Some of the earliest Christians were considered atheists by their mates. How is this so? In Larry Hurtado’s new book, “Destroyer of the gods: Early Christian Disctinctiveness in the Roman World” we find out! This is an exciting piece of New Testament scholarship. It is exciting because it is a book which engages with the often-asked question, “What difference does Christianity really make?” Hurtado looks at the distinctiveness of Christianity in the Roman world, focussing on the first two centuries of Christianity and at times dipping into the third. Many of his observations provide food for thought when thinking about Christianity in our own contemporary world. (more…)
“In our own contemporary context of the rat race of anxiety, the celebration of Sabbath is an act of both resistance and alternative. It is resistance because it is a visible insistence that our lives are not defined by the production and consumption of commodity goods.”
This is a book about Sabbath – the command that the people of God rest by setting aside a day to recognize that life is a gift. In our hurried, fast paced and anxious world this is a timely book that invites us to give up our false gods and put our trust in the God who creates and the God who liberates the enslaved.
“When the morning mists of dreams vanish, then dawns the bright day of Christian fellowship.” Bonhoeffer cuts through our idealism when it comes to community life. It isn’t all hugs and holy kisses but rather a messy, difficult, and yes beautiful thing to do life together. In a world where community has become a buzzword this is a classic and refreshing book on what it means to live with others in genuine Christian community.
(First published in 1939 in German and uses gender exclusive language.)
Bonhoeffer affirms the wonder of Christian community saying “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” The reason that this is so is because Christian community is grounded in relationship with Jesus Christ. Bonhoeffer argues that Christian community is not an ideal but rather divine reality. It is not a human reality, but rather a spiritual reality. Bonhoeffer can therefore say: “Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate.”
All Christian community is formed through and in Jesus Christ. “We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ”
This leads Bonhoeffer to be critical of any human dreams of community that get in the way. “He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.”
At Easter time we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the biggest event in the Christian calendar, for Christians, everything hinges on this one event in history (1 Corinthians 15:19). Our world today struggles with this event and we are full of doubt. We live in a modern scientific world, a world of cynicism, a world full of information. We live in a world which has made much progress but also in a world that is still often in turmoil, war, violence, greed, debt, anxiety and deep sadness. The answers that our world has constructed about why we are here and what life is all about don’t always cut the mustard. It seems to me that many people today still live without much hope for the future. The event of the resurrection is at its heart about new life and hope amongst brokenness. Can we trust that the resurrection of Jesus is true? Did it actually happen? If it did, why is it good news?
N.T. Wright has written a whopper of a book on the resurrection of Jesus. It is 817 pages long and I must confess I haven’t read all of it yet. What I have read has brought clarity around the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and what this means. Since it is Easter Sunday here I offer a short summary of Part V of this book. (more…)
“I have gone to church plenty of times, but Josh, there is one thing that I really can’t get my head around.” “What’s that?” I ask curiously. “Well, I just don’t get what the cross is all about. How is it a good thing? It just seems weird.”
This was a conversation I had with a parishioner as they sat perplexed in my study. This is probably what a lot of people think when they hear Christians talk about “Good Friday.” What is good about it? It all seems rather strange really. Today as I sat in a Good Friday service I heard the same sentiment echoed by a man in the back row as the cross was covered with a sheet and people shuffled out of church in silence. “Weird” he uttered, much to the amusement of the man next to him who snickered in a kind of nervous agreement.
“The Nature of the Atonement” edited by Beilby and Eddy (B&E) is a book that addresses this question – what happened on the cross? What does Jesus’ death mean? What does atonement mean? (more…)