The Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1 iii)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show show to his servants the things that must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1, ESV)

The Things that Must Soon Come to Pass

The opening verse of this book undermines all interpretations that try to make John’s Revelation a coded history of current events. As Craig Koester helpfully recounts in the first part of his concise commentary Revelation and the End of All Things, there is a long history of misinterpreting Revelation in this way. All such interpretations have one thing in common, the predictions they make never come to pass. Modern dispensationalists now avoid making predictions and so resort to probabilities. This kind of thinking leads to ridiculous concepts like the Rapture Index. So, when John writes that God wished to show his servants “the things that must soon take place”, the “soon” refers to those things that the intended recipients of John’s letter were experiencing and about to experience.

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The Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1 ii)

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, ESV)

“Revelation”, the common english translation of the greek word “apocalypsis” (αποκαλυψις) which opens this text, is such a familiar term that its basic meaning is almost lost to our ears and eyes. Similarly, the term “apocalypse” has come to refer to any large-scale catastrophic event that threatens the extinction of humankind and life as we know it i.e. zombie apocalypse. (Pace Rick Grimes et al.)

But slow down and listen to the text. John’s first readers did not have this linguistic and cultural baggage hanging on these terms. They were not dispensationalists. There was no such thing as guns or atomic bombs. They had not heard of global warming. John and his early readers had their own linguistic and cultural milieu which shaped their understanding of the term “apocalypse” and the other terms, allusions, and images John uses throughout this prophetic letter to the Christian communities in first century Asia Minor. Like learning a new language, it takes some mental effort and yes some reading and research to understand and interpret an ancient text, including those included in our Scriptures.

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The Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:1 i)

Learning to Hear What John has Written

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near. (Revelation 1:1-3, ESV)

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Answers In Genesis is Coming to Canada

Are you excited by this news? Are you appalled by this news? Are you angered by this news? Are you totally confused by this news because what’s “Answers in Genesis”?

Whatever your reason for clicking through to my blog, welcome. I hope you find my posts on this organization and the linked resources helpful and informative as you prepare for the arrival of Ken Ham and his Fantastic Ark in the Great White North.

Whether you are a churchgoing Christian like me, an atheist, agnostic, or come from an other faith tradition, you should become familiar with Answers in Genesis and the possible implications for its official arrival in Canada.

What is Answers in Genesis and Why Should You Care?

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Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II.1: Double-Standards and Hypocrisy

Or I Feel Like I’m Taking Crazy Pills!

So, last time, I mentioned that a friend of mine posted my Part II of this series on a Facebook page called Evidence for Creation. At first, I watched the discussion unfold without commenting but against my better judgement I jumped into the fray. As with most internet exchanges, it did not end well. It barely started well. And I am certainly not innocent, here. I get a little frustrated after being on the defensive and arguing in circles for about 400 posts. My patience wears a little thin especially when someone suggests that I need still more education and really means that I need to read a particular scholar that agrees with them. Meanwhile, the majority of YEC contributors demonstrate a pervasive anti-intellectualism but I’m the one who needs yet another MA. We’ll get to this double-standard.

What would be apparent to anyone (except the YEC contributors) to this thread would be that at almost every turn of the argument and with every new contributor they confirm the main thesis of my post. My argument is: Many YECists, in their endeavour to defend their commitments to their particular version of “biblical inerrancy”, their peculiar interpretation of Genesis 1, and their belief that the earth is less than 7,000 years old will frequently employ statements and make assertions and recapitulate arguments that were deemed heretical and unorthodox by the Church. Moreover, the traditionally orthodox position that I set forth is greeted as heretical. Additionally, I am frequently rebuked, my faith in and commitment to Christ is questioned, and, so, the question of my salvation is up for grabs (Christ’s grace is apparently not sufficient to cover my supposed doctrinal errors).

Now, as they were responding to my post about Apollinarianism, it was not surprising that the main focus was what Jesus knew, how and when did he know it. Yet, time and again and in predictable circular fashion and as new people joined the thread (having read my post or not), the orthodox position that during the incarnation there  were things Jesus did not know was rebuked as unbiblical and heretical and tantamount to denying Jesus’s divinity.

Double-Standards

Now, a few of the contributors did throw in the occasional theological term like Trinity, person, etc and one individual even mentioned the hypostatic union as though that doctrine somehow supported Jesus’s omniscience during the incarnation. Yet, Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II.1: Double-Standards and Hypocrisy”

XBox 360 and a Fasting 180

Fasting has been a part of Christian worship from the beginning. Yet, fasting is an oft neglected discipline at least for much North American Protestantism especially those with an aversion to liturgical calendars.

In Christian circles, we often put those who engage in spiritual disciplines on a pedestal. And yes, we are right to point to those teachers and mentors who worthy of emulation. Yet, in doing so, the “ordinary” Christian can use this lionizing of fellow saints often serves an excuse for our inability to do likewise. Moreover, I think sometimes it causes us to misunderstand the very men and women we are exalting.

This thought occurred to me during a Sunday School class when the topic of fasting came up. As we spoke, I became aware that our common assumption was that great men and women in the history of the Church engaged in fasting in order to pray and commune with God. And there is ample evidence in the texts we have in the tradition to validate and confirm that this assumption that fasting can enhance and lead to deeper prayer. Yet, as I facilitated this discussion, I experienced one of those wonderful paradigm shifts. Continue reading “XBox 360 and a Fasting 180”

Noah and the Flood — What’s Going on in Genesis 6-9 Part 2: Living Idols

At the end of this post, some of you may be wondering what all this has do with my promise to explain what I think is going on in the story of Noah and the Flood. Yet, I ask your patience and refer you back to my insistence that context literary, canonical and historical is of utmost importance when it comes to interpreting Genesis 6-9. (Previous Post)

In the Image of God

Recent discoveries (relatively speaking) have shed light on the meaning of many biblical phrases and concepts that share resonances with similar phrases and concepts in the broader Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context. Continue reading “Noah and the Flood — What’s Going on in Genesis 6-9 Part 2: Living Idols”

Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review

Wirzba, Norman. Way of Love: Recovering the Heart of Christianity New York: HarperOne, 2016. (238 pages + notes & index)


Now available on Amazon.com.

As the subtitle suggests, Duke University Professor Norman Wirzba seeks to remind his readers that love is the heart of Christianity. I do not say at the heart but is the heart because Christian community is rooted in love as revealed in Jesus Christ. And this incarnate love—this incarnate lover— ought to be the driving force behind Christian witness and practice. As the body of Christ, the Church, exists in a world mired in and, indeed, enamoured by sin, followers must regularly be called back to the way of love and Wirzba’s book is one of those calls.

Way of Love is first a letter to the churches. Like the letters of the Apostles that make up the bulk of the New Testament, this letter contains admonishment, encouragement, and a call to keep Christ and therefore love as the heart and goal of what we as followers say and do. In this sense, Wirzba is not telling us something new but telling us the “old, old, story” again in a new and refreshing way. Continue reading “Norman Wirzba’s Way of Love (2016): A Book Review”

How Ken Ham & Answers in Genesis Led Me to Accept Evolutionary Theory

Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis (AIG) often suggest that what leads people, including biblical scholars, to propose interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that differ from a “literal” interpretation of Genesis akin to AIG‘s own is a desire to conform their understanding of Scripture (and doctrine) to modern scientific theories, i.e. “deep time”, the Big Bang, and, of course, the theory of evolution. In other words, the suggestion is that beliefs about evolution and the age of the universe not only precede but drive Christians to seek alternate interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that better accommodate modern scientific theories.

The polemical and apologetic narrative usually sounds something like the following from a 2011 post condemning the work of Wheaton College professor John Walton:

Why are we seeing more and more bizarre and elitist ideas (e.g., William Dembski—see previous blog post for details) coming out of Christian academia? I believe it is a form of academic pride, largely from academic peer pressure, because these people ultimately “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

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Beyond the Compatibility of Science and Christianity

Recently, a biologist friend of mine asked me to recommend books that go beyond the minimalist though important argument that Christian doctrine and Scientific discovery are not incompatible. As a biologist and a Christian, my friend is well beyond needing to read another book that debunks the Enlightenment myth that presents a perpetual and irresolvable conflict between science and religion. In the scholarly discourse, both historians and philosophers of science have demonstrated that this conflict model is neither historically nor intellectually tenable. Nevertheless, this Enlightenment myth of conflict remains firmly rooted in the popular psyche.

Having been engaged in so many discussions recently that are only at the level of realizing that this myth is false, I had to pause and think back to authors I have read and theologians I have encountered who are going beyond arguing for mere compatibility. Continue reading “Beyond the Compatibility of Science and Christianity”