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

Posted in Holy Spirit and Providence, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, Romans, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 68A (the Spirit has set you free, Part 1)

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 8:2

(Rom. 8:2 NET) 2 For the law of the life-giving Spirit in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.

The “law of Sin and Death” is a reference back to —

(Rom. 3:20 ESV)  20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

(Rom. 5:20-21 ESV) 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Rom. 7:8-9 ESV)  8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead.  9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 

(Rom. 7:22-8:1 ESV)  22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,  23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. 

The “law of Sin and Death” is the Torah. Continue reading

Posted in Holy Spirit and Providence, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, Romans, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

10 Key Trends in Global Christianity, Part 7

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.

7. Christians possess and are giving large amounts of money.

The total personal income of Christians around the world will equal close to $53 trillion in 2017. In 2017, believers will also give $900 billion to Christian causes.

Churches themselves will bring in $360 billion, while parachurches and other religious institutions will collect $540 billion. The income of global international missions will reach $53 billion.

Interesting. That’s not a tithe but about 2% of Christian income — but still a huge number. And more goes to Christian parachurch organizations (nonprofits or NGOs) than to actual churches by 50%. I had no idea …

I’ve seen reports that young ministers are preferring to go to work for parachurch organizations rather than churches — to avoid church politics, tradition barriers, and such like. But many parachurch organizations do good work but don’t do good Christian work. I mean, if they aren’t concerned with making converts to Christ, as well as digging wells and painting houses, it’s not Kingdom work and doesn’t further the cause of Christ.

So there are plenty of nonprofits that work cooperatively with local congregations to help them and do what they are called to do.I’m 100% in favor of such works. But works that serve the needy without addressing the spiritual needs of those served are no different from a secular organization in effect. I’d not give them a penny because it’s just so easy to do what you do in the name of Jesus. Which I believe is what we’re called to do.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 67 (No condemnation)

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 8:1

I’m going to backtrack just a hair. We’ve covered these verses already, but only from the perspective of atonement theology. There’s more there.

(Rom. 8:1 NET) There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  

“Condemnation” (katakrima) is used by Paul to refer to the loss of immortality, which he often refers to as “death,” in parallel with God’s words to Adam when God warned Adam against eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam did not die on that day, but he did suffer the curse of death. He lost access to the Tree of Life and so he lost all hope of immortality.

Katakrima is a legal term and refers literally to a verdict of guilty. Therefore, it’s the opposite of “justification,” which is a verdict of “righteous” or innocent.

Rom 5:16 and :18 are the other places the word is used — Continue reading

Posted in N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, N. T. Wright's The Day the Revolution Began, Romans, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

10 Key Trends in Global Christianity, Part 6

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.

6. Churches have crossed the 5 million mark.

In 2017, there will be more than 5.5 million congregations in the world thanks to a 2.9 percent growth rate. Churches will number 7.5 million in 2025 and around 9 million in 2050, according to projections.

Christianity may be on the decline in Europe, but worldwide, it’s enjoying healthy growth. (Our GDP should grow so fast.) This means that the intellectual center of Christianity will eventually move south. Presently, nearly all commentaries and original research comes out of Europe or North American — but just as the intellectual center shifted more and more to the US after World War II, we’ll see greater internationalization of the intellectual leadership of Christianity. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 66J (Atonement Theories)

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 utter sinfulness of sin, redux

I read a post by Mark Love, which reminded me of some posts by Richard Beck, and then all of a sudden, Wright’s point about heaping up sin on Jesus so that it might be shown to be “utterly sinful” made sense in a whole new (old) way —

(Rom. 7:11-13 NET)  11 For sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it I died.  12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.  13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 

(Rom. 8:3 NIV) For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,

Let’s start with Love’s postContinue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments