Having returned home from Babylonian Captivity, there was nevertheless a sense in which Israel remained in exile. The former glory of God’s presence had not returned to the temple as fully as before (Hag. 2:3-9). Israel remained under the domineering hand of oppressive nations that continued to limit their freedom. While most ancient writings were produced by the wealthy, the Bible is exceptional in that its authors were often among the oppressed and the poor. The major theme of this book is liberation—whether from sin, Satan, harsh task masters, affluent or violent oppressors, or alienation from God’s presence. Humans are in bondage and in need of deliverance.
The Israelites were hopeful that a deliverer would come. He would ascend to David’s throne and deliver his people from all that held them captive. His kingdom would be one of justice (Isa. 9:7). Among a people longing for justice, this chief virtue would be foremost among the truly godly (Micah 6:8). It was, in fact, injustice that landed Israel in captivity (Amos 2:6-9). This was mainly injustice of the affluent over the poor and of the strong over the weak (Isa. 10:1-2). But the coming king, the Messiah, would run his kingdom differently.
Jesus comes on the scene preaching the good news (gospel) of the kingdom (Mark 1:14-15). He is announcing the return of God’s just reign over his people. He has come proclaiming justice to the nations (Matt. 12:17-21; Isa. 42:1-4). He is the chosen one who has come to bind up the broken hearted, proclaim freedom for the captives, and to release the prisoners from darkness (Isa. 61:1; Luke 4:17-19). He is empowered for this work by the Spirit who is upon him.
The Spirit is not only present in the person of Christ, but the Spirit was active in the events surrounding his birth. God’s presence had especially returned, through his Spirit, to those godly people connected with the temple—people like Zachariah, Anna, and Simeon (Luke 1-2). But Jesus himself is the ultimate temple in whom the glory of God resides (John 1:14; 2:19-21). Jesus’ ministry demonstrated the in-breaking of God’s kingdom. In healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and restoring sight to the blind, Jesus shows how the power of God is reversing the curse upon creation (Luke 11:20). Jesus takes the brunt of that curse when he is crucified by the corrupt dominating powers. God’s vindication of Jesus, over and against those powers, is affirmed by his raising of Jesus from the dead. His resurrection serves as proclamation that Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:25-36).
The peaceable kingdom of Christ will fully supplant the dominating powers of the world. The kingdom doesn’t come by force or through use of the world’s weapons, for it is the meek who shall inherit the earth (2 Cor. 10:3-4; Matt. 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:13).
I'm part of the Compadres Facebook group consisting of preachers and teachers within the churches of Christ. Some of us with blogs are participating in this summer's Compadres Blog Tour. Each week a couple of us will do blog posts all relating to the same overall theme: The Glory of the Son. I'll plan on linking to each of these posts when they come out. The first installment by Jeremey Schopper can be found here:
The major theme of Scripture is redemption, which is liberation from bondage to enslavement. As sinners enslaved to our own selfishness we put ourselves in the bondage of alienation from God. When we endeavor to choose our own path, God honors our request. This is illustrated by Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden. To be evicted from the garden is to be alienated from God’s presence. To be alienated from God’s presence is to be alienated from the fulfilled lives he intends for us. Life apart from God is not really living. It is a living death.
Our alienation is self-chosen, but God in his love chose not to abandon his creation, especially the human creation made in his own image. In our selfish power-hunger, we’ve taken the rest of creation down with us so that all of creation is in bondage to decay and in need of liberation (Rom. 8:19-23).
Scripture records God’s unfolding plan of reconciling creation to himself and to liberate it from its collision course toward destruction. Those people redeemed by the Lord are to work toward the redemption of all creation.
God first chose a specific group of people as his partners in redemption (i.e., liberation. He called Abraham out of Ur promising to make a great nation of his descendants. It would be through this nation that all others could be blessed by being reconciled to God and redeemed from death (Gen. 12:1-3). Israel was to be a light to the nations—a beacon illuminating the way back to God by being a holy nation, a people set apart for him.
But Israel’s history is not without its ups and downs. It’s the story of an often oppressed people experiencing alternating cycles of bondage and liberation. Bondage to slavery in Egypt and subsequent liberation by the hand of God becomes the predominant image of God’s deliverance from the dominating powers-that-be.
The cycles of bondage and liberation continue through the time of the Judges and Monarchs of Israel. The bondage of Babylonian Captivity is linked to Israel’s individual and national sins. This exile becomes the controlling narrative to speak of human bondage to sin outside the presence of God. As humans were exiled from Eden, Israel is exiled from their homeland. They are alienated from the temple and outside God’s immediate presence.
Even upon Israel’s restoration to its homeland things aren’t quite as they were in the days of former glory when God’s presence dwelt in the midst of the temple. Israel remains, in a sense, in exile—the subordinates to whatever dominating power controls the world at the time. The Persians, Greeks, Syrians, and finally the Romans will rule Israel. For hundreds of years the nation longs for liberation from their oppressors. They long for redemption from the bondage of exile.
Each book of the Bible should first be read in its own context so that each author can be heard on his own terms without outside interference. We can lose the author’s meaning by too quickly bringing in an outside author to modify or qualify what he has written.
At the same time, however, each book of the Bible is part of a larger whole. The collection of books consists of a larger narrative so that each book of the Bible is part of something bigger than itself.
The overall narrative of Scripture is the story of redemption, which means liberation from bondage. The good creation of God has been corrupted by the presence of sin which puts creation in bondage to chaos, death, and decay. Creation is cursed because of sin, but God has a plan to reverse the curse and redeem creation from its bondage to decay (Gen. 3:14-19; Rom. 8:19-23).
Even humans, the crescendo of God’s creation, are destined for decay and eventually death. But God’s plan for redeeming creation includes his intent to redeem our mortal bodies for life in the new creation in which grief, death, war, and want will be no more (Rom. 8:11; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1-4).
In the meantime, God’s image-bearing human creation is called to partner with him in the work of redemption. It’s through us that God’s redeeming work is carried out in this world, so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
Genesis begins with an account of God’s good creation followed by an account of how human beings botched things. We do this by failing to resist the temptation to be like God. Humans have tried to live independently of God’s rule. We have sought to make our own way and chart our own destiny. Continuing down this path is to miss out on the fulfilled life that our Creator intends for us (Gen. 3:5; Isa. 53:6).
The creation account affirms our place in the scheme of things. We are subordinate to God who differentiates between things that are not identical. Genesis records that God differentiates between light and darkness, land and sea, male and female (Gen. 1).
While humans are lower than God we are more like him than any other created beings. He has delegated to us dominion over the rest of creation. We are agents of God’s will on earth as we are called to responsibly manage his creation (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15).
But in our disobedience to God, chaos has entered creation. Where harmony and peace once thrived there are now divisions and hatred. Animosity exists between humans and God, man and man, man and beast, and male and female.
Disobedience means that there has been a breach in our relationship with God. How can it be repaired and how might we participate in the redemption of creation, especially God’s human creation? That is the question answered by Scripture.
Bigfoot is a bipedal hominid creature dwelling mainly in the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest. Hominid is the term applied to one of the great apes such as a chimpanzee, gorilla, or orangutan. The term is sometimes used of prehistoric human relatives.
As a bipedal creature, however, Bigfoot differs from the great apes in that the creature consistently walks upright on two legs, identifying more closely with prehistoric human relatives. This might suggest that the term "humanoid" is more appropriate than hominid. The creature could be closer to human than ape.
One theory is that Bigfoot creatures are surviving descendants of the Gigantopithecus population. Since the fossils of such creatures have only been found in Asia, it is likely that some of them crossed over the Bering land bridge into what is now North America. This could account for why the Yeti, perhaps Bigfoot's closest relative, exists in another part of the world.
While the Bigfoot phenomena did not take hold in the U. S. until 1958 when tracks were discovered in Washington state, the evidence goes back much farther. As early as 1840, missionary Elkanah Walker recorded stories of such creatures living among the Native Americans in what is now Washington state. Sightings were reported in the 20s and 40s in British Columbia. The phenomena grew with the Patterson-Gimlin film of 1967. Those who claim to have participated in hoaxes have as much to gain as the alleged eyewitnesses by telling their story to the media.
Renowned anthropologist Jeffrey Meldrum of Idaho State University has given credibility to Bigfoot with his research. Meldrum specializes in "the emergence of bipedal locomotion in modern humans." In 2013, veterinarian Melba Ketchum published results of Bigfoot DNA research concluding that the creature is indeed closer to human than ape. The BFRO, Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization, is the only scientific research group committed to exploring the mystery of Bigfoot. They organize expeditions to track the creature and they catalog sightings rating them according to plausibility.
If Bigfoot is a human relative, what does this mean? It means that Washington state is right to outlaw the hunting of such creatures and anyone who kills one just might be guilty of murder. It also means that Bigfoot might have the capacity for emotions or even language. So the next question is whether Bigfoots are human souls. If so, is it a stretch to imagine that Bigfoot needs Jesus? How many Bigfoots might have died lost because we have failed to reach them? While missionaries descend upon China, Africa, Europe, and Asia, who is reaching out to the Bigfoots? This is truly an ignored mission field.
Perhaps we could teach Bigfoot English using one of the Gospels as our text. Now we don't want to Americanize, but only evangelize. Just imagine a Bigfoot Church in the Wildwood. Dream of a day when Bigfoots will not be judged by the size of their footprints, but by the size of their hearts. Imagine Bigfoot children and human children hand-in-hand singing Kumbaya. Imagine Bigfoots repenting of their rock throwing and being cleansed of their rank and offensive odor.
Perhaps we need a non-profit ministry. My daughter, Erin, has helped me come up with some ideas for naming it:
Bibles for Bigfoot
We might even accept donations in increments of $1000 or more. Expeditions to the Pacific Northwest are not cheap.
Some of the most self-willed, abrasive, and confrontational women I have ever known have ironically been the most adamantly opposed to women having leadership roles in the church. These self-willed women are actually guilty of what they claim to fear most---women usurping authority. They are quick to wag their fingers in the preacher's face, demand his resignation, send him nasty letters, speak to him in angry tones, or run informal gossip campaigns against the leadership.
While being the first to argue that women should be silent in the church, not possess authority over a man, and direct doctrinal queries to their husbands at home, these self-willed women do not practice what they "preach." Their understanding of authority is limited to designated public roles. While not holding such roles, the self-willed women are nevertheless usurping authority in a manner unbecoming of either men or women. They're resorting to unchristian tactics in order to get their way or express their dissatisfaction. While the irony is lost on them, these self-willed women are actually guilty of the infractions that led Paul to rebuke women who had become domineering busy-bodies (1 Timothy 2:11-12; 5:11-14; 1 Cor. 14:34-35).
When the self-willed woman takes issue with a doctrinal statement, she doesn't typically limit her grievance to conversation with her husband at home. The husbands of such women are not usually spiritual leaders. So the wife takes on the role of ensuring that the family is in church and that the doctrines and programs meet with her approval. She has the power to sabotage anything if she gripes often enough. The poor husband usually doesn't know the Bible well enough to articulate the plan of salvation. The last book he read was likely in high school. His wife may send him to church business meetings where he is largely silent except for relaying his wife's concerns and reporting back to her. Yet the couple described would be the first to insist on exclusively male spiritual leadership and a restrictive role for women in the church. The irony would be amusing if not so sad.
Just to clarify, I am not anti-woman. I am, in fact, of the opinion that their roles have been too restricted in the church and that the proof-texts used to justify this have been grossly misinterpreted, ignoring issues of grammar, historical context, and even other Scriptures.
I would not consider it usurping authority if a woman were appointed deacon, song-leader, Bible class teacher, or if she verbalized a public prayer. I simply find it ironic that the women most adamantly opposed to such practices are the very ones who, by their accusations and demands, are truly usurping authority.
I wonder if any of this sounds familiar to any of you.
A revolution has been occurring in churches of Christ. It's presence is strong in the pulpit, as evidenced by the blogs and facebook posts of my preaching colleagues. The revolution has trickled down into the pews (or chairs), but isn't nearly as widespread there. Or maybe it is, but fear of conflict and strained relationships keep many in the closet. So a host of frustrated preachers have waited many years for the rest of the church to catch up.
This revolution rejects the past legalism and sectarianism that sadly characterized our movement for many years and still does in some places. The revolution is critical of a hermeneutic that employs command, example, inference, and arguments from silence as the last word on establishing biblical authority. It refuses to read the New Testament as a legal text, pattern, blueprint, or checklist recognizing that the literature is far richer and more multi-nuanced than that. The revolution is not a rejection of biblical authority, but an approach to establishing it that respects the diversity of genres, cultural contexts, and the occasional nature of the New Testament documents.
I first heard warnings about the so-called "New Hermeneutic" back in the early 90s. While a gross misnomer, the term was a label given to "change agents" who employed a non-legalistic reading of the Scriptures. From the start of the controversy I felt that I had come into the Stone-Campbell Movement for such a time as this. I accepted the legalistic and sectarian approach in the earliest days of my Christian walk, but soon rejected the approach once I learned to think for myself. It has been a most liberating shift.
Perhaps "Reformation" is a better word than "Revolution." Every movement, like a family who lives in the same house for decades, should periodically sift through accumulated clutter and discard excess baggage. In churches, this is called Reformation, the term most commonly used by the Campbells to describe their nascent movement.
This blog began over seven years ago as yet another voice echoing the call to reform. Since then I have posted only sporadically about whatever topic struck my fancy at the moment. My blog traffic and reader interaction has gradually suffered.
So I now return to the beginning as I chronicle the journey of a nonconformist. I not only promote nonconformity to secularism, but to traditionalism, legalism, and sectarianism. Some changes will include posts that are more autobiographical, shorter posts, more frequent posts, a more accessible prose, fewer protracted series, and hopefully more attention to spiritual formation. So join me as one more voice heralds the reforming of hermeneutics, vocational ministry, and our own lives.