Theological Thoughts

Basis of our Eschatological Certainty

The authority and power Jesus receives at the Right Hand of the Father is the certainty we have that all the nations of the earth will conquered by the power of the gospel; that our evangelism is not in vain. –Sermon Excerpt for Ascension

Schmemann, Liturgy, and Joy

Alexander Schmemann devotes a section in his splendid For the Life of the World to the subject of joy. For the Christian,  joy is a way of life. In fact, Schemann writes:

Of all accusations against Christians, the most terrible one was uttered by Nietzsche when he said that Christians had no joy.

A joyless faith is evidence of a weak faith. But what would lead a Christian to be joyless? Living in habitual sin takes away. It replaces it with cynicism and bitterness. Joy is the result of faithfulness.

Another element present in joyless Christians is a low ecclesiology. Those who are least interested in the work of the Bride find little reason to be joyful. Their joy is merely temporary. Biblical joy means entering into the mission of the Church in all her endeavors. It means embracing the wisdom of God, which flows from the Church. Those who do not long for Sunday find satisfaction and pleasure through ungodly means.

The Christian faith is an eucharistic faith; a faith that delights in thanksgiving. In the Church, the Christian learns that his joy comes primarily through the service of God to His people. We find joy at the table He has prepared for us. We find joy when bread and wine are tasted. In the Sacrament of the Lord’s Table we discover our joy in knowing that the Lord is good.

Joy is also the fruit of liturgy. The Lord’s Day liturgy establishes a pattern for living weekly. It provides for us a gospel model to work, to live, and to love. As Schmemann elaborates, the liturgy is a ministerial function of a group in the interest of the whole community. In liturgy, we are celebrating the imago dei. We are delighting in the humanity of others in the body. We are feasting in the work of creation. We are bearing testimony to the world that God has not forgotten His mission, and that He is calling all peoples to enter into His joy by embracing His Bride.

The Tomb and the Father of LIes

Gil Bailie’s book Violence Unveiled quotes René Girard as saying that,

The tomb is where the “father of lies” and the “murderer from the beginning” can be counted on to issue his solemn reassurances and conjure into existence another of the “kingdoms” of “this world” or revive a flagging one.

In Jesus’ resurrection that kingdom was short-lived; it only lasted three days.

Unbind Him!

Jesus’ declaration to Lazarus in John 11:44 “Unbind him, and let him go,” is what the tomb heard that Easter morning from the Father.

A Point on the use of “sacramental” and “worldview”

A friend urged caution on the repetitive use of terms like “worldview” and “sacramental.” I concur that there is certainly an overuse of these terms. But is it possible that these words are still not familiar enough? In theo-speak circles they are used as often as conjunctions, but in most of the evangelical circles terms like worldview and sacramental are quite odd and if ever defined. So, are they still useful? do they still have function in modern evangelical grammar? I tend to think that they are still helpful.

A worldview still describes a way of thinking about the world; thus, a Christian worldview still conveys the sense the word attempts to convey– that of comprehensiveness and exhaustiveness. Likewise, sacramental is still helpful. Something sacramental, to quote James Jordan, can refer “to things sacred or to rituals.” For instance, God’s world is sacramental; it displays the majesty and sacredness of God. On the other hand, God’s means of grace in His Church are sacramental. They are distinct rituals given to the body to convey grace and truth.

Perhaps a better way of considering these terms is to desire qualification, nuances, and specifications. How does your worldview handle the question of gay marriage? How does your worldview handle the question of assurance? etc. etc. Similarly, “when you use the term sacramental, are you referring to the sacredness of language, art, etc.? or are you referring to the liturgy of the church where we eat and drink Christ’s body by faith?

We still need some level of general vocabulary to convey grand ideas, though we also need to specify and qualify these terms when needed.

Oversimplification…

John’s narrative in chapter nine is a clear case of oversimplification. The disciples asked a question about the correspondence between sin and suffering. Their answer was partially correct, but they failed to see the complexity of the issue; to put it simply, they had an oversimplified theology. Here is a rule: if you can fit your theology in a bumper sticker, it’s wrong.

Thoughts on the disappearance of the family table…

Whatever happened to the family table? Why are families no longer eating together? Why are sons allowed to take their dinners to their rooms without consulting dad and mom? This is a terrible trend. It is my unscientific conclusion that much of this forgotten familial gift stems from the evangelical church’s abandonment of the Lord’s Supper as a frequent/weekly meal. If the church–as God’s eternal family–establishes a model for the biological family, then the abandonment of the Lord’s Table leads to the abandonment of the family table.

My friend and mentor Randy Booth summarizes it this way:

We begin each week gathered around the Table as children to be instructed and nourished, just before we are sent out to live. And so too, we go to our homes and gather around smaller tables to be instructed and nourished, and from there we also fan out to live and to love. The liturgy is practice for life.

Responses:

Rev. Brian Nolder wrote in response:

Uri: possible, but doubtful. It more has to do with the “pace” of modern life (and probably the flourishing of restaurants to accommodate that pace), esp. our desire for constant entertainment. There is a great contrast in the movie Avalon where the 1st generation is feasting around the table, talking and joking, and later, the 2nd generation are sitting together, not talking, b/c they are all watching the television. I think mass media (including social networking!) is more the culprit.

Hannah Roorda wrote in response:

Maybe the media is allowed to take this role because the church is not filling it/the family is not living in the church. So the consumption of media rather than participation in family life is a symptom of the problem Pastor Brito is pointing out?

Omens and Anti-Christ superstitions…

Peter Leithart in DC references the absurd belief in the ability of oracles to predict war outcomes. For Maxentius, it was an exodus-like disaster. Likewise, David Garland’s Literary and Theological Commentary on Matthew observes similarly that in the first century,

Omens from the stars were nothing to be brushed aside. The appearance of comets, for example, were assume to portend the birth or the death of someone of great consequence. Suetonius tells us that when a comet appeared over Rome for several nights, Nero took the precaution of having several Roman noblemen executed, so that it would have augured their deaths and not his (26).

A better way:  “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Yahweh our God.”

Ascension (s) in Luke 24 and Acts 1

There is some level of debate over whether Luke 24 records The Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of the Father (as in Acts 1) or whether Luke 24 records a pre-figuring of The Ascension in Acts 1. Advocates of the latter argue that the account in Luke only gives us an example of Jesus disappearing in the post-resurrection days. Simply, Jesus–after the resurrection–goes from heaven to earth continuously.

It appears, however, that the accounts are the same. The Ascension account in Luke marks the end of Christ’s earthly work (it is finished!) In this case, the Ascension is tied to the Resurrection, which is tied to His death. In Acts 1, the Ascension is mentioned again because it marks the beginning of a new work; the mission of the Church. The Church’s missiological task works on the basis of the Ascension and exaltation of the Son at the right hand of the Father (Psalm 110).

Through New Eyes Interview: What is New Covenant Theology?

On this second episode, we continue our discussion of New Covenant Theology with Baptist author Richard Barcellos.