May 10, 2012 by Jason Hood
The Evangelical Free denomination recently modified its doctrinal statement, led by Greg Strand, Bill Kynes, and others. They did a fine job on this, and you can read the results in the book Evangelical Convictions.
The Canadian branch recently revised their doctrinal statement also and eliminated the requirement of premillennial eschatology in keeping with essentials. The Americans attempted the same but were unable to do so (see Strand’s interview with Ed Stetzer). Too many of the older guard of that denomination have been taught that amil and postmil views were tantamount to liberalism. For instance, the postmil approach was favored by social gospelers who failed to take human sin seriously; the amil interpretation of Revelation (which is suspicious because it takes a symbolic approach and therefore, so the argument runs, does not take scripture literally) has been favored by non-evangelical interpreters in recent years.
Admittedly, guilt by association is rhetorically powerful; but it’s also about the worst argument imaginable for a doctrine. It fails to note that the modern missionary movement spearheaded by Carey, Judson, and others was fueled by postmil expectation; and something like the amil position was held by Augustine, Aquinas, Bernard, Luther, and Calvin.
Should we associate premil theology and interpretation with, say, Jim Jones or David Koresh?2 Comments
July 27, 2011 by Jason Hood
What we have to offer as Christians is not just evidence that demands a verdict. More importantly, all of us are living in a chaotic, broken story that demands (1) a plot that makes sense of chaos, and (2) a resolution for that plot. Our Text offers a storied arrangement of chaotic events, and a way to resolve the plot’s tension created by rebellion and catastrophe.
Why and how does history impugn the excellence of creation? In chapters 4 and 5 he shows us a tableau of creation, in which the throne of God is surrounded by the symbolic representatives of the created order, ceaselessly offering their praise.
But their hymns are interrupted by the discovery of a sealed scroll in the hand of the Most High. As a scroll, it represents a history; as a sealed scroll, its contents are unintelligible to us. So the prophet poses his problem: how can the created order which declares the beauty and splendour of its Creator, be the subject of a world-history, the events of which are directionless and contradictory?
The goodness of creation is impugned by the meaninglessness of events. Only if history can be shown to have a purpose, can the prophet’s tears be wiped away and the praise of the creation be resumed. We can all repeat the words in which the consolation of the Gospel is announced to him: ‘Weep not; lo, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’
And then, as the prophet tells us unforgettably ‘I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain’ (5:5-6). The sacrificial death of God’s Messiah is the event to interpret all events, which alone can offer human existence the cosmic meaning which it demands. It provides the justification of creation in history, and the justification of history in new creation.
Oliver O’Donovan, “The Political Thought of the Book of Revelation,” TynBul 37 (1986), 171.
If we are not living in a story, then there is no plot; there is only chaos and brokenness. And if we have no story, we have no justification not only for history, but for beauty, righteousness, and love.
In fact, we have no justification for the world.2 Comments
November 15, 2010 by Jason Hood
Neil Postman’s book, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business is now 25 years old. I borrow here from the introduction (from Justin Taylor’s excerpt), then bring in John and James (P. D., that is) into the conversation.
Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.
What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture . . .
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
This book is about the possibility that Huxley, not Orwell, was right.
I’m currently studying two of the best apocalyptic books I’ve ever read: the book of Revelation and P. D. James’s Children of Men.
Revelation is about a world where the powers hold out a plentitude of options for self-satisfaction and religious expression: false hope buttressed by economic success, power, and prestige.
James’s book is about the death of hope, yet her world is still saturated by “activity” designed to take focus off the disaster that has befallen the world (no more children are being born). Repeatedly we are told in Children of Men that British survivors care little about their fate, as long as they are safe from harm and safe from boredom. In other words, while there is a touch of Orwell in both books, they share more with Huxley. In these worlds humanity is flooded with entertainment-grade substance; we do not care to lift our heads above the din.
In both books, activity (religious, economic, entertainment, sexual, etc) serves to distract humans from truth. But both books offer a solution. It took me a few chapters before it dawned on me that the name “Theo Faron” had a meaning: “God of the lighthouse” in Greek, a name increasingly pertinent as the plot progresses.
Ironically, the churches in Rev 1-3 (and the two witnesses, who stand for the whole church in Rev 11) are “lampstands,” i.e., the light of the world in the world. This suggests that our primary response to Huxley’s nightmare is testimony, bearing witness to truth in a world where truth is not so much banned as “drowned in a sea of irrelevance.” Rather, as one of James’s characters puts it: “The world is not changed by the self-regarding, but by men and women prepared to make fools of themselves.”0 Comments
October 12, 2010 by Jason Hood
I’ve really enjoyed teaching through Revelation with my buddy Robbyn Abedi. I’ve really enjoyed reading three books (in addition to commentary dabbling), by very different writers whose perspectives result in very different insights: a scholar-exegete-theologian (Richard Bauckham, Theology of the Book of Revelation), a worship leader, musician and pastor (Michael Card and Scotty Smith, Unveiled Hope), and a contemplative-pastor type (Eugene Peterson, Reversed Thunder). It’s been a great exercise, and a fantastic reminder that those with different gifts have much to give one another–surely one lesson we’re trying to learn at SAET, by focusing on what it means to be in the church doing theology.
For one sample of Peterson’s pastoral angle: the first century churches in Asia were not a bunch of weaklings. On the outside, especially by the standards of their culture, they may have looked like it. But should we see these Christians as harried, harassed? Eugene says no:
“These men and women from the moment of their baptism in the name of the Trinity, knew their lives as miracles of resurrection. The people who gathered each Lord’s Day to sing their Lord’s praises and receive his life were the most robust in the Roman empire.
They were immersed in splendors. They brimmed with life. Even when their zeal cooled, as it sometimes did, and their taut loyalties went a little slack, as sometimes happened, there was far more going on in their lives than in the Babylon-seduced lives of their contemporaries. And they knew it. When they forgot, St. John reminded them.
We must never forget that the pictures of wildly celebrative praise in heaven and catastrophic woes wreaked on earth…that all this stuff was made out of their daily traffic in scripture, baptism, and eucharist. In this heaven-penetrated, hell-threatened environment they lived their daily lives. Nothing . . . could equal it for depth of meaning and drama of inciden
There could not have been many dull moments in those lives, nor need there be in ours. When dull moment did come, they were recognized as the work of the devil and were chased by the apocalypse-informed imagination at worship.” (Reversed Thunder, 70-71)
October 11, 2010 by Jason Hood
The number of the beast (or really, “the number of a man” associated with the beast) is, rather strangely, one of the most famous items in the NT–many people who could not name the four gospels know about 666.There are some good comic riffs on this number floating around the web; I’ve taken some, and come up with a few of my own. But first let me point out that I think it’s important to joke about this. One of my recent bank account numbers had 666 in the middle of it, and some folks I know would flip about this. But as far as the original author of Revelation was concerned, the point of the number is <em>not</em> the number itself. Christians who take the Bible literally must account for symbolism. John never intended for people to get worked up over a number–he had something far more important to say, to which the number was a mere pointer.Here we go then. Feel free to add your own in the comments. To borrow from JFK (and Brian Regan), “Ask not what the number of the Beast is, ask what you can do with the number of the Beast.”668 The next-door neighbor of the beast666% What the beast gives at work and at play2/3 The fraction of the beast111 Payment plan of the beast666F Temperature for cooking roast beast999 Number of the beast in Australia, South Africa, etc.66,666 Number of the Costco version of the BeastNT 666 New Testament course on Revelation (No, really…there is a real course on Revelationnumbered NT 666 at Asbury Seminary; you can download the course at ITunesU)222 Number of the beast on the moonFe666 Ironman version of the BeastH2O2 666 Blonde BeastAg 666 Al Davis665.95 Retail price of the Beast29A Hexidecimal number of the beast1010011010 The binary BeastBelle+666 Beauty and the Beast666i The BMW model driven by the beast00666 Beast. James Beast.616 The beast in witness protection (also based on real life; one of the earliest available texts of this passage in Revelation cites 616 as the beast’s number rather than 666; see the third line of the fragment below, XIC with line over it).5 Comments
September 24, 2010 by Matthew Mason
Psalm 19 speaks of the heavens pouring forth speech, declaring the knowledge of God. The language is undeniably that of verbal revelation. At first blush, it seems strange that even inanimate, non-rational creation could speak. The reason is found, I think, in Scripture’s trinitarian account of creation.
David Clines has observed how Psalm 19 contains many echoes of Gen 1-3; it is a meditation on creation, fall, and the need for new creation through the perfect words of Scripture. But the gospel reveals that creation happened through, and exists in God’s Word, his eternal Son (Jn 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17; Heb 1:3)
Why, then, does creation speak? Because it is created by the Word, exists in him, and bears his imprint. Thus, by its very nature, which is to say, by its relationship to the eternal Word, it participates in His communication of the Father. The revelatory words of creation are analogical echoes of the self-revealing Word of the Father. The revelation of creation is not sufficient, being chastened by the fall, which affects both the objective content of the revelation (‘cursed is the ground because of you’), and our subjective reception of the revelation (cf. Rom 1:18ff). We need the incarnation of the Word, and God’s inscripturated words that testify to the Word, to bring about recreation and an adequate reception of God’s self-revelation. Nevertheless, to deny natural revelation is by implication to deny the inseparable operation of the Father and his Word in creation; it is implicitly to deny Scripture’s Trinitarian account of Creation. Ironically, in terms of Karl Barth’s dialogue with Emil Brunner, to deny natural revelation is to have an insufficiently Christological account of revelation.1 Comment