“Homosexuality Under the Reign of Christ”
“So I got your book. I’ve only read the chapter on homosexuality, and I’ve got a couple of questions for you.”
The blog tour that took place over the past few weeks was a great success from where I sit: the reviews asked some penetrating questions and also gave folks a taste of what Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? is all about.
All the blogs from the blog tour are linked on the blog tour website. If you missed any of the posts, head over and catch up! In addition, Tony Jones followed up with a second engagement of my chapter on homosexuality which led to my own post in response and a great conversation ensued.
So, let’s say that you’ve read the book and you liked what was going on there. If you’re so inclined, here is my shameless request for you to help me get the word out about the book:
First, if you’ve finished with the book (I mean, for the next couple weeks or something, before you read it again), would you give (I mean, loan) your copy to someone else to read? Putting the book in people’s hands may the single most important thing for an unknown person such as myself to have the book start finding some ciruclation.
Second, if you’re reading along and enjoying what you read, would you post a word or two to your social network? A quote from the book? A, “120 pages down, only 79 more to go #JHILBP” or something?
Third, if you read and enjoyed the book, would you write a short review on Amazon? As weird as it may sound in theory, people actually care what the Amazon reviews say, how many there are, etc.
Finally, if you’re in the Bay Area +/- 8 hours, when am I coming to speak to your church, fellowship group, school chapel…?
Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read the book and critically engage its ideas. You honor me with your efforts.
The chapter under discussion to day is, “Women in the Story of God.”
Julie Clawson engages and critiques the chapter at One Hand Clapping. She raises some important concerns about the chapter from the perspective of feminist theology and the reality of what women have experienced in the church.
Andrew Perriman at p.ost engages the chapter in conversation with his own understanding of what apocalyptic means and how that transforms our understanding of the story of God.
Each reviewer has the kind of substantive engagement and substantive concern that can lead to productive conversation. Check out the posts, and join in unfolding discussions in the comments!
And, of course, if you’ve not yet gotten your hands on the book, your hour has come…
In yesterday’ stop along the Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? blog tour, Jim West demurred over my articulation of the ministry of Jesus. This seemed like a good, old-fashioned substantive disagreement, or at least, a place where sounding the note with the right emphasis might be important.
On p. 100 of JHILBP, I say, “Jesus came… to form that family of God around himself.” To which Jim replies:
Jesus doesn’t seek to form anything around himself- he seeks to form a people of God around God, the Father. Kirk’s (apparently Barthian) Christocentrism has led him astray. Jesus was theocentric to the core. His will was to do the will of the Father. Nothing less, and nothing more. For Jesus, it wasn’t about Jesus. It was about the Father.
Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first: Jim is the third person ever, and the third person in the past week, to call me a Barthian and/or Neo-Orthodox. You will forever be on the top three list in applying the label to me! Well done!
The difficulty in responding to the paragraph is that I don’t want to say that Jim’s wrong, that it’s not about God but rather about Jesus. However, what I want to say is that the way in which Jesus’ ministry is about God is by being about Jesus.
Jesus is the one in and through whom God’s kingdom is dawning in the world. Jesus is the King of God’s coming Kingdom (at least as that story is told in the Gospels).
Let’s bring this down to the ground level of the Biblical stories.
Jim rightly says that Jesus comes to do the will of the Father (John 6:38; cf. 4:34). But Jesus then turns, in chapter 6 of John, and immediately says, “This is the will of my Father: that everyone who looks to the son and believes in him will have eternal life” (6:40). The way in which people on earth faithfully respond to God is by faithfully responding to Jesus.
This is what I mean by Jesus coming to form a community around himself–to reject Jesus is to reject the Father, to accept Jesus is to accept the Father. This, in contrast to either everyone already being part of the people of God, in contrast to people being delineated the people of God simply by keeping Torah and faithfully worshiping according to the OT prescriptions, and in contrast to Jesus simply saying that the previously given covenant is sufficient to delineate God’s people.
Similarly, in a passage I discuss more than once in my book, Jesus says, in a statement that would seem to be to Jim’s point, “whoever does God’s will is my mother, sister, and brother” (Mark 3:34, CEB).
But how are these people worthy of the approval as those who “do God’s will”?
“Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, ‘Look, here are my mother and my brothers'” (Mark 3:34, CEB).
Sitting at Jesus’ feet, following Jesus, puts one within the will of God. Jesus does form a community around himself. Following him becomes the defining marker of the people of God. Yes, it is the people of God, the Father, who are formed; yes, it is the will of God, the Father, that is done. But it is done by following Jesus.
It wasn’t about Jesus?
No, this we cannot say. Jesus places himself in the middle of everything–“Whoever hears these words of mine and does them…” (Matt 7); “Whoever is ashamed of me in this wicked and perverse generation…” (Mk 8); “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk 4); “He came to his own… To all who received him, to all who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (Jn 4).
Though each Gospel tells its own story of Jesus, each agrees on this: Jesus is the way to the Father, the one in and through whom the people of God is being reformed. It is, of course, about God, because “whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” says Jesus in John. Or, “Jesus was a man, testified to by God,” says Peter in Acts.
So while I don’t want to disagree with Jim that this mission is about the Father, I can’t see how the Gospel narratives allow for this mission to be about the Father without it being also about the son.
Today’s post is prompted by a confluence of two streams: teaching in the Corinthian correspondence and AKMA’s thoughts in review of my chapter on ethics, “Living the Jesus Narrative.” The question these two have raised to my mind is, “What does the in-breaking of resurrection into this life look like [according to Paul]?”
In both Thessalonians and Corinthians Paul uses language to speak of the reception of the gospel, the effect of his ministry, that seems to be anything but cruciform. When the gospel comes through Paul, it arrives with “power and Spirit” (1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5). Paul can speak of the signs of a true apostle accompanying him: signs, wonders, and miracles (2:12).
Paradoxically, however, this power is shown to be God’s power precisely because it comes in the midst of suffering:
We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech but also with power and the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know as well as we do what kind of people we were when we were with you, which was for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord when you accepted the message that came from the Holy Spirit with joy in spite of great suffering. (1 Thess 1:5-6, CEB)
How do you know that this joy, power, and Spirit are genuinely from God? Because they come in spite of your own suffering, says Paul; because they come despite the powerlessness of the messenger, and because in coming through such suffering they cohere with the gospel of Christ crucified.
I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:3-5, CEB)
Resurrection looks like the power of God being made known through, and in the midst of, the weakness, suffering, and persecution that are the embodiment of the cross. More particularly, Paul’s vision of resurrection life now seems to be most sharply in focus when he speaks of his own suffering bringing life, by the Spirit, to others: “We always carry about the dying of Jesus in our mortal flesh so that the life of Jesus also may be made known in us.. So, death works in us, but life in you.”
As the self-giving Christ brings life to the cosmos, so the self-giving Christians bring life to those to whom they speak.
AKMA pushes me on some important questions that I feel I have no good answers to. How do we do ministry like this? For one thing, cruciformity cannot be institutionalized. It is the antithesis of the institution, which must always live, at least in part, to perpetuate itself.
What happens if a good and lowly sufferer does well? What if her church takes off? What if she gets a PhD? What if, horror of horrors, her book sells?! What if we are filled? What if we are already rich? What if we have become kings–while the apostles are being exhibited last of all as people condemned to death?
I don’t have a clear or easy answer.
I suppose that persons more godly than myself can make myriad small decisions to embrace the way of the cross such that their success continues to be a manifestation of the power of God.
I know of a couple of godly, exceptional NT scholars who have made some self-sacrificial decisions in terms of career and public visibility in order to care for ailing family members. From the midst of their self-giving so that others might live, beauty and strength shines forth.
I know teachers who aren’t great communicators (cf. 1 Cor 2:1-5), but whose life and message transform the students who come across their paths.
That’s a start.
Akma has more questions, challenging questions on his page today. I’m guessing he wants to go some other directions with resurrection. I have a few more places I’d like to go with it as well. Maybe later…
Think that Paul’s idea of Christianity is, basically, getting you, yourself, and you right before God? Think again…
James McGrath’s thoughts are here.
Look for Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s at missional.ca.
Today’s chapter in the Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? blog tour is “New Creation and the Kingdom of God.”
This chapter lays my understating of how Paul articulates something akin to the “kingdom of God” proclamation we meet so often in the Synoptic Gospels.
Also, Andrew Perriman has a few thoughts in review, in anticipation of his official Blog Tour post next Monday.
The final in a series of videos about Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul?, in which I discuss who might profit from reading the book:
When you think of Paul, what, or who, do you think of?
Some thoughts on various Pauls that need deconstructing, and what might go in the place:
Get the full story here!