Tag Archives: Jesus

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.

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On New Testament Ministry

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse

23: Daily Inspirational Bible Verse (Photo credit: [Share the Word])

Professor Black posted this up on his blog this week.

Looks like he has made an addition or two, but nonetheless, I really like these convictions.

Someday, I’ll add a few of my own…

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

  • I am convinced of the normalcy of tent-making 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 other 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 multi-generational 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 (a candidate for ordination) 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.

  • I am convinced that everyone 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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What is the Gospel?

One of my favorite responses to this question was penned by Robert Farrar Capon in his book Between Noon and Three:

“The gospel of grace is the end of religion, the final posting of the CLOSED sign on the sweatshop of the human race’s perpetual struggle to think well of itself. For that, at bottom, is what religion is: man’s well-meant but dim-witted attempt to approve of his unapprovable condition by doing odd jobs he thinks some important Something will thank him for.
Religion, therefore, is a loser, a strictly fallen activity. It has a failed past and a bankrupt future. There was no religion in Eden and there won’t be any in heaven; and in the meantime Jesus has died and risen to persuade us to knock it all off right now.” – p. 166

In short, the gospel is the end of religion!

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Early Church Studies Quote of the Week – Hearing the Apostle Paul Today

Theology of the Cross Two

Image by Transguyjay via Flickr

I happened to be skimming through a book from my college days and came across this great quote from Charles Cousar’s A Theology of the Cross:

If the church is to move beyond triumphalism and individualism, it must from its traditions discover afresh its own individuality and discern its identity in distinction from the dominant culture.  The Pauline letters with their insistence that the risen Christ is the crucified one represent a slice of the church’s tradition that speaks pointedly and persuasively to that task. (pgs. 20-21)

This may seem too big a task to accomplish, but if this rediscovery begins in our own churches, where it can most readily, then it becomes something we can seek out with purpose.

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On the Speeches in Acts – Part 1 of 8

In this extended series of posts, I hope to shed some light on the issue of how authors in the first century went about recording speeches in historical writings and more specifically, Luke’s account of the speeches found in his Acts of the Apostles.

There are several questions at hand: How did Luke include speeches that most likely he did not hear in person in his account of the Acts of the Apostles?  Can these speeches be taken as authentic?  Did Luke fashion the speeches to fit the story he was writing?  How might this affect the veracity of the account?

My investigation will focus more on the historical and literary points to consider, but ultimately, the study has important apologetic implications and  I will address those in Part 7.

So, let’s begin!

Upon even a cursory reading of the book of Acts, the importance of the speeches contained therein is readily apparent.  The sheer amount of space given over to this type of discourse reveals one overarching fact: the author of this book used speeches with purpose.  Of course, discerning this purpose within the study of Luke-Acts has been the quandary of bible scholars for years.  Questions regarding the authorship of the speeches, their historicity, and their theology abound.  As such, the purpose of this essay will be to survey the speeches of the book of Acts with a view to answering some fundamental questions that arise from their study.  Upon review of some very general observations about these speeches, topics such as the sources of the speeches, traditional opinions on the speeches and how they should be studied, their form, function, and themes will be analyzed with a view to proposing their purpose within the book of Acts.

The speeches of the book of Acts occupy some 25 percent of the narrative within the book of Acts (Aune 125).  Stated from another angle, Marion Soards wrote that 365 verses out of the total 1000 in the book of Acts are given over to speeches and dialogues (Soards 1).

In order to grasp the basic message of these speeches and their placement within the book, Soards’ model of delineating them in sequence can be referenced in the Appendix.

One of the first things a modern student of the book of Acts must do is realign their understanding of how historical narrative, and especially in this case, the speeches within the narrative were written.  In the twenty-first century, moderns seem to want “just the facts.”  Yet, curiously, despite the popularity of The History Channel, it is a good story that causes millions to flock to the box office every year.  This is just the type of realignment necessary for a more pure understanding of the writing of historical narrative in Luke’s time.  In a recent work, Barbara Shellard wrote that,

ancient historians were primarily trained not in history but in rhetoric, which formed the basis of their educational system.  They aimed to convince the reader of the truth of their account of events, and the speeches they wrote were appropriate for the circumstances rather than verbatim records. (19)

Therefore, ancient historians such as Thucydides in the fifth century B.C.E. used speeches to enhance their report by fashioning speeches “in character” (Bailey 166).  The ability to do this was a rhetorical skill known as “prosopopoeia,” which might be better understood in this generation as a form of literary impersonation (Lanham 124).  The question of why this was done is a valid one, especially because it seems foreign to our twenty-first century understanding of history writing.  One must consider at least two main reasons, and yet a third that should set the mind at ease concerning the constructing of speeches.  First, as a rhetorical device, a speech might have been inserted to make the narrative more interesting for the reader.  Second, even if a speech was actually given by the character in question, it was most likely not transcribed for the history writer to reference at a later date.  Finally, it developed one’s impression of the character, just as similarly, in the movies, the personality, motives, and actions of characters are developed (Bailey 166-167).  It is important, then, in the words of Shellard, to “judge Luke’s writing by the standards of his own time, and not our own” (19).  Perhaps, then, a more realistic appreciation for Luke as a writer in his own day as compared to ours can be grasped.

However, must the conclusion be reached that all writers of history used such fanciful methods in the improvising of speeches?  Moreover, would Luke have done this?  The answer is increasingly being answered in the negative as scholars of late have begun to look past a historical-traditional approach and move toward a more focused understanding of the importance of each speech within Luke’s narrative (Green 11).  From the opening of his gospel, Luke’s intent can be discerned. For he states that he desired to:

set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1-4 NRSV)

These words clearly affirm that the research Luke did was indeed “careful” and “orderly.”  Luke’s choice of the word diegesis, “an orderly description of facts, events, actions or words” (Lk. 1:1) and diegeomai, “to give a detailed account of something in words” (Lk. 8:39; 9:10; Acts 16:10; 9:27; 12:17; 16:40) reveal that he went to great lengths to ensure a truthful account (BDAG).  As such, Luke’s purpose in writing historical literature can be placed in a most honorable category, in that he chose to see truth reign in his account in comparison to what was both accepted and popular within the same genre of his day.  Further, one must not forget that had Luke not, as best he could have, faithfully represented the speeches of the apostles of the early church, Luke-Acts most likely would not have achieved canonical status after generations of careful review and critique by his peers in the faith.  A final note on the issue should also be made regarding Luke’s choice of the word “diegesis” in Luke 1:1 over Mark’s use of “euangellion” with reference to the gospel narrative (Aune 116).  This drives home the point that Luke clearly chose to be as faithful as possible to the truth of the events of the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Indeed, to prove that his intent had changed with the Acts narrative would be no simple feat.  In fact, Gasque explicitly writes, “those who believe that the author of Acts invented speeches tend to dismiss the speeches of the third gospel…as evidence for the author’s methodology in the Book of Acts” (62).  To posit that Luke did not remain faithful to his stated purpose is tantamount to discrediting him; the burden of proof rests with the critic.

At this point, the sources Luke might have used must be considered.  Invariably, Luke could have used any combination of eyewitness accounts, oral traditions, and written reports available to him at the time of his writing Luke-Acts.   Aune, while revealing the unlikelihood that written evidence was in existence, wrote that Luke had three options with regard to the material used for the speeches:

(1)     To interview those present or (if he were present) to recall the substance of what was actually spoken,

(2) To freely improvise speeches according to the principle of appropriateness

(3) To combine research and memory with free composition. (125)

Aune goes on to state that Luke used option number three.  This is highly plausible, but quite possibly insufficient.  If, as James Dunn has so well stated in his recent work “Jesus In Oral Memory” that oral tradition played a large part in the sources used to compose the gospels, perhaps it is just as plausible that such oral traditions were passed on from gathering to gathering as the early church met and discussed the faith, words, and deeds of the major characters in the book of Acts.  Dunn even uses Luke’s retelling of the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts as the primary example of his faithful handling of oral tradition, stating that he would indeed handle the oral traditions of Jesus in like manner (9).  More will be written about this in the discussion of the content of the speeches in Acts, but Dunn’s point about the oral traditions of the early church, especially as they relate to Luke, must not be overlooked.  Further adding to the category of Luke’s credibility, Dunn writes that,

Luke was himself a good story-teller, and that his retelling of the story of Paul’s conversion is a good example not simply of the use of oral tradition in a written work, but of the oral traditioning process as a whole.” (9)

So then, it appears that at the very least, there was also the well of oral tradition that Luke would have been able to draw from in order to carefully transmit the essence of the speeches within their proper historical context, thus fulfilling his purpose from the beginning.  Overall, for these reasons, it seems unlikely that while some ancient historians could and did fashion speeches for the sake of their purpose that Luke would have done the same.  Perhaps, in Luke’s estimation, this literary device was simply an unnecessary convention for the material he was writing.

Aune, David.  The New Testament in Its Literary Environment.  Philadelphia: Westminster,

1987.

Dunn, James D.G.  “Jesus in Oral Memory: The Initial Stages of the Jesus Tradition.”

NTGateway. June 2000.  <http://www.ntgateway.com/Jesus/dunn.rtf&gt;

Gasque, W. Ward.  “The Book of Acts and History.”  Unity and Diversity in New Testament

Theology: Essays in Honor of George E. Ladd. Ed. R. A. Guelich.  Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1978.

Green, J. B.  “Acts of the Apostles.”  DLNT.  Eds. R. P. Martin and P. H. Davids.

Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1997.

Lanham, Richard A.  A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms.  Second Ed.  Berkeley: University, 1991.

Plumacher, E.  “diegeomai.”  Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament.  Vol. 1.  Eds. H. Balz

and G. Schneider.  Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990.

Shellard, Barbara.  New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources, and Literary Contexts.

JSNT Supp. 215. Exec. Ed. Stanley E. Porter.  London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

Soards, Marion.  The Speeches in Acts: Their Content, Contexts, and Concerns.  Louisville:

Westminster/Knox, 1994.

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The Problem With Old School Theology

I knew there was a problem with the old school Protestant System of theology!  I knew it!

For years I have said that this system, in various forms, essentially turns back to the old covenant for its foundation.  It is as though Christ is not enough.

Now, as I am reading Doug Campbell’s Deliverance of God, I see the arguments laid out with an incredible depth and clarity.  This old school system is bankrupt and lacks clear biblical warrant.  Indeed in some ways, it promotes another gospel.

I know this may sound shocking, but I challenge anyone to read/study/discuss this book along with me and come away with a hearty approval of the fundamental Protestant system.  Now, that does not at all mean that I am endorsing or approving Roman Catholicism either.  No, the issues are far deeper than an “either this or that” conclusion.

Indeed, there is nothing new in trying to grasp the truth and depth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Read Galatians or Hebrews and we see the early church struggled with how truly liberating it is.

But, those who know me recall my Reformed phase not too many years ago, and how I walked away from that system for one primary reason: it is grounded in the old covenant.  It affirms Christ, yet reaches back for the chains of the old system.  And let’s be honest, folks, that denies Christ in many, many ways.

I still have quite a bit of respect for the Reformers.  But, Campbell’s book certainly lays out a solid argument that this system of thought should at least be questioned and at best be replaced.

I read on…and will post more as I go!

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The Hippie Preacher

My wife and I recently watched Lonnie Frisbee: The Life And Death Of A Hippie Preacher a few days ago and I highly recommend it!  Netflix has it here

Maybe because I live in southern California, maybe because I spent some time in the Calvary Chapel movement, or maybe because I saw the early church in Frisbee, whatever the reason I was drawn to the film.

As I continue to reflect on this film, I realize there are some themes and issues that the church today desperately needs to wrestle with. 

First, and probably most related to this blog, I found it surprising how fast and how fatally religion can quell the work of the Spirit in the church.  Frisbee was definitely a charismatic man who was very much in tune with the Spirit of God.  Yet, his story is all too familiar.  As I interpreted the film, organized churches sought to “tap into” Frisbee’s life and gifting for their benefit, only to throw him by the wayside when they were finished with him.  I hope Frisbee saw that for what it was and ultimately perceived a deeper connection with Jesus in his rejection and condemnation among his own people – a bittersweet union. 

Second, how fast we can either forget our history or how easily it can get spun to the benefit of another.  For years, I heard that Chuck Smith embraced the hippies and brought them into the church.  Yet, this film reveals that Pastor Smith never did so until after he met Frisbee and it was Frisbee’s ministry that brought the hippies to the meetings in Costa Mesa.  Indeed, Calvary Chapel pastors and historians will tell of Chuck Smith baptizing hundreds in Corona Del Mar, yet original video footage shows Frisbee doing so.  So, the question must be asked,

“Why re-write history?” 

Well, as the opening lines of another of my favorite movies (Braveheart) state:

“History is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

Those who are left standing tell the tale, and in this case it can be identified as organized religion.  That enticing call that says, “The show must go on.”  In this case, the churches involved essentially excommunicated Frisbee when he needed them most.  I have to ask, “Is there anything too embarrasing or too uncouth that cannot be touched by the love of Christ?  But it seems, these churchmen sought to tame Frisbee and in the end put him out.  As you can probably tell, this deeply saddens and angers me.  But that matters not, “the show must go on.”

Third, it is about time that the church accept people as they are changed by Christ and not change people to be accepted by Christ.  We have misrepresented the gospel in the name of Christ by manipulating and controlling people to fit into preconceived molds that are quite simply not scriptural.  In fact, they reveal our struggle with the gospel – as if to say, “It can’t really be that good!”

This film raises several issues that fit into this category.  Culturally it engages hippies, drugs and homosexuality in the church.  Theologically it engages ministry, the role of the Spirit, and the gospel.  In short, perhaps it is time to realize that the answers to these questions need to be reevaluated in light of scripture. 

Essentially, this film is about an all too familiar topic.  That of the church shooting it’s wounded. 

I believe that if we take our eyes off of the religious system long enough, we will once again see that what Jesus was all about was bringing people to the Father. 

It is, truly, much more simple than we make it out to be.

So, get the movie and let me know what you think!

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Bumper Sticker Theology

Out the gate, I wonder if this is meant to be taken on a personal level or a national level???

On a personal level, I can empathize with the premise.  That said, we do not live in a Christian theocracy, and neither did the early church.

True, Jesus said to love our enemies, but didn’t he also say that if asked to carry a soldier’s pack a mile we should go for two? (Mt. 5:41)  Imagine a soldier today asking a pacifist Christian to carry his gear.  Maybe the reason soldiers don’t these days is because they don’t want to hear the resultant sniveling and whining.  But I digress…

So, I say let’s not buy into this particular bumper sticker theology.  The last thing we need is for it to catch on and become national policy.  I would guess we might last about 100 years before our country would be besieged and we would all be speaking another language.

If I were one to put a bumper sticker on my car, I might have this made up:

“We sleep safely in our beds because rough men [and women] stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would harm us.” (George Orwell)

Then again, having served in the Marine Corps, I am only slightly biased!

Comments?

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Reconnecting With Jesus

Sometimes I wonder how far we have come from the Jesus that the early church knew.  How out of touch with the reality of life in the early churches have we become in the 21st Century?

 

Todd Agnew has a song called “My Jesus” from his CD Reflection of Something.  The lyrics speak for themselves…

Which Jesus do you follow?
Which Jesus do you serve?
If Ephesians says to imitate Christ
Then why do you look so much like the world?

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the arrogant
So which one do you want to be?

Blessed are the poor in spirit
Or do we pray to be blessed with the wealth of this land
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteousness
Or do we ache for another taste of this world of shifting sand

Cause my Jesus bled and died for my sins
He spent His time with thieves and sluts and liars
He loved the poor and accosted the rich
So which one do you want to be?

Who is this that you follow
This picture of the American dream
If Jesus was here would you walk right by on the other side or fall down and worship at His holy feet

Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion
Is how you see Him as He dies for Your sins
But the Word says He was battered and scarred
Or did you miss that part
Sometimes I doubt we’d recognize Him

Cause my Jesus bled and died
He spent His time with thieves and the least of these
He loved the poor and accosted the comfortable
So which one do you want to be?

Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet would stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despised the proud
I think He’d prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd
And I know that He can hear me if I cry out loud

I want to be like my Jesus!
I want to be like my Jesus!

Not a posterchild for American prosperity, but like my Jesus
You see I’m tired of living for success and popularity
I want to be like my Jesus but I’m not sure what that means to be like You Jesus
Cause You said to live like You, love like You but then You died for me
Can I be like You Jesus?
I want to be like my Jesus

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Mark 1:1

The beginning…

…this is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The first word in Mark is the Greek word Ἀρχὴ – the beginning. 

Yes, Bill Maher, Mark skips the story of Jesus’ birth…but not because it isn’t important.  Mark gets right to the point that the moment Jesus stepped forth from the desert that day way back when that the story begins. 

All the years of believing this day would come, of hoping for the Messiah, of revealing the rule of God began that day.  And from that day forth the world would change because Jesus Christ, the Son of God was revealed to the world, and as Mark’s Gospel story was told both in that day until now, Jesus continues to be revealed. 

The story, as Mark tells it starts there.

So, this is what we may call artistic license today.  Mark’s story begins in action because that is the whole point – God is up to something…something big!  Ben Witherington makes a good case that this first line in Mark serves as a good introduction to a biography on Jesus.  And since ancient Greco-Roman biography allows for a lack of birth narrative, Mark seems to be emphasizing to the hearer/reader that this story bears all the depth, weight, and fervor of a change that only God himself could pull off.  The good news is news of victory, and God sent his son to prove it.  The story commands attention from the start, and centers the story on Jesus. 

Imagine hearing this story for the first time. 

Until now, only short stories or remembrances of Jesus had been shared among the early church.  Perhaps, on occasion, an eyewitness to an event in the life of Jesus would share their testimony.  But now, Mark had written it down as narrative, as a biography of sorts.  This is a complete story.  One that powerfully illustrates God’s intentions through the ages.  One that can be shared among all the churches.  A story that will be told many times and that continues with and through the church…

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