THEOLOGY & Book of Revelation: What Most Evangelicals Entirely Miss #ScotMcKnight

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I studied under George Elton Ladd at Fuller Theological Seminary NT theology and the book of Revelation. And, I found Revelation to be extremely helpful and insightful … if you take time to dig into it. Several authors since the time of Ladd have analyzed it with his same level of validity and reliability. Here is Scot McKnight discussing several who embrace that same level of Ladd’s systematic theology when analyzing the book of Revelation.

Book of Revelation: What most evangelicals entirely miss” by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 10/28/18.

…A good book on how theologians and others in the history of the church have read Revelation is called The Book of Revelation and is by Timothy Beal, and it’s a good and easy read.

But what most evangelicals (of this kind of reading) entirely miss is what Craig Koester, in Revelation and the End of All Things, sketches with utter clarity. (Check out also Ian Paul, Revelation.)

What’s that? Revelation is about the reality of evil, the war with evil, and the defeat of evil, and the eradication of evil. Evangelicals have made this about gruesome end time scenarios filled with Who is Who? questions and answers and speculations (that inevitably prove to be wrong — no the Antichrist is not Henry Kissinger, no Gog and Magog are not communist Russia, no, no, and no). Wrapped up in those scenarios is a lurking “Sure glad I won’t be there because I’m a Christian and will be raptured,” which rapture isn’t even mentioned in Revelation.

No, 1000x No, that’s not what Revelation is about. Revelation is about the reality of evil, the war with evil, and the defeat of evil, and the eradication of evil. Craig Koester totally gets it.

Here’s the assumption that is where Revelation starts as a cosmic narrative:

A basic assumption is that God is the Creator of the world and the source of life (4:11; 10:6). Gods opponents are the destroyers of the earth (11:18).

The narrative focuses on evil and its defeat.

Revelation regards evil as a kind of cancer that has invaded God s world. Cancer cells are malignant, and as they grow, they destroy the healthy tissue around them. As the disease spreads, life is diminished as more healthy tissue is destroyed, and if the cancer is left unchecked, death will result. Accordingly, treating the disease means destroying the malignant cells that destroy life—and the goal is that life might thrive. This is the drama that unfolds on a cosmic scale in the last half of Revelation, where the Creator and his allies set out with the goal of “destroying those who destroy the earth” (11:18), so that the victory will be life for the world.

Evil has Agency.

The plotline traces the defeat of Satan, who is cast down from heaven to earth, and from earth to the abyss…

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/10/29/book-of-revelation-what-most-evangelicals-entirely-miss/

THEOLOGY & Pope Francis warns about divisive falsehoods.

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During his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis discussed the incomprehension Christ faced during his earthly ministry, from both the scribes and his own family.

The scribes’ assertion that Christ drove out demons by the power of demons led him to “react with strong and clear words, he does not tolerate this, because those scribes, perhaps without realizing it, are falling into the gravest sin: negating and blaspheming the Love of God which is present and working in Jesus.”

“…falling into the gravest sin: negating and blaspheming the Love of God which is present and working in Jesus.”

“And blasphemy, the sin against the Holy Spirit, is the only unpardonable sin – so Jesus says – because it starts from a closure of the heart to the mercy of God acting in Jesus,” the pope said June 10 in St. Peter’s Square.

“… because it starts from a closure of the heart to the mercy of God acting in Jesus,”

The scribes who blasphemed were sent from Jerusalem to discredit Christ, Francis said, “to make the office of talkers, discredit the other, remove authority, this ugly thing.”

“This episode contains a warning that serves all of us,” he reflected. “It may happen that a strong envy for the goodness and for the good works of a person can lead one to accuse it falsely. Here there is truly a deadly poison: the malice with which, in a premeditated way, one wants to destroy the good reputation of the other.”

Here there is truly a deadly poison: the malice with which, in a premeditated way, one wants to destroy the good reputation of the other.”

If we find this envy in us during our examination of conscience, “let us immediately go to confession,” he advised, “before it develops and produces its evil effects, which are incurable. Be careful, because this attitude destroys families, friendships, communities, and even society.”

Read more of “Blasphemy is the gravest sin, Pope Francis saysat … https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/blasphemy-is-the-gravest-sin-pope-francis-says-34265

THEOLOGY & #ScotMcKnight on the Book of Revelation’s Trumpets Of Terror

by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 10/24/18.

What about those trumpets of terror that unfold in Revelation 8-11?  For our posts on Revelation we are reading Craig Koester Revelation and the End of All Things and Ian Paul, Revelation.

I have reformatted Koester’s wonderful summary into separable points:

First, Context:

Seven trumpets are blown in succession, creating the third cycle of visions in Revelation. At the conclusion of the previous cycle, a graceful silence lingered in heavens chambers after the voices in the celestial chorus had sounded the “Amen” in their praises of God and the Lamb (7:12; 8:1). Rather than allowing readers to bask in quietude, however, John directs attention to seven angels, who are given seven trumpets, whose sound will break the stillness and signal an onslaught of new visions even more terrible than those that have gone before (8:2).

Big idea

This section plays a major role in showing how God s purposes are to be understood.

What if God responds with wrath?

The opening scene in which prayers rise from the altar (8:3-5) recalls how the martyrs under the altar had demanded to know how long God would delay in bringing justice against those who had shed their blood (6:9-11). The trumpet visions now reply to the prayers by implicitly raising a question: What if God responds to the prayers by sending wrath on the unrepentant world? What will that accomplish? Readers are shown the horror of pitiless wrath as disasters strike earth, sea, and sky, and demonic hordes of locusts and cavalry torment humanity amid clouds of fire, smoke, and sulfur (8:7-9:21).

Wrath accomplishes what?

Yet the wrath accomplishes nothing. The wicked simply persist in their refusal to repent (9:20-21). At this point readers might well expect the seventh trumpet to signal the arrival of God’s catastrophic judgment with earsplitting finality. But the last trumpet does not sound and the end does not come.

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2018/10/24/the-book-of-revelations-trumpets-of-terror/

THEOLOGY & Can the church be both holy and sinful?

by Brian P. Flanagan, America: The Jesuit Review, 10/22/18 and author of Stumbling in Holiness: Sin and Sanctity in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2018).

The Holy and Sinful Church

Catholics in earlier centuries, while maintaining faith in the holiness of the church affirmed in our creeds, were willing to name its failings, including those of its members, its leaders and its communities as a whole. In the midst of the Pelagian controversies of the fifth century, for example, the Council of Carthage in 418 (attended by St. Augustine) taught that when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

… when Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer, all Christians—without exception—had to ask God “to forgive us our trespasses” in their own voice and not on behalf of some other people, as though they were sinless themselves.

Christians did not hesitate to call out the sinfulness of their leaders, as in the quote attributed variously (though likely erroneously) to St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom and others that “the road to hell is paved with the skulls of erring bishops.” Even cardinals were not exempt; according to one medieval folk tradition, a cardinal’s soul was released from purgatory only when his galero, the wide-brimmed red hat hung from the ceiling of the cardinal’s church after his death, finally rotted enough to fall to the floor.

Why, then, in recent years have Catholics been so hesitant to speak clearly and candidly about the church as sinful? For a few reasons—some praiseworthy, some problematic. The first is our firm belief in the holiness of the church. On the surface, it seems that ecclesial sanctity and sinfulness are mutually exclusive—and, in important ways, that is true. The participation in the life of God that we call “holiness” precludes sin, and in the fullness of life that we can look forward to in the reign of God we will be freed from every stain of sin and every shadow of death.

Yet, as St. Augustine taught so well, in our current time between the ascension of Christ and his return in glory, the church is always a “corpus permixtum,” a mixed body of saints and sinners, including serious sinners who remain part of the church even in a limited way. The struggle for greater transparency to God’s grace and greater freedom from sin also goes on in each one of us who prays the Our Father daily; each of us is aware of our need for forgiveness to live a more holy and free way of life. That experience of the church as a mixed body and of ourselves as sinners who are already holy yet still saints-in-progress is part of the reality of a holy and sinful church.

… the church is always a “corpus permixtum,”  – St. Augustine

Read more at … Can the church be both holy and sinful?

THEOLOGY & 5 Five observations and a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.” #ScotMcKnight

by Scot McKnight, Pathos, 8/8/18.

…Hypocrisy is:

1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one does (23:3-4)

2. Desire for prestige and power and congratulation (23:5-12)

3. Abuse of teaching authority through both false teachings and false practices (23:13, 15, 16-22, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28).

4. Overconcern with minutiae and lack of focus on the major issues (23:23-24, 25-26, 27-28): that is, moral myopia.

5. Inconsistency between appearance and practice (23:27-28).

Put together, Jesus accuses the Pharisees for “hypocrisy” because (1) they had abused their teaching authority by teaching false things, (2) not living according to what they taught, and for (3) their desire for power and control. In addition, (4) their teaching was a focus on minor issues to the neglect of major issues.

They flattened the Torah into a listing of God’s will while Jesus saw love of God and love of others as the center of that Torah. If the Pharisees saw love as one of the commandments, however important, Jesus saw love as central and everything as expressive of that love. This reorients all of the Torah, all of teaching, and therefore all of praxis.

To be “hypocrite” is to be a false teacher who leads both self and others astray from the will of God. The term should not be limited to “contradiction between appearance and reality” (the classic definition of hypocrisy)…

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/05/26/heretic-vs-hypocrite/

 

HALLOWEEN CAVEAT: How CS Lewis and Harry Potter view evil differently.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Popularity of “evil characters” (e.g. “anti-heroes“) in movies, books, media, etc. coincides with the increasing popularity of Halloween. In such instances, popular entertainment often frames evil as some thing or some being “outside of yourself.”  You must react to this evil outside of yourself and you must defeat it (e.g. Harry Potter saga, fright houses, horror movies, etc.).

Yet, the scriptures portray evil as more often something within ourselves.  It is an “inner danger” which will be overcome only if we act rightly.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 The Message (MSG)

9-10 “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
    a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But I, God, search the heart
    and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
    I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
    not as they pretend to be.”

we are born with.

Galatians 5:17-18 The Message (MSG)

16-18 My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

CS Lewis got this. Note this comparison between Lewis’ view (which I view as a more biblically valid view) and the outlook in Harry Potter books:

Harry Potter books … If you compare them with the Narnia books of CS Lewis it is very notable that the Potter books are much more dangerous for the heroes. Lewis is far more concerned with inner danger. His heroes know they will be victorious if they only act rightly…  –Andrew Brown, The Church of England should learn from Harry Potter this Halloween, The London Guardian, 10/31/18.

CHURCH EXIT & New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers #LifeWay

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my consulting on church change and church revitalization, I sometimes encounter a judicatory leader or a parent church that will want to change another church’s theology. But, research indicates that you must be very careful in doing so.

I have observed that churches many times grow around a specific theological viewpoint. Sometimes that theological view is in error, unorthodox, schismatic or heretical. In those circumstances it must be changed.

But in my experience I have also seen churches that, while they may have primarily orthodox beliefs, have a unique view on (what John Wesley would call) nonessential theological points. These might include issues such as charismatic gifts, healing, modes of baptism, etc.

In such latter circumstances, the research cited below indicates that we should move cautiously when changing a theological perspective if it is not an essential orthodox belief … or church exit might occur.

Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

Don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers
Image: via LifeWay Research

… Most churchgoers will put up with a change in music style or a different preacher.

But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.

Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.

Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.

“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”

Churchgoers stay put

LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.

Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.

Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.

Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.

“Most church members have been at their church longer than their pastor,” said McConnell.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/july/churchgoers-stick-around-for-theology-not-music-or-preacher