April 2010

Due to a out of town business trip I am a little late with my Sunday Morning Podcast.

For this week I will pick a whole conference – The 19th Annual Wheaton Theology Conference. However, to make it easy on you, here is possibly my favorite talk. Followed by N T Wright himself here and here.

I have been rebuked in different degrees by many for  wasting time with this philosophical, theological  stuff.  I’ve been told to “just trust the bible and get on with it”. Of course, these rebukes and accusations of wasting time and being told to “get on with it” are more my take on what I felt was being said then the actual words coming out of the mouths of those saying them. Because of all this, I feel that I should give an explanation as to why I pour so much energy in this pursuit.


Worship is an act of religious devotion usually directed to one or more deities. The word is derived from the Old English worthscipe, meaning worthiness or worth-ship — to give, at its simplest, worth to something.

It is my conviction that we become like what we worship. There are all kinds of people that worship God. The problem is that the God being worshiped is not always the same. There are many images of God even within the Christian faith. Many or most, if not all, of these images are idolatrous, they are fashioned out of our own minds.

I think that with the birth of Christianity came the birth of a new spiritual discipline: theology. Theology has to grow to be a new task, the prayerful reflection on and invocation of the one true God. That is why in Romans 12, Paul, summoning people to obedient worship, says “you have to be transfromed by the renewing of your mind.”

It is not enough to coast along, following a few rules, doing a few odd things here and there, hoping it will all work out. It is not enough to “just follow Jesus”. We need to follow the Jesus that is the result of theological discipline. And we cannot simply follow the Jesus of our ancestor’s discipline, we have to make Jesus real to us and in our current cultural context.

I believe that all of us needs to be engaged in this discipline to some degree. Not every one needs to be active primary participants, but we all need to be active listeners and be willing to put in two cents from time to time. Because I believe that this discipline is not a personal one but a communal one.

Here is a great teaching on Gelassenheit.

Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,
and my deeds are not like your deeds,
for just as the sky is higher than the earth,
so my deeds are superior to your deeds
and my plans superior to your plans.
Isaiah 55:9

‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.’
Jeremiah 29:11

Possibly the two most miss quoted verses given their original context?

Isaiah 55 is all about an inclusive God. A God who will freely lavish life on all who will come. Its not too often that I have heard this text quoted because of an non-understandably inclusive God. Usually it would more likely to be quoted in support of a more exclusive image of God. “How can you believe in a God who would send ?????? to hell?’ “Well’, is the comeback, “God’s ways are higher than our ways!”

Jeremiah 29:11 is found in the middle of a prophetic declaration of 70 years of exile and captivity, and a rebuke for listening to all the ‘good news’ prophets declaring victory and freedom. “Might as well settle down people,” God’s says, ” you are going to be here for awhile. for I know what I have planned for you…”

The funny thing about growing in Christ is that you don’t start from a blank slate; you start from erroneously held beliefs about the way it all works. And erroneously held beliefs don’t vanish the second someone says, “Jesus, I put my faith in you alone.”

“Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” — Clay Shirky

There is a great question posted at Kingdom Grace that has got me thinking:

Is it or has it ever been God’s intention to punish mankind?

I gladly call myself a Christian Universalist or an Ultimate Reconciliationist. I have to be. Even though I do not know if it is true or not, I do know that there are enough verses and concepts throughout the scriptures to make this position at the very least possible if not probable. So I have to put my hope where God puts his hopes. It is his will that NO ONE should perish. Ultimately all creation will be reconciled, things in heaven, on earth and under the earth.

I would almost say that if you did not at the very least have a hope that Universalism is true than you are not a Christian. Of course I don’t and won’t say this, but  I do think it from time to time.

This is not to say that I am not human. I would like to see some roast eternally, but in reality, these are few and far between. Most I’d just like to see hurting for a weekend or two.

My stance is that “righteousness and justification comes through the faith OF Christ and that he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. We will all be justified by grace through faith. And we will all be judged based on our works.”

If Jesus’ life is any indication, it is us religious types that will be judged harshest! God’s people, first Israel and now the church, have always been the first to be judged. Our purpose here on earth is to be a beacon of hope and to manifest the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. Share the gospel? Yes. But as a demonstration. Our purpose, from Abraham on down, was to be God’s blessing to the nations. And it is my firm belief that Matthew 25 is about seeing Jesus in “the other”. Jesus uses the Pharisees own doctrine of exclusion and subverts it, turning the tables and challenging them with there own eternal destiny.

So my answer is: No, It never was God’s will to punish. There will be judgment but I believe it will not be punitive but restorative judgment.

The German radical reformers had a concept called gelassenheit: “yieldedness, letting be, or submission to the will of God; a sense of let-go-ness”.

While there are some English attempts at translation -abandon or surrender -, these concepts are are too dramatic. “I will abandon all for Christ”, ‘I will surrender”. So although there is some idea of gelassenheit in abandon and surrender, gelassenheit is more of “just letting go”; resting in God. There is no self credit for our abandoning all or our surrendering all to Christ because gelassenheit embodies a lack of self effort.  The Anabaptist would say that this should be our attitude; towards all gaining and maintaining; towards our very life itself. Its the abandoning of all self-affirmation, self-confidence, self-concern; “Jesus is at the center and I have a let-go-ness about everything else.”

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky: They do not sow, or reap, or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you more valuable than they are? And which of you by worrying can add even one hour to his life? Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So then, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Today has enough trouble of its own.

So, I encourage you to have and develop a sense of gelassenheit or in the words of a famous song, “Don’t worry, be happy.” 

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