Archive for July, 2008

This past Sunday, David Faust, President of Cincinnati Christian University, preached at our church, with the key passage coming from 2 Cor 2:14-15

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

This brought to mind a rather interesting (at least to me) topic I’d been meaning to write regarding the layout of the Gospel of Mark and its parallels to the coronation celebrations of the Caesars.

In the quoted passage from 2 Corinthians, a number of pastors will frequently tie the “triumphal procession” to Jesus’ parade entry into Jerusalem during Holy Week. However, the “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem was a term coined centuries later by church historians, and when understood in context, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem would not fit the type of procession being described by Paul.

David Faust and others, though, recognize that the likely procession being referred to by Paul is the Roman Triumphus, a ritual celebration first used to recognize the return of conquering generals, and later as a way of coronation of Caesar as a god on Earth. This ritual was quite detailed, and the first century traditions surrounding it have been preserved by Roman historians of the time.

The Triumphus

In the Roman Triumphus, there were a number of steps which were followed:

  1. The Praetorian Guard, the elite of Caesar’s troops and personal bodyguards, would assemble in the Praetorium, surrounding the Caesar, along with his key supporters (the senate, magistrates, etc.)
  2. A golden olive-wreath (signifying a crown of victory) was removed from the Temple of Zeus, along with a purple robe (signifying royalty) and a scepter (symbolic of the full authority of Rome) were brought to the Caesar, who would wear the wreath on his head, the robe on his body, and carry the scepter to show his authority.
  3. The Praetorian Guard would chant “Hail Caesar! Triumphe! Show us you are a god!” over and over, in recognition of him, paying personal homage before the public procession.
  4. Chanting, the procession would go out from the Praetorium, through the streets of Rome, led by the Roman soldiers, followed by Caesar. Behind him, or along with him, was the sacrificial bull that would be sacrificed to give him entrance into the pantheon of the gods. A servant would accompany the bull, carrying a large axe, which would be used to sacrifice the bull to the gods. Additionally, soldiers would carry burning incense to spread the scent of victory for the Caesar – so that his aroma would be throughout the city.
  5. The procession continued to the top of the highest hill in Rome – the Capitoline, whose name means “Head Hill” (based on the myth that an undecayed human head was found there during the building of Rome) and stop in front of the Capitoleum.
  6. There, at the Capitoleum, the emperor would come forward with the bull and the servant/executioner, where he would be offered a bowl of wine mixed with myrrh. He would refuse the bowl and pour it out onto the bull, symbolically placing something from himself onto the bull so as to symbolically share its fate. As soon as he had poured out the wine, the bull was killed, so that the linkage of the sacrifice and Caesar’s godhood were clear to all of the people.
  7. Taking his first-in-command on his right and his second-in-command on his left, the Caesar would ascend into the Capitoleum to the throne and symbolically to godhood.
  8. When he got to the top of the steps, the crowd would continue to acclaim him – “Hail Caesar! Triumphe! Show us you are a god!”
  9. They would then wait for the gods to send them a sign that the gods were recognizing him (On at least one occasion, there was an eclipse on the same day), after which Caesar was declared to be a true son of the gods.

The people of the Roman Empire had witnessed this multiple times during the middle of the first century – at least with Nero, Claudius, and Caligula. Paul’s imagery in speaking of triumphal procession to the church in Corinth was more likely to conjure up this spectacle than Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem during holy week. However, he turns it on its head by making the One true God and His Son the objects of the procession, and not Caesar.

The Book of Mark

John Mark, the gospel writer, was traditionally a Roman disciple of Peter, who recorded Peter’s account of Jesus’ life and ministry, primarily to a Gentile, Roman audience. As such, a number of contemporary scholars have noted how, during the story of Jesus’ passion, Mark calls out specific details which seem to mirror that of the Roman Triumphus, as does Matthew (who had been a Roman tax collector).

Let us examine this:

  1. Jesus is brought to the Praetorium and surrounded by the company of soldiers (Mark 15:16) – note that a company of soldiers is 6,000 people! Matthew and Mark both call out the place as the Praetorium (which is not a Greek word, and is unusual to be called out specifically, using the Latin word).
  2. Jesus is given a purple robe and a crown (and is beaten with a scepter) (Mark 15:17-19) – According to Roman law, only those with a rank of Equestrian could wear purple (with Pilate and Herod as the only eligible people in Judea), yet they found one to borrow to use on Jesus.
  3. The soldiers chant “Hail, King of the Jews!” and pay homage to him (Mark’s words) (Mark 15:18-20)
  4. Jesus is taken in procession out to the streets, where Simon the Cyrene follows along with him, carrying the instrument of execution. (Mark 15:21)
  5. They took Jesus to a hill called Golgotha (which literally translates “Head Hill”). (Mark 15:22)
  6. They offered him wine mixed with Myrrh, which he refused. Immediately after this refusal, they crucified him. (Mark 15:23-24)
  7. They crucified two zealots/terrorists with him, one on his right and one on his left. (Mark 15:27) (NOTE: The term for ‘robbers’ indicates that they were likely political prisoners who were zealots, rather than common thieves.)
  8. “Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, ‘So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!’ In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. ‘He saved others,’ they said, ‘but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” (Mark 15:29-32)
  9. Then, darkness fell over the land for three hours (Mark 15:33), and God gave a sign by tearing the Temple veil in two (Mark 15:38) and caused an earthquake and mass-resurrection of many holy people (Matt 27:51-53) and a Roman soldier declared that Jesus was surely the Son of God. (Mark 15:39)

So what should we make of this?

First off, we are given a perfect example of a meta-narrative in which Jesus is being coronated as the Son of God and he is contrasted with Caesar, who can only pretend to be a god. This was a highly subversive message, particular between Nero and Trajan when people were executed for not recognizing the “godhood” of Caesar, and it is a subversive message for us today.

(Skeptics often question why the Gospel accounts differ on certain points, and how they could be inspired. This is just one demonstration of how Gospel writers would emphasize and include certain details with omitting or deemphasizing others in order to best proclaim a message to their listeners/readers.)

Tying it Back

Going back to Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to join him in triumphal procession – what procession have we been invited to join? It is certainly not the procession that cried “Hosannah!” one day and crucified him less than a week later. It is not a procession of conquest and gross indulgence. Rather, it is a procession of submission and sacrifice, a triumphal procession which was led by the Bridegroom of the Church, the true Son of God.

I would like to acknowledge this article’s sources, which were primarily lectures and/or discussion with Ray VanderLaan and Dr. Tim Brown, along with an archaeological journal article that I have since lost (though I will credit it here, should I find it again).

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I’ve been having a lot of trouble sleeping the past few weeks and I’ve gotten in the bad habit of staying up late (this comes naturally to me anyway).  The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson comes on during the 11th hour and one of his guests tonight was author/singer/musician/producer Tom Sullivan.  Tom was on the show promoting a new book and as usual much of the interview ends up being more about the person than the product (which I think is good attribute of the late show genre). 

Immediately we find out that Tom is blind and soon discover that he was born that way.  During the course of the interview, Craig asked Tom if he thinks about what it would be like to see, or about the possibility of him to have his sight restored.  Tom paused for a moment and then he told a story about his morning run on the beach.  Tom gave one of the most extensive, concise, and beautiful descriptions of one of the more mundane routines of life that I have ever heard.  The way he was talking I thought he might be a Christian.  His appreciation for creation, life, and others expressed in words is befitting of a Psalmist.

You see, Tom is not defined by his lack of eyesight.  That is not who he is and that is not how he lives his life.  He has a vision for life that pervades every aspect of his life, from recreation (golf & skiing) to work (see above) to his personality.  When we Christians allow ourselves to be defined or to define others by anything other than who we are in Christ, we wind up treating eachother in an unChristian manner.  We lose the vision for life that God has given us in Christ.  Our world becomes negative, full of complaining, grumbling, anger, pride, and even malice.  We revert back to the kind of people we were before the Spirit of God took up residence in our lives.  There is much to say about this, but I want to share with you this passage from 2 Corinthians which really resonated with me:

Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.  Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.  He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was,  will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!  For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.  And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold.  We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.  But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away.  Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts.  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.  Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.  The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.  For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:4-4:6

I once was lost in the decrepidness of my evil desires, but I was found by Christ and given a new heart, a new identity, a new vision.  I am being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Who am I?  I am Christian.

*Added material in this post is italicized.

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Arf!In a recent Submissions thread, Rick F asked:

Chris L. – This post puzzles me.

Especially this statement:

“Any Emergents that deny the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (aka the True Biblical Gospel) will have to try to save themselves based solely on their good works, best of luck to them.”

I am no expert of the different views of the atonement, but do they really “try and save themselves SOLEY based on their good works”? Isn’t that a gross misrepresentation?

Here, Rick has hit the nail on the head with what is wrong with the armchair “discernment” “ministries” – as opposed to professional discernment ministries (like Reasons to Believe, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, The Christian Research Institute, Stand to Reason, etc.) – the dividing line between “discernment” and “gross misrepresentation” is sometimes hard to navigate, and when it is bungled it does great damage to the bride of Christ, as in the example cited.

With the post in question, not only is their conclusion wrong, but their initial definition of PENAL Substitutionary Atonement is wrong, as well:

penal substitutionary atonement, the teaching that Jesus Christ is our substitute and that through His death on the cross our sins and wickedness were atoned for and through faith we are given Christ’s righteousness.

Incorrect (definitionally) – What they have described is simply Substitutionary Atonement, leaving out the Penal aspect of PSA – the belief that God HAD TO punish someone for sin, so He chose Jesus instead of every other individual on earth. It is this particular clause within this systematic view, which has been existent for about 500 years, that many Christians disagree with.

A couple months ago, we published an article which lays out all of the major BIBLICAL views of atonement, including PSA. Each view of atonement holds that Jesus was a substitute – though where they differ is who Jesus was a substitute for and how this substitution fits narratively. PSA says that God HAD TO punish Jesus for the sins of each individual who He predetermined to be ‘elect’. Other views of atonement differ as to whether the atonement was for mankind or for individuals and whether it was a holistic victory over Satan or only over sin. Additionally, each theory differs somewhat on the mechanism of Jesus’ substitutionary atonement – was it a substitution for punishment? Was it a substitution for the dishonor done to God by man, satisfying the need to glorify God? Was it a substitute for the necessity for punishment?

So, when the writer of the quoted article says:

“Any Emergents that deny the Penal Substitutionary Atonement (aka the True Biblical Gospel) will have to try to save themselves based solely on their good works, best of luck to them.”

They are committing multiple logical fallacies for the purpose of creating division within the Body of Christ. First off, they haven’t even correctly identified PENAL Substitutionary Atonement. Secondly, by calling it the “‘True’ Biblical Gospel”, they are expressing a great deal of anti-Biblical arrogance, ignoring parts of scripture and placing their faith in systematic theology rather than God. Additionally, they are willfully blinding themselves to the possibility of their own man-made explanation of PSA being deficient as a holistic word-picture to describe atonement.

Finally, by somehow bringing in the notion that all non-PSA theories are based on faith in works, they are committing a fallacy of false dichotomy. All of the major atonement theories (Ransom Theory, Satisfaction Theory, PSA, Governmental Theory, Moral Influence Theory and Christus Victor) support that salvation is based on God’s grace, not good works.

So, to Rick’s question:

Isn’t that a gross misrepresentation?

The simple answer is “yes”, and it is an unbiblical one, as well…

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It appears that Mrs Schlueter is on vacation (again!). I have only a short thought on her post announcing that she is on vacation: I agree with what she said!!!

Much has happened/is happening, and we just need to remember that truth divides. We aren’t going to be loved for speaking biblical truth. In fact, Christ told us we would be hated. So when people mock at you, sneer and throw your past in your face, ridicule and stir up discord, realize that it’s all been done to God’s people before. We’re just the latest in the long train of believers down through history to face this stuff. As we serve the Lord, God is doing things in our own hearts and lives, as well. That should give us hope that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it. Have a wonderful rest of the week.

The only real problem is that I don’t think any of us ever expected that such mocking, sneering, ridiculing, discord, and hatred would come from inside the church now did we? But, to answer your question, yes, Mrs Schlueter, we are the latest in the long train of believers down through history to face this stuff.

Soli Deo Gloria!

PS–I pray for Mr & Mrs Schlueter’s safety and that they have a great vacation!

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It has become very apparent over these last few days that there are deeply entrenched camps within the Christian world. If you didn’t already know this it should have been obvious with the reaction over recent issues. Not looking to rehash any of that. But I am going to pose a few questions and thoughts that I hope would help all of us.

In the dialog of debate it is very common for both sides to get passionate. Religion strikes to the core of what most of us hold dear. So obviously when topics involving our strongest convictions get discussed we rally to our cause. Which is a good thing! I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m always leery of someone who waffles. In certain areas of my life I waffle for fear of upsetting the apple cart. It is the part of me that I most detest but not for the reason many would think. I wish in certain areas I would choose a hill to die on.

During the dialog of recent debate everything from “you’re unregenerate” to “repent and get saved” got thrown around with impunity. These are phrases that really, again, strike at many of our deepest held convictions. Both sides were guilty. I was guilty, maybe not in word, but certainly in thought. It was often in the flurry of comments when I most desperately wanted my way. And that’s where the spiritual battle was lost. It’s never about “my way” and the only “hill to die” on is Golgotha.

Recently I had a conversation with my daughters about us adopting a child. Wanting to gauge where my kids were at I asked them both “What would you think?”. My youngest (6) looked up from lunch and said “I would love someone else to play with”. My oldest (9) looked over at her sister with a grimaced look and then back to me and said “I don’t want to hear anybody else call you Daddy or tell you that they love you”. Isn’t this the way we are in our relationship with God. We sometimes get very selfish with who we allow to interact with our Father. We stubbornly close the door and say “You don’t know how to love him like I do. You’re not allowed in. I don’t want to share him.” I wonder how much we miss out on by not allowing others to show us the richness of their relationship.

In my life I’ve learned things in the most unlikely of situations. With people I absolutely despised I learned to give grace. With people who frustrated me beyond pale I learned patience. With people who made me fearful I learned trust. I suspect that if we all evaluated what God used to craft us we would have similar stories. So in the dialog of debate let’s not assume that the person on the other side of the internet connection is not being used by God to form us.

What if…

We committed to trusting that God was really in control of all of this? Even the stuff we don’t like.

We committed to learning before teaching? Even with the stuff we think is wrong.

We committed to praying before preaching? Even when someone slams our opinion.

We committed to unity before critique? Even when we think their is no common ground between us.

Some may say this is another slick way of saying “Can’t we all just get along?”. To which I respond “Yep”. In scripture disunity was one of things that characterized being far from God and was proof that the enemy was winning. I suspect the world is the watching.

Grace and Peace.

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As a way of shifting gears a bit, here are a few things I’ve enjoyed thus far this summer that might pique the interest of some of our readers:

  • The gods Aren’t Angry DVD (July 7) – While it’s not as good as live front-row seats, it is an excellent presentation regarding the history of sacrifice, God’s use of it through the ages, and application for today – concrete teaching to explain why there is nothing a Christian can do to earn God’s love.  (It’s a great companion to Everything is Spiritual, which has set up some excellent conversations for me the past few months, and something to tide you over if you’ve pre-ordered Jesus Wants to Save Christians.)
  • Third Day’s new album, Revelation (July 29) – Released today, and I’m loving it.  The three-year wait has come to an end with a new (non-holiday) album from Third Day.
  • The new Sandra McCracken (Mrs. Derek Webb) new album, Gravity|Love is available on mp3 and is a great listen (though you hard-copy CD lovers will have to wait a couple more weeks).
  • Meet the Rabbis (Brad Young) – I took a trip back through this excellent work which explores Jesus’ contemporary rabbis and the streams of though they held to – comparing and contrasting them to Jesus’ teaching.  (And just as exciting, his book on Parables is now available in paperback!)
  • Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) – An excellent book I’ve recommended for several years – I took my work book club through it a few chapters at a time and got some additional insights into the way folks think and make quick decisions. (I’m also pre-ordering Outliers, his first book in 3 years)
  • If you’ve ever had qualms about the American Justice system, false arrest and the death penalty, An Innocent Man is an excellent read – it sent chills down my spine reading the story of Ron Williamson and his years on death row and descent into semi-insanity as an innocent man there.

What has everyone else been watching, reading, listening to this summer?

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Mike Ratliff to Joe Martino, “You have an unregenerate heart.” Click here to read more.

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We probably all know now that the apprising site is now back up. I must admit that it was a relief for my own ministry to have it down for a while. It just seems that we will have to contend for truth and a pure faith for a while longer. For the most part I sat back and watched the action on all of this, and was really proud of how handled this situation. It seemed that there was a fair assessment of the situation, taking into account both R.A.’s and K.S.’s responsibility in the matter.

Having that said, I find it strange that all of the featured articles on the new apprising site are about raising money. In one post Silva mentions that he is soliciting churches to give him money out of their missions budget. Does Ken really see his work as evangelistic?

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We just had a big earthquake in Chino Hills, my home town.

All is well.

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In an effort to gain some truthfulness in this whole ordeal between Ken Silva and Richard Abanes I contacted IPOWER to fully understand their stance on legal proceedings. During the course of my conversation about being removed from the web the very nice person I spoke with mentioned that IPOWER does not act on the advice of third parties in regards to the nature of any clients website. The woman I spoke with then directed me to their online User Agreement, specifically the indemnification section which states.

# Indemnification. User agrees to indemnify, defend and hold harmless IPOWER and its parent, subsidiary and affiliated companies, and each of their respective officers, directors, employees, shareholders, attorneys and agents (each an “indemnified party” and, collectively, “indemnified parties”) from and against any and all claims, damages, losses, liabilities, suits, actions, demands, proceedings (whether legal or administrative), and expenses (including, but not limited to, reasonable attorney’s fees) threatened, asserted, or filed by a third party against any of the indemnified parties arising out of or relating to User’s use of the Services, (ii) any violation by User of the AUP, (iii) any breach of any representation, warranty or covenant of User contained in this Agreement or (iv) any acts or omissions of User. The terms of this section shall survive any termination of this Agreement.

Essentially this means that IPOWER can not be held liable for any information contained on anyones website. In essence a letter served by a third party on IPOWER for a client would carry no weight and would “be disregarded as an idle threat”.

While IPOWER would not give me the specifics of the account the person I spoke with implicitly stated “We will not cancel or shut down any site based on the recommendation of a third party”

Perhaps we have a self created situation for publicity? I only pose the possibility; God knows the truth.

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