Monday, May 22, 2006

Jesus Stories

Eastertide

So I've been thinking: it's probably blatantly obvious to my readership that any attempt to separate living and doing and being the good news from the proclamation of Jesus' lordship is a pretty faithless move. With that said, it is important to talk about the Lordship of Jesus over the world and discuss what that means in a way that's going to be understandable to the uninitiated - not least because so many Christians aren't as "initiated" as we like to suppose.

Put frankly, I get concerned that some of my theological discussions with my friends are only intelligible with a particular view of the Christian story in mind, and that lots of people don't know that story. If somebody asked me what the basics of the Christian faith are, I have a lot of ideas about what I wouldn't say, but would I say?

To this end, I'm going to start an occasional series in which I challenge myself to explain the important aspects of the Christian faith in a several paragraph "Cliffs Notes" fashion that assumes no basic knowledge of the Christian story. I don't think that the faith is simple as such, or should ever be oversimplified, but it seems to me that if someone said to me, "I don't know much about this Christianity thing, but I want you to tell me a bit about it," I should be able to say something worthwhile in the context of a conversation and not need to unpack it in an eight session lecture series. I don't think it could be done altogether in one conversation, but proper lectures are too much; I've come up with about 9 "Jesus Stories" that I think are the most important to tell.

So here's your part: What do you think of that notion? Second, what are the major aspects of the faith that you would to talk about if somebody asked you that kind of question?

Here's my answer, and I'd like to know what the rest of you think about it.

The major stories in my theology would be:

The Trinitarian God
Men, Women and the Human Problem
The Historical Jesus: Israel's Story and the World's Salvation
Life in the Spirit: Church and Kingdom
Conversion
Sacraments
Kingdom, Church and World: Christian Mission
What is the Bible?
Practices: How to do the Jesus Thing

Thoughts?

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19 comments:

Jared Cramer said...

catechesis, captain sacrament style?

i can hardly wait. when will this be published. :-)

Richard from Chico said...

First thought:
Worthy goal. I'd check out Tom Wright's _Simply Christian_. It is his very worthy attempt at a similar project.

He begins, however, not with the Trinity, but with human longing for justice, spirituality, relationship, and beauty (aesthetics)pointing to God and the Kingdom as the proper answer to those longings.

Along the way in the early chapters he does a fine job contrasting three rival theisms: pantheism, deism, and the Judeo-Christian position. Very helpful.

What I would encourage you to do is to locate the question within the life and concerns of possible interlocutors, such as Wright did. Or for that matter as Stephen did in Jerusalem, or Paul at the Areopagus.

Richard from Chico said...

Historical Jesus? That phrase always sets my teeth on edge. Is there another Jesus who is somehow different or discontinuous from the one who walked in Palestine? Risen now, yes. But is that the ahistorical Jesus?

If so, we are the ahistorical body of Christ as we are in union with this ahistorical Christ. This would, it seems, lead to the spiritualizing, privatizing, and indeed gnosticizing of the church's ministry.

I think I know what you want to do with such a term, but I think you would do better to stick with biblical terminology of simply Jesus the Christ, who in the telling of the story is presented as the risen Lord and the ascended Lord.

"Historical Jesus" is an enlightenment term. Don't play on their turf.

A said...

This is a bit off topic, but....

Richard from Chico,
(in my humble opinion) You should have a blog. You obviously have a great mind and you are incredibly articulate. You comments are always well worth reading, and leave me wishing you would say more. Hence, a blog....

Anyway, just a thought....

jess said...

i cant wait to see how you elaborate on each topic!

tigger said...

Great project Kyle,

It's interesting that, as the church met with more and more pagan thought, so the process of catechesis expanded (in content and time).

Clearly it was part of the divine economy for the 'word' to go to the Jews/'God fearers' first since they were 'closer to home' in terms of prolegomenon.

In fact so much of Christian catechesis in our western culture requires a 'deconstruction' of the erroneous outworking of the enlightenment (and the worse of western 'Christendom' theology) that the apophatic approach wouldn't be a bad place to start (what Christianity is NOT)!

So I agree with t'other Richard in that the content of such a project would need to start at a variety of places...

Perhaps:

1) On community (looking at relationship, personality, love, self giving)
2) On incarnation (looking at creation, matter,God's 'ecstatic' work, humanity-as-pinnacle)
3) On Evil (it's nature and affects on the above 2 topics)
4) Jesus of Nazareth (including the nature and purpose of 'Israel', showing God's 'ecstatic' engagement with the effects of evil on community and creation)
5) The body of Christ i.e. The Church (the outworking of all the above - i.e. where we are now, to inc. sacramental thinking/action and pneumatology)
6) The goal of all things (a missiology of the 'goal' of divine community-in-creation and the role of humanity within this)

So a sort of progressive discussion, with a final circular element bringing us back to the central concept of 'God as communion'.

Now, how to develop each of these in a few paragraphs or so...

tigger

John Meade said...

Kyle,

Are these stories in any particular order? I would place your story on the Bible either first or second because I am assuming that you will be using it tell the other stories to the person. The person may want to know what is so important about this book? Just a thought. Great idea though.

katie said...

Hmm...what's important? I think we are all tossing around similar concepts organized in different categories. So I'm not saying anything really new but I guess I would start with "attributes of the Trinitarian God" (good, loving, free, immutable, ect...) Then I would address the concept of grace (starting w/ creation, through the covenants, Christ's death and resurrection, future hope) And then I would camp out on the topic of belief/faith. God, Grace, Faith. I guess those are my three essentials.

D. P. said...

An admirable project! My tendency would be to follow the lead of Irenaeus and others and develop my "stories" around the major points in the Rule of Faith. Maybe something like this:

(1) God
(2) Creation
(3) Jesus--who he is
(4) Jesus--what he did
(5) Jesus--why what he did was necessary
(6) The Spirit--who he is and what he did/does
(7) The Church
(8) The Bible
(9) The Christian Hope

Richard from Chico said...

A,
I tried blogging briefly. A family crisis kept me from it for a number of months and I just never got back to it. Part of the problem is that I was spending too much time mulling over the crisis in the Episcopal Church and was boring myself.

Maybe I should try to resume.

But it is far less demanding to let folks like Kyle do the heavy lifting which permits me to just say clever things.

Tried your email address that you posted before and it didn't work for me.

Richard from Chico said...

Kyle,
Say a little more about how you would structure these things as "stories". How is the discussion of "What is the Bible?" a story?

Whose story (stories) are you telling? Are these episodes in one great story? Maybe each section as backstories, complete with that eerie "whoosh" sound to know you are interupting the usual narrative arc?

Who are the Others? What is the Dharma Intiative? Does Mr. Ecko have valid Apostolic Orders?

Aly H. said...

Great stories! I think I'd echo a couple of the other commenters and include something about Creation...God's world is the "here" in the question "Why are we here?" and the setting of the story is always important.

Caelius said...

Kyle's Small Catechism...

I'm looking forward to it.

Richard from Chico said...

Giving more thought to the narrative context of your presentation, perhaps (in what might be construed as a Hauerwasian move on my part) you should begin with "Practices: how to do the Jesus Thing."

Our life together is to embody the narrative of the faith from creation and fall through incarnation and on to eschatology.

One possible virtue of this approach would be to overcome the modern wedge between theoria and praxis, and place Christian being as the obedient response to the gracious action of God.

The question becomes then what specific Christian practice embodies what aspect of the faith of the church you wish to explicate.

For instance, I once discussed eschatology with a college student by first discussing the practice of eucharistic worship. (Messianic banquet, etc.)When he began to attend worship regularly he would tell his chums that he was going to see how the story of the universe ended, to give him hope for the day.

Of course, the more I think about this idea, it would seem that it is more easily said than done. But as I consider my life as a member of Christ's body, I have been asked far more about the stuff we do, than what we believe.

axegrinder said...

Kyle,

You have a really fine idea. The Lord assist you as you execute it.

Under the Trinity, I would emphasize personhood first as the context for attributes.

I would recommend dealing with dogma, epistemology and revelation early on. I have been intrigued by the suggestion that these concepts be dealt with under the rubric of the Incarnation.

The End is the Beginning - The Eschaton, or My Story is Better than Your Story

Finally, is the "Human Problem" how to get man and woman together? If you are going the way of working out orthodoxy and orthopraxy at the same time, you might think about the ramifications of eHarmony as it relates to the Imago Dei.

Blessings,

Jason Kranzusch

Kyle said...

Thanks for your kind remarks, everyone.

Richard from Chico, you are hyperactive! Thanks for these thoughtful contributions. I've not read +Wright's latest yet, but I probably will in the next couple of months. I think you make a great point about locating my exposition in a particular personal context; I think very incarnational notion is key to telling the story to specific people in a meaningful way. I wonder how well I can do that when my little apologia are written to no particular person? We'll find out…

I think you make a very good point about the term "historical Jesus" as well. I don't by any means put up a dichotomy (I just don't think it's there!) between the "Jesus of history and "the Christ of faith," as it were. Now, I do think that many Christians believe in an "ahistorical" Jesus in the sense that their notion of Christology and Messiahship seem completely disconnected from the concerns of Jesus' own Jewish context and the concerns of the apostles and early church as they sorted out just what salvation is and must be. I think I should change my language to say what I mean: that we must locate our Jesus not only in the faith of the Church in a deep and intentional way, but also within his context of Second Temple Judaism.

Richard (tigger) and Aly, I think you make good points about engaging "Creation" and connecting it to Kingdom consummation; as a matter of fact, it's just that kind of thing that Irenaeus was trying to go on about (Right, D.P.? Welcome!)

These are some really good points about the ordering of the stories; I don’t' have a particularly strong rationale for the way I listed them, and I think tigger's ordering has a lot to commend it - it seems contextual in the way that Aly and Richard de Chico are getting at. John (Welcome!) the reason I wouldn't put the Bible anywhere near the beginning is because it's existence and use come pretty late in the Big Story, as it were. That's a good point, however, and the positioning is definitely telling. :0) Katie, I think your approach is fruitful, but it feels more philosophical than I think I'd want to be.

A, dawg, if Richard de Chico (which makes him sound kind of like Zorro to me) starts blogging, he might not comment so often and so well on mine - and right now, he's putting better content up here than I am… If he just sat around blogging about ECUSA, I'd have to poke him with things. Or send him gushy love letters and sign them, KH+. Hee hee!

Finally, Richard de Chico, I think what you're describing in your latest comment is very important and a big deal and Very Difficult to sort out. I don’t think I'd try that in this space just yet. But it would be an important and necessary critique of whatever I finally do work out. I do love Stan!

How is "using the bible" a story? I have no idea, really. I think I was bluffing. :0)

Jason the Axegrinder! Welcome! Those are good points, but the underlying purpose is to produce something that doesn't look like it was written by Moltmann or Macquarrie. :0)

"eHarmony and the Imago Dei." Hmm...

Richard from Chico said...

Hyperactive? Just hanging out on my day off. Weather noncooperative, and I can hang out reading in coffee houses only so long. Not to mention, I had already seen that episode of Law and Order.

axegrinder said...

"something that doesn't look like it was written by Moltmann or Macquarrie"

ouch. I had no idea I was forwarding their agenda for theology.

Jason

Kyle said...

I was referrng more to the tortured prose, but touche. ;0)