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Archive for the ‘Eschatology’ Category

Daveed’s Stud Pose

First off, let me mention that I’m very proud of my friend, Daveed. When I first met him, he was a Muslim and well on his way to being a radical one. Since then, by the power of the resurrected Christ, he’s become a Christian. Praise God! This whole process has given him something of a unique perspective on radical Islam, both domestic and international. You can read all about his experience in My Year Inside Radical Islam. A couple of years ago he also authored a book about how America is not winning the war on terrorism called Bin Laden’s Legacy.

Alright, enough pluggin’ his written work. How about Daveed’s recent work on CNN ? Dig this:

A discussion worth watching

As it comes to the content of that discussion, I admit that I know virtually nothing. Even so, one thing stood out to me that seems quite helpful. Daveed distinguished between “radicalization” and the willingness to engage in violence. These two things are most certainly distinct and need to be understood as such.

Let me illustrate how important this distinction is. I would be (and probably should be) viewed as a radical Christian. (more…)

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Dig in!!

One doesn’t have to read very far in the Gospels to run across the central theme of the Kingdom of God. Not only is the Kingdom front and center, but it is also directly linked with the message and preaching of the Gospel itself. Mark documents the inception of Jesus’ ministry with these provocative words: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel'” (Mk 1:14-5). Recognizing that this post is a little on the long side, I want to discuss three aspects of “coming” or presence of the Kingdom: 1) the distant, consummate Kingdom, 2) the then-present Kingdom, and 3) the then-immediately-anticipated Kingdom.  Clear as mud? Good. Let’s make some mud pie. First, and by far the most popular, would be the distant, consummate Kingdom. One aspect of the Kingdom was that it was a distant reality, distant from the Apostles, from their time. (Turns out that this aspect is the same for us today, just not quite so far off.) This distant aspect of the Kingdom is, I think, prayed for by Jesus: “Thy Kingdom come.”  It is also revealed in the two-age structure of NT eschatology:

(more…)

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For the Life of the World: Sacraments and OrthodoxyFor the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy by Alexander Schmemann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first contact with Alexander Schmemann. I am quite sure that I’ll make some time to explore him further, for I found this little book to be both gloriously illuminating and but also a bit scary.

As to the illumination, Schmemann proposes a view of the world that is enormously compelling. He sees the world “sacramentally.” I think what he means by that is that the world is God’s creation and is both to manifest his presence and also to be fellowship with us. Sin, of course, destroys the whole sacramental aspect of creation and now leads only to death. The church, however, is the sacrament to the world. It is through the church that God manifests his presence to humanity and has fellowship with creation, thus fulfilling creation. This sacramental church function is wonderfully Christ-centered and is expressed and lived in the Sacraments (do note the capital S) of the church. I found all this to be wonderful and refreshing, especially because I saw significant aspects of Postmillennialism and Van Tillian apologetics woven throughout. Not to mention that Schmemann (with his insightful attack on Secularism) would be death on RADICAL two-kingdoms theology. All this is splendid.

But not all is splendid, for the book is also scary. Schmemann did not intend this book as an apologetic for his Eastern Orthodox views of the Sacraments (all seven of them). Rather, it is more a description or an elaboration. Schmemann did not set out to “prove” anything, but rather to set forward or present his ideas. Well, ideas are dangerous things. Just because an idea (or a collection of them) is compelling does not make it correct or true. Holding, as I do, the Bible to be the final word on truth and “leitourgia,” I want to be very careful to weigh Schmemann (and everyone else for that matter) in the balance of God’s very Word. Where Schmemann has captured and articulated God’s truth, let him be our teacher. Where he has not, let God be true and every man a liar.

Finally, as I read this book, I saw Peter Leithart on about every page. Many of Pastor Leithart’s criticisms in The Baptized Body, for example, are quite clearly traceable to Schmemann’s influence (or at least so it seems to me). I mention that only in passing, not to paint Schmemann with a Leithart brush. I am quite sure that the discerning reading will benefit from Schmemann, even in he is opposed to Leithart’s thinking. However, it seems to me that if one wants to understand Leithart better, Schmemann would be a good place to start.

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An Eschatology of VictoryAn Eschatology of Victory by J. Marcellus Kik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book in seminary (probably back in 2004). It was very helpful for my understanding of both the Olivet Discourse and of Revelation 20. Kik unfolds the OT imagery that stands both Mt 24 and Rev 20 masterfully. He’s a Preterist (orthodox, of course) when it comes to vv 3-35 of Mt 24. He notes that the far demonstrative pronoun (“that”) in vs 36 indicates that Jesus is shifting his focus from “this generation” to the very end. As to the second half of the book, I think he something of an Amillennialist when it comes to his interpretation of Rev 20. His understanding of the imagery of that chapter is magnificent and highly persuasive. In both cases, his work is illuminating and helpful. This book comes highly recommended. Don’t settle your eschatological convictions until you’ve grappled with Kik.

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The Late, Great Campout

So, I’ll admit right up front that I don’t know much (nor do I care to know much) about Harold Camping. I’m aware that he declared all the churches to be apostate and that Christians were obliged to leave them. They were duly admonished, however, to personal Bible study and to listen to Camping’s Family Radio show. For one who believes the Bible, that’s enough to show that this feller’s not the coldest beer in the fridge. Remember, Christ commissioned his church and told her that he’d be with her to the end of the age (Mt. 28). What that means is that there will always be a visible, catholic church on the earth until Jesus comes back. Now, if Camping can mess up something that simple, I’m not surprised that (in dabbling with eschatology) he’s in way over his head.

For those who don’t know, Camping ALREADY predicted that Jesus would return in 1994. Last time I checked my calendar, ’94’s come and gone. No worries: Like William Miller of old, he goes back to the drawing board. Unlike Miller, who thought that his arithmetic was off by just one, Camping’s come back around 17 years later with a new following ready to sell their worldly goods and stare steadfastly heavenward. Remember that Miller, once 1844 came and went (the “Great Disappointment”), checked out of the public spotlight and quieted down as a pastor. I don’t suppose Camping will do anything of the sort. But when Miller ducked out, Ellen G. White stepped in. I suspect that Camping is a mix of both of these types… I hope not.

Jesus himself tells us that no man knows the day or the hour of the end (Matt. 24:36). Let me see if I can put a finer point on this:

1) No man knows the day or the hour of the end.

2) Harold Camping is a man.

3) Therefore Harold camping does not know the day or the hour of the end.

When Christians ignore their Bibles (and listen to MEN), they are led astray. Don’t matter if they’re misguided Protestants (following the likes of Camping), Roman Catholics following the traditions of the church, or Easter Orthodox following the councils. Now, don’t misunderstand: I love the people of the church, generally speaking I love the traditions of the church, and I love the early ecumenical councils of the church. But the infallible Word of God, the Bible, has to be the final judge of faith and practice. The Bible sits in judgment over the church, her traditions and her councils. God, by his Spirit, rules us through his word. He himself is not bound to the Bible, but he has bound us to it. When we break that bond, we fly off into all manner of foolishness – Harold Camping being the most recent example.

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Absolutely gorgeous!

One of my friends on Facebook pointed to this article from a brother named Peter. Peter’s article is short and helpful, as it demonstrates the humanistic mindset into which the Reformed faith consistently runs. Peter’s major difficulty is that he’s trying to understand Calvinism with a humanistic mindset. It’s like Queen Victoria and the Bee Gees… they just don’t go together. The humanistic mindset weighs God in the balance of human assessment. The Christian mindset weighs humanity (our thoughts and emotions) in the balance of God’s revelation in Scripture. When God asserts that he has mercy on whom he will and whom he will he hardens, the Christian mindset says (more…)

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One of the great heroes of the 3rd century

The 3rd century opened with a relatively weak Roman government, which (at least for the first half of the century) gave Christianity room to grow and thrive. That growth came with significant internal growing pains, i.e., pains of heresy. The second half of the century started with the short reign of Emperor Decius (AD 201-251), who re-instituted persecutions of the Christian church with zeal. This produced a short but messy period of time full of martyrs and lapsi. Roman persecutions then largely ceased until the early fourth century under Diocletian.

Internal opposition (heresy): the most important heresy of this period is called Gnosticism. It was the great intellectual plague of the church that started in earnest in the 2nd century and flourished in the 3rd. Gnosticism is far too large and involved to address here. The major aspects of Gnosticism: 1) a curious pantheon, including a demiurge; 2) a loathing and denigration of the physical world (exalting rather in the immaterial); and 3) an emphasis on special spiritual knowledge (gnosis – from which it takes its name). Funny enough, the church still struggles with gnostic issues, especially the downplaying of this world (e.g., Amillennialism).

Another major heresy of the 3rd century has to do with Trinitarianism. In this period, we find the rise of two forms of Unitarian theology: Dynamic and Modalistic Monarchialism. Dynamic Monarchialism taught that Jesus received the power of Christ at his baptism, before which he was as any other man. After which, he wrought many signs. This made him closer to God than other humans (also called Adoptionism). Modalistic Monarchialism taught that God has different energies/modes/faces under which he shows himself – now the Father, now the Son, now the Spirit – not three distinct persons, but one person under different energies/modes/faces. This heresy was called Patripassians in the West and Sabellianism in the East.

Now, a couple of villains of the third century (think about naming your dogs or roadkill after these men):

  • Sabellius (fl. ca. 215) – from Libya; went to Rome and taught; excommunicated in 220; denied the real distinctions between the persons of the Godhead; espoused Modalistic view of God.
  • Mani (d. 277) – From Persia (modern-day Iraq), took elements of Zoroastrianism and infused with Christian terminology and some Buddhist-style asceticism to come up with Manichaeism, a rival religion to Christianity.

A few champions of the century (think about naming your children after these):

  • Irenaeus barely made the 3rd century!

    Irenaeus (d. ca. 202) – bishop in Gaul (France) the early formulator of Catholic orthodoxy; stressed that Scripture and church tradition provided a full and consistent Christianity; contra Gnosticism that only had bits and pieces of the teaching of Jesus, but no full understanding and thus much misunderstanding. Irenaeus was to the Apostolic Fathers and the earlier Apologists as John Calvin was to the Reformation – a systematizer presenting a broad and complete picture.

  • Clement of Alexandria (ca. 150-215) – not to be confused with Clement of Rome (d. 100) – the first great teacher of the Catechetical School in Alexandria (center of Christian scholarship with massive libraries); scholar of philosophy and classic literature.
  • Origen (ca. 185-254) – seriously ascetic; castrated himself!; followed Clement as head of the Catechetical School in Alexandria; he’s the massive scholar of the first three centuries of the Church; very early textual scholar (Hexapla); explored the philosophical import and roots of Christian though (de Principiis); wrote over 6000 works; a good bit of his theology we’d think is loopy, if not downright heretical (denial of physical resurrection, some sort of universalism, subordinationist in his Christology…); run out of Alexandria, imprisoned and tortured under Decius (ca. 250), released at about 69 years of age and died in Tyre – probably martyred.
  • Tertullian (ca. 160-220) – born in Carthage; brought up Pagan; trained as a lawyer; converted ca. 198; first major writer in Latin; seems to have coined “Trinity” (trinitas) and Trinitarian terminology: “three Persons, one Substance”; was a Montanist (though probably mild) and wrote against heresies (e.g., Gnosticism, Monarchianism); fountainhead of Western (Latin) Christianity.
  • Cyprian (ca. 200-258) – grew up wealthy with great classical education in Africa, probably Carthage; converted and gave away money; studied Bible and the Fathers (his favorite Tertullian); became Bishop of Carthage, wrote from hiding for 1.5 years during Decius’ persecutions (ca. 250); returned and was martyred by beheading 258. Central figure of the controversy over the lapsed (martyrs, confessors, libellatici, lapsi); Famous quote: “No one can have God as Father who does not have the Church as Mother.”

Thus continues our story… more to come.

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