Posts Tagged 'Gospel'

“I Don’t Want to be Part of Any Jesus Revolution Without a Perichoretic Dance” – Why We Need Both Jesus Manifestoes

Frank Viola and Len Sweet’s book  Jesus Manifesto remains in the Amazon Top Ten today, and my interview with them yesterday has stirred a lot of interesting conversation. Among conversation partners is my friend Jeff Straka, who airs some honest thoughts and frustrations that inspire me to say something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time. Jeff wonders:

While Brian McLaren has endorsed both these authors’ books in the past, his name is glaringly (to me, anyway) missing from the list on this new book. Nor did I find any endorsements from other names considered more solidly in the emergent movement (and not just in “conversation” with). Am I reading too much into this or is this shaping into a “spy vs. spy” manifesto?

Also, are the subtitle words “the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus” a helpful choice of words as they seem to imply then that other religions are flat-out wrong or false (ala Franklin Graham)?

Well Jeff, we know that Brian rarely eats or sleeps, but even he cannot endorse everything. 🙂

But seriously. I think there is a difference between divergent views and hostility. F’r instance, it was apparent that Mike Wittmer didn’t merely have differences with Brian’s presentation in A New Kind of Christianity; he was pretty hostile toward Brian, both theologically and personally.

I’m almost certain that this isn’t the case here. While there are doubtless differences between Len and Brian (as the Sweet piece you cite demonstrates), I see them as iron-sharpening-iron differences and not iron-jabbing-your-opponents-eyes-out differences. Both Len and Brian have been accused of various grevious heresies by the self-appointed watchdog ministries; I doubt Len wishes to inflict that pain on anyone else, even if he disagrees with them theologically.

So: Does JM say some different things than ANKoC?

Yes.

Is it possible to enjoy both books?

Yes, I think so, though natural predispositions being what they are, readers might naturally gravitate toward one perspective or the other.

Here’s the fascinating thing, as an aside: Brian in ANKoC and Richard Rohr in The Naked Now (which I’m presently reading) both write out of a conviction that Jesus has become in the hearts and minds of Christians too remote and too ‘divine’ to be of any earthly good, or connection with his followers today. Rohr specifically indicts contemporary Christians of the heresy of gnosticism, saying that while Nicea (or was it Chalcedon? I always forget…) technically settled the matter of Jesus being fully human and fully divine, “most Christians are very good theists who just happened to name their god Jesus.” By contrast, Rohr calls for a robust incarnational ethic, where we disavow a remote ‘theism’ as such and affirm a ‘down and in’ God who is located precisely right here, in our midst. Brian and Rohr both hope that people will stop merely worshiping Jesus and start listening to and following his teachings.

Sweet and Viola, by contrast, are observing an opposite trend: People following the human Jesus, but neglecting the exalted Christ. They wish to reclaim the grandiose language of the Epistles, which speaks of a Christ who fills all-in-all. This is different than a John Piper or Franklin Graham approach of brow-beating the planet earth with a jingoistic Christ, in my opinion.

To begin with, ‘supremacy’ is used in a mystical sense, inspired by T. Austin Sparks. And the divinity of Jesus championed by V&S isparticipatory divinity: We have become partakers of the divine nature through Christ. It’s a perichoretic divinity: The expansion of the dynamic life of the Trinity into communities where this Trinitarian life is made welcome, and thus radiating into the earth. (See Viola’s From Eternity to Here and Sweet’s So Beautiful.) To be honest with you, not counting Rohr, I miss this kind of unbridled mystical-devotional dimension in much of the emerging church. I too agree that everything must change and I don’t share Len’s antipathy with liberation theology (I don’t see how anyone can read Leonardo Boff or James Cone or Gustavo Gutierrez, or know the story and plight of the Base Ecclessial Communities in Latin America, and dismiss liberation theology as simply re-hashed Marxisim), but I will paraphrase anarchist Emma Goldman here: “I don’t want to be part of any Jesus revolution without a perichoretic dance.”

I want to see an emerging conversation that makes room for neo-liberationists and neo-pietists, Jesus Manifesto and Jesus Manifesto. We need neo-pietists in the Conversation to remind us just how revolutionary Paul was, and the Epistles are – that participatory divinity linked to the monotheistic God was truly a new phenomenon in the first century, and can be just as much so today. We need the neo-pietists to remind us of a good, strong, Lutheran-esque Gospel of God’s gratuitous grace and favor toward us, and how we can’t be the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ unless we’re connected to the authority and animating energies of Christ our Head.

And so: I hope that in the next year, emergents and missionals, organics and liturgicals, conservatives and progressives, can stop writing each other off. If I have to stop calling it the ’emerging’ conversation in order to help missional and neo-pietist folk feel more welcome at the table, I will. Because I think that’s what Jesus – the whole, living Christ – wants.

Brian McLaren: What Is The Gospel?

Spencer Burke and Brian McLaren continue their discussion on A New Kind of ChristianityWhat is the good news we profess, proclaim, and live by?  Get the show notes and see the entire interview as it unfolds here.

Lazarus wrote John’s Gospel?

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/215JuPcKlEL._SL500_.jpgSo says Ben Witherington III in Making a Meal of It. In under 20 pages, he makes an almost-airtight case that Jesus’ resurrected friend is the ‘Beloved Disciple.’ BWIII does so in a way that makes sense of the vastly different setting & stories of Jesus told in this gospel (versus the Synoptics), and second-century disputes about authorship. The first act of John culminates in the transformation of Lazarus, Witherington writes. The second act culminates – of course – with the transformation of Jesus. Jesus is at his most cosmic, powerful, and otherworldly, precisely because his story is told here by a friend who’d been raised from the dead – Lazarus proved to be a capable writer but one unable to have the mystery and under-statedness of, say, Mark’s gospel in its ambiguities regarding Jesus’ Messiahship. John of Patmos (not the same as John of Zebedee in the gospels) is then the editor of this work, adding the postscript about the Beloved Disciple’s death – a death that wouldn’t be expected to happen to a man raised from the dead ‘until Jesus comes.’

Showing Lazarus’ authorship of John isn’t why Dr. Ben writes Making a Meal of It, nor is it why I’m reading it. Nonetheless, its a segue that is alone worth the price of the book. Check it out!

PS: Though I haven’t read it yet, I can only imagine that this idea is the central plot device of Ben and Ann Witherington’s recently-released novel The Lazarus Effect, which Anne Rice describes as “Set against the intense, exotic, and vivid backdrop of modern Israel, yet delving into the deepest mysteries of the time of Christ, The Lazarus Effect won’t fail to entertain and inform. Highly recommended.”

God’s Love on Earth: The Hope of Authentic, Outpoured Community

Our house church community had a wonderful weekend with four guys (including him) from a sister church in the Pacific Northwest. They connected many dots for us spiritually, exploding the false gnostic dividing lines between spirit and matter, sacred and secular, this good earth and the heavenly realm that longs to be ever-more poured into it as the beneficent reign of God expands in our hearts, churches, streets and cosmos.

Continue reading ‘God’s Love on Earth: The Hope of Authentic, Outpoured Community’


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