Archive for the ‘revelation’ Tag

Participation In The Coming Of Jesus Christ…!, part 7

jesus-heaven-clouds

In this 7th and last message of the Gospel series at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland, entitled: “Participation in the Coming of Jesus Christ…!“, Pastor Tim continues to Proclaim the Good News of the God Revealed in Jesus! In particular he helps us ask and answer:

“If God is HERE, and the Life of the Age to come has BEGUN, and our LIFE HERE HAS MEANING TOO, then why do we yet look for Jesus’ Reappearance?”

Pastor T also considers:

  • What we can and should be doing as we wait for Jesus’ reappearance
  • How we can take part in paying God the highest compliment ever in the meantime,
  • And responds to 3 questions from the audience in the light of the Jesus proclaimed in this series

Check it out!

Participation In The Coming Of Jesus Christ…!, part 6

ADVENT/EPIPHANY – All of Humanity Included In the Love and Life of the Whole God

TrinityIncluded

In this 6th message of the Gospel series at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland, entitled: “Participation in the Coming of Jesus Christ…!“, Pastor Tim continues to Proclaim the Good News of the God Revealed in Jesus! In particular he helps us see:

  • How the mix of Greek philosophy with Christianity has affected songs we write and sing about “G-O-D” (You’ll get a laugh out of one “hit” song and maybe understand your grandparents a little better! haha!)
  • How we might better understand the term “Son of Man” and what is being conveyed more meaningfully to us about the God Who is with and for us on our side!
  • The 4 “D’s” that represent ways we take part with Jesus RIGHT NOW in His coming that match up with Who God is, and who we are in Him in His Ministry of Good News as believers!

We laughed a lot, too! Check it out! 🙂

Participation In The Coming Of Jesus Christ…!, part 5

ADVENT/EPIPHANY – Humanity Revealed to Be in the Vice-like and Gentle Grip of Our Relational God

Advent - The Coming of Jesus

In this 5th message of the Gospel series at New Life Fellowship of Baltimore, Maryland, entitled: “Participation in the Coming of Jesus Christ…!“, Part 5, Pastor Tim continues to be encountered by Jesus, along with the congregation about Jesus’ Presence and Coming, and what it means for us in our day. In this message hear (more in-depth) at least 4 reasons we find it difficult to experience the fullness of joy even though we believe and are included in the Life of God the Trinity in Jesus!

Another interesting day in the Good News! Yay!

Participation In The Coming Of Jesus Christ…!, part 4

ADVENT – God, The Suffering Servant, In His Coming

Advent - The Coming of Jesus

In this encounter with Jesus about His Presence and Coming, He addressed us in the Spirit at New Life Fellowship with Good News responses to:

  • The ULTIMATE reason for YOUR much suffering
  • Why you have nothing to fear from Father, REALLY
  • How you can know EXACTLY when Earth’s worst days are upon it, and
  • Why we should NOT believe in sin and other “things”

It was an interesting day in the Good News! Wow!

Proposal: An eschatology where God is more present than absent

When Jesus talks about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Matt 16, 24, 26; Mark 13; Luke 17, 21), I believe he is using well-known metaphors to warn of a socio-political catastrophe that some of his first-century hearers would live to see.  I also believe in the future event usually called “the Second Coming,” but I believe these texts (and others like them) are not talking about that.

This is not the most important doctrinal distinction in the world. The creeds, for example, don’t address it.  But I am coming to believe it is a distinction that matters and is worth talking about.  More on that in a bit.  But first I want to give some background…

First, T.F. Torrance points out a problem in how we talk about the Coming of Christ:

It is important to recall that the apostolic witness to Christ did not speak of his advent (parousia)…in the plural, for strictly speaking there is only one saving parousia of the Son… The term parousia was used in the New Testament to speak of all three: the coming, arrival, and presence of Christ… His presence is an advent and his advent is a presence. “The hour comes and now is,” as Jesus once said [John 4:23]. The plural word, “advents” or parousiai, was not found in Christian literature for more than a century after the ascension of Christ… In one revealing statement, however, Justin Martyr spoke of what takes place in the midst of Christ’s parousia. In other words, here and now in the on-going life of the Church we live in the midst of the advent-presence of Christ, already partake of the great regeneration of the future, and share in its blessings with one another (Thomas F. Torrance, The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. Edinburgh: 1988. pp. 299,300).

Our deistic culture believes in few things so profoundly as it believes in the absence of God.  We Christians seem to believe that he was present once and will someday be present again, but for now we mostly go along with the broader culture in saying that God is certainly not here now.  Except for being “present in the Spirit,” which we mostly use as a euphemism for “not really present.”

N.T. Wright explains:

When God renews the whole creation, as he has promised, bringing together heaven and earth, Jesus himself will be at the centre of it all, personally present to and with his people and ruling his world fully and finally at last… And since the ascension is often thought of in terms of Jesus ‘going away,’ this future final moment is often thought of in terms of his ‘coming back again,’ hence the shorthand ‘second coming.’  However, since the ascension in fact means that Jesus, though now invisible, is not far away but rather closely present with us, it isn’t surprising that some of the key New Testament passages speak not of his ‘return’ as though from a great distance, but of his ‘appearing’ (e.g. Colossians 3.4; 1 John 3.2)… For the early Christians, the really important event—the resurrection of Jesus—had already taken place, and his final ‘appearing’ would simply complete what had then been decisively begun (N.T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone. John Knox: 2011. pp. 224-25).

The Trinity and Humanity blog is part of a larger theological community that emphasizes the twin mysteries of Trinity & Incarnation, and the universal character of the Atonement which flows from them. This magnificent vision lives and breathes the good news of the Real Presence of the Triune God.  As such, our theological project includes re-formulating doctrines which teach or imply God’s Absence.  The popular eschatology of our day is one such doctrine that requires our attention.

Jesus and the New Testament writers have quite a lot to say about the impending destruction of Jerusalem “in this generation,” and the dark and difficult times leading up to it.  And when we take those texts and impose them upon our doctrines about the future Glorious Appearing of Christ, it has consequences.

It produces a worldview of fatalism and pessimism, because it makes us think we know what the world will look like immediately before Christ appears, and it looks awful.  When the beasts and tribulations of the first century get pasted onto our own future, it produces a vision of the world forever getting worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse until Jesus comes back and fixes it, and there’s nothing any of us can do about it in the meantime, so don’t even try making the world a better place, because we already know it won’t work.

Is this our vision of the world where the life of the Father, Son, and Spirit is earthing itself in human life in the world?  Where Christ is already present and becoming more present all the time?  Do we really want to be telling people to forget the prophetic visions of a world where swords get pounded into plowshares, where everyone has their own fig tree, where it will be considered unusual for someone’s lifespan to be less than 100 years, where water will flow in the wild places and flowers will bloom in the desert?  Do we really want to be telling people to forget all that because those are visions of a world where God is present, and we don’t live in that world, at least not yet?

The Gospel is better than that.

What do you think?  Have I gone off the deep end?

Some questions for a Trinitarian eschatology

I was raised in an apocalypse-centered religion.  Since my years of teenage rebellion, I have mostly ignored eschatology, and it’s been a good re-centering experience.  But nowadays I find myself less and less able to keep saying “Eschatology doesn’t matter.”  Because it does.  The ancients were right to put “He will come again to judge the living and the dead” at the end of the creed rather than the beginning.  But they did include it, and I have begun to agree with their choice.  The future of the Triune God deserves a greater-than-zero level of attention.

Now as I seek to taste eschatology again for the first time, I approach it from the perspective of the One who has given me a future—the Triune God of Grace—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; this perspective changes everything.  What I am finding has little in common with the vision I was raised with.  For one thing, I am asking different questions than I used to, and today I want to share some of those questions with my Trinity-and-Humanity family, so we can all start to think this through together:

Question #1: Where is God?

I think this is the most important question that requires our voice, because I think the standard Christian message distorts the gospel.  People flock to the churches of the world, asking “Where is God?” and the fundamental answer they get is: “Not here yet.”  I don’t usually hear it said in exactly those words, but that is what it boils down to.  Why is there so much evil in the world? Because Christ hasn’t returned yet.  Right?  People are being taught that the world is unpleasant because God is absent.  But the “good news” is that someday his absence will cease, he will smite the wicked (more on that later), and then everything will be fine for us good people.  In the meantime, we say that oh yes, Jesus is already present through the Holy Spirit.  What does that mean?  When we say “I’ll be with you in spirit,” what we really mean is “I won’t be there.”

Our answer to this question needs work.  Yes, we want to affirm that the future of creation is New Creation, a world where the Triune God will be present in a way more intense and obvious than now. But we must find ways of communicating this without giving the impression that God’s current location is anything other than Right Here, Right Now, Always and Forever.  I believe one good path is to start using fewer spatial metaphors (“Christ went to heaven and will someday return to earth”) and start using more epistemic metaphors (“Christ’s presence is now hidden, visible only to the eyes of faith”).  We can make more use of Paul’s metaphor of Christ’s “Appearing” (Greek: “Epiphany”) (Colossians 3.4; 1 Timothy 6.14; 2 Timothy 4.8; Titus 2.13).  Spatial metaphors are fully biblical, but I find that in our deistic cultural context, they are easily misunderstood.  We cannot allow the gospel of God-With-Us be misinterpreted as the bad news of Us-Without-God.

Question #2: Is human history a predetermined downward slope (Or, “Is Greek eschatology right”)?

The Greek philosophical vision of time is simple—the eternal timeless ideal world is the real world. What we live in now is an illusory world of evil disgusting things like matter and time, and that’s why the world is getting worse and worse and worse all the time.  When the Greek mind looks to its future, it sees enlightened people being liberated from their bodies, re-joining the eternal timelessness, while barbarians are banished to Hades. Hmmm. How much has this philosophy polluted the Christian vision?  The eternal Triune Life is being earthed in the world, and the gates of Hell are not prevailing against it.  The darkness cannot put out the Light.  In what ways is this compatible with the idea that the world will inevitably get worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse and worse, until God decides to dispense with this “Grace nonsense” and start kicking bad-guy butt, because we all know that violence is the only real solution to evil. Right?

God has already given his answer to the badness of the world; he sent his one and only Son to be one of us, to make us one with Him.  But we Christians talk about the future as if the solution has not yet arrived, that the real solution is that someday God will stop loving his enemies.  I have more questions than answers here.  We need our best minds working on this.  Messages that don’t make sense get ignored.

Question #3: When Christ appears, how will he treat non-believers?

The Koran says that Allah will one day come to earth and slaughter all the infidels like me, and that my Muslim friends will help.  This is…ahem…distasteful to me.  But do I believe the same basic idea, just with a different deity?  Christian culture is awash in a schizophrenic vision of God—with the kind merciful Jesus on one hand, but behind his back a vengeful Father who wants/needs to destroy us.  I believe this schizophrenia finds one of its greatest expressions in our eschatology—where we preach the grace and kindness of God, but then preach a coming apocalypse where God’s face will have changed somehow, where he will behave toward “the wicked” with something other than kindness.

I believe most of us Trinity-and-Humanity folks agree here that the Triune God has one and only one orientation toward us—Love—and that whatever “judgment” and “wrath” are, they belong to this love and must be defined in terms of love.  Can the Father, Son and Spirit’s presence be abhorrent and painful to those who hate them?  Absolutely.  I can testify to that from personal experience.  The Bible often gives us a very limited human perspective of what God’s presence can be like to those who wish he were absent.  It’s like my baby telling the story about the time I took him to the doctor to get his shots.  I don’t come off as a very kind person in that story, but that doesn’t change who I am as his dad.  Our stories about the pain of unbelief need to be less about torture chambers and more about hospitals.

One related bonus question:  Does grace expire after “The Judgment”?  I was raised with a vision of a sort of timeline of the future where there will come a day when God says “I’m not gotta take it anymore!” and he separates the good people from the bad people, and that’s that.  Period.  Forever.  But with my new understanding of what judgment is—Medicine, not Punishment for law-breaking—this requires re-thinking.  The whole point of the tortures of chemotherapy is the hope that it will eventually cease being necessary.  As Trinitarian worship musician Caleb Miller reminded me this week, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).  We must rehabilitate “eternal punishment”—by #1). Paying closer attention to the meaning of Jesus’ idea of “aionian kolasin” (“age of discipline”) as distinct from the Pharisaical notion of “aidios timoria” (“endless torture”), and #2). Listening to the early church’s take on this issue.  The patristics were not of one voice here, and that’s okay.  Just like it’s okay to pursue diverse notions now.

In case you can’t tell, I haven’t figured all this out yet.  But I hope I’ve started having some almost-coherent questions.  What do you think?  What are the theological and biblical arguments for or against what I’ve said here?  Perhaps even more importantly, what are some other, better questions?

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