Monday, October 24, 2005

Experiencing God

A group of the ladies at our church completed the book Experiencing God this past summer and had good things to say about it.

I've started a BLOG to document my own journey through the Experiencing God materials. It's at http://experiencinggodgroup.blogspot.com.

Kingdom Principles

Jesus lays out the principles of Servant Leadership in this text.

He starts with the obvious negative examples and then proceeds to tell the disciples how they should act.

It appears in this text that the Pharisees set themselves up as judges over the religious conduct of Israel but they were unwilling to help those who are really in need of help. The Pharisees were quick to criticized anyone who did not conform to their idea of law keeping. They went to exagerated lengths in order to show their own holiness including wearing clothes that really made the point of who they were.

The disciples of Jesus should not be characterized in this way. In every way they are to be unlike the Pharisees. This is similar to the Word of Moses to Israel about not behaving like the surrounding nations when the children of Israel came into the promised land. They are not to take the titles that the Pharisees took. They are not to wear the exagerated clothing. They are not to put burdens on the backs of others, but are to life these burdens from their backs.

Servant Leadership Principles

Matt 23:-12
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying:
"The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
"They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
"But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

The Wright Apocalyptic View

Or, The Past May Really Be the Future

The apocalyptic is where N. T. Wright may be hardest to follow for many readers who are not used to a more realized eschatology.

What does all of that mean?

When the New Testament writers are writing about the future, is that future one that is mostly in the near future or in the far future? When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, for instance, was he describing the destruction of the temple that happened in 70 AD or was it some future rebuilt temple that will be destroyed once again (in the distant future)? When Jesus spoke of the judgment that would come on "this generation" did He really mean "that [future] generation"?

The view of those who hold to a realized eschatology is that the future described in most of the New Testament verses is that of 70 AD. In particular, the events described are the destruction of the temple by the Roman General Titus and his army. Most Christians today would be surprised to know that for most of Church history these texts have been understood as historically fulfilled.

Reading the New Testament texts carefully it is hard to escape the force of this position. When the Synoptic Gospel writers describe the destruction of Jerusalem they talk about the enemy surrounding the city walls and building a siege ramp (Luke 19:43-44). This makes absolutely no sense in modern warfare. The city walls of Jerusalem today mostly house the ancient city with the modern city sprawling around the surrounding area for miles. There is no need to build a ramp today since one tank could easily knock down the walls. A literal reading of the text would suggest that Jesus was talking about the events of the first century, not some later rebuilt temple.

The primary source materials for understanding the destruction are the writings of Josephus which have an extreme amount of data in them when they are compared with other historical events. This may be no accident. Perhaps the best explanation for the preservation of Josephus is the significance of his writings to the New Testament itself.

This view is also known as preterism and has several varieties ranging from "partial" preterist (Wright seems to be in this camp) to "consistent" preterists. The consistent preterist sees all New Testament prophecy as fulfilled in the past.