C. S. Lewis and Scripture

My brother recently asked me about C. S. Lewis and his views on Scripture, specifically that he’d heard that Lewis didn’t believe in the Old Testament. Not having heard this particular charge before, I did a little looking around to see what I could fine (here, here, and here).To my surprise, I found that Lewis was not an inerrantist. He was comfortable saying that he didn’t think certain parts of the Bible were literal (I saw mention of the creation epic, Job, Esther, and Jonah). But even in saying that, he also wasn’t bothered to think the rest of the Bible was true. In his mind as a literary expert, if a story read like a myth or a fable, he assumed it was. And he was very unbothered by the idea. He still thought it was useful for us as Christians.
More, I also came across some little side comments he made about Paul’s meanderings and the pseudo-contradictions between the gospel accounts. Again, in all instances, he leaned heavily on the human element of authorship, focusing on the fallibility of the authors and their personal quirks or wrong recollections muddying the Scriptures for us.

To give my highly uninformed opinion, I would presume that this finds its source in how Lewis came to believe in the first place. It was through his own reasoning that he came to see that Christianity had to be true. And as such, he saw reason and rationality as the means by which truth could be assessed and respected. Basically, in his mind, it didn’t really matter if parts of the Bible rang true or not—truth was truth, rather or not the Bible got it exactly right.

All in all, that’s a bit foreign to our ears. But historically speaking, it’s not as odd as one might think. As Lewis points out in one of the sites I checked, Calvin questioned whether Job was a historical account or not. The fact is that our current stance on the inerrancy of Scripture is a relatively recent development in terms of the affirmation, “The Bible is without error in the original manuscripts in everything it claims to be true.” This was in response to the rise of liberalism, which took the rationalistic line of thought which was cousin to Lewis’s view and ran it off the Cliffs of Insanity: we can discount anything at all if our reason seems to make no sense of it! And in response to that, a need was felt to respond with an affirmation that the Bible can be trusted. And rightly so! In that affirmation, it was recognized that human reason is no good judge of what’s true and what’s not, because in our sinfulness, we can too easily reject truths that make us uncomfortable, even to the point of denying the resurrection or even the very existence of the Creator outright.

So, what do I think of Lewis’s view of Scripture? On the one hand, I’m not terribly bothered by it. Strict inerrant views were mainly beyond his time. And besides, the basic fundamentalist/inerrantist/Bible-thumper sometimes struggles mightily to understand the differences between hyperbole and poetry and prophecy (“the moon will turn to blood”) and we end up with messes like the Left Behind series. Even while believing in inerrancy, it’s not always easy to parse what’s literal and what’s not. But on the other hand, I really don’t think we can set our own reason as the main guide by which we assess the rightness or wrongness of the Scriptures. Lewis did it and wrote some darn good stuff because he never doubted the life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus. But his view is pretty troublesome if you doubt that part. Because then you get the right to call into question anything else you want, including doctrines that are central to the faith.

But C. S. Lewis was just a man. And he wasn’t right about everything. I’ll still take the 95% of his incredibly insightful and Spirit-filled writing while putting up with the other 5% of squishy views.

Book Review: Forgotten God

51rjvdzyf3l-_sy346_Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit by Francis Chan

From Amazon: In the name of the Father, the Son, and … the Holy Spirit. We pray in the name of all three, but how often do we live with an awareness of only the first two? As Jesus ascended into heaven, He promised to send the Holy Spirit—the Helper—so that we could be true and living witnesses for Christ. Unfortunately, today’s church has admired the gift but neglected to open it.

Breakthrough author Francis Chan rips away paper and bows to get at the true source of the church’s power—the Holy Spirit. Chan contends that we’ve ignored the Spirit for far too long, and we are reaping the disastrous results. Thorough scriptural support and compelling narrative form Chan’s invitation to stop and remember the One we’ve forgotten, the Spirit of the living God.

To start with, I really like Francis Chan, especially when I’ve watched interviews with him and seen his humility on display. I’ve especially appreciated how he left behind his Big Successful Church (all rights reserved) to start small churches that met in an apartment building. I really don’t know how that’s been going (though if it’s anything like my story, that’s not an easy question to answer anyway), but I’ve appreciated how he’s bucked come conventional YRR wisdom and done his own thing.

The Forgotten God was a book that I appreciated, even if I wasn’t overly moved by it. Chan’s intention seemed to be to remind us that the Holy Spirit is God and he dwells in us as individuals and as the church. And to that point, he succeeded. The book was refreshing to my soul, calling me to “open up your mind and your life to the leading of the Spirit” as I took a fresh look at the God I was largely ignoring.

In particular, Chan challenged me to see God the Spirit as still very alive and active. At times, there was a vibe that reminded me of David Platt’s Radical, like “The Spirit will lead you to the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or pretty or comfortable place to be.” But I don’t mean that as an insult, just that he’s reminding us that God calls us to a good life, though not necessarily a safe one. And in contradiction to the way most of us beg to see more of the Spirit IN ME, Chan reminded me that: “When the Holy Spirit truly moves, God is the one praised. Jesus is the one lifted up. When the Spirit moved at Pentecost, people knew there was a power present that came from God.” It’s good to be reminded that the Spirit does what he does to bring glory to the Father through Jesus, not to Bill through Bill.

Throughout, Chan wrote with a warm tone and very personally. And to be honest, I appreciate that. He wrote like a human being, and I love that. In some ways, though, it was a weakness of the book because the book left me feeling just a little meh. And I still struggle to put my finger one why, and I’m not sure I really care to. Part of it was the tone of I-struggled-with-this-once-but-don’t-anymore: “There was a time when I got excited over a crowd showing up to hear me preach, but those days are long gone.” I still find such comments discouraging, because there are so few sins in my life that I can say are “long gone”.

I think the thing more than anything else that I felt uneasy about was the idea that there’s something wrong with our view of God and we need to get on fixing that straight away! For instance, Chan says, “What disturbs me most is when we’re not really bothered that God living in us has not made much of a noticeable difference.” I agree. And it’s true of me, too. But now what? Do I need to try harder to get the Spirit to work in me? Do I need to listen to the Word of Faith folks and get myself a greater faith? I see the gap, but feel like the only solution is to work my way into getting more of the Spirit. The thing is, I know that’s not what Chan is going for, but it kinda felt that way sometimes. And perhaps that’s just me, who still tires easily of books that “convict ya till yer worn through” and if I even feel an inkling of it, I get a case of the heebie jeebies.

So, despite a lukewarm review, would I recommend the book? I would indeed. Chan reminds us not to forget that we have a triune God, where each person of the Trinity relates to us and works in us in unique but important ways. We live in the age of the Spirit. The Spirit coming down at Pentecost was literally a ground-shaking moment, but it’s just ho-hum to most of us. And so I’m grateful for the book and for Chan’s heart in writing it.

Because at the end of the book, I found myself reminded that the Spirit is both kinder than I tend to think and more interested in my good and God’s glory than my prosperity and ease. In fact, the Spirit has been given to us like the Spirit came to Jesus: so that we can walk in the path of the righteous and follow the Way of Jesus. And that Way isn’t all glory and BMWs and flashy grins, but the path of glory through suffering, joy through sorrow, and life through death. I’ll finish with this great quotation:

“Taking up my cross” has become a euphemism for getting through life’s typical burdens with a semi-good attitude. Yet life’s typical burdens—busy schedules, bills, illness, hard decisions, paying for college tuition, losing jobs, houses not selling, and the family dog dying—are felt by everyone, whether or not they follow the Way of Jesus… The crux of it, I believe, is realizing that being filled with the Spirit is not a one-time act… Walking with the Spirit implies an ongoing relationship…an active pursuit of the Spirit… All of this living and action is done in the power of the Spirit. It is not by your own strength.

Answering My Conscience; or How I Find Myself Acting Like a Radical Reformer (Even Though I Don’t Know Much About Them) in the Way I Approach Understanding of Scripture

How about that title? I figure since I’m talking about historical orthodox positions, I’d take a historic approach to making titles like Christians of the past were known for doing.🙂

But seriously, I’ve written in the past about how I believe complementarianism is the biblically faithful way to describe how God has created men and women to relate to one another. Now that’s not really the point of this post, but the fact that I hold that position and actually sat through two systematic theology courses with Bruce Ware help explain why I was rather interesting by the firestorm that erupted over Ware’s (along with Wayne Grudem’s) views on how Jesus relates the Father in the Trinity. I really have very little desire to rehash the whole mess (and it was a mess), but you can go here or here if you really want to read more.

Let me boil down the two basic positions in case you’re normal and don’t care to read the posts I linked to. One side (the “historic” side) is arguing that the councils of the fourth century laid some groundwork on how the persons of the Trinity relate to one another that the other side (Ware/Grudem, a.k.a. the “new” side) are contradicting. (Seriously, I can give you the nuances of the disagreement in the theological minutiae of academia, but it’s not really my point here.) The historic side is calling the new side “heterodox”, which I think is somewhere between orthodoxy and outright heresy (though I’m at a loss to really understand what that means).

Here’s where I care: The historic side is basically saying, “Such and such position was decided on at the council of way-back-when, and so no one can contradict or refine that position.” And now Ware/Grudem have come along, arguing for a position that we all admit somewhat varies from the older position. The shame!

So, what’s the big deal and why am I bothering to write about it? Well, to be honest, I just can’t get myself to side with the historic position dudes because their argument boils down to “it’s older, so it’s better.” And not only that, when they’ve written about it, there’s this condescending tone of “I’d try to explain the nuances of their position, but it’s really complicated and I couldn’t dumb it down enough for you.” So, what they’re defending is a very old position that’s so complicated that only PhDs in historical theology can even understand it.

(Stick with me, I’m really getting there–I promise!)

Well, I’m not one of those PhDs, but I read enough to understand that the historic position is more fundamentally a philosophical position, not a strictly Scriptural position. What I mean is that the position codified at way-back-then council isn’t something that you can point to verses in the actual Bible that defend it, so much as the philosophical and logical necessity of the position in order to make sense of our Trinitarian God.

And now these guys are coming up with a “new” position and–gasp!–it’s based on what they believe the Bible itself actually says. And while they understand that it doesn’t jive well with the historic position, they hold to it because they earnestly believe it’s what the Scriptures teach.

Now, of course, I don’t think either side is claiming that the other side doesn’t care about the actual Bible or logic/philosophy–as the case may be–but in my mind, there’s a fundamental difference in approach. And I fall squarely into the camp of holding the view I can defend from the Bible, even if historical theologians get hives hearing me talk about (though to be fair, I don’t think that’s ever actually happened to me).

As I read the whole thing, I was on the “new” side both in particular and in principle, because I want to base what I believe on what the Word itself says. And while I have great respect for the generations of Christians before me, it doesn’t necessarily hold that just because they lived longer ago than me that they’re right-er than me.

Upon some research, I find myself lining up with a group from the Reformation called the radical reformers. These were the ones who took to heart “Sola Scriptura”, even if what they found contradicted the hallowed councils of the past. And I love them for it. Of course, sometimes they went off into crazy-land. But I so deeply appreciate the desire to follow the Word as faithfully as possible, even if it flew in the face of centuries of church tradition or teaching.

I mean, seriously, look at the 95 Theses and the entire Reformation itself.

At the end of the day, I have to stand or fall on what my conscience and the Holy Spirit in me are convinced is the truth, based on the very Word of God. And it’s simply not good enough for me to find one thing in Scripture and read another thing from some historical council, and let that council trump my heart convictions.

Do I want to be a heretic? No way! Do I want to be informed about and by history? Very much so. But at the end of the day, any historic council was full of people just as sinful and just as redeemed as me. And just as much as I may be wrong,  so may they have been. And I can’t find any part of my heart that can cave my Bible-based convictions because of a council of bishops from centuries past. I’m probably talking in circles at this point. I’m sitting in the room with my family while they watch Pixar Cars, so I’m a tad distracted. I think I feel the weight of the whole conversation, because my church meets in homes, we believe in the full sovereignty of God over salvation, and believe that there is no such thing as a clergy/laity distinction. I hold all of these views from Scripture, but I don’t have much of history on my side.

And the truth is, while it bothers me sometimes, I’m actually fine with that. Because I can defend what I believe from the Bible. And my soul is at peace with it. And the Spirit testifies to my soul that I have to be faithful to what I see, regardless of how much I buck against historical precedent. In that way, I’m very much a descendant of those radical reformers. And this whole controversy I mentioned at the beginning of the post helped me to see this more clearly than I’ve really seen it before.

I’m not ashamed of the heritage I find myself a part of, even if it wasn’t on purpose.

Forsaken by the Father

A brother of mine pointed to this article, where the author challenges that idea that the Father turned his face away from the son on the cross. To state my opinion up front, I disagree with this guy (and the five other blog posts I read that made almost an identical point). Frankly, I feel like he dismantles something that he doesn’t manage to really put back together. He admits he might just nit-picking the term, but I think in nit-picking it he’s unintentionally undermining the theology contained in the whole”Father’s face” short-hand. For instance, I don’t think the statement “the weight of sin caused Him to experience God-forsakenness, yet…the Father’s face wasn’t turned away” makes any sense. What is God-forsakenness if not the absence of the Father’s countenance?

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Anyhoos, here’s my point by point rebuttal–which honestly, I’m writing pretty quickly and I may find that I’ve made some glaring errors in my critique. So, I’m quite open to being challenged here.

  1. Ben’s first point is that “Jesus never addressed His Father as ‘God’ in all His years of ministry.” First, that’s a pretty narrow way to put that. Both John 20:17 and Rev 3:2,12 contradict the statement at the outset. I daresay that pretty much dismantles the point. But second, I’m unconvinced that using the exact language of Psalm 22 marks this as a different intention of how Jesus addresses the Father. Perhaps he just wants to make the allusion clearer. But does that really mean that “Jesus wanted it to be heard specifically differently from the way He usually spoke about Father”? Nah…
  2. His second point relates to some of the things Jesus says after the “Eloi, Eloi” statement are addressed to the Father and would negate the idea that God’s face was turned away from Jesus. As for his use of the term “Father”, I’ve already addressed that above. As to how it these words negate the forsakenness Jesus is experiencing, it doesn’t further his point at all because it doesn’t solve anything for him either. In his own argument, the forsakenness that Jesus supposedly went through is still a problem because in his own view, Jesus isn’t really forsaken because God still hears him. I would rather suggest that just as Jesus existing as fully God and fully man is a mysterious duality, Jesus existing as God in direct fellowship with, well, himself in the Godhead while also completely forsaken isn’t really any different. It’s a duality that occurs because of who Jesus is and what he did. I mean, seriously–one God in three persons? This kind of paradox is a persistent idea in Scripture.
  3. Ben’s third point is that the “Father went with Jesus all the way to and through the cross”, again refuting that the Father withdrew from Jesus. He uses John 16:32 as his proof, where even after the disciples desert Jesus, the Father will still be with him. To which I say: I agree. That’s exactly what happened. The disciples deserted Jesus, but the Father was still with Jesus. But all the way “to and through the cross”? Again, the verse doesn’t prove that. It allows it as a possibility, but doesn’t definitively prove either his side or mine. Putting that text aside, my second point above, I think, still addresses that tension between Jesus being “one with the Father” but also fully forsaken, too.
  4. The fourth assertion is that 2 Cor 5:19 contradicts the Father deserting Jesus because “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself”, meaning that there “was a wholesale involvement with Christ in the middle”. I read this on a couple of other blogs, too, and really don’t even get how this furthers their point. Of course God was reconciling the world to himself by forsaking his very Son, whom he loved. That’s the core of the gospel. Acts 2:23a says, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” It was absolutely the Father accomplishing reconciliation in Jesus–or perhaps it could be said it was through Jesus. I mean, just look two verses later in 2 Cor 5: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God wasn’t making himself sin, but the Son. Jesus was the (one and only) agent through which the Father accomplished this reconciliation. Not by being in Jesus when it occurred, but by making it occur in Jesus. Unless I’m just missing the point he’s trying to make…
  5. Here, Ben is appealing to the OT passages that prophesy about Jesus and how in the midst of them God is still with the author in the midst of the desolation described. Ben’s sixth point is similar, so let me address this here in one way and then wrap it up in the next bullet. Let me just make a broad statement about how the NT uses the OT: they totally jack up context left and right. Here’s an easy example. Matt 2:15 says that Jesus and his parents going to Egypt was to fulfill “what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”” That’s a quotation from Hosea 11. Go check it out. That passage, in context, is about how God delivered his people from slavery in Egypt but then they turned from him to follow idols. So, if we’re going to follow Ben’s approach, that prophecy shows that Jesus was sent to Egypt because he’d been a slave there and he would later chase idols. Say what!?!? Of course not! My point is that the NT regularly ignores the grammatical-historical context of the OT passages–and it’s Spirit-inspired, so we can’t say they got it wrong. This is where typology is a more helpful way to understand it, but even that doesn’t solve all the issues. That’s just to say that appealing to the OT context doesn’t solve anything. And that being the case, the suffering servant passages Ben brings up neither further nor hinder his point. And the same for me.
  6. Now, I think Ben has built up to this as his most important point, so let me also let this be mine as well. Ben’s point is that in Psalm 22, the source of, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” the psalmist also says, “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” And thus he claims that the same must be true for Jesus. Again, I reiterate my fifth point that just because it’s in the context of the OT passage, that doesn’t mean it transfers to the NT context. Regardless, let’s ignore that and ask the question, “Why didn’t God turn his face away from David?” It’s not answered in the psalm, but we know it’s because of the mercy of God. We know from Habakkuk that “your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing” and from Isaiah that “your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.” Is it that David was righteous and that’s why God would listen to him? Check Psalm 51. No way that’s it. So why? Because of the mercy of God. And how could God apply his mercy to David? Because of Jesus.

Let me jump out of the bullets to make this final point: God didn’t turn his face away from David because he did turn his face away from the better David. There was no reason for God to show mercy to David except through his faith in God as redeemer. And who did that redeeming? Jesus did, generations later. Do you see? Psalm 22 shows that David received grace, a gift he didn’t earn. And so the Father didn’t turn his face away as he should have, but regarded David with favor because of the One who did endure God’s wrath and displeasure. Hear it again: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” That’s the great exchange. That’s the reason that God did, in fact, turn his face away: so that all the saints–past, present, and future–could become the righteousness of God, not through their merits, but because the Redeemer Jesus had paid the price for their sins. And what was that price? The punishment due for sin, which is “everlasting destruction and [being] shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thess 1:9) That has been paid, by Jesus, the one who endured being shut out from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his might. And all so we could instead share in the glory of King Jesus.

Lest anyone accuse me of just following the typical evangelical line on this, well, just trust me that I find great joy in rocking the boat. But only when I see it. And despite how much I challenge, I will hold gladly and firmly to those doctrines that root the Gospel for us, those who have been chosen by grace, apart from our works. This issue is core to the gospel, not because I particularly care if you much like the phrase “the Father turns his face away”, but because the truth of that statement is core. And that truth is that Jesus was rejected so we’d be accepted, cast out so we could be brought in, and ultimately forsaken for the sins he never committed to that we could be approved for the perfect record we never held.

That is the gospel, through and through.

Chronological Illogic

In western culture, we place a high emphasis on placing events in chronological order. But sometimes, the way things are revealed or a pivotal point in a story change the way we read the whole thing. Sometimes following the chronology ruins the story.

For instance, despite the fact that most newer editions of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia put them in chronological order, I always encourage friends to read them in publication order. (Here’s a longer reasoning for why.) If you start with The Magician’s Nephew, seeing a lion singing in a strange world makes no sense and the reason behind following the story of Diggory Kirke seems to make little sense. But if read the five books published before, you know that Diggory is the old Professor of the other books and you say immediately on the sighting of the lion, “That must be Aslan!”

Similarly, I feel the same way about the Star Wars movies. Since the prequels were released, there’s a temptation to watch the movies Episodes I-VI. Makes sense, right? Except when you do that, the big reveal to Luke that Darth Vader is really Anakin is just like, “Duh.” But if a new viewer were to watch them with Episodes IV and V first, the revelation takes on a whole new meaning and leads you to ask, “How in the world did that happen?”, which you then get the backstory by watching the prequels. (Though I’m a big advocate for the Machete order.)

The same is true, I think, for how we understand God’s story and how he relates to us. How should one read the Bible? Cover to cover, right? Genesis to Revelation? Or maybe with one of those incredibly complicated chronological Bibles? No, instead we start with Jesus, a concept I learned years ago from Brian Vickers and an excellent book by Graeme Goldsworthy. We don’t read the Bible like we’re slowly working up to Jesus. Instead, we come to it understanding that “all the promises of God find their Yes in King Jesus,” the one who is both author and perfecter of our faith. And trying to read the Bible “from start to finish” ends up ignoring that the life, death, and resurrection change the beginning, middle, and end of God’s whole story. (It was honestly there the whole time, just a mystery till now.)

Sometimes a chronological approach is the most illogical way to understand the most important things.

From a Book: Bent Creatures Are Full of Fears

I’ve recently been re-reading C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy and just finished the first book Out of the Silent Planet. In the book, the word used to describe sin to the inhabitants of Malacandra is “bent”, a word aptly describing how we take the good that God has given and bend it to something other than it’s use. Thus we on Earth (Thulcandra in the book) are all bent. One of the creatures was observing with bemusement how the human visitors had acted so incredibly strangely, full of fear and paranoia. The main character Ransom responded to the creatures who couldn’t understand the fears of their human visitors by saying:

Bent creatures are full of fears.

There’s so much I could say here. So much of my life that is filled with fear. The fear of looking the fool. The fear of getting hurt. The fear of being laughed at. The fear of the future. The fear of my failures. The fear of my successes. The fear of being wrong. The fear of being misunderstood. The fear of being unloved. The fear of my own passions. And on and on and on.

There seems to be a proportional link between our “bentedness” and our fears. Or conversely, the greater our faith, the greater our fearlessness in the hands of a good and wise king. My bentedness is far worse than I lie to myself it is. And the same lies that hide it are also the ones I use to rename my fears as logic and wisdom and reason. But as circumstances have shown lately, I am “laden with guilt and full of fear”, but I hesitate to “fly to thee, my Lord.” Then the blacksmith would have to place me on the anvil and begin to hammer the bends out to straighten me into the image he created me for.

But that would hurt. And I’m afraid of pain.

Feeling Conventional

In an odd turn of events, I registered for the 2017 Gospel Coalition national conference, which is conveniently coming to my own town, Indy. Despite the mundanity of such an action, it’s a ridiculously big deal for me. Somewhere along the line (so long ago that it’s fuzzy now), my identity got wrapped up in making sure to do the opposite of everyone else: a rebel–but a rebel in Reformed Christian circles (which is kinda silly when I say it that way). And I’ve found a tremendous joy in constantly not doing what my peers are doing.

House churches? Check. Unpaid pastor? Check. Living in the city? Check. Disagreeing in some slight-to-serious way with every Reformed author out there? Check. Avoiding conferences because every good pastor is supposed to attend conferences? Check.

So here I am, spending money to go to a conference I don’t have to and, at some level, don’t want to attend. And my wife had to talk me down out of my pretentious, self-righteous judgmentalism to even consider it in the first place. Similar things have been happening lately. When I get all cantankerous and unwilling to put up with anything that didn’t originate from my brain, my wife just rolls her eyes and says, “Old man…”

It’s been an easy path from “blazing my own trail” to “not blazing their trail.” As I read in a Dan Doriani book years ago, when you try to do the opposite of anything you’re still being controlled by the thing you’re rebelling against. And that’s probably the turning point when I stopped feeling original and started feeling like a tool. What’s sad is that I started to pull away in the first place because I felt like a tool.

I’m amazed at how lame I can be.

So, I’m going to a conference. Why? Because I want to. Because I want to hear Keller and Carson and Piper. Because I want to hear more about my commonalities with the reformers who couldn’t find unity. Because I want to learn more about the radical reformation Anabaptists, always pushing and pushing and pushing to be more and more faithful to the Word. Because I want to be reminded that I’m part of the Church, not just indyEkklesia and I can celebrate our differences, differences which orbit around the cross and empty tomb. Because it’d be cool.

Just another step in the humiliation of Bill Bell…

(And as an awesome side note, I get to go with my rockin’ awesome wife. We haven’t been able to attend something that was intended to feed our souls and reinvigorate our tired lives since some incredibly generous friends sent us to a conference ten years ago. God our Dad is very kind!)

An Angry Jesus

In preparing to teach my church from Mark 1:40-45, I stumbled in trying to understand the variant reading (used by the NIV) that said Jesus was angry when the leper came to him for healing. It’s certainly much easier to read that Jesus was “filled with compassion” instead of “pissed off” (my colloquial translation).

After reading a whole bunch of articles, I found Bart Ehrman (who I would never recommend as a resource) to take the most responsible approach to understanding Jesus’ anger. Because Ehrman doesn’t believe in Jesus as the only Son of God, he’s far more comfortable letting the text say uncomfortable things. This is something we believers can sometimes do very poorly. Regardless, he roots Jesus’ anger in confronting the unbelief of those who come to him (cf. Mark 3:5; 9:17-23; 10:14). Not that Jesus doesn’t have compassion as well, but that’s not the only emotion he displays.

This ought not disturb us, but help some incongruities we tend to intuit even if we never actually say them. Don’t we all think the OT God is much meaner than the NT Jesus? Don’t we all have this picture of Jesus as meek and mild? And how does that compare with the conquering King Jesus of John’s Revelation? Maybe the divide isn’t that big. Maybe we try too hard to gloss over the accounts of Jesus that make us squirm so that we have the Santa Clause Jesus, always jolly and ready to give out some nice gifts.

Since Jesus was and is truly God, his nature is no different to how God revealed himself in the Old Testament. If that’s true, are we really that disturbed to see that Jesus was angry sometimes, too? And especially to see that anger directed at unbelief? Suddenly the NT Jesus and OT God don’t seem that far apart…

It also helps to explain how we can exhorted to be angry while not sinning (Eph 4:26). We tend to think that Jesus was allergic to anger. But he wasn’t allergic to it nor was he mastered by it. He saw sin for what it was and was justly pissed about it. There’s a way for us as his people to do the same, even if we usually screw it up by tainting our anger with our own selfishness or self-righteousness.

Finally, I find hope in the anger of Jesus because he let that anger come full circle. He was rightly angry at unbelief. He was angry at our inability to truly have faith in the boundless power of God. But instead of pouring that wrath out on us (as would have been right to do), he submitted to have the wrath poured out on himself instead. Instead of raging at unbelief, he became unbelief so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21). Even while we were dead in our trespasses and sins, he took upon himself our very shame and guilt so that we could be cleansed.

And as in Mark 1 when the leper comes to Jesus, through the simple touch of Jesus we become clean. We become whole. We become white as snow. Through contact with perfection, we find perfection. And through the anger of Jesus comes the only vindication possible: the judgment of God, poured out not on us, but on the only one who never deserved it.

The Story of Stories: Middle Earth

matamata_signIn our final class, we hit the quintessential epic of our time: The Lord of the Rings (along with the Hobbit). As you’ll hear, I recently read the full book and found it to be a beautiful reflection of so many Gospel truths. And the class ends with my hopes for anyone who has been following along, which where we fit into the Story of Stories. Here’s the audio.