Monday, June 28, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The FIRST ecumenical conference of Jewish believers in Jesus in modern times met in Helsinki, Finland June 14-15 2010 to affirm their Jewish identity, their faith in Jesus and their desire for unity.
Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic scholars – all of them Jewish - met to discuss the global growth of Jewish believers in Jesus in a conference jointly organized by Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI) and the Helsinki Studium Catholicum. They issued a statement affirming the significance of Jewish continuity in the Church, as an ongoing link between its historic beginnings, its present life, and its future hope.
Dr. Mark Kinzer, President of MJTI, said “this was an unprecedented conference bringing together Jews who believe in Jesus as Messiah from a very wide range of communities and traditions. We met together to discuss the presence of Jews in our respective congregations and the issues we face. The increasing number of Jewish followers of Jesus is a phenomenon of great importance, impacting the worldwide Church as it rediscovers the Jewish roots and character of its faith. The presence of Jews in its midst is a resource and means of blessing that the historic churches can not afford to ignore.”
Father Antoine Lévy, OP, Director of the Helsinki Studium Catholicum, affirmed the continuing identity of Jews in their various Christian congregations and offered his own perspective on the unique condition and calling of Jewish disciples of Christ. “We exist, and despite 2,000 years where the Church and the Jewish people have been separated and often hostile to each other, we are a living bond that demonstrates the Messiah Jesus’ own solidarity with His people, as much as the richness of the heritage of Israel that has been opened up to the Church made up of Israel and the nations.”
Fifteen scholars and theologians from eight countries met for two days of open conference and two days of working sessions to issue a document, the Helsinki Statement. Topics discussed included Jewish identity in the Messiah; responding to anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism; the place of Messianic Jewish worship and observance; the Jewishness of Jesus; the biblical, theological and historical background to the present situation of Jewish believers in Jesus; and future plans. The papers presented are due to be published in the journal Kesher, an academic journal of MJTI. A similar event is planned for 2011.
Speakers from Europe, Russia, Israel and the United States included Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchal Vicar General for Hebrew speaking Catholics, and Boris Balter, Researcher in Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences and member of the Judeo-Christian circle "Bridge of Friendship". Conference papers were given in English and Russian.
For more information contact:
Dr. Mark Kinzer: +1 -530-334-6584
Messianic Jewish Theological Institute
PO Box 54410,
Los Angeles, CA 90054
Antoine Lévy O.P.: +358 (0)50 304 2778
Ritarikatu 3 B A 4
HT: David Rudolph
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Since this is officially our first Film + Theology event I want to take a few minutes at the beginning to answer the question: What is Film + Theology? What are we doing here? Film and Theology is a forum where we can (1) appreciate and enjoy the artistic impulse God has given to humans as expressed in film; and (2) critically engage culture. Here at Christ Community Church we believe that humanity is created in the image of God. God’s image in humans is multifaceted, but one particular aspect of it is our creative impulse. God has given humanity the ability to be artistic and create and tell stories. Film and story telling in our view should be enjoyed and celebrated as a gift.
Today, however, there is no more powerful vehicle for cultural propaganda than the movie theater. Films present ideas in the form of stories or worldviews. I heard some say recently that today’s local multiplexes are modern day pulpits where thousands flock weekly and let film directors and screen writers influence the way they think, feel and live. Films are one way modern culture artistically expresses itself. But films also shape culture. Films should be enjoyed then, but they should also be thoughtfully consumed.
2012 was co-written and directed by German-born filmmaker Roland Emmerich. Emmerich has distinguished himself as a premier filmmaker in the disaster genre with movies such as Independence Day (1996), Godzilla (1998) and The Day After Tomorrow (2004) to his credit. Emmerich’s films have grossed more than $3 billion worldwide making him the country’s 14th highest grossing director of all time. Emmerich has the reputation of being one of “the few directors capable of consistently making critically-derided movies that nonetheless [make] enormous amounts of money”.
His film 2012 is no different. While critics of the film were generally negative (apparently only 40% gave a positive review according to Rotten Tomatoes), its first weekend at the box office earned a total of $290 million worldwide and ultimately grossed nearly $768 million making it the 5th-highest grossing film in 2009. Some film critics as expected lambast it, while others—the likes of Roger Ebert, called it the “mother of all disaster movies” concluding that the movie “gives you your money’s worth” and asserting that the movie is “as good as a disaster movie can be”. In other words, if you like disaster movies, you’ll love this one. What these box office receipts say is that Emmerich’s movie 2012 was consumed by a worldwide audience no matter what the critics said. This film is representative of the power of a movie in that (1) it reaches the many and not just the few, and (2) it is revolutionary in that it invades diverse cultures creating a common.
2012 is a popcorn film and although the film has significant weaknesses at the level of script and plot it does raise several interesting spiritual themes.
You may assume that the primary theme of the movie is the end of the world. The title of the film leads to the belief that the central idea of the movie relates to the Mayan myth of the world coming to an end in 2012. This myth has been made popular in recent years when it was noted that the Mayan calendar only has 5,125 years with the last year ending on 12/12/2012. However this is in fact a mistaken notion. As Emmerich himself explains in an interview, the Mayan element came after the initial seed idea for the movie was being developed. For the movie the contribution of the Mayan myth is simply that the “fact that the Mayan calendar ends”. “This gave us the year”, Emmerich says. The Mayan myth provided the day that the global flood was to take place. On that day, as well see in the film, a solar storm leads to changes in the Earth’s core with the result that the earth’s crust is displaced creating super-tsunamis that flood the earth. So what was the seed-idea for the movie? The film’s seed-idea actually was a “global flood”, a “modern retelling” of the Noah’s ark story. “We came up with this idea that maybe a global flood would be a great movie because we could do a retelling of Noah’s Ark in a modern way”. In Emmerich’s words, “the whole third act is more a different kind of movie [than a disaster movie]. It’s about who will survive in the arks”. In fact, for Emmerich the movie is “about” decisions about who is gets on the arks and who gets left behind.
At its simplest, 2012’s story is about people who know the world is coming to an end by a global flood and people who do not. The people who know secretly build ships they call “arks”. So Emmerich’s “Noah” is a US led coalition of countries who secretly build ships and don’t tell anyone. The governments realize that the disaster is coming much sooner than they had anticipated and it becomes a race to get to the ships which were constructed in Tibet in the Himalayas.
When the catastrophe begins worldwide disaster is experienced illustrated onscreen by the destruction of recognizable landmarks with a notable emphasis on the demolition of Christian-Catholic sites. One Catholic reviewer pointed out that while the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s basilica and Rio de Janerio’s Christ the Redeemer statue are destroyed, Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s most sacred site isn’t, at least on screen. He wryly commented, “because, you know Christians, don’t do fatwas”.
In Emmerich’s flood story, interestingly, God is absent. If there is a god figure in the film it is science or better nature. Emmerich attempts to strip humanity down to the point where faith makes little-to-no difference. He says, “Yes, it’s good to be spiritual, but praying in the face of disaster will not stop the disaster. Fate, luck and coincidence might help you survive, but not prayer”. “When you destroy the Vatican or the Jesus in Rio, you tell people, even God can’t help you”. For Emmerich the film becomes a question of morality, what is right and wrong, absent of God: “It comes down to what should people do in a situation like that, what is morally right to do”.
Another character is the eccentric Charlie Frost (played by Woody Harrelson) a radio talk show host-cum-apocalyptic preacher (a John the Baptist type) who lives in his Winnebago in Yellowstone National Park awaiting the end of the world. He promulgates over the airwaves a conspiracy theory that few if any believe. It seems, however, ironically he is the only other person beside the government that knows what’s going on.
2. Faith in the midst and in the face of disaster - What can faith do in the midst of and in the face of disaster?
3. Morality absent of God - What is morality without God? On what bases did the characters in the film determine right and wrong absent of God?
4. Global flood - How do the global floods of the Bible (Gen 6—9) and 2012 compare?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Update: Nick Norelli adds his two cents.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Roger Steer’s book takes a narrative approach to Stott’s life and presents it from a personal angle. The book is a brief but comprehensive, personal, sympathetic narrative of the life of John Stott. I found it easy to read and hard to put down. Steer is to be commended for his approach to the organization of the book with its short chapters—there are essentially 31 chapters comprising 282 pages. The brief chapter structure allows one to duck into John’s life for a brief spell without feeling the need to spend a whole afternoon there. This does not mean that you’ll not take an afternoon. In reading it I had trouble stopping with just one—I have the same trouble with a bowl of ice cream.
Reflecting on John Stott’s life and ministry of over 5 decades through this brief and well-written account had a significant affect on me. As I reflect on the John Stott I met in the book several adjectives come to my mind:
John’s ministry was centered on the ministry of the Gospel understood wholistically. He spent his life spreading it, defending it and living it. He defined and embodied the Gospel in traditionally and nontraditionally evangelical ways. His Gospel centricity resulted in two moves that for some will seem divergent paths: the Cross of Christ and an aggressive social program represented in the Lausanne Covenant. To compare him to personalities popular today, John Stott was/is a mixture of John Piper and Bono. Not exactly two names you would naturally coordinate. But that combination reveals the uniqueness of John Stott.
John did not cloister himself away from the culture around him. Instead he engaged it and as such is the epitome of the “everyday theologian” Vanhoozer describes. John provides a clear example of a Christian who critically engaged the culture within which the church of the twentieth and early twenty-first century lived and lives.
Driven & disciplined
John was a driven and disciplined person with a tremendous work ethic. More than once, the value he placed on punctuality is mentioned in the book by his study assistants.
Intellectual & theological
John was an intellectual in the best sense of the word. He was a theological intellectual without being irrelevant. His nearly 30 books and the important “congresses” he founded, such as Lausanne, are a testimony to his intellectual power. All this intellectual activity was conducted from the context of the church. For this reason I nominate John Stott, if he's not already, as the patron saint for the Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology (SAET).
John was an evangelical in the best sense of the word. I think his close relationship with Billy Graham on the one hand and his falling out with Martyn Lloyd-Jones over his decision not to leave the Anglican Church on the other show that he exemplified a winsome evangelicalism that could not be equated with the more sectarian forms.
One more thing. I was surprised when I saw that my friend John Yates was featured in the book. John and I were both at Cambridge working with Markus Bockmuehl – by the way I feel like I’ve said this before (e.g. Charles Anderson). I knew that John had been a study assistant with Stott, but now I wish I had taken the opportunity to pursue conversations about Stott with John. John I don’t know if you read our blog, but if you do, be prepared the next time I see you to have a long conversation about your assistantship. I’ll certainly buy you a beer or two in return. Perhaps at the upcoming SAET fellowship in October if you're attending.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Full disclosure: Charles is a dear friend of mine. We overlapped in Cambridge and both were students of Markus Bockmuehl. You'll find our names together in the list of students that attended the "Grandchester Meadows Group" in the preface to Markus' book Seeing the Word.
The book’s first essay written by Vanhoozer (55 pgs long) is a crash course in cultural hermeneutics. In addition to outlining a hermeneutical method, the chapter provides a context for the approach by providing an overview of background information such as definition, history of research and theological and biblical warrants. I think this is a must read for pastors, although it is "thick" and will take patience to muddle through. You won't be disappointed for the work though.
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Monday, June 07, 2010
Saturday, June 05, 2010
Friday, June 04, 2010
Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger
The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture's Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped our Understanding of Early Christianity
Foreword by I. Howard Marshall
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010.
The early church was characterized by a deep-seated diversity where proto- orthodox and proto-gnostic Christians existed side-by-side from the beginning, there were yet no heresies or heretics (except perhaps for Paul), neither were there any hierarchical orders, no single theology of Christ’s person was in expression, and it was a period of innocent pluralism; but this ended some time between AD 80-100 when a vociferous minority of proto-orthodox leaders sought to silence certain voices within the Christian movement and imposed their own rigid theology, ethical rigorism, sacred texts, and ecclesial hierarchy upon a religious movement that was beginning to tire in the absence of Christ’s parousia and this led to the eventual catholizing of the church (see my TynBul article on New Testament Theology Re-Loaded).
In light of this now all too standard mantra of "diversity, diversity" and the wicked orthodox who imposed their views on everyone else, the volume by Andreas Kostenberger and Michael Kruger is a breathe of fresh air that ably tackles these revisionist histories of early Christianity.
D.A. Carson's endorsement of the volume rings true: "In the beginning was Diversity. And the Diversity was with God, and the Diversity was God. Without Diversity was nothing made that has been made. And it came to pass that nasty old 'orthodoxy' people narrowed down diversity and finally squeezed it out, dismissing it as heresy. But in the fullness of time (which is, of course, our time), Diversity rose up and smote orthodoxy hip and thigh. Now, praise be, the only heresy is orthodoxy. As widely and as unthinkingly accepted as this reconstruction is, it is historical nonsense: the emperor has no clothes." And Carson is right that Kostenberger and Kruger have exposed his nakedness.
The book moves in three parts. Part one examines "The Heresy of Orthodoxy: Pluralism and the Christian Origins of the New Testament". This is by far the best section of the book as the Bauer thesis is taken apart brick by brick. Bauer over-estimated the influence of the Roman church, certain groups like the Valentians were parasitic on the proto-orthodoxy rather than prior to and independent of them, and Bauer claimed to know too much based on far too little. There is no denial that Christianity was diverse, but there are good arguments provided to support the notion that the groups that were later judged as "heretical" deviated from a common core of widely accepted beliefs and traditions.
The second section covers "Picking the Books: Tracing the Development of the New Testament Canon" where it is claimed that the canon was not created by the church but received by the church, meaning that it was not an arbitrary collection based on little more than ecclesial politics. The third section "Changing the Story: Manuscripts, Scribes, and Transmission" directly challenges Bart Ehrman's claim that the text of the NT is highly corrupted and was deliberately molested by scribes who sought to conform the text to their own theological perspective. Here I would highlight the discussion on canon, covenant, and community that demonstrates the dynamic relationship between the faith of a community, the expectations of new Scripture that accompany a new covenant, and the textual tradition that the community itself creates.
This is a great book that deserves to be read and it is an excellent counter-point to the repeated assertions that the early church was just a nebulous array of diverse sub-groups until one was able to strong arm the rest. That said, there were a few points that I would contest.
First, Paul's opponents in Galatia are called "Judaizers" and "Heretics" in the book (p. 90). Strictly speaking only Gentiles can Judaize while Jews can proselytize. This is a term that needs to be eradicated from our nomenclature for Paul's adversaries in Galatia. But calling his opponents "heretics" is anachronistic as well. Heresy should be reserved for those who depart from the mature creedal statements of the Church's faith. Galatians was written during a period of the church's formative theological development where the issues of how much of the old carries over into the new was still an open question. Paul calls his opponents "false" not "heretical" since their position departed from an agreed norm with the Jerusalem apostles. But Paul's own view of the Law was developing as well and Galatians is a very raw and radical response to an intrusion onto his turf. Paul's Christ/Law contrast remains fairly consistent throughout his epistles, however, his remarks in Romans are obviously more mature and moderate compared to the explosive rejoinder in Galatians. In fact, if Galatians was the first and last word on the Law, Marcion might well have had a better case for rejecting the Old Testament. In the NT we can identify various positions concerning the Law (Matthew, James, Luke, Revelation) and the early church exhibited a wide diversity of opinion on the matter. Paul was right to object to any view of the Law that denigrated the work of Christ and argued that Christian Gentiles must embrace Judaism, but Paul's own formulation of Christ vis-a-vis the Law was not the unanimous view in the early church at this juncture.
Anyone studying NT Theology, unity and diversity in the early church, or historical theology would do well to consider this book.