Archives For Jesus Christ

It’s not a stretch to make a contemporary theological bridge between Kipling, the Seven Samurai and Jesus Christ. The fact that it also carries a multicultural point is a bonus.

From this:

‘For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot:
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool – you bet this Tommy sees!’

‘Tommy’ , Rudyard Kipling.

To this:

IMG_44201

 

Then this:

 

‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognise them by their fruits […] Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day may will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, cast out demons in your name, and do mighty works in your name? And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man [or woman] who built their house on the rock.’
(Matthew 7:21-27, ESV)

The first represents Jesus, even the Church as a modern convenience when needed. Little more than a nuisance when not.

The second reflects the same orientation of the human heart. It neither welcomes the fierce offence and defence encapsulated in God’s grace and law, but begs for closer ties to it, when the enemy is at the gates.

The third, is both an indictment and a conclusion. It includes the warning of the two which preceded it. The added difference is that this commanding final stand, is a final word against double standards, hypocrisy and nominalism. These are Jesus Christ as convenience and the inconvenient Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, to beginning again, what this says is that Jesus Christ is Lord over us, before us, behind us and with us. Jesus is not a utility we master and use; an expendable solider who can be ordered around and misused.  Although many may quest for the Kingdom and try to use God in order to get it. None of us can have the Kingdom if we’ve ejected God from it.


Source:

Kipling, R. 1994 Collected Poems, Wordsworth Ed (p.411)

Kurosawa, Akira. (Dir.) 1954  Seven Samurai,  Toho Co. Ltd.

GVL Barth Quote CD II_I p_444Written not long after the beginning of World War II, Barth’s statement, ‘that every genuine proclamation of the Christian faith is a force disturbing to, even destructive of, the advance of religion’, has clout.

Natural Theology is on Barth’s radar. In part because of nominalism and how it was used to subsume Christians into National Socialism. Natural Theology was a slippery slope, that fed into the notion that the Führer knows best; that those in the Fatherland (State) who showed allegiance to anyone other than the Führer were traitors; or worse, heretics.

There could only be ‘Mien Kampf’, the Führer and his prophets. This is different to the sole claim and uniqueness of God,  ‘attested by God, in His revelation [Covenant and Jesus Christ] by prophets and apostles. This means that all so-called or would-be deities and divinities apart from Him lose their character as gods. The faith and worship offered to them cannot be taken seriously. They fade away as idols and nonentities. And so God’s freedom, majesty and sovereignty shine out in His uniqueness […] The decision is reached that this God who chooses us is God alone, and that all other so-called or would-be gods are not what they claim to be.’ (Barth, p.443)

Present in this section is a direct reference to Barth’s historical context. It might be pessimistic to suggest a connection between his time and our own, but I don’t consider it a stretch.

‘It was no mere fabrication when the Early Church was accused by the world around it of atheism, and it would have been wiser for its apologists not to have defended themselves so keenly against this charge.
There is a real basis for the feeling, current to this day, that every genuine proclamation of the Christian faith is a force disturbing to, even destructive of, the advance of religion, its life and richness and peace.
It is bound to be so.
Olympus and Valhalla decrease in population when the message of the God who is the one and only God is really known and believed. The figures of every religious culture are necessarily secularised and recede. They can keep themselves alive only as ideas, symbols and ghosts, and finally as comic figures. And in the end even in this form they sink into oblivion.
No sentence is more dangerous or revolutionary than that God is One and there is no other like Him.
All the permanencies of the world draw their life from ideologies and mythologies, from open or disguised religions, and to this extent from all possible forms of deity and divinity. It was on the truth of the sentence that God is One that the “Third Reich” of Adolf Hitler made shipwreck.
Let this sentence be uttered in such a way that it is heard and grasped, and at once 450 prophets of Ball are always in fear of their lives. There is no more room now for what the recent past called toleration. Beside God there are only His creatures or false gods, and beside faith in Him there are religions only as religions of superstition, error and finally irreligion.
If everything divine is not recognised, sought and honoured as the sole possession of the one God, He is robbed of His honour, and the worship apparently offered to Him is profaned.’
(Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II/I 1940 p.444)

GnadeBarth’s main starting point in his discussion on the Holiness of Grace, is that the freedom of God is framed by Jesus Christ. [i]

The freedom of God is His love actualised for us in covenant and Christ. E.g.: promise, fulfilment, and promise of future fulfilment.

God’s love and holiness are inseparable characteristics of grace.

On one, rests, ‘love: grace, mercy and patience. On the other, freedom: holiness, righteousness and wisdom.’ (p.352); ‘To say grace is to say the forgiveness of sins; to say holiness, judgement upon sins’ (p.360).

According to Barth, ‘grace shows its power over and against sin. It reckons with it, but does not fear it. It is not limited by it. It overcomes it, triumphing in this opposition and the overcoming of it’ (p.355)

More significantly:

‘Where God is revealed and objective, He is always the gracious God’ (p.356) […] ‘He is so even when He is the God who is denied and hated by us, and therefore provoked against us. He is so even as the God against whom we sin and who therefore judges and punishes us. We know and rightly understand our sin only when we have realised it to be enmity against the grace of God. And we turn from our sin only when we return to the grace of God’ (p.367).

God, in covenant and Christ, reveals himself as both firm and approachable.

What God does comes from who God is[ii]: ‘God makes Himself the gift, offering fellowship to us’ (p.354); ‘Grace is how God loves. This is how He seeks and creates fellowship between Himself and us’ (p.357)

It’s important to Barth that we understand why ‘we may distinguish, but we shall certainly not separate between God’s grace and God’s holiness’ (p.360). Because the ‘holiness of God is not side by side with, but in His grace, and His wrath is not separate from but in His love (p.363). The law which slays and the Gospel which makes alive are interwoven in the most astonishing way: God is as gracious as He is holy and holy as He is gracious’ (p.365)

Through this we can come to understand that ‘only where God’s love is not yet revealed, not yet or no longer, can there be a separation instead of a distinction’ (ibid).

It’s this point that Barth wants to emphasise:

The ‘command then to be Holy as I am Holy[iii], is a not a command by which God urges sinful humanity to secure for themselves a status or merit in His presence. But as God’s command it is quite simply the command to cleave to His grace.’ (p.364)

However,

‘that God is gracious doesn’t mean that He surrenders Himself to the one to whom He is gracious… to accept God’s grace necessarily means, therefore to respect God’s holiness; [His gracious and loving “yes” and “no” – Proverbs 3:12]. It means accepting God’s grace in thankfulness, to be contentedly replenished by it.’ (pp. 361 & 367)

The holiness of God’s Grace is actualised in the act of correction. Any rejection of God’s grace is also a rejection of instruction.

Applied to today, it might serve us to seek out where there might be a separation of holiness from grace?

As Barth suggests, if there is, then, perhaps we’ve created an idol; something other than God.

Grace cut off from God’s holiness is a grace transformed into what we want grace to be. It is nothing other than cheap grace. It denies the reality of Jesus Christ.  Cheap grace is mistaken for being God’s actual grace. It’s transformed into a ‘positive optimism’, tethered together by an unteachable arrogance and blissful ignorance. It’s weak, but sells well. Its future is bleak, but cheap grace is easily reinvented. It’s easily manipulated.

Cheap grace is the master of all disguises. Made up primarily of inoffensive fragments picked out from an offensive grace. God’s Word is sanitised.  As a result, God’s true nature and being is compromised; obscured from us. Even though we are slowly and subtly dragged back into darkness by a Frankenstein of our own making.This new understanding is celebrated as a revolution.

Still, God is not numb to our reality. Barth interprets the mainstay of the Biblical text: Rescue and remedy. God does not and has not abandoned us.

He loves us despite the rejection and counterfeit grace that is confused with real grace.

Examples of this include the “progressive” salesperson, who, sells a new tolerance and yet demonises anyone who questions, challenges or outright opposes them. This is humanity supported by God’s achievement; held firmly by God’s grace, but it is humanity choosing to bathe in the presumed glory of its own independence and sovereignty. The part of modern humanity that is hell-bent on buying and selling others into destruction and despair, because the fear of seeming intolerant or offensive towards our neighbour has hindered us from actually being able to love our neighbour. Which requires both a responsible “yes” and a loving “no.”

Men and women following crowds that proudly claim God’s grace, yet quietly erase God’s holiness and by default His freedom, make it all the more important to hear Barth when he says:

‘The holiness of God’s grace is this: “For whom the Lord loves He corrects; as a Father to a child” (p.361)

Notes:

[i] Pages 351 to 368 of Karl Barth, 1940 Church Dogmatics II/1, Hendrickson Publishers

[ii] Ibid, p.334 ‘The Perfections of God’

[iii] 1 Peter 1:16/Leviticus 20:26

Everyday ArtArt is almost everywhere. We move so fast past it, however, that sometimes we fail to see the artistic potential.

The current pace of the human race reduces our capacity to experience, by touch, sight and sound, the presence of art in the contexts that we are immersed in.

Such missed opportunities are reminders of how Thomas was engaged by the actual and determined reach of the scarred, but living, Jesus Christ.

Post tomb.

Post crucifixion.

For a list of possible reasons, Thomas, rightly appears to have struggled with accepting what the other disciples were pointing out.

Of course, Peter had his own issues.  Denying three times, at the cry of one rooster, that he even knew Jesus, only later running to confirm that the tomb of Jesus was in fact empty, as Mary’s reports had said.

All in all, the disciples were no stranger to this confused mix of moribund hope and cautious curiosity. A mix fuelled so intensely by quiet ponderings of the “…what if?”

For Thomas (and this points towards an intellectual and technologically focused age such as ours), if it wasn’t for the actual and determined reach of Jesus, Thomas may never have to come to confirm what he was hearing with what he was about to experience.

Thomas does not represent us. We are not Thomas. We are, though, in all sizes and societies, bound to the same confused mix of moribund hope and cautious curiosity that was fuelled so intensely by whispers of the “…what if?”

All that we need to do is slow down, look, listen and receive. Allowing ourselves to be engaged by what is and what has been done by God, for us, in Christ.

To be moved gently through our “…what ifs,” towards celebrating, living, and cheering on the “what is and what will be!” because of all that God is and has done.

Not human triumphalism, but an acknowledgement of God’s triumph.

Jesus said to him, “Thomas. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
– (John 20:29, ESV)

 


 

Image: Literally, turned cleaning into an art form. In this case, I used some baking soda, water, a stove and then applied an inverted filter.

 

Cor-kneel-i-us

April 12, 2015 — 1 Comment

Cor_Kneel_i_us

No matter how detailed or imaginative I might get. Being able to reconstruct the days and months after Jesus’ crucifixion would always be limited by my contextual lens. For example: I can only build up some rough idea of the jaded emotions, confusion and amazement of Jesus’ disciples at the time.

This is backed up by the fact that the judgement about whether speculation can serve our understanding of history is still to be decided upon. It can serve a purpose in the scientific method, but only as far as forming the question and creating a reasonable hypothesis are concerned. In other words conclusions based on speculation without parameters is shaky ground. If not down right dodgy.

{I have a ton of my own jaded emotions to keep in check and consequently need to be on constant guard against what theologians call eisegesis (an exegetical fallacy where a person reads their own ideas into the text).}

It’s worth adding that speculation can take us away from the meaning and message of the actual texts or equivalent oral history. Critical thinking gives way to assumption. Assumption gives way to murky conspiracy theories, unjustifiable anxieties, misunderstandings, mistakes, so on and so on.

Which is one of the reasons why being apprehended by God is not the same as comprehending God. We are, like the first Christians, grasped in the midst of our inability to grasp. Sometimes all we need to do is stop and listen.

As Karl Barth said it:

‘Put the question to God Himself and listen to the answer He gives’ (CD. II/1, p.321)

Take for instance the days after the resurrection: ‘Jesus came and stood among the disciples and said to them, ”Peace be with you.” When He had said this, he showed them His hands and side.’ – (John 20:19-20, ESV)

Or the post-apocalyptic[ii] allegiance of Cornelius: ‘a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.’ (Acts 10, ESV)

It is at this time of year the world is once again reminded that  ‘the “living hope” of Christians (1 Pet 1:3) is not the “coming” (parousia) of Jesus, but rather his revelation or apocalypse (apokalypsis; 1 Pet 1:7, 13).'[i]

Our hope is not solely resting on a when? It is resting on a who, why, what and how. A witness relayed to us not just by one witness, but by many.

All of which kneels squarely at the feet of Jesus Christ. Where we are confronted by what God freely chose to do and what God, in His good pleasure, promises to complete.

May we be more like Cornelius.

 

 


Source:

[i] Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (Eds.). 1997 In Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments (electronic ed.). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[ii] As explained by Martin & Davis, apocalypse in koine Greek reads as ‘revelation’; unveiling or revealing. Even though it’s not complete in its definition, since we are still in a time of grace. Both meanings adequately fit the post-resurrection. Therefore, I consider the use of the term post-apocalyptic justifiable as long as it is done so with qualification.

Artwork is mine. Made using some old materials an airbrush & some paint.

Song: Newsboys, ‘Cornelius‘ from the album ‘Thrive’

Camus 2It’s widely held that Albert Camus was an outsider. He was and remains a non-conformist among non-conformists.

Alongside Camus’ cautious optimism about humanity is his willingness to break with collective intellectual and political trends. He was a fierce agnostic; critical of Christianity, yet still open to the feasibility of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ[i].

Although, to be fair, given Camus’ views on this and absolute truth, alone, it is debatable as to how far this could be stretched out and represented as him being open to seeing Christ as more than just a well-intentioned, but deluded revolutionary.

As far as Camus’ understanding of and lukewarm relationship with Christianity goes, Maya Angelou’s: ‘here then is my Christian lack, If I’m struck then I’ll strike back[ii]’ certainly finds legitimate traction.

Camus’ writings are sharp. His tone often influenced by the dire circumstances of his historical context and his targets those who claim one thing, yet project another.

Born in French Algeria, Camus later became a journalist, contributing to ‘Combat’; the left-wing media arm of the French Resistance, during Nazi occupation.

Camus, today, is pertinent because of is his open critique of the “Left”, and his ability to detach himself from any claim that could suggest he had sold out to the “Right”.

According to Olivier Todd, after writing ‘The Rebel’ Camus was hammered by critics and ostracised. This included being  labelled by Jean Paul Sartre as being ‘someone who had always been vain.’[iii]

Todd adds:

‘Camus went against the grain among members of the left-wing intelligentsia. Facing a mummified admiration of revolution per se, Camus was fairly revolutionary in response to much of the current thinking in contemporary Paris.’[iv]

Jean Bethke Elshtain also noted:

‘Camus was no naïf. He knew what it meant to fight fascism. He feared what fighting fascism unleashed, namely, counter-terror in the name of an abstract Communist utopia. He disapproved of any passion for unity that saw opposition as treason. For his efforts, Camus was virtually excommunicated from the French intellectual life by Sartre and his comrades’[v]

It’s easy enough to understand why Camus, now an estranged golden-child of the “Left”, caused such an upheaval.

In 1957, near the close of an interview where Camus gave support for the counter-revolutionary movement in communist held Hungary,  Camus stated that the ‘Left was schizophrenic and needed doctoring’:

‘We must hope for a common rallying. But first our Leftist intellectuals , who have swallowed so many insults and may well have to begin doing so again, would have to undertake a critique of the reasoning’s and ideologies to which they have hitherto subscribed, which have wreaked the havoc they have seen in our most recent history. That will be the hardest thing. We must admit that today conformity is on the Left.
To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereo-typed replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws.
The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exercise of the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any rallying will be useless even harmful. None of the evils of totalitarianism (defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition) claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.’[vi]

In sum, Camus fired a flare out from within the inner sanctum of Leftist elitism. Uncovering an oppressive movement that rides on the  coattails of a utopia built on totalitarianism, enforced by appeasement and maintained by the carrot of emancipation, which only ends up enslaving people behind a false promise to deliver absolute freedom.

For the thinking Christian, Camus’ work stands as a cautious ally in the burgeoning wilderness that is the partially sedated West.

Speaking to bewildered citizens paralysed by the tug of war between those politicians, theologians and philosophers who build fortresses on either side of the ideological divide; who overlook the corruption; who ignore, for fear of being labelled intolerant, the inevitable disorder of the repression and redefinition of some traditions; who seek to play into the self-interest of some NGO’s, their supporters or anyone that might preach bipartisanship and unbias, but choose to function as propaganda units of political ideologues and the parties that promote them.

For the commonwealth of Christ (the Church), this dark, but lucid writer inadvertently issues a warning. Be careful about where your allegiance resides because ‘no one can serve two masters…Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also.’ (Jesus, Mt.6:21-24)


Source:

[i] Evident in ‘The Rebel’ and partially highlighted within his statements made at a Dominican monastery in 1948 and included in the text ‘The Unbeliever and Christians’.

[ii] Angelou, M. 1981 Maya Angelou: Poems Bantam Books

[iii] Todd, O. 2013, Afterward in Camus, A. The Rebel (Penguin Modern Classics) Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Ed.

[iv] Ibid, Loc. 4134-4137

[v] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy On Trial Basic Books

[vi] Camus, A. 1961 Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays;Hungary: Socialism of the Gallows’, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1960 First Vintage International Edition

Image: Albert Camus, Camus Society FB page.

forgiveness is empowerment


Related Reading:

Confronting Disagreement Responsibly: The Real Content & Value of Forgiveness

Breathing Forgiveness

The Blast Radius Of Forgiveness

Grasping Existence As We Are Grasped By Forgiveness

Breathing Grace


‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’ (John 8:31-36, ESV)