This last Sunday we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Gordon Matties, Professor of Biblical & Theological Studies at Canadian Mennonite University, to The ConneXion to share with us a sermon from Joshua chapter 5. Matties recently finished a commentary on the book of Joshua (published through Herald Press). The sermon focused on verses 13-15 in chapter 5 where Joshua encounters the figure of a man who appeared before him with “a drawn sword in his hand.” Matties’ sermon explored the way in which this encounter can act as a foil for reading the entire book of Joshua, informing the way in which we understand the taking of the land. The commander of the Lord’s army identifies himself, not as being “on the side of” either the Israelites or the Canaanites. Rather, as “commander of the Lord’s army,” this man shows that God’s “army” is not subject to or completely allied with any human people group but stands in authority above and in judgement of all human armies. The practical and theological outworking of such a statement are many, both from the viewpoint of the book of Joshua as a whole and from the viewpoint of modern politics and culture wars. God is not simply “on our side,” but is above all “sides,” working for the reconciliation of the whole cosmos.
It’s all over the news in Manitoba. Whether it’s Bill 18 or some recent controversy in Morris , the news is saturated with the polemic between Christians and the Gay community. This is a tragedy. It is a tragedy because charitable Christian dialogue must never seek to encourage this type of divisive, hyper-sensationalized, unrelational form of engagement around ethical matters. We must always seek unity and peace in a spirit of love and yes, of course, with a commitment to truth. However, truth does not come as some static statement that we simply try to defend at all costs. It comes through humble searching within community. And so, The ConneXion community has begun a process of searching in just such a way in relation to how The Church can build bridges with the Gay community both locally and abroad.
We are beginning our humble search by reading and reflecting together on Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation.
Our prayer is that God would teach us how to be humble learners and listeners in what is often a politically charged environment. If you are interested in learning more about our humble searching, please email me for more information.
This last Wednesday night we had the privelidge of having Dr. Arden Thiessen come to speak to us on the life of peace as we see it exemplified in the Jesus of the New Testament. Below is a link to Steinbach Bible Colleges’ online resources where there are a number of video lectures of Dr. Thiessen’s available for viewing. If you take the time to watch them, feel free to comment and start a discussion:
In the past couple of years, The ConneXion community has had a book club running on and off. The book club met to read The Shack and then Blue Like Jazz. Now, there has been interest expressed to get started on a third book. Please comment with your votes for which book(s) you would like to read in a book club, and then we will narrow down the list through further voting.
I am currently reading through a book called “Worship and Misson After Christendom” by Alan Kreider and Eleanor Kreider. The book is full of some good nuggets of wisdom regarding the nature of Christian worship and mission. Today I was reading the chapter titled “worship forms mission” and I was struck by this paragraph:
“As the churches of the early centuries demonstrated, it is not necassary to be visible or to have outsiders present to be missional. Indeed, at times the church may grow most rapidly at times when its meetings are proscribed and outsiders cannot attend them. Such was the case in Ethiopia during the dictatorial rule of the Derg in the 1980s. But in any case, the church does not worship for the sake of the outsiders; worship is what the believers offer to God. And true worship offered to God has a characteristic by-product: it results in a people who are distinctive because their lives are shaped by the One to whom they have ascribed worth. The people’s worship attunes them to God’s character, and it aligns them with God’s purposes as participants in God’s mission.” – p. 144, emphasis mine.
In a previous post, I reflected on Tim Geddert’s understanding of the nature of the bible as argued in his new book All Right Now. That post ended up being a springboard for a 250 word review that I wrote for the EMC magazine The Messenger. I am posting it here first, but it will be showing up in the Messenger in the near future.
“To be a people of the book is to put Christ at the center.” (p.26) With this powerful statement, Tim Geddert sums up in a sentence the methodology guiding the entirety of his book , All Right Now: Finding Consensus on Ethical Questions. In this book, Geddert seeks to provide a concrete guide for churches to use when navigating complex issues in life like, how to treat our enemies and how to think about sexuality. The fact that it is a guide that Geddert provides and not answers (although he does propose some) is good news, not only because there are enough “answer” books out there, but also because the central thread weaved throughout the book is that the most helpful kind of answers come to communities that work, pray, struggle, and listen together. Jesus, the one answer the community truly seeks to encounter, is not a doctrine nor a tenet, but a person. Thus, finding consensus on ethical issues within the church will not occur through leaders or scholars imparting correct information to the right people but rather, consensus will happen through the formation of the Christ-centered community gathered around scripture. When churches face tough questions, we are called, not to go to the bible in order to extract an unchanging doctrinal position on an ethical matter but rather, we are called together to hear what Jesus is saying “right now”. Geddert rightly notes that to do otherwise would be to undermine the power and authority of scripture (p.37).
Disclaimer: This post should be read seriously and with a grain of salt.
So, I was browsing Christianbook.com today, and I stumbled upon this gem for $.99:
Now, I don’t want to be overly cynical without having read this book, but it strikes me that a “cliff notes” version of the bible “for the busy Christian” (this was what one reviewer/commenter summed it up as) is idolatrous. If we cannot be the kind of people that are formed around the scriptures, but can only browse through them as we do a flyer in our mail box, or have someone else mine them for an “explanation”, then something has gone amiss. Perhaps the author addresses this problem in the preface, but even so, I’m not so convinced it is a very helpful tool for discipleship. Thoughts?
I am currently reading All Right Now by Tim Geddert. So far its been an enjoyable read. Geddert wants to lay down the basics of what he sees as core convictions regarding the nature of scripture. At one point (pp.25-26), he describes four aspects of being a “people of the book”. I find them very helpful (especially the second) as I think they highlight the fact that Christians have faith in the authority of scripture, its reliability, and its importance for us today because we come to the Bible being centered on the person of Jesus rather than on some other notion of “Biblical” authority or infallibility grounded in human ideas about what makes for “reliability” or “infallibility”. Here are the points in sum as well as some commentary on them from myself:
1.) People of the book put their trust in God’s word rather than in the words of “experts” who want to push the newest theories about God’s word. While I have some misgivings about the potential misuse of such an “aspect” of being a people of the book, especially as it can be used as an excuse to use the Bible to push unbiblical agendas, I think Geddert is largely right. Geddert is right, I think, precisely because he shows how some of the modern experts are obsessed with what is historical about the bible and what is not. We see this tendency very prominently in modern Historical Jesus scholarship that tries to pick and choose based on a whole pile of very sketchy-at-best criteria, what Jesus would and wouldn’t have said. At the end of the day, trusting in God’s Word is not trusting in how the Bible conforms to the demands of what modern historical scholarship calls a “true” event or saying. This is not to promote ignorance to the historical method, it is simply to call into question whether or not certain methods of historical inquiry are appropriately applicable to the Bible.
2.) People of the Book seek in Scripture “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Quoting John 5:39-40, Geddert helpfully points us to the fact that it is Jesus that is the way, the truth, and the life, NOT the Bible. Sometimes in modern Christian circles, this fact is ignored. Geddert says it best: “If the book itself takes center stage, we are not truly a people of the book, for we will have adopted a different center than that spoken by the Scriptures themselves.” (p.26)
3.) People of the Book examine all claims in the light of the Scriptures. Here Geddert is particularly interested in how this applies within the Christian community. No one leader or individual should ever have the monopoly on the truth of God’s word which means that any claim by an individual to have heard the truth must always be examined by the community together as it looks to the scriptures. This is critical as, quoting Geddert once more, “when the Bible no longer has the power (or our permission) to call into question our own opinions, we have stripped it of its authority altogether.” (p.26)
4.) People of the Book consider to be most important that which the Bible considers most important. Here Geddert is concerned that some Christians get caught up in “secondary” issues within scripture and forget the most “important emphases” therein. Quoting Matthew 23:23 as an example, Geddert wonders if the modern church wouldn’t be criticized by Jesus in a similar way saying that “he might have criticized our overly scrupulous prooftexting to defend our long-cherished beliefs about the Bible’s teaching while neglecting the weightier matter of working toward unity and mutual acceptance in the church — even with those who interpret texts differently.” (p.26)
Anyhow, I thought I would share these little snippets of wisdom as I think they hold direct application for our congregation. What do you think?
Update: More reflections on this book have been posted at a later date.