Extracurricular Activities — October 12, 2013
In this chp we get to the heart of the new contribution that PFG will make; here is a full display of the imperial cult as a/the context for understanding Paul’s claim that Jesus is Lord. That Tom knows this claim will be given considerable pushback explains the detail and vigorous prose and evidence-based conclusions. There can be no doubt the emperor, from Augustus on, was worshiped or prayed to (and for); the issue will be how much this figured into Paul’s theological claims about Jesus as Lord.
So what is, or better yet, was religion in Paul’s world?
Every so often, the champions and foes of "Red Letter" Christianity break out their arguments, sharpen them up, and take to the internet. Champions say we've ignored the words of Jesus—highlighted in some modern Bibles with red lettering—for far too long. They want us to take up the radical call to discipleship Jesus issued in the Sermon on the Mount. The foes say that even printing these words in red creates a false, canon-within-a-canon that distorts the Scriptures.
Unfortunately, some other self-described, "Red Letter" Christians do more than give them priority. Instead, they contrast and even set in opposition the words of Jesus from the writings of Paul, or some other similarly ill-tempered and unprogressive disciple. While problematic, that approach is even less concerning than the tendency to pit Jesus against the Bible he grew up with: the Old Testament. Jesus' words and character are contrasted with the Old Testament law, or the various commands of God scattered throughout the narrative sections of the Torah. So where Jesus and the Old Testament seem to conflict on violence, neighbor-love, sexuality, or some other hot topic, go with Jesus, they say. If you have to pick between red or black letters, go with red.
At the risk of kicking off another round of 'robust dialogue', here are three reasons why that approach doesn't really work.
It's not just just-war theory versus pacifism. The book covers war, capital punishment, gladiatorial games, infanticide, abortion, and so forth. Did the early Christian writers tie those together, or did they treat them as separate ethical issues?
They definitely tied them together. A number of times different authors—like Lactantius writing at the time of the Diocletian persecution, and earlier writers—are very clear. They explicitly say we don't kill, and that means we don't go to gladiatorial games, we're opposed to abortion, capital punishment is not acceptable, and we don't kill in war.
It is certainly true that preaching can be an act of folly if done poorly or stupidly or in a boring fashion. So it might be worthwhile to serve up a Top Ten list of things Preachers Ought Not to Do:
10. I once saw a preacher do a front flip off the pulpit into a chair below. I would say don’t try this in your home church. If you miss, you will never live it down. And what was the point. This is about as dumb as a glassblower inhaling and making a spectacle of himself
9. No snakes! As Indiana Jones once said— ‘why did it have to be snakes’. Fortunately for us, Mark 16.9ff. is not an original part of God’s Word, thank God. Whew. Also no drinking poison either.
Author Malcolm Gladwell may not be known for writing on religion. His New York Times best-selling books “The Tipping Point,” “Outliers,” “Blink” and “What the Dog Saw” deal with the unexpected twists in social science research. But his newest book, “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants,” also includes underlying faith-related themes, and not just in the title. Gladwell said that while researching the book, he began rediscovering his own faith after having drifted away. Here, he speaks with RNS about his Mennonite family, how Jesus perfectly illustrates the point in his new book and how Gladwell’s return to faith changed the way he wrote the book. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
Extra-Curricular Activities is a weekly roundup of stories on biblical interpretation, theology, and issues where faith and culture meet. We found each story interesting, thought-provoking, challenging, or useful in some way – but we don't necessarily agree with or endorse every point in every story.
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