Get off the Train: Fundy, Progressive, and Beyond

“A justification for our own sorry existence as evangelicals.” Or, why We don’t fit in anywhere. Dave Fitch and I make a first attempt at articulating another way, a third way, for theology and mission for evangelicals, beyond the conservative/progressive dichotomy. We talk about some historical roots for this dichotomy and hint toward an alternative life in community. The next two episodes will flesh out this third way farther by exploring the topics of “Gospel” and then “Scripture”, showing how our theological commitments make a really missional difference (subscribe so you don’t miss them). If you don’t fit in as an conservative evangelical, but don’t feel drawn to progressive framework, then check out this episode.

Mentioned Resource:
Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda ~ Nancy Murphy

Books Mentioned in “What Ya Reading?”

Hospitality as Holiness: Christian Witness Amid Moral Diversity ~ Luke Bretherton

 The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, & Experience as a Model of Evangelical Theology ~ Don Thorsen

And be sure to check out (or tell others) about Northern Seminary’s exciting new Master of Arts in Theology and Mission where Dave, Geoff and other students and pastor continue learning about these things. 

The Art of Bi-Vocational: Theology on Mission Podcast

Is being a bi-vocational pastor a necessary evil or a positive opportunity?

In the new episode of “Theology on Mission” David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw talk about bi-vocational ministry, how it is an opportunity to rethink pastoral vocation and church ministry, all wrapped in personal stories.

Follow and Subscribe:

Please follow “Theology on Mission” on Facebook, subscribe through iTunes, your favorite apps (Podcast RSS Feed), or go straight to Soundcloud.

Don’t miss anything:
For every podcast, post, conference or resource, join our “Theology on Mission” newsletter.

And be sure to check out (or tell others) about Northern’s exciting new Master of Arts in Theology and Mission.

“Theology on Mission” Podcast, and other things

Theology on
So I’ve been really busy teaching and grading, and haven’t done much writing her.  But I have been writing and stuff.

And Fitch and I have been busy creating a new “Theology on Mission” podcast (which has been really fun and recieve really well so far).  Please check it out, and if you listen through iTunes, please give us a review.


Also, you can engage the podcast on our “Theology on Mission” on Facebook.

My Recent Writings:
The Risk of Doing the Small, Ordinary Thing ~ The High Calling
Is Babel Reversed at Pentecost? ~ Northern Seminary
The Lost World of Adam and Eve: Human Origins? ~Northern Seminary

Lastly, as I’m sure you all know, I’ve been busy starting up Northern Seminary’s exciting new Master of Arts in Theology and Mission, made especially for those desiring theological education but already have a really full life. If you know of anyone who might benefit from it please let them (or me) know.

Bi-vocationalism as guerrilla warfare: 5 thoughts

Ok, yes, it might sound extreme.  But let’s be sober-minded.  As Todd Hiestand (and the comments) notes in his great post, “10 Suggestions/Thoughts on Bi-vocational Ministry”, being a missional bi-vocational pastor is hard, it takes commitment, it takes faith.  But in this post-Christian context (or at least outside of the ever shrinking Christendom pockets), the option to be a bi-vocational is not an option at all, it is a missional necessity. I want to frame the discussion here with this image of guerrilla warfare exactly because I don’t want bi-vocational ministry to sound merely like a life-style choice, good for some, but not for others, or some kind of fashion accessory for missional pastors.

But I want to clear up one thing.  I’m not taking about guerrilla warfare against the more established church, or mega-churches or anything like that.  To think narrowly that way is just not helpful.  I’m thinking that our battle is within post-Christian, post-modern, consumer-theraputic-individualistic culture.  The warfare is in the terrain of our neighborhoods and families, our calendars and wallets.

So, to start this off, here are five thoughts.

Bi-vocational ministry is necessary:

1) not because missional churches are poor, but because they are rich. Some of the literature on bi-vocational ministry point to it being an option when churches are little, too poor for a full-time pastor.  In this scenario church finances are the determining factor.  Well, I know many missional churches that are small, and probably too poor for a full-time salary plus health insurance.  But the missional church is rich in resources, resources that are flowing outward into the neighborhoods and communities.  They are rich in leadership and talents that would go untapped if there was only one person (a man usually) who did everything and got paid for it.  My own community is actually big enough to support a full-time pastor, but we choose not to do that because we believe it would make us poorer as a community.  Bi-vocationalism, then, is to use what the culture sees as a weakness (money, resources) as a strength, and therefore is a necessary attribute of missional guerrilla warfare.

2) not because missional churches have little work, but too much work. Sometimes you hear the complain from a bi-vocational pastor that there is so much work and too little time (oh, wait that was me!).   But we all know what the truth is.  There is always too much work.  No matter what.  But instead of allowing ourselves to believe (which doesn’t really happen), or worse, allowing our congregations to believe (which almost always happens) that one or several “full-time” people can basically cover the work of the kingdom, missional churches know that there is always way too much work for one (or even some), but that all are engaged in the mission of God’s kingdom.  Bi-vocationalism is an automatic safe-guard against thinking the work is manageable when really it is totally unmanageable outside of all entering the fields to bring in the harvest.  Therefore, missional churches use another perceived weakness (lack of impact or results by a visible few) as a strength because the mustard seed is growing.

3) not because we battle outside, but within ourselves. This one gets tricky, but follows from #2.  Too often people, organizations, nations, and yes, churches, come to think that the battle is outside, that all those in must conform to a certain image or idea, and then move outward and attack (this happens even for laudable causes).  Many churches have implicitly or explicitly adopted this organization/operational structure, and even for those churches that haven’t it is a constant temptation perpetuated by full-time ministry.  But we must always remember that the battle is within our churches, and within ever leader (I referred to it before as a power addiction).  I’m reminded of the lyrics from U2’s “peace on earth”: “And you become a monster / So the monster will not break you.”  Ministerial bi-vocationalism is the necessary spiritual discipline to ward off this temptation toward consolidation, and not just spiritual discipline, but relational, financial, and temporal discipline befitting those on the front lines (which are never front but always shifting) of the missional battle. In this sense you don’t fight fire with fire.  We must creatively resist.

4) because the culture is already fighting a guerrilla style war against us. Advertising, opinion polls, new television shows, iPhone apps, American Apparel, and on and on it goes.  The culture is an ever evolving parasite on others beliefs and practices, always moving toward how to make a dollar off you, or spin something as propoganda.  So it is necessary for missional churches to be just as nimble and creative, culturally creative even.  In this way it is necessary to fight fire with fire, guerrilla warfare again guerrilla warfare.

5) not because the missional church is against formal leadership, but because we seek to form proper leadership. I will not spend as much time on this because de-centralized leadership has been a common enough theme, especially in regard to actual guerrilla warfare, cell groups, and house churches.

So, those are five reasons off the top of my head that missional bi-vocational ministry is not a cute lifestyle decision, or something that we try for a little while but then abandon, or a missional accessory that so like an others don’t.   But I truly believe that if the kingdom is to fruitfully gain ground in this post-Christian context that we must adopted strategies for the long run.  Anything less will perpetuate the stagnation of the American church.

(p.s. I know I could qualify this a little and mention all those in larger churches who are legitimately following God’s call in a full-time ministry and such [many whom I know and love]…but I prefer to just let this start out more black and white without fading everything to gray too quickly).

Being the Temple for the World, #6

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

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Taking our cue from the angelic announcement that Jesus is “Emmanuel”, God with us, we have been asking about the “Presence of God” from Genesis to Revelation, and how this help us understand the story of God and our mission within it.

Last time we talked about how humanity failed to remain in the presence of God (Gen. 3) and failed to regain the presence of God (Gen. 11, Tower of Babel).  Heaven and Earth no longer overlap because God’s un-mediate presence is lost (Heaven is removed from Earth).

But is all lost, and has humanity fully abandoned its call (election even) to be the “image of God” as re-presentative (royal-image) and re-presentation (cultic-image)?

The Blessing Continues: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

In Gen. 1:28 (a key text that we must always keep close to us) we hear that God blessed humanity and calls humanity to be fruitful and multiply.  Well, all is not lost in the Fall because these three ideas, if not these exact words, are used to describe the calling and promise of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (the best translation to see this is the NASB).

Abraham: God called Abraham and blessed him to be a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3).  And when God reaffirms his covenant with Abraham God say that he will make Abraham “exceedingly fruitful” and will “multiply him exceedingly” (Gen. 17).

Isaac: God promises to Isaac: “I will be with you, and will bless you…I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven” (Gen. 26:1-5) and again God says, “I will bless you, and multiply yourdescendants” (Gen. 26: 24). Notice that God is promising to be with Isaac, not just to bless him from afar.

Jacob: God says to Jacob: “ I am [l]God Almighty; Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 35: 11) (We’ll get back to Jacob’s so-called ladder in a second).

In each case, the promised blessing that was meant to rest on all humanity, but that was abandoned, is now promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the ones through whom blessing would come again, and through whom the promise of being fruitful and multiplying would come again.

The Altars are Built: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

In each instance where these promises are made the author of Genesis is clear to point out that God 1) appeared to them and that each responded by 3) building an altar. 

The particular places where a person had encountered the presence of God became a place of worship.  Or we could say, it because a precursor to the later tabernacle and temple of Israel where God would dwell among His people.

And why would I say a “precursor”?  Because this is exactly what we see in Jacob’s vision of a Ladder/Stairway coming down from heave.

Jacob’s Dream, Marc Chagall, 1966 Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall, Nice, France

Jacob’s Stairway to Heaven (cue the music)

After Jacob receives (or steals) his blessing from Isaac, a blessing in which Isaac says, “May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples” (Gen. 28:3), Jacob then flees from his brother.  Notice the connection again of blessing, fruitful, and multiply (this is again the Edenic blessing of Gen. 1:28). 

When he lies down to sleep, he has a dream in which “a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it” (Gen. 28:12).  The Lord also speaks to him there and promises that He will be “with him” always, going wherever Jacob goes (28:15).  When Jacob wakes up he declares four things: 1) God was in this place; 2) It was awesome; 3) It was the house of God; and 4) It was a Gate of Heaven.

This place of God was the house of God, and the house of God (as we know) is always a reference to the Temple where God dwells, which (as we also know) is connected to Heaven, which means this place was the very Gate to Heaven, or in other words, it is a Stairway to Heaven.  Jacob names this place Bethel, which means the house of God (Gen. 28:19).

And of course, Jacob builds an altar there to mark it as a place where God’s presence had appeared (Gen. 28:18).

All of this adds up to the fact that these altars, and especially the one in Bethel, functioned as little gateways to Heaven, which is the place of God’s presence, the place humanity had in the Garden of Eden but had now lost.  These altars that began to mark the promised land as places of God’s presence were precursors of the Tabernacle and Temple which were the house of God particularly, even if creation was God’s house generally.

To Sum Up

So, God’s presence is coming to particular people in particular places in order to reengage the general blessing to all humanity of being fruitful and multiplying and able to experience the presence of God.  God hasn’t abandoned humanity to be with His presence, but is making a way to be present to His people.

And all of these are precursors of God’s presence as it will be in the temple and the tabernacle.

But to talk about the tabernacle and temple leads us in the book of Exodus and beyond. This is it for this series.


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

STICKS AND STONES CAN BREAK YOUR BONES, AND WORDS CAN DESTROY YOUR SOUL

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“Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” 

~This is a LIE.

I never say this to my boys at home.  And I never say this to members in our church. The truth is, words do hurt. They wound and break us just as much as they heal and build us.  Words matter, and we should never let our children think that they don’t.

A broken bone will heal in a couple weeks, but a broken spirit can last a lifetime. Don’t we all know people who are wounded and scarred by words (ugly, failure, worthless, unwanted), living out of these lies as if they were the truth?

Sticks and stones can break your bones, and words can destroy your soul.
Sticks and stones can break your bones, and words can bind the broken.
Sticks and stones can break your bones, so cling to words that bring life.

Truth is, we are in a battle of words.

The Fall

Did Satan bring sticks to kill Adam and Eve?  Did he use stones to make them eat the fruit? 

No. He came with words. He came with words of doubt: “Did God really say…?”  He came with words of deception: “You will surely not die…”  He came with words to persuade and insinuate, to sow seeds of doubt that grew up into the fruit of disobedience, disaster, and death.

(Read the entire post at the Northern Seminary Blog)

Being the Temple for the World, #5

 

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

dore-garden-expulsionAs we saw in the last post, humanity was created in God’s image and likeness to be God’s representative in the world (royal-image), and to be God’s very representation in the world (cultic-image).

God’s presence had been given to humanity (indeed, to the entire cosmos since creation is God’s temple-dwelling place), and God’s presence was supposed to spread and fill the earth through the faithful agency of humanity (Gen. 1:28). But all this was lost in the Fall, which is the topic for todays this post.

Failure to Keep God’s Presence: Genesis 3

I’m going to skip the details of what theologians call the Fall, when Adam and Eve ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, of why they did it and what it did to them. I’m skipping it not because it isn’t important, but because it is so familiar that we forget that in a sense all of Genesis 3-11 is the record of the Fall, recording the effects sin and death on individuals (Gen. 3) to institutions (Gen. 11).

The most important detail about Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden is not the fact that they are being kept from the Tree of Life. Rather it is the fact that the way back into the Garden is guarded by Cherubim (Gen. 3:24).

Let’s think about this. If I said two security guards are in front of a door you would think something valuable was behind it. If I said two of Secret Service were in front of a door you would think the President was there. If I said two dragons were guarding a door you would think something magical was there. The kind of guards posted tells us about what is there.

So, if who is guarding the door tells us something about what is being guarded, then perhaps the fact that Cherubim guard the Garden tells us something more than merely that humanity was not supposed to eat of the Tree of Life.

Cherubim are almost exclusive found in the very presence of God (around the Ark of God’s presence in Ex. 25: 18-22, and in heavenly visions like Ezekiel in Ez. 10:1-20). We need to understand, then, as every ancient reader would have, that the Cherubim are guarding the presence of God from those who have lost the ability to bear the presence of God. In the Fall, not only do we lose the Garden-Temple and our Image-Bearing mission, but we lose the very presence of God.

In a very real sense, Heaven and Earth are now separated, with humanity being bound to the Earth, and Heaven becoming the primary place of God’s presence.

Failure to Gain God’s Presence: Genesis 11tower-of-babel

But this arrangement is not to the liking of those tower builders of Babel. That God is in Heaven and they on Earth is not tolerated. So they decide to build a tower that “will reach up into Heaven” so that they could “make a name” for themselves.

No longer does humanity want to be God’s representatives nor be God’s very representation on earth, but rather they wanted to make a name for themselves (presumably by overthrowing God from Heaven and installing themselves).

Naturally God does not think this is a great idea, not because God is threatened by such schemes, but because this tactic is the most destructive of humanity and human flourishing.

So humanity fails to regain God’s presence by storming Heaven, reinforcing the very real sense that now humanity (on Earth) is separated from God (in Heaven).

All is Lost! Or is it?

As the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to prayer that the things of Heaven will be on Earth (God’s Kingdom and Will), we have been wondering how it is that Heaven and Earth come together and what does the entire story of Scripture tell us about coming together of Heaven and Earth.

So, the question we should be asking ourselves at the end of reading Genesis 3-11 is “How will the presence of God come to humanity?” because it is impossible for humanity to bring itself into God’s presence (barred from the Garden and thwarted at the Tower).

Well, as we turn to Israel’s Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) we find that although humanity has fallen from Heaven God is going to appear and make a way for humanity to be “with God” and to again bear the image of God in the world.

To this we will turn in the next post.

(If you are not part of Life on the Vine and receiving these posts through our church email, consider subscribing to the blog by either scrolling to the top or bottom of the page and filling out the form).


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

Being the Temple for the World, #4

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Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

So we have talked about how Heaven and Earth are best thought as God’s Temple, and that God rests in his temple residence as the ruler of the cosmos.

This naturally leads us to ask, “Ok, so what does humanity have to do with all this?”

Good question. Glad you asked.  Answering this questions leads to an understanding of the nature/purpose of humanity, and then how this was lost and what salvation means (hint: salvation is re-gaining the presence of God).

Image and Likeness of God?

Theologians have debated forever what the image and likeness of God means: what makes us in the image/likeness of God? Is it our spirituality, our immortal soul, our rationality, our creativity? Well yes, but no.  Well, yes and no.

Yes, I believe all of these things are part of humanity in some sense and they inform what being in the image/likeness of God is.  But, as with our understanding of “creation” as focusing more on the function than the material, so too must we consider the function of humanity rather than its material (spirit, soul, body, mind).

Royal Image:

Our first understanding of “image” comes from the practices of rulers to place statues of themselves around their land to remind the inhabitants who is in charge.  The “image” of the ruler is an extension of his rule, marking out the boundaries of his kingdom.  In a sense, humanity serves as representatives of God.  And as God’s representatives God blesses humanity to be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28).  As we will see, this “blessing” to be “fruitful” and “multiply” is key in understanding God’s call to Abraham and then Israel.

Cultic Image:

But in addition to this “royal image” we also need to think of the temple context of creation and the garden (something we have been arguing for throughout).

When people build temples for their gods they usually included an “idol” of the god, an “image” that was a representation of the god.  These would be placed in the holy places of the temple.  Of course people understood that they were not the gods themselves, but was a representation of the god.

So, if we are to think of Eden (and the cosmos as a whole) as a temple of God, made by God, then it is reasonable to think that God placed his own “image” in this temple.  Indeed, this is exactly what he has done in humanity, the original “image” or “idol” of God, serving in the temple of God.

Our Function?

Ok, so these are two essential aspects of what it means for humanity to be in the “image and likeness of God”, but still, what does that tell about our function.

In this sense, that humanity is made in the image of God means humanity is to express and extend God’s rule and reign as God’s representatives (royal image), and more intimately, humans are to be representations (cultic image) of God in the world.  Wherever we go God is meant to be seen and known.  This is why God blesses humanity and tells us to be fruitful and multiply.  In a sense, as humanity spreads out and cultivates the earth the living and walking image of God will expand and fill the earth so that God’s presence will likewise fill the earth.

The function of humanity means we are to be representative of God’s kingdom in the world, and more than that, we are actually representation of God

This sets the bar pretty high for what we were created to do.

Unfortunately Adam and Eve almost immediately fell from being a representative and representation of God in the world, and instead wanted to set up their own rule and kingdom (one separated from the word and work of God) (this is what Romans 5:17 tells us, that in Adam sin and death gained a kingdom).

But that is for the next post.

God’s Presence

To sum up, creation is best thought as a place for God’s presence in that it is structured like a cosmic temple, a place for God to rest and rule as his residence.  And humanity was meant to represent this presence of God in the world.

But all is broken now, with God’s presence known as partial and fleeting.  What is God going to do about it?  First he begins to creates a small scale place for his presence, which then turns into a person of his presence, and finally a people of his presence (overview is here).


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

Being the Temple for the World #3b

god-resting-on-7th-day-granger

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

(SNARK: I’m hoping to answer, “Everything you didn’t know you didn’t know about it about God resting.”)

Yesterday the post was getting long so I cut it off and will pick it up now (see this for the beginning of the series).

Yesterday we talked about “The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…”, in that heaven and earth were made to be a dwelling place for God to rest.  But what exactly does this means.

The Cosmic Temple of Creation: …For Resting (which is Productive)

If a temple is a place for a god’s dwelling and ruling, then this is what we need to understand by a god resting in a temple.  “Rest” is not a cessation of work, but a sitting down from all the preparatory work to engage in the real work of ruling.  Let me explain.

Rest from enemies

“Rest” in many texts indicate God giving Israel deliverance from their enemies.  When they come into the land they will have “rest” when their enemies have been defeated, and they no long have to worry about them. The “enemies” were making the kingdom disorder and unproductive

Joshua 21:44 (also Josh. 23:1)

And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their ancestors; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.

Deut. 12:10-11:  

When you cross over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and when he gives you rest from your enemies all around so that you live in safety, then you shall bring everything that I command you to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, and all your choice votive gifts that you vow to the Lord.

This second one is notable because after “rest” is achieved then they are to go to the place “God will choose as a dwelling” and worship there.  So we have “rest from enemies” linked with God’s “dwelling” in the land. Interesting.

Also, let us turn to a key passage in 2 Samuel 7:1-17.  There we hear that after God had given David “rest” from all his enemies, and David was settles in his house (a palace), David thought about building God a house (a temple).    This is important because it shows us what “rest” from enemies means.  In David’s “rest” (in his house) he didn’t do NOTHING. Rather he was active in the “rest” of his kingdom in a productive manner (desiring to build God a house).  Now that David’s kingdom was secure from external threats he was able to move toward more productive activities.  In a sense, David was now ruling his kingdom rather than just securing it.

God’s Resting Place

What does this mean, then, for Genesis 2:1-2 where it talks about God resting? We usually think this means God finished his work.  But is this the case?  Could it be that God was not read to start his work, the work of ruling the cosmos?

Before we get to this let’s look at Psalm 132: 7-8, 13-14.

7 “Let us go to his dwelling place,
let us worship at his footstool, saying,
8 ‘Arise, Lord, and come to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.

13 For the Lord has chosen Zion,
he has desired it for his dwelling, saying,
14 “This is my resting place for ever and ever;
here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it.

John Walton (The Lost World of Genesis One, 73) breaks it down this way:

“Here the ‘dwelling place’ of God translates a term that describes the tabernacle and temple, and this is where his footstool (the ark) is located.  This also shows that the text is referring to his dwelling place as this throne roon and the place of his rule (because of the footstool).  I verse 8 the “footstool” is paralleled by the ark, and the temple (“dwelling place”) is paralleled with “resting place” (menuha). This demonstrates that the tmple is the place where he rests.  In verse 13 the text again refers to his dwelling in Zion, thus referring to the temple.  Then verse 14 uses “resting place” (menuha) again identifying it as the place where he is enthroned.  Thus, this Psalm pulls together the ideas of diving rest, temple and enthronement.  God’s “ceasing” (sabat) on the seventh day in Genesis 2:2 leads to his “rest” (nuha), associated with the seventh day in Exodus 20:11.  His “rest” is located in his “resting place” (menuha) in Psalm 132, which also identifies it as the temple from which he rules.  After creation, God takes up his rest and rules from his residence.”

There you have it.  God takes up his rest (the rest from a disorganized and unproductive state of the world in Gen. 1:2) inside the cosmic temple of creation so that God can now rule in his residence (which, again, is the temple—cosmos).

As Walton notes, “This is not new theology for the ancient world—this is what all peoples understood about their gods and their temples.”

Results

So, to sum up.

1) Creation in Genesis 1 and 2 is best thought of as God’s cosmic-temple in which God dwells and rules. In this temple heaven and earth are united because God’s presence is there.

2) “Resting” on the seventh day is not so much the ceasing of work but rather the ability to productively rule and reign.

So, God rested on the seventh day of creation not because he was tired, or ran out of things to do, nor as an example for us overworked people, but because he had finished organizing and giving purpose to a disorganized and unproductive world (in a sense he defeated the enemy).  And when God rested from this work it was so that God would enter into the productive work of ruling (enjoying) his creation. 

Our Rest?

So, to close this off, what does this mean for our own understanding of Sabbath Rest?  How does this change your ideas of what “rest” is?  How can your life be ordered for “rest” and what enemies to you need defeated so you can enter your “rest”?

Add your thoughts in the comments.


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

BEING THE TEMPLE FOR THE WORLD #3a

 

Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.

So I’m getting a little behind on writing up my class notes for “God With Us: Being the Temple for the World” at Life on the Vine.  Today I’ll be summarizing what we talked about two weeks ago.  Hopefully on Friday I’ll post what we did this week.

The overall goal of our class on Sundays (and these posts) asks, “If Jesus told us to pray ‘Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,’ are there other examples of heaven coming to earth? The answers will be definitely, YES.

Last time we talked about a different way to think about God creating in Genesis One by looking at the functions of created things rather than their materials.  We ended with the questions, “If creation has a function, then what is its overall purpose?”  I hinted that “Day Seven” held the key to this in regard to Divine Rest.

The Cosmic Temple of Creation: A Dwelling…

But before we come to God resting on the Seventh Day we have to ask about where God dwells, where God lives.

In the ancient Near East if you asked, “Where is your god?” they would point to a temple.  In one sense everyone knew the god does not actually lives in the temple like a material being, but in another sense, the god was especially available in the temple.  And not just this, but the god ruled its kingdom from the temple.  So the temple is a place of dwelling and ruling.

The question for us is this: Is creation itself thought of as God’s temple?

Creation: God’s Temple

Well before we turn to Genesis we hear God saying in Isaiah 66:1-2: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be?  2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” Heaven being a throne and earth being a footstool indicate the royal aspect of God’s dwelling place.  The allusion to a “house” always refers to a temple when in connection with God (we aren’t talking about a vacation home or anything).

And in Is. 6:3 we hear that the whole earth is full of God’s glory (the same glory that filled the tabernacle [Ex. 40:34] and temple [1 Kg 8:11]).  Given these and other passages it seems clear that heaven and earth, and therefore all of creation, is in some sense God’s temple where he dwells.

In the Garden of Eden we also see indications and allusions that God has created a temple.  Gregory Beale has summarized the material of his massive The Temple and the Church’s Mission in an article called “Eden, the Temple, and the Church’s Mission in the New Creation” (Download).  There Beale outlines how God walking in the Garden, the lights of the heavens, the flowing rivers, the vegetation, the eastward facing entrance, and many other examples are all aspects mirrored linguistically and structurally in the Jerusalem Temple and other temple visions.  This indicates that readers of Genesis 1 and 2 would have thought of creation/Eden as a temple-like place, full of God’s presence.

Creation: God’s Rest?

Lastly, when ancient readers see that God rested on the seventh day they would have immediately thought that everything preceding was a description of a temple-like structure because gods always rest in a temple.

That gods always rested in a temple is not something we would normally think of because in our post-industrial world we are so busy that when we think of rest we just thing of the ceasing of activity, so we can recharge and get ready for another burst of work.

But ancient readers would have known immediately that for God to rest means that he had taken up resident in his temple, and therefore the preceding 6 days refer to the creation, or more likely, the inauguration of his temple.  The number seven is especially associated with temple construction: Solomon took seven years to build it. Gathered the people on the seventh month to inaugurate it.  The celebrated it for seven days, and then seven more.

But to say that creation is temple-like still doesn’t exactly answer what this temple if for, and what the resting of God has to do with us.
That will be for the next post tomorrow.


Here is the complete series: 1, 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6.