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Feb
05
2014

Take the Bible More Seriously Than Ken Ham: Interpretation Matters

Since I'm a member of the Christian blogosphere (albeit begrudgingly), this is my nearly obligatory two cents on the Ham v. Nye debate. However, I'm not going to rehearse the debate in any real detail nor attempt to persuade you of my view on the relationship between faith and science. If you care what my view is, suffice to say you can count me among the BioLogos tribe. And I would encourage you to read their take on the debate. You can also read my review of John Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One to find out more.

In this brief note, I only want to make a simple point: 'Taking the Bible seriously' (as Fundamentalist Christians are prone to call their pseudo-scientific literalism) isn't and doesn't. In other words, the imposing of an anachronistic interpretative grid upon the text of Scripture is incompatible with the claim to take the Bible "seriously." The only way to take the Bible "seriously" is to the take the Bible on the Bible's terms, not our own.

Every person who reads the Bible, interprets the Bible.

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Jan
23
2014

That Time When Wright Was Wrong: On Christians in the Military

Anyone who knows my theological steeze knows that I dig me some N. T. Wrizzle. I've lost track of how many books I've read by him—both his tomes and his popular-level work. And when he was in town (at Harvard), I got the perfunctory theogeek/fanboy selfie with the Bishop himself:

 

See how happy I look!

So, naturally, on 99% of theological issues, I'm going to see eye-to-eye with Dr. Wright. But, it's important to realize that even the theologians you admire most aren't perfect. Everyone has their blind spots—even the Bishop!

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Jan
13
2014

Fiercely Moderate Theology: Reflections on Covenant Affirmations by Donald C. Frisk

Author: Donald C. Frisk
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Covenant Publications (2003)
Language: English
Pages: 175
ISBN: N/A

Covenant Bookstore

The Evangelical Covenant Church (hereafter simply the Covenant or ECC) is passionate about unity, fiercely moderate, and insistent on irenic theological dialogue. While carefully articulating a robust, orthodox, and systematic Christian theology, these values shine through most in Donald C. Frisk’s Covenant Affirmations: This We Believe. Throughout the book, Frisk surveys a range of perspectives on each doctrine, drawing from a number of diverse sources and traditions, highlighting the strengths and potential blind spots of each, then invariably manages to carve out a balanced way forward. What results is a theological proposal that is truly catholic and Christian. “Recognizing the possibility of divergent interpretations [of Scripture], the Covenant encourages discussion of the issues within a context of trust and love.” (p.153) I find refreshing this entire approach, and the creative doctrinal formulations it produces. It is positioned to have broad appeal, since it is grounded in sound theological method, respects the Covenant’s Pietist roots, and yet remains open to insights from other branches of the Christian family tree. However, there was at least one section that I found confusing. Uncharacteristic of the book as a whole, Frisk’s delineation of divine revelation, the “word of God,” and The Word of God (Jesus), struck this reader as a bit convoluted at one point. Nevertheless, I could find little to nothing in Covenant Affirmations seriously objectionable. I would only want to suggest a constructive and complementary layer of future theological exploration. These three areas of reflection will frame what follows.

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Jan
06
2014

Conquer Like the Lamb: Cruciform-centrism in Revelation (For Everyone) by N. T. Wright

For Christmas I was gifted with N. T. Wright's "For Everyone" commentary set on the New Testament thanks to my wife and members of the New City Covenant church plant. (THANK YOU!!!) I've wanted this set of commentaries for my library for several years now, and it's clear now that it was well worth the wait. Just as soon as all the shredded wrapping paper was collected and recycled, I was hard at work digesting the first book from the series I pulled from the shelf. I decided to start with Revelation. For one reason, I recently read Reversed Thunder by Eugene Peterson and loved it. 1 Also, having read a fair amount of Wright's other work, I felt that Revelation might be where his theological insights would shine brightest—and I think I was right.

Wright's commentary on Revelation is excellent! It's accessible, thorough yet brief, and clearly organized. Wright remains true to his signature areas of insight, expounding on the historical-cultural, as well as the socio-religio-political, contexts of the book; the Person of Jesus in relationship to Israel's God (including, obviously, a healthy dose of insight from Second Temple Jewish theology); the nature of the Jesus Movement out of which this text emerges; and the nature of the 'salvation' this book (and the rest of the New Testament) proclaim. Wright's unique perspective on justification makes a few important appearances, and his hallmark critique of Platonic dualism in Western visions of the afterlife also shows up from time to time. Even his now common exposés of violence and systemic injustice make their way into the book. This commentary has all the things which have made N. T. Wright one of my favorite theologians to read.

Above all, Wright's commentary on Revelation is most praiseworthy for its explicit Cruciform-centrism. 2 Five discernible themes in Wright's exposition of Revelation make this clear:

  1. Jesus is the Lamb at the Center of God's Throne;

  2. The Powers War Against the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and God's Good Creation;

  3. The Lamb is Victorious Over the Powers in and Through the Cross;

  4. Jesus's Bride Conquers Like the Lamb—Through Self-giving Love;

  5. God is Faithful to His Covenant Through the Lamb, the Followers of the Lamb, and New Creation

As Wright plainly states upfront: "…the whole point of the book. Jesus himself won the victory through his suffering, and so must his people." - p.10

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Dec
31
2013

10 Books I Read in 2013 & 10 Books I Want to Read in 2014

In 2013, I actually read more books than I can remember—literally. I went back and tried to create a list (so I can be cool like Larry Garcia!) but it kept getting longer and longer and I realized I wouldn't have this post done before 2014 comes. So, instead, I'm just listing 10 of the best (or most interesting) books I read this past year, and 10 books I'd like to read in 2014.

2013:

1. Mañana - Justo González
I really loved this book and González instantly became one of my new favorite theologians. I'm going to try to read more of his work in the coming years. This book is short and profound!

2. Benefit of the Doubt - Greg Boyd
If you're familiar with Greg Boyd's writing or preaching ministry, little in this book will surprise you. However, this book will be a breath of fresh air for any folks wrestling with Christian faith, or those who have walked away from it. Boyd has a gift for making complex theology accessible.

3. The Real Jesus - Luke Timothy Johnson
This book was assigned reading for a New Testament course, but I really loved it. Not only is LTJ hilariously snarky, he's also a deeply committed scholar. That's a fun combo!

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Dec
31
2013

10 Transformational Books: A Pilgrimage in Christian Thought

I don’t often participate in Facebook status memes, but I’m a sucker for a walk down book-reading memory lane. So I recently re-posted the 10-books-that-affected-you status. Since these books have had a profound effect on me, here I thought I’d make some brief comments on each one.

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Oct
23
2013

Election and Grace: The Arrival of King Jesus, Part 5 of 10

We've reached the half-way point in this 10-part series on St. Paul's first letter to the church of the Thessalonians. From here on out, each part will be topical, and we'll be covering themes that appear throughout the letter.

This week we're covering "election and grace". The reason why this subject is important is because some interpretors and commentators have viewed the entire letter through the lens of their doctrine surrounding God's saving election and grace. It is also important because there are at least two key verses which have to do with election and predestination which must be interpreted. So, how should be understand them?

In the attached document, two perspectives from the Reformed tradition are outlined: that of John Calvin and his followers, as well as that of Jacob Arminius and his followers. Then an alternative way of conceptualizing election and grace is outlined.

"Messiah Jesus of Nazareth is the Elect One, the One whom the Father loves. As we “come to him” through repentance and faith, we are added to his spiritual body, the ekklesia, the ‘called out ones,’ and we too become God’s elect. In Jesus, we are being built up into a temple in which God dwells by God’s Spirit."

There are several dialogue questions you can ask yourself or discuss with others. Download the attached document to learn more.

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Oct
19
2013

The Hope of the Thessalonians: The Arrival of King Jesus, Part 4 of 10

In this 10-week study of First Thessalonians, we've reached week 4. In part 2 and part 3 we looked at the first two components of the letter's "table of contents". Paul (roughly) divides the letter into 3 sections based on the three couplets of praise he gives the Thessalonians: Their "work of faith," their "labor of love," and their "steadfastness of hope." This week, we're looking at the third couplet.

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Oct
10
2013

The Stunning Beauty of Enemy-Love: Malala Yousafzai on The Daily Show

Malala Yousafzai is a 16-year-old, Pakistani, Muslim girl. She was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote her new book. Her story is pretty amazing, but not nearly as amazing as her nonviolent convictions. When her opportunity to pursue education was taken away by terrorists, she refused to keep quiet. Instead, she spoke out for the rights of girls to receive an education through every available means. This made her a target of the Taliban, and they sought to murder her.

In the interview with Jon Stewart, an amazing thing happened. Stewart asked Malala what she was thinking when she found out she was being targeted by a terrorist group. In a thrilling moment of television history, she related to Stewart her firm conviction to seek the good even of those who would want to kill her. She explained that even the female children of the Taliban deserve the opportunity to get an education. And she told Jon in no uncertain terms that she would not resort to violence, even to defend herself.

Both my wife, Osheta, and I were watching this interview while reading and writing on our laptops. When we heard her words, we both stopped typing and looked up—we were as stunned as Stewart. Malala embodies the spirit of Jesus's command to love one's enemies better than most of the teaching among US American Christians. And Stewart didn't know it, but the beauty of her testimony, the beauty that stunned him silent, is the beauty of the cross-shaped love of Jesus.

http://www.businessinsider.com/malala-yousafzai-left-jon-stewart-speechless-2013-10 

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Oct
10
2013

The Love of the Thessalonians: The Arrival of King Jesus, Part 3 of 10

Last week, in part 2 of this 10-week study of First Thessalonians I'm calling "The Arrival of King Jesus," we looked at the first couplet from chapter 1, verse 3, the Thessalonians "work of faith." This week, we're looking at the second, their "labor of love."

Love Requires Labor

The first thing that sticks out is the way Paul's characterization of love contrasts so cleanly with the way love is often depicted in 21st century Western culture. Rather than a "feeling" that comes over a person without warning and over which the person has no control (e.g. "falling in love" etc.), Paul's description of the Thessalonian's love is one of painful toil, or labor. The Thessalonians have had to put effort into their love; it hasn't been a romantic walk in the park. The kind of laborous love Paul describes manifests as self-control. Here's an excerpt from this week's study guide:

Instead of “lust like the heathen who do not know God,” by which people take advantage of one another, the Thessalonians have been “taught by God” a new way of love. This love is a holy love that is controls one’s body. (4.4) It is like the protective armor the Roman soldiers wear, only it protects believers from spiritual warfare. (5.7) And this self-control also entails leading a quiet life, “minding one’s own business,” as a missional witness to those outside the body of Christ. This self-control comes from the Holy Spirit whom God has given the Thessalonians. (4.8) A few years earlier (perhaps), Paul penned similar words to the churches of Galatia saying,

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” — Gal. 5.22-24

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Welcome to TheologicalGraffiti.com

T. C. and Tyson Moore

Theological Graffiti is the offical blog of T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, urban church planter @NewCityCovenant, designer @NewCityPro, teacher, student, and friend. Discussion is welcome, so long as it is conducted in a spirit of charity. First and foremost, this blog is for self-expression—then community. More About.Me

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