Ernst Breisach’s book, “Historiography” is best summarized by his comments in the introduction on page 2. He states,
“Every important new discovery abo Ernst Breisach’s book, “Historiography” is best summarized by his comments in the introduction on page 2. He states,
“Every important new discovery about the past changes how we think about the present and what we expect of the future; on the other hand every change in the conditions of the present and in the expectations for the future revises our perception of the past.”
What was very evident from the begin portions of his book was the implication of one’s presuppositions in approaching the idea of history; what I have come to understand in textual interpretation as eisegesis. In other words, my contemporary culture, my view of sociology, my understanding of anthropology, my political views, and my mood/disposition all have dramatic affects and effects upon my interpretation and assessment of history. Furthermore, all of the above issues impact my view of current and future events. They are instrumental in forming my epistemology and worldview in which I then impose over top of history for interpretation.
Not only is this true for me as a reader of history, the original historian was also impacted by their own view of sociology, anthropology, politics, culture, etc… These forces impacted their drafting of history. The way in which they arranged the material, what they decided to highlight, what they chose to leave out and the amount that they recorded on certain subjects versus other subjects are all a direct result of their own presuppositions, mood, sociological views, anthropology understandings and cultural environment of their specific time period.
Taking this yet to another dimension, Breisach showed me how one’s interpretive lens is impacted not only by the present, but also how the past and future impact one’s historiography. For example, the events of the past have been and will continue to impact our view of the present. Our historical narratives (i.e. narratives of country, narratives of family, narratives of faith, etc…) shape us, guide us and many times compel us. Our historical narratives can inspire us in the present and they many times form our hopes about the future. Therefore, the influences of our history shape and form our present lives which inadvertently shapes the way we then look back and assess our historical narratives; almost a circular motion. Carrying this dialogue a bit further, Breisach also revealed to me how our hopes, desires and aspirations for the future also form our view of the past and shape the present. Thus the past, present and future are all consequently linked together. The past impacts, shapes and guides our present and future. The present and aspirations of the future reversely form our lens in which we view the past. This link between past, present and future, “destroys history’s image as an activity resembling idle rummaging in a bag of dry leaves and makes it into an activity necessary for human life. ” In other words, history cannot be left to an isolated period in the past, bound to rigid dates. Rather, Breisach’s view of history sees the idea of history as being actively involved in forming and shaping a person’s epistemology or for that matter their worldview. His view of history is a view of history with flesh on it.
The challenge for any student of history today is the daunting task of assessing history in light of their own presuppositions and the current influences of culture. Once this has been assessed, the other dimension is that of assessing the presuppositions of the original author and the cultural context of the time in which the material was written. One must keep in mind that the historical author was also impacted by the past, present and future hopes just as the reader of the present is.
Crudely put, Ernst Breisach’s book pushed me to lose my historical virginity. His assessment of history definitely was enlightening and did not drive things to simplicity but rather revealed the complexity of history. This inevitably brings history to a new understanding of making it an art, a skill, and something that demands our patience, respect and consideration. ...more
Oswald Bayer’s book handles the idea of living by faith. In fact his whole book centers around this phrase, a phrase used by the Apostle Paul in RomanOswald Bayer’s book handles the idea of living by faith. In fact his whole book centers around this phrase, a phrase used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:17.
In the early part of his writings Bayer looks to the implications of the need for justification. As humans we are constantly in need of being justified. In fact we are so easily swayed by the opinion of others that mankind will go to great lengths to acquire approval in order to be recognized (i.e. justified). Bayer states that we constantly need “confirmation and renewal. If it is lacking, we try to regain it or even to coerce it.” From here Bayer then gives a brief summary of the Battle for Mutual Recognition, showing that history is full of people coercing recognition through enforcing and denying mutual recognition so as to ensure fulfillment of their own justification.
After a brief diagnosis of the problem of mankind’s seeking , desiring and even forcing confirmation and renewal, Bayer then lays out the idea that this recognition and perfect righteousness are not things that need to be acquired and coerced but rather something that is delivered to us, something that we passively receive by faith. Bayer states that, “We as humans want to make things by ourselves, including faith, or at least we want to assure ourselves of faith.” However, as Bayer points out this righteousness and even the gift of faith are things that we simply receive and are given. This idea of receiving righteousness passively puts a whole new spin on things. The impact of having righteousness outside of ourselves frees mankind from no longer having to be entangled with self. The passive righteousness of faith tells us, “you do not concern yourself at all! In that God does what is decisive in us, we may live outside ourselves and solely in him. Thus, we are hidden from ourselves and removed from the judgment of others or the judgment of ourselves about ourselves as a final judgment.” He goes on to say, “The desire to seek self-assurance and to find one’s identity can lead only into the darkness of uncertainty. Faith, however, involves liberation from the drive for self-assurance and therefore from uncertainty. It means liberation from the search for identity.”
Not only is identity sufficed though this passive righteousness, this alien righteousness, but sanctification is also impacted. In other words, are the momentum and motivation for living out of the Christian life derived from something external too? Bayer states,
“May we and can we look away from ourselves and solely at Christ? Or do we look back at ourselves as made anew, seeking to monitor ourselves in the growth of faith and love, in the new obedience, in the progress we make, even in the sanctification that is said to follow after justification? When we are blessed by God and born anew, do we seek to feel the pulse of our own faith? Doing this is a dangerous displacement that leads us away from the Reformation understanding of faith. The moment we turn aside and look back at ourselves and our own doings instead of at God and God's promise, at that moment we are again left alone with ourselves and with our own judgment about ourselves. We will then be inevitably entangled in ourselves. We will fall back into all the uncertainty of the defiant and despairing heart that looks only to self and not to the promise of God. That is why it is so important to take note of the means or medium by which justifying faith comes. According to Romans 10:17, faith comes by hearing. It comes by hearing the Word that addresses us. It comes in the promise and pronouncement by which Jesus Christ opens up himself and the kingdom of God to me, bringing me, within the Christian community, back home, to paradise, and making me a new person."
It is in the context of the Word that we live by faith. Bayer states, “The Word of God always comes first. After it follows faith; after faith, love; then love does every good work, for… it is the fulfilling of the law.”
Bayer’s book is a little gem that captures what it means to live by faith. Our identity, righteousness and sanctification funnel into faith, or rather I should say flow out of faith… faith that springs forth from the Word. ...more
“The church is a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another. In baptism our citizenship is transferred from one dominion to another, an“The church is a colony, an island of one culture in the middle of another. In baptism our citizenship is transferred from one dominion to another, and we become, in whatever culture we find ourselves, resident aliens.” This is an accurate summary of Stanley Hauerwas and William Willimon’s book titled, “Resident Aliens.”
In Resident Aliens, Hauerwas and Willimon draw out the idea that as Christians each and every one of us operate from a distinctively different set of values and a totally different ideology that stems from the community of faith and ultimately from the ministry of the Word. From this place of alienation we then ask different questions, approach politics in a different fashion and hold to ethics and truth from a distinctively alien presuppositional framework.
This is most significant due to the fact that the ideology of the world is constantly pressing in upon the church’s theological framework. This example is fleshed out in the church’s failure and the ideologies of modernism triumphing in Germany through the Nazi Regime. In Nazi Germany it is stated that “we experienced the ‘modern world,’ which we had so labored to understand and to become credible to…” According to Haerwas and Willimon, the famous German Theologian Karl Barth, “was horrified that his church lacked the theological resources to stand against Hitler.” This is inevitably the result of the church leaning heavily upon residency and not its alienation.
On another note of significance, Harerwas and Willimon also spend time helping the reader understand that with the advent of postmodernism (i.e. post-constantinian), that the church will continue to find itself in a more alien status. Surprisingly Willimon and Haerwas seem to applaud the demise of the Constantinian worldview. They state,
“The demise of the Constantinian worldview, the gradual decline of the notion that the church needs some sort of surrounding “Christian” culture to prop it up and mold its young, is not a death to lament. It is an opportunity to celebrate. The decline of the old Constantinian synthesis between the church and the world means that we American Christians are at last free to be faithful in a way that makes being a Christian today an exciting adventure... Now our churches are free to embrace our roots, to resemble more closely the synagogue—a faith community that does not ask the world to do what it can only do for itself.”
Why this all matters is that the epistemology of the church matters. The epistemology of the church is crucial for the average Christian. Furthermore, the world needs the epistemology of the church. In other words, the church does not need the world, but the world needs the church “because without the church the world does not know who it is. The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people. The way for the world to know that it needs redeeming, that it is broken and fallen, is for the church to enable the world to strike hard against something which is an alternative to what the world offers.”
One final note of caution, the emphasis of Harerwas and Willimon on the believing community may cause one to view doctrine as the personified social practices of the believing community rather than the expressions and teaching of the Word. The community does not shape the Word rather it is the Word that shapes the community. ...more
The book “Whatever Happened To Truth” is a collection of articles compiled and edited by Andreas Kostenberger on the idea of Truth. It answers the queThe book “Whatever Happened To Truth” is a collection of articles compiled and edited by Andreas Kostenberger on the idea of Truth. It answers the questions of: what is truth, what is happening to truth and how should the church respond to the cultural influences upon truth.
The argument from Kostenberger is that truth is a person, a crucified person, rather than some abstract ideology found in human philosophy or spiritual dreaming. In other words, truth is theocentric and Christocentric. One could even go so far as to say that truth is crucicentric. The idea of truth is found in the Words and Actions of God as they are expressed in the Bible and fleshed out in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
With this said, Albert Mohler discusses the impact of culture upon truth. From the deconstruction of truth to the death of the meta-narrative he shows how truth is under attack and impacted by culture. He calls forth to the church that the bride of Christ is subtly conforming to the spirit of the age when it should be truthing in love against the culture.
Following Mohler’s assessment of culture, J.P. Moreland gives a stinging critique of Post-modern thought, the daughter and offspring of modernism. He critiques Post-modern thought as a “cowardly viewpoint of intellectual pacifism.”
Finally, Vanhoozer fleshes out the theodrama of God. The idea of a theodrama is his way of presenting and describing the Bible’s meta-narrative.
This book is of great significance in our post-modern day and age. It is vital because truth is linked to the person of Christ and him crucified. Therefore what is at stake is not an abstract concept of truth but the very person, ministry and atonement of Christ. As Christians we confess that Christ is: the head of the church, the meta-narrative of scripture and the essence of truth. When the absoluteness of truth is questioned, it brings uncertainty and a deconstruction of Christ himself. No truth, No Christ, no salvation.
While we can celebrate some of the deconstruction of the Constantinian age to a post-Constantinian age, we cannot embrace the affects and the presuppositional ideologies of post-modernism. Furthermore, we do not reject post-modernism in favor of modernism, for modernism is rooted in the Enlightenment and has the same ideological DNA as post-modernism. Rather, the church appeals to a scriptural foundationalism for the source of its epistemology. As in Albert Mohler says, “A scriptural foundationalism is not grounded in the finite human subject as both modernism and postmodernism attempts to do, but instead is rooted and grounded in the Bible’s own presentation of the triune God.”
The Word is our original source of truth and the bedrock foundation for the church. May we resonate with Kostenberger when we respond to the question, “Whatever happened to truth?” by saying, “’The truth is just fine, thank you.’ Jesus, the Word, continues to speak to those with ears to hear in his word, the Scriptures. He has returned to his glory with the Father and awaits his return from there at the Father’s appointed time.”...more
The book, “The Captivation of the Will,” was written by Gerhard O. Forde to give a bird’s eye view of the reformation discussion between Luther and ErThe book, “The Captivation of the Will,” was written by Gerhard O. Forde to give a bird’s eye view of the reformation discussion between Luther and Erasmus on the subject of the will. While Forde does not go into an intense and long length discussion, he rather tries to paint a picture of the theological and psychological environment using broad strokes.
At the heart of the debate between Erasmus and Luther was obviously the understanding of the will. Is the will free or bound? That was the main question. However, from Forde’s book he tries to capture the theological presuppositions behind each statement, as does Luther in his book, “The Bondage of the Will.” Specifically Forde states on page 21,
“If you begin with the assumption of freedom, the preoccupation is always how to keep freedom in check, how to bind; But if you begin with the assumption of bondage, the preoccupation is always how to set out the word that frees.”
These beginning presuppositional points really dictate two completely different theological frameworks. Not only are there two different frameworks, these frameworks then affect the ministry of the Word, especially in how one proclaims it. Is the Word proclaimed to bind supposed freedom or is the Word proclaimed to set bound wills free?
At the heart of Erasmus’ presupposition and desire to fight for the freedom of the will was what Luther many times identified as the spirit of Pelagius. Erasmus’ really couldn’t handle the idea of a bound will and the idea of having someone over top of him controlling his destiny.
Erasmus also held to the neutral state of mankind. According to Forde on page 71,
“For Erasmus the will always seems to be that neutral gear in an automobile which can be shifted this way and that’at will.’ But this, Luther insists, is mere abstraction, a logical fiction.”
Erasmus’ idea of a neutral state of mankind is due to his overinflated view of mankind and a diminishing or downplay of original sin. Erasmus’ understanding of man in a neutral state led to an over emphasis on moralism and opened the door for Semi-Pelagianism. As stated above, Luther saw this as a logical fiction and thus another example of Erasmus’ faulty theological framework.
The reason for the importance in this discussion over the will is that the very gospel and its delivery are at stake. Luther contended that the Gospel is made cheap when the tiniest bit of merit is interjected, for when the tiniest bit of merit is introduced it turns everything back on the receiver and the Gospel is no longer good news. Furthermore, if one begins from the presupposition of freedom the conversation inevitably turns to moralism and the goal of binding freedom rather than setting the bound will free through the Gospel. ...more
The rise of Nihilism in Western Civilization explains the visible rise and problems of individual autonomy, the loss of the sacred and the evils of frThe rise of Nihilism in Western Civilization explains the visible rise and problems of individual autonomy, the loss of the sacred and the evils of free will. This is the main thrust of Hubert Dreyfus and Sean Dorrance Kelly in their book, “All Things Shining.” Dreyfus and Kelly survey a multi-generational shift from the realm of the sacred to the realm of mankind being the sole active agent in the universe. In other words, “All Things Shining” covers the decline of the sacred and the rise of Nihilism from the ancient Greeks all the way to contemporary philosophers and authors such as David Foster Wallace and Elizabeth Gilbert.
According to Dreyfus and Kelly, Western Civilization’s current golden calf is the idea of free will and personal autonomy; however, it hasn’t always been this way. During the time of the middle ages people made sense of the world through their understanding of God. Everything had its proper place within God’s divine plan. It was no different for the ancient Greeks either. Their plethora of gods also provided a context in which society operated. This ideology of an outside force/god within culture brought mankind to a position of passivity. Rather than seeing mankind as the center of the universe, it was perceived that mankind was simply a piece of a much larger puzzle. Mankind would often be acted upon. This ideology of mankind’s relationship with a source of meaning outside of himself/herself is precisely what kept Nihilism at a distance. But, according to Dreyfus and Kelly, there has been a constant pressure or one could say progression of civilization away from the sacred into Nihilism. The advent of Nihilism is most evidently seen in assessing the life of David Foster.
Looking at David Foster, one can see the depressive mood of the American spirit; a spirit that has been plagued with Nihilism and the burdens of autonomy, free will and lost-ness. The breakdown of the divine order that once was present in the middle ages now opens up uncertainty. In this age of Nihilsm, on what basis is one to make decisions and where is one to be stabilized? If mankind is all that exists and there is nothing outside of himself/herself how is one to make decisions? If mankind is the lone source of meaning then free will is only as good as the strength, force and wisdom of the individual’s free will. How does mankind cope and survive with the pressure of being the only active cause in the cosmos? This now presents a realm of pressure upon mankind, a pressure that was too great for David Wallace and may have been one of the contributions/reasons for his suicide.
Dreyfus and Kelly’s main point is not only to paint a picture of culture’s decline into Nihilism, but towards the end of the book they offer their own solutions to combat Nihilism and its fruits of free will, autonomy, depression and lost-ness.
In interacting with this book I kept recalling Genesis 3. I said to myself, “Isn’t the fall the quintessence of Nihilism?” At the fall mankind aspired for autonomy and free will. At the fall mankind aspired to become like God. This is no different than Nietzsche saying that we must become gods ourselves and that we must become the source of all “divine, creative, unknowable eternal mystery.” The very deception that betook Eve in the Garden is the very deception that modern mankind has bitten into; the deception that mankind is able and capable of surviving as spiritually, emotionally, and physically autonomous free will beings.
While Kelly and Dreyfus do not come at this subject from a Christian Worldview, I do believe that they have rightly assessed the evils of Nihilism. They state, “As autonomous subjects we have closed ourselves off to the calling of the gods, and it is in this sense that we have banished them.” While I also grieve the closed disposition of the Western Man, I struggle with their conclusion and solution to Nihilism. Kelly and Dreyfus hope that in the future that Western Man might open to a contemporary polytheistic world. For obvious Biblical reasons I reject their notion of contemporary polytheism as a solution. Rather, my hope and prayer is that the pains of Nihilism would create an atmosphere where contemporary mankind would be open to Christ and Him Crucified, for it is the cross that shines. ...more
The state of the American pulpit is in crisis. Furthermore, the foundational narrative of the American church, in which the pulpit arises out of, is aThe state of the American pulpit is in crisis. Furthermore, the foundational narrative of the American church, in which the pulpit arises out of, is also in crisis. As in the words of John Wright, the Biblical narrative of the church has been “Eclipsed” by an Americanized Christian narrative.
Wright discusses the eclipse of the Biblical narrative by taking the reader all the way back to the Puritan pulpit where the message of salvation, that once was framed within the context of creation, shifted to the framework of the individual. This seismic shift resulted in God shifting from the central actor in the Biblical narrative to the individual becoming the story’s central actor. God become a supporting actor for our individualized narrative of salvation. According to Wright, “Instead of God’s story of the redemption of all creation, the Bible was narrowed to the story of personal salvation.” Thus the cult of individualism arose in the Christian narrative of the church.
Furthermore, Wright discusses the eclipse of the Biblical narrative in the advent of a Federal Covenant narrative where Christianity was democratized. This eclipse also narrowed the Biblical story by making the United States God’s elect nation. The Biblical narrative was then used to motivate the nation morally and materially. This connection of Christianity with patriotism ended up displacing and emptying the church from its place in the Biblical narrative as the elect people of God. Wright rightly summarizes this by saying that it was and is a de-ecclesializing of the church.
Obviously, Wright’s argument and persuasive plea is for the pastor, pulpit and church to return to a Biblical narrative. Unfortunately many pastors are entrenched in comedic preaching rather than preaching that is characterized by tragedy. The down fall of comedic preaching is that it will never confront or challenge the eclipsed and misguided narrative of the American Church. Wright states that Comedic Preaching, “Never challenges the deepest convictions, the most profound narratives, of the hearer. Comedic preaching never confronts the possibility of a different narrative…” Essentially comedic preaching allows the Biblical text to be transformed, not the hearer. Before a pastor can confront the eclipsed narrative in the church the pastor needs to shift to tragedy preaching. Keep in mind though… as pastors engage the church with tragedy preaching, this methodology of preaching does not come without cost. An uprooting of an ingrained individualistic and democratized narrative in the church will definitely result in what Wright calls an, “Epsitemological Crisis.”
Epistemology is simply the study of what we know and how we know it. A church that has been deriving and basing its beliefs from a worldly narrative (i.e. worldly epistemology), such as the Individualistic and Federal Covenant narrative, will experience a belief (i.e. epistemology) crisis as Biblical tragedy preaching confronts and exposes ill-informed and false presuppositions. This epistemology crisis is painful and occurs when a person in the pew recognizes that their narrative account is no longer adequate to process the Biblical narrative that describing the way things are. Wright states, “The pain of an epistemological crisis, while ultimately helpful, initially sends shock waves through individuals and congregations. Will the congregation wait it out, making it through destruction of their horizon to see anew another day? Or will they receive the biblical text as a violation of their horizon, seal themselves off, never to return to the sanctuary again?”
In summary, Wright concludes the book with several suggestions and examples of how the pulpit, as the central instrument of formation for the church, can gently bring about a shift back to a Biblical narrative. Wright’s book is of the utmost importance in our time as many pastors and churches attempt to bring back a needed shift in the pulpit and life of the church. ...more
Forde’s book is helpful in distinguishing the difference between primary discourse and secondary discourse. Simply put, secondary discourse is dialoguForde’s book is helpful in distinguishing the difference between primary discourse and secondary discourse. Simply put, secondary discourse is dialogue or words about God and primary discourse is the direct declaration of the Word of God; words from God.
According to Forde, “All too often what happens is that the systematic theology short-circuits the process and usurps the place of proclamation. The secondary discourse about love displaces the ‘I love you.’” Rather than systematic theology displacing proclamation, theology serves and makes the move towards proclamation inescapable.
Forde also spends time discussing the upward fall. Mankind’s fall into sin was not downward but upward. It is upward due to mankind’s aspiration and rebellion of wanting to be God. This was the temptation by the serpent in the garden. The understanding of an upward fall as well as the binding implications of original sin creates an environment where proclamation is necessary. One cannot simply appeal to the old nature, which is entrenched in climbing the spiritual ladder, by simple secondary discourse. One cannot reason with the old nature through secondary discourse expecting the sinful nature to say, “Yes, I now agree with your secondary discourse reasoning.” Rather the upward fall and the understanding of the bound will shape us towards the idea of proclamation… primary discourse.
In primary discourse proclamation the preacher proclaims the text in a way that the text does to the hearer what it did to the original hearer. In other words, Forde states, “That is to say, proclamation cannot end merely in an allegorical explaining of the text, however clever, so as to provide the hearer with options. Just as in Christology we were impelled to move from the language of being to the language of doing, so also the proclamation must move from explaining to doing the text. The proclaimer should attempt to do once again in the living present what the text once did and so authorizes doing again.” In other words when proclaiming the text in a primary discourse manner, the message of the text is to do what it did to the original hearers rather than merely explaining the text.
Finally, Forde does an excellent job of framing primary discourse within or alongside the sacraments. The sacraments of baptism and communion are means of grace in which God delivers grace to sinful mankind. The sacraments are external and objective. When proclamation is divorced or distanced from the sacraments the Word will lose out as it is consumed by the spirit of Pelagius and brought inward towards the depths of the depraved self. Forde states, “Without sacramental character, the Word degenerates into information about which the continuously existing old being is supposed to do something.” This is the importance of unity between the Proclaimed Word and the Sacraments. Both are external and both pour Christ into the recipients. The proclaimed Word not only informs but it also gives! The proclaimed Word must be in unity to the sacraments, for the proclaimed Word to lose this unity would be to reduce it to secondary discourse and then place demands upon the old Adam; demands that the old Adam can’t and won’t follow through with. ...more
The Apostle Paul wrote 9 letters to 7 different churches as recorded in the New Testament. Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi and TheThe Apostle Paul wrote 9 letters to 7 different churches as recorded in the New Testament. Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Colossae, Philippi and Thessalonica all received a personal letter from the Apostle. Furthermore, in the beginning portion of each letter, Paul’s affection pours upon them as he expresses his thankfulness to them… all except one. Obviously the unlucky church had to have been the church in Corinth! Right? Seriously, they had lawsuits, sexual promiscuity, divisions and idolatry; no thankful comments for them! Well, if we look in the early portion of 1 Corinthians we will find that Paul did express thankfulness to them. So, which church did not receive Paul's affection of thankfulness? It was Galatia. Yes, Galatia didn’t receive Paul’s expression of thankfulness but received a harsh rebuke.
So, why was Paul sterner with Galatia than Corinth? Corinth was a mess, whereas, Galatia was trying to walk the straight and narrow! What gives? Essentially it comes down to the person of Jesus. Galatia was attempting to add to the finished work of Jesus. They had a form of Christianity that held to “Jesus Plus” and according to Ken Blue and Alden Swan in their new book; this is the utter destruction of the Gospel. Blue and Swan state with a passionate gusto that Jesus “plus” anything is not merely a distraction to the Gospel or an improvement to the Gospel but the annihilation of the Gospel! In other words, Galatia had messed with the very foundation, the basic building blocks, of Christianity. Now, we can begin to see the reason for Paul’s rebuke, his absence of thankfulness and the importance of Blue & Swan's new book for our contemporary culture today.
In their new book, “The Gospel Uncensored,” Blue and Swan take the reader through Paul’s letter to Galatia and the simple truth that Jesus is actually enough. “The Gospel Uncensored,” is a fervent book on the grace of God and how this gracious work of Christ leads to freedom. It is a heartfelt plea to the reader to get over “Jesus plus religion” and come back to “Jesus plus nothing.” For it is in Jesus and Him alone that we have freedom. ...more
Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s book attempts to persuade the reader to contemplate church as “simple.” With the plethora of mission, vision, and strateThom Rainer and Eric Geiger’s book attempts to persuade the reader to contemplate church as “simple.” With the plethora of mission, vision, and strategic statements, the church leadership as well as the average parishioner can easily get lost in various messages in the church. Appealing to Apple Computer’s simplistic approach, Rainer and Geiger share that “simple” is not only “in,” they also show that this approach is effective. With research from various churches Rainer and Geiger propose that growing churches are churches that are simplistic rather than complex. Instead of doing all sorts of things ordinary, they show the reader that it is better to do fewer things well. In other words, less is better.
Rainer and Geiger propose that the church develop a simple statement that attempts to combine the mission, vision and strategic statement into on simplistic statement. This statement shall also include a key component of “process.” The key component of process is to help clearly show the church and leadership exactly where they are moving an individual in the realm of discipleship. The power of having one simple statement and keeping the church simple is that everyone will be on the same page. A simple statement should be able to be communicated to everyone in the church from the youth to the senior citizen. When everyone is speaking the same language and understands the simplistic identity and process of the church, everyone’s resources can be funneled into this statement. Therefore, instead of programs and people competing against each other, everyone has their own part in the simple identity/process statement.
Even though I tend to very much agree with Rainer and Geiger in their appeal for simplicity, I do so not for the sake of having a simple process but for the sake of keeping the Gospel in the position of having first importance (See 1 Corinthians 15:3). Their zeal for simplicity can be commended; however, I believe there are times where they have missed the essence of simplicity. For example read the following statement,
"The design of the church is centered on something. The programs and ministries revolve around something. They are just not plugged into the church calendar and brochure. Everything is designed around something. And that something is not a nebulous abstract concept. The design for discipleship in a simple church revolves around the process. A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process. The process is straightforward. It is not confusing; it is easy to grasp. The leaders know it and the people understand it. The process is intentionally kept simple. It is not lengthened. It does not change every few months. The church sticks to the simple process…"
While this statement is very simple, I believe that a truly simple church is even simpler than a simple process. Observe my editing of the Rainer and Geiger’s paragraph below.
"The design of the church is centered on something. The programs and ministries revolve around something. They are just not plugged into the church calendar and brochure. Everything is designed around something. And that something is not a nebulous abstract concept. The design for discipleship in a simple church revolves around the 'Jesus.' A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic 'Gospel Message.' The 'Gospel' is straightforward. It is not confusing; it is easy to grasp. The leaders know it and the people understand it. The 'Gospel' is intentionally kept simple. It is not lengthened. It does not change every few months. The church sticks to the simple 'Gospel Message…'"
Rainer and Geiger define a simple church as, “a congregation designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” While I appreciate this I would like to also edit this by saying that a simple church is, “a congregation designed around the straightforward 'Gospel Message' and a process that moves people into the 'Gospel Message' for spiritual growth.”
While a simple unified process is healthy, I am convinced that if the simplistic church doesn’t have the Gospel as the central focus of this simplicity, that the church will inevitably end up dabbling in a Theology of Glory or Law-Based Sanctification which will in the end lead to complexity.
With my criticism stated, I reflected on my local church and came up with the following thoughts implementing my concerns as well as taking into consideration Rainer and Geiger’s appeal to move the congregation somewhere:
Question: What are we about at Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church?
Answer: The Gospel Message About Jesus Christ
Question: What is it that we want for people?
Answer: We want people to receive the Gospel.
Question: How do people receive the Gospel?
Answer: People receive the Gospel when they gather around the Word and Sacraments.
Question: What is it that we hope for when people gather and receive the Gospel?
Answer: We want people to grow into the Gospel and go because of the Gospel
Question: Why does Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church exist?
Answer: We exist so that people may gather together to receive the Gospel and grow into the Gospel which results in us going into all Nations with the message of the Gospel.
Holwerda’s book on “Jesus and Israel” is a book on the relationship between Jesus, and the nation of Israel. The book is divided up into sevenSummary:
Holwerda’s book on “Jesus and Israel” is a book on the relationship between Jesus, and the nation of Israel. The book is divided up into seven chapters handling the following subject content. Jesus and Israel in the Twentieth Century
In the first chapter Holwerda spends time giving a bird’s eye view of the theology of the Jesus and Israel in the 20th century. In order to do so he has to take the reader back to the reformation and then progress from this point forward. A good portion of this chapter is spent examining the implications and ramifications of the Jewish Holocaust. The event of the Holocaust has had powerful implications on the understanding of Israel in relationship to the Word and Christianity; especially in the realm of OT and End Times Interpretations.
Jesus and Israel: A Question of Identity The thesis or line of direction for the 2nd chapter is on questioning the identity of Israel. Who is Israel? Holwerda, answers the previous question through: A Genealogical Answer, A Geographical Answer, An Answer from Heaven, A Wilderness Answer and Promises fulfilled.
Jesus and the Temple: A Question of Essence In chapter 3 he wrestles with the issue of the temple and the Christ. Simply put, he shows how the temple, as the symbolic presence of God, is actually fulfilled in Christ; the Word that became flesh.
Jesus and the Land: A Question of Time and Place In one of the more complicated issues, Holwerda handles the issue of the Land in connection of Christ. Holwerda takes the Old Testament view of the land and funnels it into Christ but then takes it a step further towards an eschatological fulfillment.
Jesus and the Law: A Question of Fulfillment By far the most encouraging chapter of the book, Chapter 5 looks into the fulfillment of the Law in Christ. He shows and expounds on the Law from a Christological approach, drawing from the Beatitudes and then shows how Christ has fulfilled the demands of the Law.
A Future for Jewish Israel: Is there still a future for Jewish Israel? In this chapter we see that the Gospels and Acts are mainly silent on this question. However, we are taken to the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans as he expounds on the nation of Israel.
Universal and Particular Fulfillment: In the most simplistic terms he concludes this chapter and this book by saying, “… any so-called particular fulfillments of Old Testament promises that bypasses Jesus Christ cannot be the genuine fulfillment that the Old Testament anticipates.” In other words, Christ serves as our exegetical presupposition in handling the prophecies of the Old Testament.
In the opening preface of this book it states, “Behind the various eschatological viewpoints labeled as millennial lie certain fundament theological assumpts that shape the entire perspective. How one answers certain basic questions inevitably determines the shape of everything else. Once one is committed to a certain set of basic answers, the interpretation of most promise-fulfillment texts seems self-evident. Consequently, disagreement among eschatological viewpoints concerning the status and role of Israel is not so much a matter of this or that isolated text as it is a matter of disagreement concerning foundational perspectives” I believe this statement captures the thrust of this book and the importance of one understanding the relationship of Jesus and Israel in the context of eschatology. Thus one’s theological/eschatological presuppositions and lens really dictates how they interpret the biblical texts on Israel and also the current culture of Israel in light of the Holocaust, the 6-day war and apocalyptic speculations.
What I appreciated the most about this book is the focus of Christ. Not only does Holwerda capture the basics of Salvation History but he also interconnects Salvation History into the realm of current talk concerning the nation of Israel. As stated above, “… any so-called particular fulfillments of Old Testament promises that bypasses Jesus Christ cannot be the genuine fulfillment that the Old Testament anticipates.” Sola Christus!...more
In the book Doing What Comes Naturally Stanley Fish introduces a plethora of contemporary issues that have controversy in regards to the realm of inteIn the book Doing What Comes Naturally Stanley Fish introduces a plethora of contemporary issues that have controversy in regards to the realm of interpretation. In laymen’s terms the question that is posed is: does the grounds and basis for interpretation rest upon reasonableness or are the foundational tenets of interpretation simply subjective results of an individualistic point of reference? In other words, Fish states that the issue at hand is the ‘shift by which meaning is disengaged from language and relocated in the (interpreted) intentions of the speakers: there are no longer any constraints on interpretation that are not themselves interpretive. Since intentions themselves can be known only interpretively, the meanings that follow upon the specification of intention will always be vulnerable to the challenge of an alternative specification.” Yet again he captures the shift in saying, “Meanings that seem perspicuous and literal are rendered so by forceful interpretive acts and not by the properties of language.” He goes on to state that words are, “dislodged from one special setting, where their meaning was obvious, and placed in another where their meaning is also obvious but different. ” This all results in a world as, “aptly described by Bishop Hoadly’s observation that ‘whoever hath authority to interpret any written or spoken laws it is he who is the lawgiver to all intents and purposes and not the person who first wrote or spake them.”
In the open introduction Fish then introduces the thought of an outside norm. This outside norm can be thought of as a constraint that is placed upon the rules of law, principles and even interpretation that hold the ‘self’ in check. This outside norm really constitutes the difference between an interpretive caricature of a refined/orderly society versus a society that is driven by the disorderly anarchism of the subjective individualistic will.
The remainder of the book focuses on issues such as: interpretive hazards, the need of having words anchored in a source, the source of interpretive authority, the use of irony and the interpretive ramification of rhetoric. ...more