Monday, September 26, 2005

Grace isn't for holding

Two of my classes intersect quite often this semester. The one class is a Greek interpretation class of Romans and the other is a introductory course on missional theology. The intersection makes sense since Romans is considered by many to be the greatest description of the gospel and missional theology involves mission (the sending).

I will write more about the specifics of missional theology as I continue in my learning but the main piece that has struck me is how much the Scripture is composed of missio Dei (God's mission) - God's self-revelation as the One who loves the world, God's involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privledged to participate (Transforming Mission by David Bosch, p. 10).

Now back to the intersection. A few days ago, my Romans class focused on Romans 1:1-17. Romans 1:5 states (NIV) "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith."

The point that jumped out from considering the entire letter to the Romans and the themes of sending (among others) included in it was found in the combination of grace and apostleship. For Paul, in this verse, one does not exist without the other. Grace is not for our keeping. Grace is coupled with apostleship or the sending out. The rest of verse 5 states why we are sent out - to call people from among all the Gentiles...

How much do I focus on God's grace without focusing on the accompanying responsibility of being sent to the world? Grace isn't for holding.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Righteousness of God

I love meditating on Scripture because I always realize the assumptions that I bring to the Bible and then God challenges me to consider if they are true. One example of this type of challenge is my view of righteousness.

I just spent 3 days interacting with Romans 1:1-17. I read it in English, I translated the Greek, I did an inductive study, I formed my own provisional conclusions, I read one commentary, I attended a lecture on the passage, and then I read another commentary. The foremost challenge to my assumptions going in was to my view of the righteousness of God as being for the individual person who stands condemned by God. This is one aspect of the righteousness mentioned.

I started, however, I ask the following questions:
- What is the difference between holiness and righteousness?
- How did the readers of Romans in the 1st century understand righteousness?
- Based on the content of the letter, is this righteousness solely for the individual or is there a larger view that I am missing?

The first question came because I have always read Romans 1:17 as the righteousness of God was revealed so that the unrighteous individual received God's righteousness so that he would be saved and not condemned. Is this the total picture of righteousness that Paul is stating? Am I simply using righteousness as a synonym for holiness where I am now considered holy by the work of Jesus on the cross?

God's righteousness, as viewed by Israel, could be defined as God's right actions based on what they knew about God as revealed through their Scripture and the covenant. The people of God, Israel, had confidence (faith) that God would do the right thing based on his convental relationship with the people.

How does this fit into Romans 1:17? Does the righteousness of God (or from God) mean more than what I stated earlier? I now believe that the righteousness of God that was revealed in Christ Jesus is God's right action in responding to evil and sin in the world. This is what we would 'expect' God to do based on his promises, both to the Jews and to Gentiles.

Maybe the righteousness of God is aimed more at the cosmic struggle between good and evil more than the individual salvation of a soul. Yes, the individual salvation based on faith in work of Jesus Christ on the cross is part of this picture but maybe it isn't the starting point. Maybe starting with the cosmic view is where Paul wants us to start as opposed to the individual "what's in it for me" view that I have often brought to Scripture.

Praise God that the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'm Lovin' It

I had to adopt the McDonald's slogan for how I am feeling right now. I'm Lovin' It!

Those words are what my entire being felt yesterday as I finished a study session at Starbucks (yes, I am a Starbucks guy and not a Small World guy). I had just finished reading parts of assignments for 3 of my classes.

Last year, I thought to myself, "Why am I here?", regarding Princeton Theological Seminary. I had come to this seminary for a myriad of reasons and one of them was to interact with a postmodern world instead of simply setting it up and shooting it down from a conservative seminary. My experience matched my desire for that interaction even though I didn't feel comfortable most of the time (is being comfortable ever a good thing?). I did, however, question whether I wanted to spend the next 2 years of my life in the land of extreme discomfort. I questioned and prayed about leaving this place.

I know that I made the right decision to stay here. My conclusion is not based on the fact that I am taking courses this semester that appeal more to my high view of Scripture and more conservative positions, even though that definitely is a major factor. I said "I'm lovin it!" yesterday because I know that I am experiencing exactly what I wanted to experience here at PTS - interacting with a postmodern world. Even better, I now see that my faith, that has changed since I've been here, has been rooted in legitimate places and I understand somewhat that there is a place for me in the leadership of God's bride, the church...

I'm lovin it!

Hear the words... They are true today (let's see if they remain true in coming months)

Saturday, September 03, 2005


The majority of questions, for those who are outside the situation, surrounding the crisis in Louisiana (and beyond) have not centered on the classic question of "Why would God let this hurricane hit New Orleans?" Instead, a majority of questions have focused on the chaos in the city - looting, shooting at rescue teams, convention center compound, the abandonment of the elderly and children.

The questions come from a wide variety of angles (spiritually, politically, "what the heck is going on"-ally). I cannot even begin to count the amount of questions that I have heard or that I have thought on my own over the past 4 days. I thought about trying to write about one or more of them today but I will, instead, list off as many as come to mind. I will say that the first one has been the one that has been pulling at my soul the most.

- What is the motivation for an individual or a group to be selfless in a situation like the Katrina crisis when all worldly incentives (money, job security, prestige, etc.) are removed? More specifically, why would a police officer stay on staff to help when his/her whole world has also has been destroyed and there is no financial incentive to stay perform his/her duty? This question arose when I heard that almost 40%-50% of the police force simply left duty. This question also applies to every example of looting and the other examples that elicit a "how can people being doing THAT" response.

- Where is the prophetic Christian voice to address the real problem of sinful, selfish actions? I envision millions of paralyzed Americans watching 24-hour news reports about the rapes, shootings, and looting. They are thinking, "How can this happen here and why is this happening?" Columbine, 9/11, and now post-Katrina atrocities all clamor for a voice to speak into the situation. The voice must provide a true Bibilical response that starts from a Biblical worldview that includes how we got to where we are (the Fall) and how we can have hope in Jesus Christ (redemption). This redemption applies at the individual and system levels of society.

- Has the media's portrayal of the U.S. military around the world impacted how our own citizens reacted to the U.S. military in New Orleans? In other words, have the non-stop reports of the U.S. military's failures in Iraq eroded the average U.S. citizen's view of the military to the point that shooting at a U.S. military helicoptor wasn't a big deal in New Orleans?

- What has the Department of "Homeland Security" been doing in the past 4 years? If a hurricane can cause this much anarchy then what will a dirty bomb or a nuclear bomb do to this country?

- How did a hurricane transform a major U.S. city into a place that includes scenes similar to the scenes of Iraq and Rwanda? The references to rapes are the most horrifying.

- What is are the similarities and differences between Katrina and 9/11? Why is my feeling similar but different?

- How much should I watch 24-hour news in order to understand the situation and have a genuine sense of compassion for the people who are suffering? At what point, should I turn it off and find other ways to deal with crisis from afar besides consuming endless reports?

- Is the fear resulting from Katrina rooted in humans facing the reality that they cannot control nature? Humans constantly want to control nature in order to create a predictable, safe space in which to live. How has Katrina's strike at this very assumption of safety and control increased the fear of Americans for the future?

There are at least 3904834098309 more questions but these are the ones that came flying off of my typing fingers right now. If anyone reads this, then I'd love to hear about which question you have asked the most (whether the question is in my list or not).

Friday, September 02, 2005

Strangly Silent...

I have been strangely silent about the disaster in Louisiana because I, like the rest of us, have been trying to wrap my head around what has happened. I came across this picture while viewing a set of picture repositories about Katrina. This picture was taken 1-2 days before Katrina arrived. The men were securing the tree from being blown over. They, like the rest of us, had no idea of the extent of the physical damage that would occur.

The other types of damage have had a lot deeper impact on both those who experienced Katrina first-hand and those who are experiencing the disaster via 24-hour news from afar...

On another note, why did these men think that they could secure the tree with the work of humans (tying it with a rope to the ground) as opposed to putting faith in the roots of the tree?