausibility of the case beyond what seems reasonable.  It is at this point that it seems more confidence is put in the recipients than the text itself; that the story cryptically speaks more about the hearers and readers than about Jesus himself.

I think that in light of more recent scholarship (cf. Bauckham’s, The Gospels For All Christians) the genre of Mark’s gospel should simply focus on the text as a preservation of the purpose and mission of Jesus Christ.  Some may classify this as  Greco-Roman biography, others, seemingly the church itself classified it simply as gospel.  In doing so, we diminish neither the content of the gospel nor the richness of the text as written, most likely in this case, by Mark.  This frees us to see, hear, and feel the story of Jesus and draw the impact of the story into our hearts and minds. 

It is in this way that the stories about Jesus were preserved among the community for future generations.  In short, the focus was intended to remain on the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.

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On Genre (and Rabbit Trails) – Part 1

As I begin my in-depth studies in Mark, I have been especially enjoying R.T. France’s work, and became sidetracked by some of his introductory comments and footnotes.  For some odd reason, I am one of those who read footnotes as voraciously as the rest of the text, often wondering why this is not covered with the attention and respect it deserves.  But enough about “rabbit trails”…

It appears that many these days prefer to see Mark classified as Greco-Roman biography.  Certainly, Ben Witherington  and Ernest Best make this case in their work on Mark.  Then another take is that it is generally uncategorizable, seemingly unable to fit neatly into any one category, thus the development of something new to the first century literature – gospel.

That said, a little rabbit trail caught my eye, especially since I am reading and writing with the earliest church in mind.  First, thanks to a footnote from R.T. France, I came upon H. C. Kee’s work Community of the New Age: Studies In Mark’s Gospel  and second, (thanks to a quote from Kee) is Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis.

First, in chapter three of his book, Kee is delving into the literary genre of Mark and begins by explaining why Mark doesn’t fit into the genre of a tragedy. 

To make his point, Kee quotes Auerbach stating that any one gospel account “fits into no antique genre,” and is:

“too serious for comedy, too everyday for tragedy, politically too insignificant for history – and the form which was given it is one of such immediacy that its like does not exist in the literature of antiquity.”

That alone would be enough to convince most that the gospels seemingly defy categorization, are altogether “other,” and are perhaps in need of a new classification.  But Auerbach goes on to pay the gospels, and indeed the earliest Christians, an even higher honor by stating “that the gospels evoke ‘the most serious and most significant sympathy’ within us because they portray:

‘something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurences of contemporary life, which thus assumes an importance it could never have assumed in antique literature.'”

 So, according to Auerbach, it is the general church community as a whole that makes this unique among writings and unclassifiable in genre.  The community not only maintains the essence of the gospel among one another, but also promotes and develops the gospel material into fruition among “common people” and in “everyday occurences.”  The picture this paints for me is one of vibrant gatherings of the church flourishing not in any technically religious manner, but in the everyday life shared with one another.

In short, I see that Mark was both writing with his immediate church communities in mind, those churches with which he had contact, as well as the churches throughout the Empire.  At this point, I doubt that his intention was to write a traditional Greco-Roman biography, though this may fit the bill from both a reader/hearer in the first century as well as an academic point of view today. 

No, I am inclined to see Mark as a more evangelistic/pastoral work, taking on some of the more popular methods of writing and transmission with the goal being to speak directly to the church at large in an edifying manner with the intent to preserve the tradition in writing.  Many see that the gospel of Mark is a collage of sorts drawn together with purpose, so in this way, nothing I am saying is new.  Yet, I think there is something to be said for a more holistic view, or one that takes in account not simply that the so-called Markan community needed a gospel, but that this was quite possibly what the churches were already saying and doing among one another, and therefore was preserved by the writer of Mark in narrative form.

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