THEOLOGY & Is modern Christianity not preparing people for a judgement day? One well respected theologian thinks so.

Interview with Michael McClymond by Paul Copen, Christianity Today, 3/11/19.

… When Jesus spoke to his disciples on the Mount of Olives (Matt. 24), he combined discussion of the End Times with a call to “keep watch” and a warning regarding the unfaithful servant who is caught off guard by the master’s return (Matt. 24:42–51). This chapter links Jesus’ return not only to the theme of moral and spiritual preparation but also to the theme of evangelism: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (v. 14). Likewise, the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1–13) likewise stresses the need to be prepared for Jesus’ return. When the apostles ask Jesus after the Resurrection whether he will “restore the kingdom,” he directs them to evangelize, once again linking his return to the present mission of the church (Acts 1:6–8).

The Book of Revelation represents God’s people as the “bride” to be joined to Christ as the “bridegroom.” It states that “his bride has made herself ready” with “fine linen, bright and clean,” which is “the righteous acts of God’s holy people” (Rev. 19:7–8). The Book of 1 John connects eschatological hope with moral and spiritual purification: “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). In light of the world’s coming dissolution, 2 Peter exclaims, “You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (3:11–12). And Paul’s letter to Titus connects our “blessed hope” (2:13) with a summons “to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (2:12).

From a pastoral standpoint, the passages surveyed suggest that one might evaluate eschatological teachings in terms of their practical effects. And it is exceedingly difficult to see how the biblical call to self-denial and godly living can flourish on the basis of universalist theology. Who would need to work at being alert or prepared if a universalist outcome were already known in advance? (Some Christian universalists, including Origen, acknowledged this problem and suggested that universalism should be kept secret from the masses and disseminated among only a select few.)

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/march-web-only/michael-mcclymond-devils-redemption-universalism.html

THEOLOGY & What to Say When Someone Says Women Are Not Permitted to Teach

by Chesna Hinkley, CBE International, 2/18/19.

1 Timothy 2 is a tricky passage to interpret well. Verses 11-15 alone contain four biblical “buzz phrases” often employed by those who oppose women’s equality in the church. Paul writes:[1]

1. Women should learn in silence (2:11).
2. I do not permit a woman to teach or dominate a man (2:12).
3. The woman was decieved and became a sinner (2:14).
4. Women will be saved through childbearing (2:15).

These troubling verses form, for many, the foundation of the case for women’s submission to men and against the legitimacy of women’s preaching and teaching in church and/or to men. Though it would appear those opposed to women’s equality in the church have the upper hand in interpreting “problem passages” like 1 Timothy, egalitarians are actually better equipped to explain why Paul, normally a strong supporter of his female ministry colleagues, would seemingly prohibit those same coworkers from carrying out gospel work. So the next time someone cites 1 Timothy to obstruct women’s gifts and leadership, here’s what you can say:

The Purpose of 1 Timothy

The major crisis in 1 Timothy is false teaching. This takes up most of the content of the letter, and 1:3 says that Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to “command certain people” not to teach falsely or continue in “myths and endless genealogies.” Some people have “turned to meaningless talk.” They want to be teachers, “but they do not know what they are talking about” (1:7).

So, what is false teaching? We know not all the apostles had exactly the same ideas. We also know that Paul didn’t want people fighting about less central ideas, because his primary concern was that the “one faith” be preached (1 Cor. 1:12-13). That means that the “false teachings” referenced here were outside the bounds of Christianity.

The Artemis Cult and Other False Teachings

Artemis of the Ephesians (see Acts 19) was the goddess who kept women safe in childbirth (2:15). If she wasn’t appeased, many Ephesians believed mother or baby would die. In Ephesus, Artemis worship was everywhere. There was an extraordinary temple to her there. Her cult was so deep in the Ephesian worldview that it would have been terrifying for women to give birth without offering sacrifices. The easiest way to soothe this fear would’ve been for women to continue worshipping Artemis on the side. They might’ve also brought elements of Artemis worship into Jesus worship.[2]

Further, some of the church fathers believed that an early form of Gnosticism was being taught at Ephesus. Later on, Gnosticism was a widespread heresy that preached “endless genealogies” of demigods and demons (1:4). It also taught that salvation came through “secret knowledge” (gnosis).

The Gnostics liked Eve because, as they saw it, she wanted to gain wisdom by eating the forbidden fruit. Sometimes, she took on a mysterious power as the spiritual Feminine. In some Gnostic creation myths, Eve was created first. According to church father Irenaeus, Gnostics taught that Eve brought “what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Tim 6:20-21) into the world.[3]

This context is crucial to interpreting this passage as modern believers. Knowing that Ephesian Christians were receiving false teaching, perhaps especially from women who would benefit from Eve’s high status, helps to explain why Paul is so concerned about how women were leading and teaching in church. Now, let’s look at Paul’s message to women within this context:

Read more at … https://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/what-say-when-someone-says-women-are-not-permitted-teach?

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/