Tag Archives: eschatology

ISIS, Martyrdom, Fundamentalism, and Christian hope

tertullianquote

News broke yesterday that ISIS had beheaded 21 Egyptians for being “people of the Cross.” Images from the dramatic and disturbingly choreographed and colour coordinated public statement are circulating around the internet, but I have no desire to aid the spread of ISIS propaganda, so you won’t find them here.

What you will find is some further processing of these events, consider this the latest in a series of thinking out loud, which started with the “We Are N” post, and incorporates the post responding to the siege in Sydney’s Martin Place, and the post responding to the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris.In the first, I explore the relationship between Christianity and martyrdom —  something this post will unpack a bit more. In the second I suggest that one of the things we need to keep recognising in this ISIS situation is that people are motivated by religious beliefs, and that even if ISIS does not represent mainstream Islam (which, by all accounts from mainstream Islamic clerics, it does not), it does represent a form of religious belief. This is a case made in this article from The Atlantic: What ISIS Really Wants. In the third, I suggest that the Cross of Jesus is the thing that should shape Christian responses to brokenness in the world, our ‘religious motivation,’ and that this is the key to responding well to radical religious violence.

This latest horror brings all of these threads together.

I don’t know how you process events like this — it probably depends greatly on your vision of the world, of life, and death. I’m still figuring out what an appropriate response to this looks like. Part of me is just an emotional ball of anger at the world, perhaps even at God, a raging, fist shaking lament at the injustice in yesterday’s events. Part of me cries out for the sort of “justice” that the Egyptian government has promised to exact, but I’m not sure that actually solves anything (it may even make things worse). Part of me believes that this event is an incredibly clear picture of the vision of hope held out by two different religious outlooks  — involving two different sorts of “fundamentalist.”

If you’re not a Christian (or a Muslim) then you may look at this event, and other executions carried out by ISIS, as just another mark chalked up on the wall in a battle between two groups fighting over whose imaginary friend has more power, if you’re a mainstream Muslim you may be horrified that, once again, you’ll be called on to explain the actions of people who have taken up the name of your faith and used it to destroy others. If you, like me, are a Christian, you might be trying to figure out how to parse out the simultaneous shock and horror at this situation, the turmoil in your own inner-monologue as you grapple with the question “what if my faith were tested like this,” and, perhaps you might worry that you have what some (even you, as you mull it over) might consider a perverse sense that these Christians are heroes, whose faith encourages you in your own suffering, or lack of suffering.

Hopefully, the universal human response — beyond the response of those carrying out the killings — is one that involves the realisation that these events are a very loud, very clear, indicator that something is very wrong with this world. It may be that you think religion, and violence like this, is at the heart of what is wrong with the world, or it may be that this brokenness we see in the world causes us to seek after God, forcing us to work through the different pictures of God we find in different religious frameworks.

This particular story — the execution of 21 “people of the Cross” is actually a picture of two religious fundamentalists acting entirely consistently with the fundamentals of their beliefs (not necessarily as fundamentalists of everyone who chooses a similar label — but actions that are consistent with the motivations of the people involved).

In any of these cases you might wonder what motivates a person to act like this — as a religious fundamentalist —  either to carry out such atrocities on fellow humans, or to not renounce your faith in the face of such an horrific, violent, death? In both cases the answer is caught up with the religious notion of hope — a vision of the future, both one’s own, individual, future beyond death, and the future of the religious kingdom you belong to. This hope also determines how you understand martyrdom — giving up one’s own life (or taking the lives of others) in the name of your cause (or against the name of theirs).

It’s worth calling this out — making sure we’re sensitive to the distinction between this Islamic vision for the future, and the mainstream, because it’s in the actions of believers, on the ground, that we are able to compare the qualities of different religious visions of, and for, the world.

What we see in events like this is a clash of two religious visions for the world — a vision for hope secured by powerful conquest, the establishment of a kingdom, and martyrdom for that cause, and a vision for hope secured by God’s sacrifice for us, and his resurrection, which involves a kingdom established by the Cross, for ‘people of the Cross.’ This first vision is the motivation at the heart of the ISIS cause, and the latter is at the heart of a Christian view of martyrdom and hope. There’s also, potentially, a chance to examine a secular vision for the world —  which typically involves peace, or an end to conflict (perhaps especially religiously motivated conflict).

Every world view — whether religious, or secular, grapples with this brokenness, and aims to find a path towards an unbroken world. Clashes of world views — like this one, give us opportunities to examine what world view actually provides a meaningful path towards such a transformation. Such a path is fraught, I don’t think there are many solutions that don’t perpetuate the brokenness. I’ll suggest below that it’s only really Christian fundamentalism that will achieve this, the Atlantic article articulates the problem with potential non-religious/secular solutions, especially the military option.

“And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: irrespective of whether they have givenbaya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?”

Christians believe we are saved, and the world is transformed, by martyrdom — but not our own

These 21 Egyptian ‘people of the Cross’ are not saved by their martyrdom.

They do not have extra hope because of the way they die.

They may have died because of their hope — hope placed in Jesus, but as Christians, our hope is not in our own lives, or our own deaths, as contributors to the cause of God’s kingdom, but rather, in God’s own life, and death, in the person of Jesus.

Jesus’ death. Not our own. Is where Christians see the path to paradise.

This produces a fundamentally different sort of kingdom. It produces a fundamentally different sort of fundamentalist. A person living out the fundamentals of Christianity is a person who is prepared to lay their life down as a testimony to God’s kingdom, out of love for others — to lay down one’s own life for the sake of our ‘enemies’ and our neighbour. Because that is what Jesus did, for us.

Here’s what Paul says is at the heart of Jesus’ martyrdom. His death. From his letter to the Romans.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” 

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Later, in the same letter, Paul shows how this martyrdom becomes the paradigm for a Christian understanding of life, death, and following God. A very different outlook, and a very different fundamentalism, to what we see in ISIS.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship…”

And a little later in the same part of the letter, we get an outline of a Christian response to these truly evil, and horrific, killings  — and, indeed, to all the evil and brokenness we see in the world. When we live like this, we live out our hope, we become living martyrs, embodying the values of our kingdom and following our king.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

This is a picture of Christian fundamentalism. It’s an exploration of what it looks like to be people of the Cross.

Bizarrely — the horrific killings ISIS is carrying out, especially as they execute ‘people of the Cross’ actually serve Christians who are looking to express our own hope as we offer ourselves in this way.

We bear witness to his martyrdom in the way we lay down our lives for others — even as we live. Christian martyrdom involves bearing faithful witness to the one martyr who gains access to the Kingdom through self-sacrifice. When we get this picture we can be confident that God’s power rests in our weakness, rather than our displays of strength. This produces a fundamentally different political vision and approach to life in this world, and the comparison is never starker than it is when it is displayed in the face of a religious ideology like that of ISIS, which mirrors, in so many ways, the religious ideology of the Roman Imperial Cult, and its persecution of the earliest people of the Cross.

This is the hope one of the earlier Christians, Tertullian, articulated to the Roman Emperor, as he called on them to stop executing Christians, his argument, in part, because killing Christians was not serving the Roman Empire, but God’s empire. He wrote a thing to Rome called an Apology  — a defence of the Christian faith, and the place of Christianity within the Empire. It’s where the quote in the image at the top of the post comes from. This quote (this is the extended edition).

“No one indeed suffers willingly, since suffering necessarily implies fear and danger.  Yet the man who objected to the conflict, both fights with all his strength, and when victorious, he rejoices in the battle, because he reaps from it glory and spoil. It is our battle to be summoned to your tribunals that there, under fear of execution, we may battle for the truth. But the day is won when the object of the struggle is gained.  This victory of ours gives us the glory of pleasing God, and the spoil of life eternal. But we are overcome. Yes, when we have obtained our wishes. Therefore we conquer in dying; we go forth victorious at the very time we are subdued…

…Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you; it is rather a temptation to us.  The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.

This is what Christian fundamentalism looks like. We need more Christian fundamentalists. More Christian martyrs. More people expressing this hope in how they live and die.

This, amongst my prayers of lament for those killed as people of the cross, and in the face of the brokenness of the world, and the horror of the Islamic State’s vision of ‘hope,’ is what I’m praying. That God will bring justice for these killings, but that he will also bring hope through them, as people catch sight of the sort of lives lived by Christian fundamentalists. People of the cross.

I want to be that sort of person — a person of the cross — to be known that way, this is one of the realisations I have come to while processing these killings.

It is only when we whose hope, whose visions of the future, are shaped by Jesus live as Christian fundamentalists, in the Romans 12 sense, that we have any hope of really, truly, presenting the Christian hope for the world — God’s hope for the world — to others.

It’s the only real hope we have of fighting other visions for the future, or breaking the cycle of brokenness.

What other response won’t just perpetuate feelings of injustice? What other responses have any form of justice that doesn’t simply create another perpetrator of injustice? Visions of justice that don’t involve this sort of Christian fundamentalism — giving up one’s ‘rights’ for vengeance simply create a perpetual system of perpetrators. This is perhaps seen clearest as we see boots on the ground (Egypt) or off the ground (The US) in secular visions of the future — military responses to ISIS, and in the actions of ISIS itself. Violence begets violence. Ignoring violence also begets violence. Something has to break that cycle  — and the Cross, and the people of the cross, Christian fundamentalists, provide that circuit breaker. The message of the Cross also provides the path to paradise, the path to a restored relationship with the God who will restore the world, and the path to personal transformation both now, and in this transformed world. That’s a vision of the future I can get behind.

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What if this was your last month on earth?

The Mayan Calendar reckons we’ve got a month until something really big happens. Either the world ends with some sort of cataclysmic bang or whimper, or the beginning of a new world order.


Image Credit: Sevenstreets.com: The radio cast of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy performing at the Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I think, frankly, that’s a load of bollocks. I don’t think the world is going to end in a month. I’m not planning to run out of food, or money, and I’m still thinking about the good things I want to do next year, and in the future.

But I also think, frankly, that there are no guarantees that the world won’t end next month, next week, or tomorrow. It’s pretty clear, if you listen to the Greens, some scientists, or the weird guy at the train station, that our ability to live on this planet is finite, and things are going to come to an end sooner or later – some say sooner, some say later.

It’s also pretty clear, if you are a Christian, that we should be living like the end is near. Because it might be. And because that shapes our priorities in a really helpful way. Knowing that tomorrow could be it, means you spend today on what’s important.

So what if we had a month to go? How would you spend your last 30 days on earth? How would you spend the last 30 minutes?

For some people, getting ready means fleeing to a mountain in France. Sadly, the French government is getting in the way. But how do you get ready if you know the earth is a fleeting mist?

What Jesus says

In Matthew 24 Jesus talks a bit about the end of the world as we know it… and what that means for people who think he’s the promised Messiah, from the Old Testament, God’s chosen king (that’s what messiah means), and what it means for the world – if he is the king, he’s king of the world.

He says, just to make it clear that there’s a bit of urgency in deciding who he is:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

It could be tomorrow.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

He’s speaking mostly to his followers – he says you better make sure you’re not just off partying until your master suddenly returns. Because he’ll smash you, just like he’ll smash his enemies.

A little earlier in Matthew 24, Jesus makes it pretty clear what’s involved in waiting for the end, if you believe he’s who he said he is…

13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Interestingly, he also somewhat figuratively, talks about fleeing to the mountains as legitimate. So there you go. French government… take heed…

16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”

But it’s the other two bits – the standing firm to the end, and the gospel being preached to all nations, that are the important part of the response to knowing the world could end.

This preaching, in particular, becomes the mission of his followers a couple of pages in the Bible later, in Matthew 28, after Jesus has been killed, and, to prove he is who he says he is, been raised. That’s the evidence he offers for his claim – it’s the truth that Christianity is built on. And Jesus says now that you’ve seen who I am, that I am the king… this is a little passage called the “Great Commission”…

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

So, I hope the answer, if you’re a Christian, is that you’d do lots of this in those last 30 days – excited by the prospect that Jesus is king, and wanting people to know that so they avoid the pain of not being one of his people.

What Paul says (for those who don’t believe Jesus is king)

But what about if you don’t believe Jesus is king, or that aliens are going to blast off from a mountain in France? What do you do in those last days? Paul has one answer, when it comes to whether or not you think the resurrection happened – which is what Jesus’ claim to be king hangs on, he says if you don’t believe – and that’s up to you – then this is what you should do, in 1 Corinthians 15:

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

I love how Paul sums up what Christians are hoping for, at the end of the world here – the future for all people, dead and alive, who follow Jesus.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What I think is incredibly cool is that his advice for how to live in the light of this is exactly the same as Jesus’ advice – so much for the idea that “Paul invented Christianity”…

58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

What’s the work of the Lord – that’d be the stuff Jesus said in the “Great Commission” – the job he, the Lord, gave those who believe he was raised.

I like that we’re meant to live like the world’s going to end next month every month.

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72 million reasons to be depressed the rapture didn’t happen over the weekend

If there’s one thing Harold Campling’s stupidity did manage it was to generate more global buzz around the return of Jesus than any other preacher in the last 20 years. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with rapture chatter – and not just from Christians. People knew about Campling’s predictions. And if you were anything like me – you looked at your watch when the world was meant to end and thought about Campling. I felt sorry for the people he fleeced, and sorry for his future.

But his message reached tipping point. It went viral in a way most brands can only dream of. People are still tweeting #rapturefail messages as we speak.

The secret to this success was the incredible amount of money he poured into getting his message across. That’s what showed he was serious. That and the contributions he secured from other people who also bought into his message.

So now I’m thinking much the same thing I think when I see how much money people pour into building dinosaur theme parks. Wouldn’t it be great if Campling’s message (even if his eschatology is completely screwy) just focused on promoting the gospel of Jesus. Proclaiming the future return of Jesus, who came to restore our relationship with God. If you have $72 million to sink into an advertising campaign and you think the world is going to end on a particular date – just book your campaign to finish on that date and make it all about Jesus. Not about your weird interpretation of dates. Especially if your words, like Campling’s, run completely contrary to everything the Bible says on the issue.

It makes me sad that Campling’s stupidity is now being hijacked as an opportunity to mock anybody who has Christian faith.

If that’s the style of argument the atheists want to bring to this debate then we’re going to have to start judging their claims on the basis of the behaviour of their fringe. But that’s revisiting old ground.

It makes me sick to see so many people talking about the return of Jesus (not the rapture) in the trivial and derogatory way they are thanks to Mr Campling. Which is why I think the Bible takes false teachers pretty seriously.

Apocalypse Now? Or not yet

Six days later debate still rages (though slower now) on the Friendly Atheist thread (I even scored a second post about my comments that was actually quite flattering… check it out)… here’s a testimonial from the author of the original post – it probably gives a more balanced view than the quotes I mined here.

First of all, I want to thank Nathan for his continued patience and politeness in comments. Yes, we disagree with him – vehemently on some issues – but I’m impressed that the comments have stayed mostly productive and substantive.

Fellow commenter, Wayne, has raised an interesting interpretation of the mission of Jesus and the kingdom he proclaimed. His comments alone make that thread worth reading. He is singularly the most interesting commenter I’ve ever come across there. He is prepared, it seems, to not completely dismiss the Biblical accounts of Jesus’ teaching. He just interprets them in an interesting way.

He introduced his views like this:

You comment that you follow the teachings of Jesus. I assume that, like most Christians, you consider him the Son of God. I submit to you that, on the contrary, he was a human being who was an apocalypticist who was preaching that God was about to arrive in his kingdom and that the people must prepare themselves. In Mark 9:1, Jesus states “Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death before they have seen the Kingdom of God having come in power. And Mark 13:30 Truly I tell you, this generation (i.e., presumably, the one he was addressing) will not pass away before all these things take place. In Mark 14:62 Truly I tell you, You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven. In Mathew 16:27-28 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

I am a former Christian who had questions that religion could not answer, such as why Jesus would be preaching fervently for the people to prepare themselves for the coming Kingdom when it wasn’t supposed to happen for millenniums later. It simply made no sense. I’ve since realize the problem after much research from non religious sources, that it was actually supposed to happen back then, but it didn’t, which blew Christianity out of the water for me.

Then he brought up this theory on the promise to David…

Here is something to cogitate over. Yahweh made a covenant with the House of David that David’s descendants would hold the reigns of power over Israel for ever. Let me remind you that this is from a god who is all knowing. Well, the leader of a nation, I forget which, removed the ruling Davidian and replaced him with a nonDavidian. So much for an all knowing god.

Like most Christians I think Jesus was talking about his kingdom coming at the crucifixion (and resurrection). I’m a 2 Corinthians 1:20 man myself…

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

One thing I hate in these arguments – and it’s similar to Ben’s disdain for experts – is when people quote “scholars” as though an issue is decided. Like this quote from Wayne (who really did have an interesting hermeneutic, and one I hadn’t really encountered before. I knew it existed, I’d just never met anybody who bought it):

“How can we look at the Old Testament and take it seriously? Scholars have determined that Abraham was simply a legend and didn’t exist. Also, the book of Joshua tells a powerful tale of conquest, supported by a God who showed no respect for most of the Holy Land’s existing inhabitants, however scholars have determined it is not history and it never was.”

Oh yeah, and anything in the Bible that contradicts his interpretations of other bits of the Bible is invalid…

Unfortunately, scholars are convinced that Paul did not write the books of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus (called the “Pastoral” epistles, because they deal with how these pastors should oversee their churches.) So this passage you quoted has no validity.

When I objected to his “scholars”, I got this response:

When it comes to religion, I will pick the majority of scholars over the majority of Christians anytime, especially when their interpretation makes more sense.

I decided that Wayne had been pretty heavily influenced by the previously featured Bart Erhman… I found, and posted, this quote from a scholar about Ehrman’s “scholarship”…

A criticism of Erhman from an NT lecturer:

It is mystifying however why he would attempt to write a book like Jesus, Interrupted which frankly reflect no in-depth interaction at all with exegetes, theologians, and even most historians of the NT period of whatever faith or no faith at all. A quick perusal of the footnotes to this book, reveal mostly cross-references to Ehrman’s earlier popular works, with a few exceptions sprinkled in—for example Raymond Brown and E.P Sanders, the former long dead, the latter long retired. What is especially telling and odd about this is Bart does not much reflect a knowledge of the exegetical or historical study of the text in the last thirty years. It’s as if he is basing his judgments on things he read whilst in Princeton Seminary. And that was a long time ago frankly.

Then another commenter took me to task for bringing Ehrman into the discussion. How dare I be so presumptuous. And Wayne linked me to this friend of his, where he’d commented with similar views (almost word for word) in the past… and credited Erhman. Priceless.

“I was originally Christian, but had too many questions like why did Jesus preach back then that you must prepare yourself for the coming Kingdom if it wasn’t going to happen until millenniums later. Or why did Jesus tell his disciples that some of them would still be standing when his Father would arrive in glory in his kingdom, if it wasn’t supposed to happen then? Ministers could never give me an answer, but Bart Erhman did.”

Perhaps this post will be enough to bring Wayne here to continue this discussion. Lets see. It’s certainly the rambliest thing I’ve posted for a while.

Theological Smackdown: The end is the beginning is the end

The last few weeks of Westminster Confession of Faith classes (WCFC) left me feeling a little bit like Hulk Hogan at a press conference…

We’ve changed the order somewhat due to the absence of our venerated leader, who for some reason decided that stuff about end times would be less controversial than stuff about the sacraments.

He was wrong. The chapters on the state of men after death and the resurrection and the one on the Last Judgment ended up being pretty heated.

The judgment study got bogged down in the question of whether Christians go through the process of judgment to be found innocent – or if we skip the process altogether.

It was a case of the one proof text verse the many proof texts – and both sides of the debate walked away thinking they’d won and the other side were idiots.

Our group features some John Macarthur fanboys (surely a breed as rabid as my posse of Mark Driscoll fanboys), who are very rigidly stuck on the idea that dispensational premillennialism is the only way to understand end times.

I’m not one of them. They told me I don’t understand Revelation. Or the Bible. I told them that Calvin was an amillenialist. It got a little ugly.

For some reason they also hold Revelation to be the most important book of the Bible. It’s like a trump card that can be played to render all perspicuous passages of Scripture relating to the same topic unclear at the sake of a fringe interpretation of a complex book.

The millennium sure is a curious little issue to think about – but at the end of the day it’s not a salvation issue. And we have freedom to disagree.

I think it matters though – because it’s the vocal fringe that brand Christianity as a bunch of crazies – and if you have a look at Christian cults – you’ll find that most of them subscribe to a premillennial eschatology. This may or may not be a strawman.

I just think they’re wrong. My thinking, like Dave’s about Christianity, comes from my parents. Check out dad’s most excellent sermon series on Revelation to see what I think about the millennium and the book of Revelation spelled out…

I think we get into trouble when we disregard the style a book is written in when we’re looking to it for meaning. That’s part of looking at context.

I got angry when I read this list of reasons Superman is better than Jesus because the guy took a verse (Luke 19:27) from a parable about a king out of context and applied it to Jesus.

Revelation 1 – “Witness Protection”MP3

Revelation 2-3 – “To Him Who Overcomes”MP3

Revelation 4-5 – “Who is Worthy?”MP3

Revelation 6-7 – “When are we going to get there?”MP3

Revelation 12 – “Defeating the Accuser”MP3

Revelation 13-14 – “The Power – or the Passion?”MP3

Revelation 15-16 – “Exodus Again”MP3

Revelation 17-18 – “The End of the Scarlet Harlot”MP3

Revelation 19 – “Onward Christian Soldiers?”MP3

Revelation 20 – “Pit Stop”MP3

Revelation 21-22 “Coming Home”MP3

One of the things that Willows Pressy doesn’t do that MPC does really nicely is the sermon outline and pithy title. I like the structure a sermon outline provides for my listening – even if it’s just so I know how long the guy up the front will keep talking for – I assume listeners to my sermons feel the same way…

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Arking up

These made me laugh.

From here.

And this one from the Friendly Atheist.

Almost as much as the lecture I got from a couple of premillenial dispensationalists last night. Sometimes different elements of Christianity can be funny. And I’m all for self deprecation.

I’m fairly convinced by my take on both Genesis and Revelation – but I’m much more convinced that neither actually truly matters. I don’t get people who make these bits of the Bible the big deal. Or points of division and distinction. Though I do get how your eschatology shapes your actions here and now… so I can see how it is important (but not essential).

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Luther: A hippy?

Some people see eschatology as a dirty word thanks to the Left Behind mob – and I’ve always been pretty wary of people who define themselves by their views on “end times” – but here’s a second post tagged eschatology in two days. There was a comment on my post about how your eschatology shapes your actions that is worth sharing with everybody.

Joanna – who based on her email address I assume used to be a Richardson – but that’s a guess… pointed to a famous quote attributed to Luther:

“Interestingly, Martin Luther – who certainly agreed with you that preaching the gospel was an urgent task in the light of the return of Jesus – when asked what he would do today if he knew the world was ending tomorrow, answered ‘I would plant a tree.’ Was he a man with a poor eschatology, or just a strong theology of creation? Or both, do you think?”

From what I can gather – the quote, more accurately rendered is:

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

I’m not about to throw stones at Luther’s eschatology, that would be profound arrogance on my part. I am curious as to why he would answer the question that way – so I’m doing some research. At the outset I’d posit that either he really enjoyed gardening, or he thought that guessing games concerning the end of the world were pointless and that we should go on living life regardless, others speculate that Luther’s vision of the New Creation features a redeemed version of the current one, and a tree would be a part of that…

There are a few seemingly reputable sites that cast some doubt on whether or not he actually said this at all… but it turns out he did enjoy gardening.

From my initial googling, Option 2 seems to be the favoured interpretation around the online traps.

However, there are others who run with it more literally, like those planning the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Luther’s posting of the 95 theses… who plan to plant 500 trees in the Luthergarden as a visual celebration.

Then there’s the TreeLink mob who claim Luther as a tree-planting champion

Personally, and this is probably again shaped by my “bias” – and the weight of Luther’s teachings regarding the importance of evangelism against this one quote of dubious origins – I think if he did say it he was probably emphasising the fact that “nobody knows the time and place” so we shouldn’t live as though each day should be our last – but should go on living in readiness. Which, given the weight of Luther’s teachings and the picture we have of the life he lived would involve bold proclamation of the word as a priority.

Some poor souls who run a repository of “spiritual quotes” attributed this one to Martin Luther King Jr.

Incidentally my favourite Luther quote for a long time was this:

Be a sinner and sin strongly, but more strongly have faith and rejoice in Christ.

The End is the Beginning

Ahh, the Smashing Pumpkins, what a band. Who’d have guessed that that title would stand the test of time and become the title of this post…

So, one more reflection from my sermon today and my thoughts on Matthew 9-10.

One of the other things I stressed was the urgency of the harvest – I picked up this little pointer from Tony Robowtham at Spur in Brisbane last week – but that I should have known given the family I married into – the language of the harvest is loaded with a sense of urgency.

It strikes me that your approach to evangelism is greatly influenced by your eschatology – how and when you think the world will end will profoundly effect how you live and how urgently you approach the task.

Given that I’m of the inclination that the world could end whenever God calls stumps – I’m inclined to priorities evangelism over things like caring for the planet. I can see how that’s a much greater concern if you’re a long term thinker. Probably not as profound as it seems in my head, but worth jotting down for when the idea resurfaces in my head in the future and I search for eschatology on my blog.