Theological Thoughts

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.

Hebrews and Warnings

In preaching through Hebrews I am constantly confronted (Chapters 2,3,6 & 10) with the idea that these Jewish believers are actually true “brethren” and not just some folks pretending to be Christians. These are actual members of the household. Thus, this makes Hebrews’ warning much more severe and real. The warnings are not merely empty threats.

Theology of Cross and Glory

Luther’s categories seem to be equally appropriate to Covenant Renewal Worship.  The first part of the service is meditative and introspective. There is a confession of sins where we kneel, followed by private confession of sins. There is an initial aspect of the CRW that is very cross-centered, and it is argued that most of our lives are to be lived cruciformily.  Nevertheless, the bulk or the majority of the CRW is to be lived in light of resurrection and glory. It is joyful and celebratory, even triumphant. We are members of a new creation; a new society of worshipers. In this new creation we worship mostly under a theology of glory. We sing aloud the praises of Yahweh, we hear the preached Word, we feast at Christ’s table, and we lift our hands to praise Father, Son, and Spirit. In the end, we are commissioned to glorify and beautify the world through the gospel of the cross and glory.

Laughter as an Art

I have long been fond of laughter. If you have met me you know that I do not fear laughing. When things are funny, laughter is the necessary response. G.K. Chesterton criticizes those who do not know the art of laughing at jokes about “bad cheese”. Chesterton’s critics did not laugh at “bad cheese” jokes because they were looking for something foolish and ignorant to laugh at, but in reality “bad cheese” stood for a more subtle and philosophical idea.

Chesterton writes:

Bad cheese is funny because it is (like the foreigner or the man fallen on the pavement) the type of the transition or transgression across a great mystical boundary. Bad cheese symbolises the change from the inorganic to the organic. Bad cheese symbolises the startling prodigy of matter taking on vitality. It symbolises the origin of life itself.

laughter_1925_10_a0Bad cheese like symbolic criticisms of an economic or political system deserves great laughter. If we train our minds to laugh only at that which is simple, then we will never truly laugh. Laughter is an art; it must be cultivated and encouraged.

There is another side to this story. There are those who are immature at laughter. They are so self-centered that they do not allow themselves to be humbled by a joke. They are so isolated that they do not allow themselves to be entertained. This latter point is worth stressing. Ecclesiastes 10:19 says that ” a feast is made for laughter.” If laughter is to be encouraged and if in a feast we get to practice it, then why is there so little feasting? Christians have become virtual gnostics. They adore the theologizing and philosophizing, but they stay away from the feasting. They find little pleasure in a funny story or the jokes of a 10 year old. These Christians have created a “funny” status and if one does reach such level, then they must be kicked out. In the words of a theologian who knows the art of laughter, ” this is not only unChristian; it is inhuman.”

Not all laughter has to be sophisticated! Some times simple jokes are the most effective in producing laughter. Still, Christians must train themselves not to be caught with simple and unnecessary laughter. Crude and unwholesome jokes are an abomination. If we find greater laughter in the seat of scoffers than at the feasting table of saints, then we have sold our souls to misery, for only the wicked find consolation in the jokes of the wicked.