Category: Systematic Theology

Atonement - Cross

Sermon: Swallowing a Camel

I’m not really going out of my way to blog anymore with life pretty hectic, but I realized I should share a modified sermon I gave a months ago. There was another section that went further into atonement, but in my opinion it didn’t work very well, cramming too much into the last 5 minutes of a 20 minute sermon, so I cut that out here.

The Texts

Amos 5:18-24

Matthew 23


The Question

When I was younger, I wondered why Jesus was killed. I grew up in a moderate evangelical church, so I was given a big theological explanation of why Jesus died – penal substitution – but not why he was killed. I was a naïve white kid who generally thought that people got what they deserved in terms of justice from the state, so an innocent man receiving a brutal death penalty was tough to wrap my head around. Why would the religious leaders and the political leaders of Jesus’ day want to kill him, and how did they get away with it, if Jesus lived this perfect sinless life? Nobody else seemed to be curious about that question, or at least they didn’t talk about it. This was before I really started caring about theology, so it mostly sat in the back of my mind for years, but I don’t think the question ever fully went away.

Atonement - Cross

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers

The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers (cover)A few years ago I was strongly considering writing a book. My premise was essentially a systematic theology but starting with the idea that God looks like Jesus, particularly when it comes to rejection of violence. The Atonement of God by J.D. Myers is the closest I’ve encountered to trying for the same goal, with a couple of significant differences:

  • It is not nearly as comprehensive as a systematic theology, sticking to topics that are directly related to a non-violent understanding of the atonement.
  • The starting point is a non-violent understanding of the atonement in particular, rather than a non-violent God in general.

Maybe that excitement biased me, but I felt like the book was only moderately successful.

Style

My main complaints are related to the style, not the content. It feels sloppily written. It often gets very repetitive, which meant that although it was a short book, it probably could have been half the size. It doesn’t really do a good job explaining what is meant by some terms, such as pacifism (see below). It uses gendered language, and I don’t just mean some that are very understandable like male pronouns for God – I mean regularly using “man” to mean humanity.

Christmas Tree

My Favourite Christmas Verse

Christmas TreeGenerally speaking I’m not big on most Christmas songs. A lot of them really have little to do with the biblical Christmas story. For many that’s not that bad – at least they’re consistent with Christianity even if not strictly biblical. Then there are others which are borderline heretical, like Away in a Manger’s line that Jesus didn’t cry, which to me is toying with Gnosticism’s denying that Jesus was fully human. Humans cry, and we even read that Jesus cried as an adult, so why not like every other baby?

Anyway, there’s one verse in one Christmas song that really stands out to me:

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name

Community - MeowMeowBeans

Peeple: the anti-Gospel

Update: There has been some debate about how real this app actually is. It seems there is a strong chance it is vapourware and will never reach market anyway. Also, after the backlash, their social media pages went down and contrary to previous statements they have said that negative comments do not post without your permission. If true, that makes it sort of like LinkedIn’s recommendation system, but without being limited to professional purposes. As always during something causing outrage on the Internet, read Snopes. I have maintained my original post here because I still think it makes a valuable point, whether or not all the details about Peeple are (still) true.


 

There’s a new app in the world. It’s called Peeple. Its being described as “Yelp for People.” The purpose of the app is to put numerical ratings on people you know.

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.

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Ok, that was about an hour and a half of stunned silence in confusion that this exists.

Bible

Review: Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy

Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy coverI’m going to front load my central thought about Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy. It is not primarily a book about eschatology; it is primarily an apologetics argument. It is all about making sure that Jesus, and other biblical authors, were not wrong when they made claims of imminency for things like the parousia and the end of the age. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and the author is clear about that purpose.

The Argument

To summarize author Charles Meek’s full preterist view as succinctly as I can, noting my annoyance that he never did the same to make sure the key points were clear:

“The end of the age” and similar language we usually assume means the ends of all physical existence was referring to the end of the Old Covenant age that came about with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.

Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy cover

New Book Reading: Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy

Christian Hope through Fulfilled Prophecy coverOf any area of systematic theology, eschatology tends to be the least interesting to me. I’ve generally been happy thinking about broad concepts like whether the escapism of Rapture theology fits with the God revealed in Jesus, whether the exact details are predetermined or whether human decisions play some part, and so on. Generally speaking, though, I haven’t felt it particularly helpful to spend a lot of time investigating biblical texts related to eschatology. That means it is probably time that I do dig in a bit deeper.

Christian Hope Through Fulfilled Prophecy argues for a full preterist view of eschatology. That means the author, Charles Meek, believes that all of the prophecy in the Bible speaking of “the last days” or “the time of the end” or the parousia are really speaking about things that have already happened. In particular, he sees everything as looking forward to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in 70 C.E. There has been one point already where I feel like he’s pushed this farther than I would, when he argues Daniel’s prophecy of the “abomination of desolation” was looking ahead to 70 C.E.’s Temple destruction instead of to the actions of Antiochus IV sacrificing a pig on the Temple altar, which is how 1 Maccabees uses the phrase and was closer to Daniel’s context.

A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel

A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak

A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful GospelMy first encounter with Brad Jersak was in the documentary Hellbound? which I routinely recommend. He, like many of the other people in that movie, left a positive impression on me. When I saw the opportunity to pick up a book of his called A More Christlike God then, I jumped on the chance. I’m glad I did.

There is a significant and important theological trend in recent years to reclaim the doctrine of Incarnation: that Jesus is the full representation of God. Greg Boyd as one of my biggest influences stresses this point a lot, and Brian Zahnd often says it something like this (paraphrasing):

God is exactly like Jesus. He has always been like Jesus. We didn’t always know that, but now we do.

This is the first book I have seen, however, that explicitly deals with that idea and a few of its subtopics in depth. Most people in theory affirm the idea that God is like Jesus – after all, it is pretty clear in both the Bible and the earliest Christian creeds. If you don’t affirm it, you aren’t an orthodox Christian, by definition.

What Makes You You?

On this week’s Robcast, Rob Bell talked about lots of cool science-y things which largely got around to the question of how we relate to our physicality. Are we just a collection of atoms that have combined in the right way, or are we something more?

Brain

Does our existence boil down to just this amazing organ in our heads?

Talking About Stuff on WikiGodPod

WikiGodPod: Our Stories Shaping GodA week and a half ago, I was interviewed by Mark Groleau for WikiGodPod. It was published this past Monday so you can check it out from the WikiGodPod website or through iTunes or other RSS readers. Aside from my own, I’m happy to recommend this podcast. It brings in a different voice from somewhere in Southern Ontario each week to talk about a range of different things.

In my chat with Mark, we covered my work with the Canadian Bible Society, this blog, pacifism, MennoNerds with our book A Living Alternative, judgementalism around LGBTQ persons in the Church, and embracing our differences instead of condemning each other over them.

An Eschatological Advent

Advent candles and wreath

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advent

This Advent I’ve thought about the usual theme for Advent – the second coming of Jesus – more than usual. It’s probably because of the Daily Common Lectionary plan I’m subscribed to (shameless plug).

Growing up I was always told that Advent is about remembering Jesus’ incarnation but even more about about preparing for his second coming. In that church, we didn’t really talk much about Jesus’ second coming, or the parousia to use the biblical term. There were occasional hints that the pastor probably did believe in the Rapture, although I also remember some suggestions that it was not pre-tribulation so not escapist Left Behind theology. Even in seminary, when we had to drop a topic in systematic theology because of a snow day, we unanimously chose to drop eschatology. My general assessment was that it was not the most important topic.