Saturday, May 28, 2011

A majestic prayer

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19; NRSV)

Ephesians 3:16 ἵνα δῷ ὑμῖν κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ δυνάμει κραταιωθῆναι διὰ τοῦ πνεύματος αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν ἔσω ἄνθρωπον, 3:17 κατοικῆσαι τὸν Χριστὸν διὰ τῆς πίστεως ἐν ταῖς καρδίαις ὑμῶν, ἐν ἀγάπῃ ἐρριζωμένοι καὶ τεθεμελιωμένοι, 3:18 ἵνα ἐξισχύσητε καταλαβέσθαι σὺν πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις τί τὸ πλάτος καὶ μῆκος καὶ ὕψος καὶ βάθος,  3:19 γνῶναί τε τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἵνα πληρωθῆτε εἰς πᾶν τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ θεοῦ.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Something from C Kavin Rowe's World Upside Down

I am reading C Kavin Rowe's World Upside Down (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). There is a lot of good stuff. (But I have to admit that I am no expert on Acts, which is what the book focuses on.)

The title of chapter 2 is "Collision: Explicating Divine Identity". It examines the following:

Acts 14: Paul and Barnabas - Hermes and Zeus
Acts 16: Power at Philippi
Acts 17: Athens
Acts 19: Ephesus

I think it is a fascinating chapter. It talks about the collision between Christianity and Paul's audience in different cities. Here are some excerpts from the conclusion of the chapter (on pages 50, 51).

"This collision, however, is not due to the missionaries' lack of tact (though they were doubtless bold) or to a pagan propensity for rash violence...; rather, its deeper basis rests ultimately in the theological affirmation of the break between God and the cosmos. For to affirm that God has 'created heaven and earth' is, in Luke's narrative, simultaneously to name the entire complex of pagan religiousness as idolatry and, thus, to assign to such religiousness the character of ignorance."

"Ancient religion, that is to say, is a pattern of practices and beliefs inextricably interwoven with the fabric of ancient culture. Religion is not, however, just part of this fabric, ultimately passive and controlled by other more basic influences such as politics and economics, for economics. Rather, religion is also constitutive of culture; it helps to construct the cultural fabric itself."

"In short, religion and culture are inseparable, and the difference in the perception of divine identity amounts to nothing less than a different way of life."

To me, this last sentence says a lot. To be followers of Jesus is about a different way of life. We can't speak of "believing in Jesus" without following his way of life - a new culture and a new way of living that centres around Christ and the cross. I think the above from Rowe's book has several other implications to the church today.
  • Do we engage in mission as if culture and religion are inseparable? If we do, then we can't be effective. Indeed we can make a lot of mistakes.
  • What is the relationship between our faith and our own culture? Does our faith transform the culture in which we live? Or is our faith actually influenced by the culture of the world so much so that the world cannot see any difference between us and them? (For example, are we just as materialistic and the world in affluent West?)
More questions can be asked. But I will leave it there.

Michael Bird on the cross - death and resurrection of Christ

Michael Bird's recent post is well written. Here are some excerpts.

"David Bebbington noted that in the nineteenth interdenominational newspaper the The British Weekly the most frequently preached text was Gal 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer life, but Christ lives in me. The life I life in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me”."

"Christian discipleship is cruciformity, being conformed to the pattern of the cross, dying to self in service to God. That is is what it means to take up your cross and follow Jesus daily (Luke 9:23) and to be crucified to the world (Gal 6:14)."

"We have to remember, that cross and resurrection are an indissoluable unity. The cross without the resurrection is just martyrdom, at the most an act of solidarity with the persecuted nation, and at worst a wrongly calculate disaster. Conversely, the resurrection without the cross is a miraculous intrusion into history, a redemptive-historical enigma, and a paranormal freak show with indeterminable significance. But together the cross and resurrection constitute the fulcrum upon which God’s intention to repossess the world for himself is launched and enacted."

Click here for Mike Bird's post. (I would like to add that without death there is no resurrection. Both the death and resurrection are important. In fact, his life is also important to our Christian life and faith.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nijay Gupta's review on Love Wins

Nijay K Gupta has written a review on Rob Bell's Love Wins.

Here is part of his introduction:

"Before we get started, I wanted to quickly comment on how Christians, and evangelicals in particular, should approach a controversial book. Because so many things were said to condemn Bell and his book even before it was released, we can see a dangerous trend among conservatives of a shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later technique. This raises the question: are we (Christians, and I am talking to my fellow evangelicals in particular) a teachable people? Sure, we have convinctions [sic]. We can draw a line and say: this is what I believe and what is outside of that I don’t believe. However, I think we (evangelicals) often cross over into the dangerous realm of only accepting inside scholars and, when we do happen to engage in dialogue with outsiders (be they Catholics, agnostics, Orthodox, etc.), we only do so trying to gain more converts to our perspective. The danger in this framework is that we lose a sense of humility and shared recognition that while we have convictions, we still have much to learn, and especially from each other. 

That does not mean that you accept any and every teaching that comes your way, but you say to yourself: maybe I have something (even if something very small) to learn from a fellow human being who has worked hard (presumably) to comment in a fruitful way on an important subject..."

Gupta discusses the book under the headings of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

Click here for the post in his blog.

Click here for the full script.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Scot McKnight on the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-26 (and Luke 4:16-21)

I am reading Scot McKnight's One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow. In one chapter he looks at Luke 4:16-21 and 6:20-26 (which is often called the Sermon on the Plain).

McKnight makes the following comments on the latter passage.

"Imagine what it would have been like for a poor Galilean to hear these words, and then imagine what it would have been like to be a rich Galilean and hear these words. The first group's chests were swelling as the second group's blood pressure was rising." (page 65)

Every time I read these words of Jesus I wonder which side I'm on. Am I with the poor or with the rich? I think Jesus wants us to feel that tension. He came, as he announced in his first sermon, for the poor and for the hungry and for those who weep and for those who are persecuted; and he came against the rich and against the well fed and against those who laugh now and against those who are popular. This is why he blesses the poor and offers only 'woes' to the rich." (page 66; emphasis original)

Don't think that McKnight's words are too strong. Read Luke 6:20-26 and you will find that his comments are fair.