Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Deep, Final Words of Christ @christianaudio @RevAdamHamilton

In Final Words from the Cross, Adam Hamilton explores seven of the final phrases Christ spoke on the Cross. Hamilton's book, while concise, still conveys a understanding and respect for the emotional and intellectual depth of Jesus' last words.

Hamilton does not simply tell readers (or in my case, listeners) what to believe or how exactly we must understand and interpret the words. Rather, he provides a realistic, human-yet-divine picture of the impact and meaning behind the words. He clearly understands the scholarship on these biblical passages, but does not drone on in intellectual boredom.

One of the elements I particularly valued was the stories he developed for each phrase. Hamilton wrote first-person narratives from the perspectives of various individuals in the biblical story to flesh out the words of Christ and really bring them to life.

Books like this can be cheesy, superficial, and intellectual without heart, all missing the bigger picture. Yet Hamilton does a phenomenal job of balancing all of these elements, creating a devotional, emotional, and intellectual book that really deepened my faith and appreciation of Jesus' final words on the cross.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Role of the Resurrection

This post is part of the April synchroblog, the Resurrection Hoax. It is adapted from a prior post I wrote in 2010.
Many people emphasize the importance of the resurrection in their theology. They have said that if Christ did not rise from the tomb, their whole faith would be lost.

Honestly, I don't really understand this.

Is the resurrection central to Christianity? Of course. Is it a defining variable? I'm not so sure.

It's distinctive, but how different is Christianity from ancient, pre-Christ Judaism? In specific practices and culture, it's of course different. And people could argue a focus on the law. However, a focus on the law was really within certain Jewish traditions. And there's plenty of Christian traditions that focus on the law just as much.

In my studies, I have seen a rich and vital faith in ancient (and modern) Judaism that really connects with God, seeing God transforming lives. God is involved in the present, changing lives now.

However, that is often not as emphasized in a lot of modern Judaism. There is a big trend of seeing God less involved. That is a power of Christ--Christ came to bring life. Not just in the future, but now.

When we forget about the now, we only focus on life in the future (i.e. eternity). And if there is no resurrection, then of course we should be afraid of our life after death. However, when we see our faith and experience with God transcending more than just death, then we can value many more things than just the resurrection.

Would the absence of the resurrection make my faith different? Probably, and likely in ways I don't even realize. However, my faith is also not rooted in historial facts. It's rooted in faith. Belief that God exists and transcends not only death, but life itself. I have experienced that. And if someday I find out the resurrection did not historically occur, I think (and hope) I would still have a vibrant faith in God...

One of the interesting questions the synchroblog provided as a possible prompt was what religion (if any) would you be a part of if the resurrection did not occur. I believe I would still be a follower of Christ because his teachings are true. Further, considering options for epistemology, my experience and what I would interpret as my relationship with God (and each person of the Trinity) reinforces my faith.

Therefore, ultimately, a lack of the resurrection would have to change the way I understand Christ, but not necessarily the way I love him. I don't think the resurrection made the disciples love Jesus any more or any less. They probably cognitively understood him better (or simply acknowledged the awesome mystery). And I think one of the primary effects of the resurrection was God having the final word in dramatic fashion. But even if he didn't take the final word, that doesn't make him less powerful or less God.
Here are the other synchroblog participants:

  • Marta – On Faith Seeking Understanding, Truth, and Theology
  • Carol Kuniholm – Risen Indeed? The Hermeneutic Community
  • Tim Nichols – How Would Life be Different if Jesus did not Rise?
  • Glenn – Kingdom Come or Kingdom Now?
  • Sonja Andrews – The Resurrection and the Life
  • Josh Morgan – The Role of the Resurrection
  • Abbie Watters – What if the Resurrection were a lie?
  • Minnow – Resurrection Impact
  • Leah – Resurrection – Or Not!
  • Hey Sonnie – The Resurrection Hoax
  • Liz Dyer – The Resurrection I Firmly Believe In
  • Ellen Haroutunian – Is There a Christianity Without the Resurrection?
  • Jeannette Altes – What if…
  • Christine Sine – If the Resurrection did not happen, how would the world be different?
  • KW Leslie – Supposing Jesus is Dead
  • Travis Mamone – If the Resurrection was a Hoax
  • Kathy Escobar – Jenga Faith
  • Jeremy Myers – What if Jesus Did not Rise?
  • Monday, April 9, 2012

    Protecting an Institution

    In a conversation with someone recently, she stated there are different ways of dealing with problems--patiently, working within the system for change, or impatiently, going outside the system to attack it. Her point was that it was always best to work within the system.

    Some would argue this is biblical, as even Jesus said he did not come to overthrow the law, but to fulfill it. He explicitly did not want to usurp the authority of the Roman or Jewish governing bodies. But did he really work within those institutions to evoke change?

    This issue was a central debate in the Protestant Reformation. For many people who agreed with Luther's criticisms, they recoiled at the thought of separating from the Roman Catholic Church, saying it was better to change it from within. Virtually all of Luther's reforms were adopted by the Catholic Church, albeit a century later. Most Protestants today, though, are quite happy about the Protestant split, thinking it was necessary.

    Last week, I talked about the balance of peaceful dialogue versus active criticism. I think, once again, that there is balance here. Using the example of Luther, he did, in fact, try to work within the Catholic Church's systems to create the appropriate and needed change. When he no longer believed that was possible, he then led an assault on the institution, calling for a split.

    I personally agree with this approach. It is great if we can reform institutions from within. There is so much manpower, capital, organization, etc., that can continue to be used for good (and not have to be redone for developing something new). Yet there comes a point at which an institution has gone so far in the wrong direction that it is beyond hope of salvation and the reset button needs to be pushed.

    A while ago, I wrote a personal reflection on the events surrounding the Crystal Cathedral. I saw its implosion from the inside. And while several us tried some things to fight for it from within our section of the Cathedral, I got to the point where I predicted and hoped for its demise. The Penner-Coleman group had become so focused on maintaining the institution that they lost sight of the true purpose of the organization.

    When an institution is more focused on self-preservation than its true purpose, then major problems have arrived.

    I cannot imagine loving an institution as much I had the Cathedral, yet I voted for our group to leave it and become its own congregation. I continue to follow the news and proceedings of the Cathedral with sadness, but with a sense of comfort that the dangers of institutional self-preservation are no longer wrecking havoc.

    While I continue to desire to hold internal reformation as the ideal, I am willing to see institutions close when they no longer live according to their values and purpose.

    What about you? When, if ever, would you vote for an institution to close?

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Saying It Like It Is

    "He says it like it is." This can be a compliment or a cursing criticism, depending on the person saying these words. People like Mark Driscoll get praise for their no-holds-barred approach to confrontation. They also get criticized for being rude and wrong in their content.

    When it comes to Driscoll, I tend to be the latter camp. Yet when some ethical issues have come up at work lately, I found myself being praised by others for "saying it like it is." And criticized by others for not being serene.

    I found myself questioning my actions and wondering what the right approach was. Was Jesus outspoken and angry? Or was he a pacifist? Ultimately, he was both. There are a couple of excerpts from John Eldredge's books that I think really summarize these issues quite nicely.

    However, I find it interesting how people really struggle with finding a balance of both. Where I am currently is that the ideal is to be calm, serene, and cooperative. This encourages cooperation, collaboration, and growth within an institution. It also can encourage people to feel safe to grow and face their own challenges.

    Yet when that no longer works and major problems continue to manifest, I believe being feistier is warranted. Sometimes we need to stand up for our rights, the rights of others, and right conduct. That means we need to fight at times. There are, of course, better and worse ways to fight, but at times, fight we must.

    The problems occur when we stay in one extreme all the time, regardless of circumstances. This creates a lack of a change (with complete serenity) or unsafe, instable environments (with constant condemnation).

    What do you think? Is there a balance? Is there a time to say it like it is? What does that even mean?


    Got a question, struggle, or doubt you'd like to see addressed here? Contact me, and I'll try to discuss it (and may even help you get an answer).