N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 71 (Submitting to God’s Torah)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 8:7

(Rom. 8:7 ESV) For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

(Rom. 8:7 NET) because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.

(Rom. 8:7 HCSB) For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so.

In this verse, Paul simply summarizes what he’d already said in chapter 7. The “outlook of the flesh” speaks to the lost, those not “in Christ Jesus” (8:1).

Wright insists that we should read “law of God” as the Torah of God, to be consistent with the earlier chapters, but we should understand Torah in a new way. Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 70 (a Mind Set on the Spirit)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 8:5

(Rom. 8:5 ESV)  5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

(Rom. 8:5 NET) For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.

(Rom. 8:5 NIV) Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

As the ESV translates, Paul seems to emphasize a decision by the individual to focus on the Spirit rather than the flesh. The onus is plainly placed on the Christian. However, the Greek doesn’t say that. Continue reading

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10 Key Trends in Global Christianity, Part 10

Aaron Earls has posted on global Christianity trends in an article at the Facts and Trends blog. We Americans have a tendency to assume that the USA is the world, and so we think that what happens here determines how the rest of the world thinks and behaves. But the fact is that we are but one nation out of many, and most Christians live somewhere else.

10. More non-Christians will have Christian friends.

As local believers grow in number, more non-Christians will be acquainted with or have friends who are Christians. In 1900, only 5.6 percent of the world’s non-Christians knew a Christian. That will climb to 18.4 percent in 2017 and near 20 percent by 2050.

Again, I’m just blown away by this information. Who knew? Of course, this only matters if the Christian friends care enough to talk to their non-Christian friends about Jesus. In the US, the post-modern mood makes this less common than it once was, but in foreign countries, the cultures are different and the social barriers to personal evangelism are sometimes much lower (and sometimes much higher). Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 69 (walking according to the Spirit)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 8:3-4

(Rom. 8:3-4 ESV)  3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for [a sin offering], he condemned sin in the flesh,  4 in order that the righteous requirement [verdict of innocence] of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We’ve already considered Paul’s treatment of the crucifixion as a sin offering and God’s condemning of sin in the flesh of Jesus. We’ve also considered that the “righteous requirement of the law” refers to the verdict of “innocent” that the Torah demands and which is met thanks to the crucifixion.

What we haven’t yet covered is “who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Anyone who’s read much of the Bible knows that “walk” is a conventional Hebrew idiom for one’s manner of life. How we live our lives is how we “walk.” After all, the First Century, horses were for the military and the very wealthy. Most people traveled by walking. If you went to market, to your job, to visit relatives, or even across three Roman provinces to be counted in a census, you walked — and so tying one’s daily life to walking made sense in those days. Continue reading

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10 Key Trends in Global Christianity, Part 9

Aaron Earls has posted on global Christianity trends in an article at the Facts and Trends blog. We Americans have a tendency to assume that the USA is the world, and so we think that what happens here determines how the rest of the world thinks and behaves. But the fact is that we are but one nation out of many, and most Christians live somewhere else.

9. Missionaries are growing slowly.

In 2017, there will be 430,000 international missionaries—up from 420,000 in 2000. While up dramatically from 62,000 in 1900, the growth rate (0.54 percent) is less than half the population growth rate as a whole (1.21 percent).

It’s astonishing that international missions are doing so well with so (relatively) few missionaries. What’s the likelihood long term? Well, the economics point to more missionaries, I think. Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 68B (the Spirit has set you free, Part 2)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

The law of the Spirit of life

The emphasis in the prophets is on what God will do, not what we do in response to God’s commands. God will write his laws on our hearts. God will transform our hearts. And to a degree, this tells us the content of the Law of the Spirit of Life. I mean, Rom 5:5 is explicit that the love of God will be written on our hearts. Rom 12 tells us to use our spiritual gifts in God’s service and then gives ethical instructions all based on “love one another.” Rom 13 tells that the only commandments there are are “love one another” and “love your neighbor.”

(Rom. 13:8-10 ESV)  8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.  9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

This, of course, fulfills — Continue reading

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10 Key Trends in Global Christianity, Part 8

Aaron Earls has posted on global Christianity trends in an article at the Facts and Trends blog. We Americans have a tendency to assume that the USA is the world, and so we think that what happens here determines how the rest of the world thinks and behaves. But the fact is that we are but one nation out of many, and most Christians live somewhere else.

8. Less of the world is unreached than ever before.

In 1900, more than half of the world was unevangelized. By 2000, that number had fallen to 30 percent. In 2017, it will drop even further.

In 2017, 28.4 percent of the population will be unreached with the gospel. That adds up to more than 2 billion people who still have yet to hear about Jesus.

The percentage decrease of the world’s unreached population has also plateaued. Over the next few decades, the unevangelized number is expected to stay around 28 percent of the world’s population.

As I understand this, “reached” does not mean converted but “has heard the gospel.” Nonetheless, this is an astonishing figure to me.

On the other hand, I don’t think the plateau figure is going to hold. As I see, big increases in missions are driven by wealth and by transportation. The invention of the steam ship in the 19th Century and international commercial air travel after World War II led to dramatic increases in mission work. Just so, increasing wealth of evangelistic denominations matters because missionaries cost money — as do Bibles, church buildings, etc.

The relative safety of foreign travel enjoyed since World War II has also made a huge difference, and this is driven by strategic alliances among industrialized nations that know that safety is good for trade.

Therefore, free trade leads to mission work because the conditions required for free trade   — honest police, the absence of pirates and highway robbers, the rule of law, a court system, respect for international treaties — all help with mission work. I mean, I’m not going to trade with a nation where I can’t safely travel.

But free trade also leads to reasonable exchange rates, modest tariffs, and international banking. It’s so much easier to support a missionary if you don’t have to hide hundred dollar bills in packages. If you can just deposit the money in his or her bank account and the bank will convert the currency to euros or whatever at a fair rate, mission work is much easier.

So it all connects. And despite fears of what Trump may do to the international order, the fact remains that free trade will, over the long term, expand because so many nations in poverty are seeing improvements in the quality of their lives thanks to globalization. And the US is making a tidy profit as well. And as trade improves, so will mission work because barriers to mission work will continue to come down. Erratically and too slowly, but down because there is no other rational choice. And because people of compassion will insist on free trade for the sake of those in poverty in other nations. I mean, when compassion and profit line up, well, it’s an irresistible combination — in the long run.

Now combine all that with an increasing move toward native missionaries — who don’t have a huge international travel budget and often are vocational missionaries (do mission work plus a secular job), and the cost of a missionary goes down — while his effectiveness may be far greater, especially if our universities fund local training programs for these men and women.

And so from a purely economic analysis, the rate of missions growth should rise just because the cost of doing missions should continue to fall. Add that to the power of an active, living Holy Spirit, the gospel will continue to spread.

My biggest concern is the tendency of Islamic, Hindu, and even Orthodox nations to create barriers to mission work as they see Christianity (or non-Orthodox Christianity) have so much success. The local priests, mullahs, etc. see their base of support eroding and they quite naturally lean on the government to create barriers to missions (as is happening in China, India, and Russia today). This retrograde tendency will eventually be overcome, but for a while, we can expect to see more. The economics of the change makes it nearly inevitable — unless the industrialized nations, such as the US, put major pressure on these nations to grant true freedom of religion — which recent administrations have been reluctant to do. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of wealth controlled by Christians, and they’ll use their individual influence to push for freedom as they choose what nation to invest in.

Ultimately, those nations that refuse to allow Christian missions will suffer because Christian values help create wealth — the old “Protestant work ethic” argument still carries some weight. Nations that grant freedom of religion will be more prosperous than those that do not — and this will eventually open up some closed nations. Not all. But many. I mean, the caste system in India hurts its ability to prosper. If China persecutes Christians, Americans won’t buy Chinese goods.

I realize that some will consider economic analysis foreign and even anti-Christian, but it’s  just not true. In fact, if you want to understand the behavior of foreign nations, money isn’t the only driver, but it’s an important one. Leave it out, and you’ll just not understand why people act as they act.

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