Friday, January 30, 2009

The quest for the historical Jesus

This is one of my favorite series of videos. Done by a church that did a 4 week series on how we misperceive Jesus.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ventilation/ Jesus Brand Spirituality

I want you all to pretend like you see me in my office, sipping at a can of V8. That's a morning routine for me. V8 now has those ventilated cans, where the fluid bursts forth, making it possible to chug tomato juice in one toss of the hand. If I am in a hurry, I down a can in one try. If not, I try to sip.

But there is something else I must vent about today. It's the new book I am reading, Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson.

Just finished it actually. This isn't a review. It's a vent. This book has really gotten my BVD's in a bunch as my dad says. The last time I remember a book making me so maddeningly frustrated was when I read McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. I knew right away that that book would, though. McLaren as much says so in his introduction. The problem with these two books, for me, is the perspective of the authors. Both authors have a different epistemology than I do

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. I am a critical realist. That basically means that I believe it is possible to know absolute truth, though it requires a continual reanalysis of our own thoughts (see NT Wright's New Testament and the People of God). I find this view most likely because it makes God knowable, and allows us to have faith based on evidence rather than simply experience.

Reading Wilson's book frustrated me to no end throughout. It had a few excellent chapters. It was built on an excellent premise. It had incredible discussion questions after each section. It was rife with logical contradictions, simply uninformed in many areas (particularly church history and different types of prayer), did not actually talk very much about the person of Jesus (outside the perception a person has of him, which isn't clear because different people have different perceptions), and I couldn't put it down. Every chapter had one or two points that were incredibly thought provoking.

My biggest issue is that Wilson is a big wig in the Vineyard movement. Honestly, if this is the way the leadership is headed, it will be difficult to follow. When experience and emotions have the same authority the person of Jesus revealed through the Scriptures has (because we alledgedly can't know anything for certain, only what we perceive we know), I think we are pointed in the wrong direction. In other words, in spite of his assurance that Christianity is community focused, Wilson can only understand God through his own personal set of data. This is far more myopic than a critical realist view of Scripture/God/Jesus.

It was postmodern in the best and worst sense. That is, in fact, a value judgment of postmodernity.

So I guess I'll have to read it again.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Looking forward

Things coming up on this blog:

-Most excellent Jesus videos from vintage faith (with commentary)
-Review of "Downtime" by Mark Yaconelli (excellent book)
-Review of "you are not alone" (haven't started it yet)
-podcast of my sermon coming on Feb 15 (part of a celebrate recovery series)
-I'm taking requests for content.

Foto Friday Finale (garden tomb and the old city)

Well, here it is, my last picture post from Israel. It only took about 9 months or so, so that's not bad for 12 days of trip or whatever it was. Hope you have enjoyed them, sorry about the length of this post.

First we went to the field at which David slew Goliath. These are wheat fields, where Karen and I enjoyed some freshly picked heads of wheat.

This could be my favorite picture of the whole trip. i'm not sure why:

The creek from which David found 5 smooth stones. Also the creek where they truck in loads of smooth stones so tourists can take an authentic stone home. I know i have one rolling around somewhere.

Next we traveled to the valley where Samson tied foxes together, lit their tales on fire, and watched them go. This is probably the ruins of that city, though I forget its name.

The next series of pictures is the garden tomb, traditional (though probably not actual) site of Jesus' burial. It is now cared for by a group of franciscan(?) monks, and beautifully landscaped

The place of the skull? This could have been the hill atop which Jesus was crucified, but the church of the holy sepulcher is a more likely site.

We celebrated communion while there.

The tomb itself. You can't see it very well, but there is a track in front of the tomb where the stone would have been rolled.

Jesus was laid in Joseph of Aramathea's tomb. The legend (unprovable, but plausible) has it that Jesus was taller than Joseph, so they had to make a slight modification. This picture shows a place where the foot of the tomb is carved out deeper than originally planned.

Here is an ancient (over 1000 years old) baptismal site in the garden.

How many pilgrim's can fit inside a tomb? It was busy, but the line moved pretty quickly.

Bill and Sara

Karen took over the camera, and created some awesome shots.

After visiting the tomb, we went to the temple mount. This is the site of the old Jewish temple(s), and currently the site of the dome of the rock, yet another holy place currently occupied by muslims. You can see pictures of the wailing wall, the only spot Jews were allowed to visit (part of the original mount as well) when the Holy Land was under muslim control. Considered one of the holiest sites for the jewish religion because it is authentically from the second temple period.

In these pictures, you will see Jews praying at the western wall, the place where they can be physically closest to God's presence. In the cracks of the wall, people leave written prayers. I was amazed by the unity amongst the jewish sects in this place.

The Dome of the Rock, with a solid gold roof. A mosque.

Here is a picture of one of the gates of the old city, walled off by muslims in order to prevent God's chosen one from entering through it.

The only spot on the temple mount where you can see the actual mountain it is built upon. Traditionally the site of the threshing floor where David offered to buy the building to sacrifice to YHWH. I'm not sure of the muslim significance here.

We also got to go under the old city. It is an eery feeling to be below all the ruins, worried that any earthquake will collapse all Jerusalem. This is also the quarry from which many of the temple Mount stones were mined during Herod's reconstruction.

This is the roof of the quarry, you can see the square stones have been cut out.

Another of my favorite pictures, showing the unity of the Jewish people at the Temple Mount. No discrimination based on sect, occupation, age, or ability (Just gender).

Prayers in the wall

There is a side room where one can borrow a copy of Jewish writings to pray with or study.

We took a cool tour under(ish) the temple mount where they are excavating some of the original road. This is a model of what the temple used to look like and what the mount looks like with the Dome of the Rock. It's huge.

A model of the temple during the second temple period.

Some of the original stones that make up the Temple Mount. This one is the biggest one. It goes past where all the people are. and ways hundreds of tons (I think).

The other end of the big stone, looking the opposite direction.

Excavation of what the site at its earliest (around the time of Jesus)

This is the floor of the walkway, it goes all the way down to first century paving stones (about 50 ft. below if I were to guess)

When you are married to someone, you tend to rub off on them. Thankfully, me receiving Karen's attributes is beneficial to me. I'm not sure me rubbing off on her is quite as charming.

Remember that cistern from the last post? Here is the other end of it. The wall divides the two halves.

An authentic, first century paving stone. OOOO aaaahhhh (actually, it's pretty amazing to have an artifact in this condition. I almost stole it but realized I need to work out before being able to lift it. Get the pun??

Overall, the trip to Israel was absolutely amazing, and I am blessed to have been able to go. Thank you John and Susan for making it possible for us. Some common themes that kept coming up:

These sites might or might not have been the original place of the happenings they are associated with. Does that make it okay to commemorate them? Is it possible that our faith is more important than the facts? How do we balance tradition with history/archeology? I felt very conflicted as I was trying to sense the authenticity of some of the tourist traps that were less likely the place of the actual happening.

It is sad to see the division of those who live in Israel. Three religions claim priority to all of the sites, and it is awkward to go into a mosque to celebrate a Christian event.

Holy sites (i.e. the wailing wall). Some sense a spiritual high in these places. Are the places themselves holy? Do we bring our expecations that makes our awareness heightened? Or are they just special because they have been seasoned with the prayers of saints for centuries? I tend to think the latter is the most likely. Maybe they are quite ordinary places that have been transformed by the willingness of attendees to tune into God's presence.

This is definitely a trip worth taking if you ever have the opportunity. Hopefully I will soon be able to start another series of pictures from Turkey/Greece, God willing.