24 November 2008

What are we trying to restore?

This semester, my favorite class has been Issues in Acts, a study of the various themes and theological emphases of Luke-Acts. It's one of my favorite class formats, too: everyone writes a paper on a chosen topic, and each week two topics (represented by one or two people each) are presented. For each topic, we read the presenters' papers and some assigned chapters in our textbook. Everyone reads everyone's paper. In class, the presenter gives their presentation and the group discusses the presentation, paper, and related topics. I finished my paper and did my presentation early in the semester, so I have been able to sit back and enjoy the other papers and discussions.

One question has come up in various ways as we have studied through Acts: what should church look like in light of ________? (_______ being whatever topic was presented) As a member of a church that is part of the fellowship of churches known as the Restoration Movement, I find this question of special importance.

[For the uninitiated, the Restoration Movement was and is a philosophy of ministry articulated by men in the early 1800s who were disheartened by the depth of division and bitter rivalry among churches in their day. As an example of such foolishness in the church, consider the denomination from which Thomas Campbell (basically the father of the restoration movement) came: The Old-Light, Anti-Burgher, Seceder Presbyterian Church. They thought they were the one true church, and all others were heretics! What Campbell and others sought to do was unite the church (the whole church, all denominations) on the sole basis of the teachings of Scripture. No creeds were necessary because they are the inventions of man. The goal, then, was and is to restore the New Testament church, accomplishing unity, but unity in truth.]

Obviously, we aren't trying to restore everything about the NT church (Acts 5 and 1 Corinthians 5 for example!). The NT church, even the church in Acts, was flawed, not because God's plan is flawed, but because God's plan involves people. Nevertheless, we strive to restore things like open-handed generosity to those in need, deep dependence on God for all we are and all we have, and boldness and confidence sharing the good news about Jesus.

Sometimes, though, it looks like the Restoration Movement is trying to restore baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins and local church autonomy, which are great but are only a fraction of what we ought to be restoring. We in the RM should, must, evaluate how we have done over the last 200 years at achieving our goals. I'm not sure the evaluation would be very positive. In our history, three new denominations (Christian Church/Church of Christ, Church of Christ [A Capella], and the Church of Christ-Disciples of Christ) have been formed, and things are just now beginning to heal some of the wounds, a positive step indeed but indicative that we have a long way to go as the movement that promotes nondenominational unity.

Am I being too optimistic? Too pessimistic? What are we trying to restore?

14 November 2008

What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable.

Thanks to Matt Crosser for the post on Facebook. Well-thought out - it hits on the head several things, albeit sarcastically, that the church sometimes does wrong. I'm interested in checking out the website at the end, since "relevance" as a trend in churches is one area of thinking about church that makes me squirm in some deep, unexplainable sort of way.

12 November 2008

Matthias: Wrong Man for the Job?

A hermeneutically funny thing happened lately. Twice in the past couple of months, I have heard an argument that has struck a small nerve with me. What makes this all more interesting to me is that I am taking a class this semester called Issues in Acts, a class in which we have looked at various themes in Acts, including the theme of the apostles and the people of God. First, the argument, then what I don't like about it.

The first time I heard the argument, it came from Andy, our very capable preacher. He began a sermon on who knows what with the scene in Acts 1 of the apostles replacing Judas Iscariot with Matthias. He used this event to bring up the question: is it possible that the 11 apostles acted rashly when they replaced Judas? We see later in Acts how Saul is chosen by the risen Christ to be his messenger to the Gentiles. Andy suggested that the 11 just could not wait on God's will to be fully realized and also suggested that Paul was supposed to be the 12th apostle, if only they would have waited on God. I then heard this argument again in another class in Johannine literature after a discussion on John's understanding of Judas. So the argument is that Paul, not Matthias, should have been the 12th apostle. I assume this means that the 11 just should have waited until Saul was converted before they added the 12th apostle.

Here's the text of Acts 1:21-22 "Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-- 22 beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us-- one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

Here's what I don't like about this interpretation:
  • The single Greek word (dei), translated "it is necessary" or "must," a word that occurs more in Luke-Acts than in the rest of the New Testament, almost always occurs in the context of the will of God or the work of God, indicating that whatever "it" is that is necessary is necessary by divine will. To see this word in action, see Luke 2:49; 4:43; Acts 4:12; 9:6, 16 and several other places.
  • This word occurs in 1:21, indicating that the replacement of Judas is the will of God.
  • The conditions laid out in v. 21-22 would preclude Paul from consideration: he must be one who "accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us - beginning with the baptism of John until the day he was taken up from us." Paul had not done that.
  • The disciples prayed, asking God to intervene in the process: "show which of these two you have chosen" (1:24). They then cast lots, not an equivalent of rolling dice, but a means of revealing God's will.
This may not be a big deal to anyone out there; there is certainly no important bit of Christian theology at stake here. It is, however, a matter of paying attention to the text and doing a little concordance work, which ought not to be too much to ask of anyone preaching or teaching this passage.

03 November 2008

Run, Fat Boy, Run

So it hasn't been the best year for running, at least not since the Pig. I logged a whopping 8 miles in September and an even less impressive 5.4 in October. For the sake of comparison, last September I ran 68.2 miles and last October I ran 56.1. Ouch. This and the fact that I've let my eating habits return to their undisciplined ways has led to me bulking up to 232 lbs. In June of this year I weighed less than 215. So . . . yeah: it's not been a good few months for running or for eating right.

That's why I have chosen (yet again) to bare my runner's soul to all (two) of you out there. I still plan on running in the full marathon next May, so I've got some work to do. I am basically starting from scratch; my longest run in the last month is three miles, so I have only a minimal endurance left from earlier in the year.

I have an excuse: we had a baby. He has had a way of totally changing our lives, and by that I don't mean he's made our lives worse. Definitely not. But he has most definitely changed every aspect of our daily lives, including what I do with my spare time. Running was an easy thing to push aside as we've tried to reorient ourselves to life as The Three of Us.

There is a plan, however flexible it is. I should be able to run at least twice a week until the semester is over, after which I should be able to run three to four times per week. I will need to start my official training regiment on December 28.

So I will keep somewhat frequent updates, letting you know how things are going.

Here are my goals for the marathon:
  1. Weight: under 200
  2. Finish Time: not really worried about it, but under 5 hours would be nice.