Friday, August 15, 2008

What is going on with lay theology?


So, yesterday i received and e-mail warning of the coming anti-christ in the person of Obama. The e-mail said, "we know from the bible that the anti-christ will be roughly 40 yrs old and of Muslim decent." I don't think that's the bible, try more like Tim Lahaye and the left behind series or perhaps some of the great preachers of our day like John Hagee. Look, first of all, Islam came into existence some five hundred years after the Revelation was written, and second, no where(at least that I've seen) is the anti-christ's age given, and even if it were, taking numerology in apocalyptic literature literally is more often than not naive and dangerous. This is simply another example of pour exegesis and theology seeping down to the masses, who then, pardon the pun, take it for gospel. The more i contemplate Christianity, the story of Jesus, His Kingdom, and His people, the more I'm convinced of the centrality of eschatology. All our beliefs, and all our actions are to be because of the coming King. I will be the first to admit that eschatology(and by this i don't mean finding out the specific locations and happenings of the end time like our dispensational friends) is one of the most difficult of studies, but considering that who, where, what we shall be and see grounds much of the New Testaments call to Christ-likeness, i think its time to stop getting our doctrines from the fiction section. What we believe will shape who we are.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One, alas estranged

Why the hate, why the wars, why all this rage?
people living estranged, confined in their fleshy cage
one soul wont lift a finger to aid one in hurt
one government sends missiles, another's terrain burnt
one sits in luxury, exalted in clouds, feasting like a sheik
one barely feeds his family, living week to week
and still one has even less and lives in perpetual want
the shame in his children's eyes, in his sleep haunts

why do we live in such a state of despair?
I'm afraid we've forsaken God, and now no one cares
if we came from apes, and live only to endure
why would i give a damn about who i injure?
but what if our chief virtue is not simply to survive,
regardless of whom we have to slay?
and staying alive meant equal parts in a divine play
in which our chief virtue was to imitate and like become
the Son of God, the King, the One

love we are to mimic, true love and not fluff
"you are in need? here, have some of my stuff"
"you have invaded this country, and have provoked our state,
we forgive you, and we vow not retaliate"
"you are broken by life, disease and despair?
let me cut my day short, and your need repair?"
regardless whether you like living among others,
we are, by creation, universally brothers
and your hopes and dreams and sorrow and pain
affect us all, and their burden i claim

Saturday, August 9, 2008


Occasionally i would like to post artwork from the different periods, mostly just so you can enjoy them, but also to engage the philosophy and theology behind them. I've chosen to begin with this one by Vincent Van Gogh. To those that do not know the name of this particular work, you would assume something like old boots, but in actuality it is titled "self portrait". Vincent began his career as both an artist and a pastor. Many biographies site his religious zeal, but once in practice, the pressures from and hypocrisy of the establishment tormented his life. It was during this period, shortly before he left the ministry, that he painted his "self portrait". With this piece of art, i think, began a whole new genre of art.... expressionism. No longer would art try to idealize or realize nature around us, but it would express the emotions we felt as we live within nature. This painting has a poignant philosophical and theological statement, that sometimes we feel as if ministry and this world tramples all over us. Though i believe Van Gogh had a negative statement to make in this work (he did leave the ministry and, most believe, eventually committed suicide), the Christian can look at this and bask in the knowledge that this depiction adequately evaluates the humility and baseness of ministry to a dying world. In summary, i ask if this same portrait could be applied to the earthly ministry of the incarnate God himself.

Outside the walls

fawn after these ephemeral moments if you will
but i tell you, you were made for much greater things
prize and scrape for the scraps this world discards
but ive tasted bread, the sweetest of breads
and it will not leave you wanting
fight and war for that yellow poison,
those shiny pernicious bobbles you have to have
but there is treasure, in yonder field,
come and i will show you where to dig
sit inside your cozy corners, and build your babling towers
we all go outside the walls, where paradox dwells
for there, reproachment brings vindication
there, scorn brings accolades
there, the lowly become exalted
and the poor feast like kings
there we find death, momentary death
and then the city we've longed to claim

Into the profane

Hebrews 13:12-14..."so Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."

It seems unmistakable that the author of Hebrews is illuminating the sanctifying work of Christ with the Day of Atonement imagery from Leviticus 16. One goat had all of Israel's sin placed upon its head and then was released, alive, OUTSIDE the camp and into the wilderness (Lev 16:21), the other goat, along with a bull, were sacrificed but then taken OUTSIDE the camp to be burned (Lev 16:27). Whether the author of Hebrews has the scapegoat, the sacrificial goat, or perhaps both in mind is a matter of continuing debate (and wont be commented on until further study), but it is sufficient for this entry that one recognizes the thematics. It is also worth noting that in Israel's law and customs, outside the camp was a place for the unclean: the leper, the menstruating, the men who know, and others who had any number of foul diseases. The point being, outside the camp was the place for those outside the community...and that is where Jesus went, so that he might be sacrificed and made to sanctify those in need, being ridiculed and scorned as he went.

And what of us? The text is clear that we, along with the original recipients, are to go out as well, but not just to go out, to go out to him, and not just go out to him but to go out and receive the reproach that he received. Our venture is not one of atoning work; ours is one of identification and immitation with the life death and resurrection of Christ, an identification that leads to the world rejecting us as it did the one they had just crucified.

But what's the deal with going outside the camp? And why have i centred this blogging endeavor around such imagery? Cant we be like Christ inside the city, and does this mean God intends his people to be a rural people? The answer, i think lay in the ancient, and to some extent even the modern, worldview in regards to symbolism. The ancients considered the city a sacred place, a place of safety, home, a place where gods and men, the infinite and finite meet, and while there were other symbols for this idea, the home, temples, mountain tops etc., none seem to be used more prolifically than the city. On the other hand, outside the city, the wilderness, the sea was considered profane, a dangerous, mysterious, daunting place. So for Christ to go outside the city is for Christ to go to the profane, and in so doing, sanctify, or if you will, holify, it. This i believe is the heart of the commission that we are given in go into those areas of life considered profane and unholy and reclaim them as parts of God's Kingdom. Essentially that is what we are doing with human beings when we evangelize; they are lost, alienated from God, unholy, and we are to bring them into His Kingdom. But i believe, and the reason for this blog, is that all of creation is to be reclaimed. We ought not only care for man's soul being brought back, but the whole man. This includes artistically, intellectually, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Beyond man, there is also an entire created universe that has fallen under profane dominion.

The task here, and in all my life will be to quest outside the safe confines of our "cities" and into the profanity that creation has become...the risk of such conquest is reproach and even death, but what a glorious lot to be treated as the King. For as the author of Hebrews we have no city, for we await another one. How ironic that the gospel calls us out of what the world considers sacred, into the mire and despair of the wilderness, so that we might enter into the truly sacred, the city of God.