First of all, I’m glad to be back in the blogging world. For those who don’t know the reasons for my long absence, check out all the news about the birth of our daughter Emma on our family blog. Two kids just take a lot more time and energy than one!
Anyway, since Rich tagged me over at BlogRodent, I feel obliged to add my cup of coffee to the "I dig Jesus" meme — by Rich’s count, that would make me part of the ninth generation.
Now, normally I don’t like answering this kind of questions — I really don’t like it when my wife asks me "Why do you love me?" It’s not because I don’t have reasons for my love, but rather, that stating some of the reasons bears the danger of seeing that list as a complete one and therefore missing out on all the other, unstated reasons. At the same time, stating all of the reasons simply wouldn’t be possible for lack of time and words.
Still, here’s a selection of five reasons why I dig Jesus:
- I dig Jesus because of his very visual way of teaching. This is exactly for people like me, who love to have a visual or hands-on illustration for every complex concept. Jesus‘ use of parables shows how theology can become comprehensible for everybody. I regularly try to imitate that in my preaching — no matter whether it is with fancy powerpoints or with dramatic action. BTW, next Sunday our service will be outdoors, so I’m already planning on some very hands-on, action-type illustrations. That’ll be fun. And the great thing about is, people actually (a) understand it and (b) remember it.
- I dig Jesus because of his ex/including message. Yes, Jesus does both! And both of them are good! I like hearing an exclusive message, that doesn’t leave me wondering which of the many available options I should choose for my life. Jesus shows me the way, and that is exclusive! Yet, at the same time, no message could ever be more inclusive than the one of the Son of God, who gave access to his exclusive way to absolutely anyone by dying on the cross for the whole world! It’s not about qualifications any more, but just about my accepting his generous gift of grace …
- … which brings me to my next point: I dig Jesus because he is so generous with his grace. Just imagine Jesus setting a limit of how many times I may fail before his kingdom will forever close its doors on me! For sure, I’d be outside by now, frantically pounding the doors in utter despair. Yet, Jesus, every time I fail, welcomes me back with open arms. And he does even more, by giving me his Spirit to help me grow and avoid much failure in the future. I don’t think anyone can even come close to grasping the generous grace of God.
- I dig Jesus because of his openly scandalous lifestyle. The life and work of Jesus is a scandal to many — that much is obvious already from the reactions of his contemporaries. The cross of Jesus remains a scandal (in the 1 Corinthians 1:18ff sense) until today. However, the emphasis here is on the openly scandalous way of Jesus. Unlike all other religious leaders, with Jesus there is never any danger of disappointment because of some scandal suddenly rising to the surface. Everything that’s scandalous about Jesus is already known — and beyond that, there’s nothing but the Son of God who remains the same yesterday, today and forever. So, I can rely on this Jesus, knowing that he will never falter and leave me hanging.
- I dig Jesus because he digs me. What more is there to say?
What remains to do is to tag five more people to continue the propagation of the meme:
- Don Martin is — as always — the first who comes to my mind.
- Esa HyvÃ¶nen hasn’t written anything except hotly disputed articles in a Finnish magazine lately, so maybe that’s just the topic he could be challenged with.
- Shannon Buckner has told me I need to update my blog — so, Shannon, here’s a reason to update yours :-).
- My good old roommate Antti Hirviniemi always has something profound to say.
- Brad Anderson write so much anyway, so I think he’ll manage to produce something for this topic, too.
Maxim Online has put up a browser game where you have to distinguish between images of homeless people and depictions of Jesus. From the introduction:
Have you ever gotten a homeless person confused with the Son of God, Jesus Christ? Well we certainly have. Now, utilizing the new LiquidGeneration game Homeless or Jesus you can test your ability to differentiate between the two.
Although this is harmless fun, it makes me think …
Continue reading „Homeless or Jesus“
During my research for establishing the criteria for a truly Pentecostal approach to theology, I ran into one important element that I had so far neglected in my own developing model: early Pentecostalism organized its theological thinking around the fourfold (fivefold in some cases) perspective on Jesus Christ as savior, healer, baptizer, and coming king (Holiness-Pentecostals would add "sanctifier" as fifth element). This central framework constitutes the fundamental Pentecostal approach to the question of valid loci in systematic theology — which should be retained, I think, in a new approach that takes into account our Pentecostal tradition. So Christocentrism becomes the organizing principle of Pentecostal dogmatics.
Continue reading „Christocentrism as organizing principle“
In The Leap of Reason (1976), British philosopher (I refuse to call him a theologian) Don Cupitt uses a modification Plato’s well known allegory of the philosopher in the cave to demonstrate the absence of meaning in all God-talk. In Cupitt’s cave, there are no shadows of the outside world on the walls, simply because the cave does not have an opening. Living in the cave, an observer does not have the slightest indication of the very existence of something like an "outside world." In the language of the cave’s population, vocabulary about such an outside world is therefore not needed and utterly meaningless.
Don Cupitt’s analogy actually does work very well in the artificial world he has constructed for his example. What is missing, however, are parallels to the real world. For here, in our real world, there is no closed cave — at least, not any more. Not since the God from outside has decided to come into the cave and reveal himself through his son Jesus Christ, who opened up the way into the world beyond for us. Read Hebrews 1:1ff, and talk about meaningless God-language!
I have already mentioned (in one of my replies to Brad Andersen) that I cannot but see the Christian story as a meta-narrative. Its claims to exclusivity, universality, and absolute truth are completely incompatible with the post-modern portrait of a "local story" within a community. Yet, I do think that the story of faith, i.e. the story of the Spirit-filled community, is able to escape the post-modern criticism against meta-narratives for a number of reasons.
One of them has just re-surfaced in my reading of Anthony Thiselton’s Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self: On Meaning, Manipulation and Promise: In chapter 3 ("Do All Controlling Models in Religion Serve Manipulative Purposes?") Thiselton refers to the New Testament, to Luther’s "theology of the cross", to Bonhoeffer’s writings and to JÃ¼rgen Moltmann in order to show that the Christian story is not promoting power and glory for its proponents. Criticism levelled against it from the days of Nietzsche through Heidegger, Foucault, and Rorty, has therefore no base: The Christian community is not seeking to promote itself above all other communities.
Rather, it is seeking to promote Jesus Christ, the liberator, who sets people free from oppression. But, that’s already another argument …
Just to try it out, I entered "Pentecostal" as a search key word into the new "RSS Zeitgeist" engine. Among the results I got, I was shocked to find the following quote:
"Jesus is the biggest cock-blocker ever." That was my friend K., summing up why he had to break it off with the woman he was dating. Apparently, she was a member of some weird Pentecostal church…very anti-sex, so obviously that wasn’t going to work…(hoyvenmayven)
How unfortunate, too see how much good Christian teaching on life values can be torn out of context and misunderstood from the outside. Jesus surely was and is no "cock-blocker", but rather the one who enables people to enjoy the God-created pleasures of sexuality to the max — since it’s Jesus alone who permits us to create the kind of relationship that alone can serve as the proper framework for such sexuality. How many people already had to experience, that without Jesus, on the long run "that wasn’t going to work."
Of course, I have to add a note of caution, since I don’t know the exact nature of the "weird Pentecostal church" cited in the post, and I have actually seen all kinds of weird positions put forward within the confines of Pentecostalism. However, generally, I think most Pentecostals will agree on a rejection of premarital sexuality. And I think, they’re right!
On a positive note, a rather well-balanced position paper on the Pentecostal view of sexuality has been posted by the Assemblies of God (U.S.). Yet, as always, there remains the question on how to bring these well-done statements close to the people on the outside, in order to avoid such distorted perceptions in the future.