Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Just Things

Ordinary Time

The CatholicGeek has some thoughts on silence today.


I'm working at LTS today until about three in the afternoon, if any of you BSK critters want to say hello.

My dad doesn't like to wear his glasses. As a result, he can't tell the difference between chapstick, a sharpie pen, and a highlighter. Think on that for a moment.

My family Thanksgiving was fun.

You might have seen the recent article in the Louisville Courier-Journal about the city's evangelical megachurches. Something I wish they'd discussed more was the emerging practice of creating megachurch franchises out of existing smaller churches. A friend told me a few months ago of how his parents' former church (they now attended the megachurch) had been given an "offer they couldn't refuse" - they didn't have enough money to keep full time pastors, so the megachurch was willing to buy out their property and give them a full-time minister, so long as they dissolved their governing board, let their deacons go, didn't baptize anyone. All baptisms would take place at the megachurch's main campus.

It's franchising. Seriously.

And don't get me started on Witherington's "cult of personality" comment. He's dead on.

Update 1. Oh, and check out this glowing review of Tom Wright's Simply Christian and The Last Word in the Christian Century.

Update 2. It gets better. You want to read this interview with Barbara R. Rossing, author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation.
What should Christians be saying about eschatology and what should ministers be teaching?

There is a sense of an end in the New Testament. I don't think the New Testament affirms a world without end. To the extent that that notion has crept into our hymnody it's a mistake. Nonetheless, our job is to care for the world and to believe that this physical earth is not about to be destroyed.

What is it that is coming to an end? That's the question. In Revelation what is described as coming to an end is primarily the oikoumene, which I translate as "imperial world," the world under Roman rule. Rome laid claim to the whole oikoumene—the lands and the seas, world without end. It's the word that's used in the Gospel of Luke's Christmas story, for example, in which Caesar Augustus decrees that the whole world should be enrolled in a census. Revelation proclaims that this imperial world must come to an end.

If we translate oikoumene as "imperial world" in a verse such as Revelation 3:10, then the "hour of trial that is coming upon the whole oikoumene" is not at all what rapture proponents claim—a general end-times tribulation that God will inflict during the earth's final seven years—but rather a courtroom scene in which God puts the empire on trial.

Two other Greek words, for earth (ge) and world (kosmos), are used more positively in the New Testament. A key verse is Revelation 11:18 in which God says, "I'm going to destroy the destroyers of the earth," not "I'm going to destroy the earth." The word for earth there is ge, which is used some 80 times in Revelation, sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. God created the earth and still loves it, even though it also falls under judgment. The passages that refer to oikoumene in the New Testament are all negative. That is not case with ge or kosmos.
What do my Greek-reading readers think?


Stephen Lawson said...

Good point about eschatology. I do not disagree, but here are some things to consider: oikoumene actually means inhabited world. the stress is not on the Roman aspect.
it tends to mean the known world.

have a look at 2 peter 3, which uses the word ge. I think that the crux of all Christian Eschatology lies in verse 13, but the violence against the ge is unrefutable.

well, i hope this makes sense. I was up super late writing a paper.

JHearne said...

I agree that Rossing's translation of oikoumene is loose.

Perhaps an argument can be made that this is a legitimate translation but I'd want to read it. I fear that this translation might have an agenda behind it beacuse it does work very well to argue her position. I don't mean to say that she has done this intentionally, though.

If it's any interest, I find that oikoumene is a very difficult word to translate.

JHearne said...

Plus, there is a definite distinction between ge, kosmos, and oikoumene. For example, I tend to render kosmos as the "created order" and ge as the "earth." Kosmos seems to have a broader scope than ge.

So, there are definite distinctions in the meanings of these words but you have to be very careful in teasing them out.

Cameron Lawrence said...

"...the megachurch was willing to buy out their property and give them a full-time minister, so long as they dissolved their governing board, let their deacons go, didn't baptize anyone."

so what, hostile church takeovers? shocking. absolutely shocking.

p.s. nice site.

David said...

Some nice references here. The review of Wright has convinced me to buy (and possibly read :)) those two volumes. And I tend to have similar feelings about C.S. Lewis as the reviewer, with the exception of his one redeeming virtue: he smoked a pipe. Ha ha ha! Does Wright smoke!?

Also, I appreciate the eschatological point made here, but I don't think a new gloss of oikoumene is sufficient to attenuate the theme of the destruction of the earth. Contra Rossing, both the "destruction of ungodly men" and that "the heavens and earth (g?)" are being "stored up for fire until the day of judgment" are mentioned together in a single sentence in 2 Pet 3:7. But I've long struggled to understand how both, on the one hand, the earth (g?), along with the heavens, will be burned (2 Pet 3:10), and, on the other hand, how "the glory and honor of the nations" (a possible reference to redeemed aspects of all cultures?) will be brought into the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:26). I think the dilemma remains.

Finally, thanks for including a link to my ramblings; I appreciate the 'ditto'. I was being uncharacteristically bold. :)


Anonymous said...

Rossing's argument seems a bit weak to me, but I do like the principle of looking at the greek and re-evaluating whether we have got it right. Interesting that although you would normally understand scripture through tradition, you are quite happy to adopt this approach when it seems to support your casue {what, me? provocative? I shall run and hide before you shoot me back}

That megachurches thing sounds very sinister - it's not a deal that i would sign up for! Thank you for exposing it.

byron smith said...

Here is my take on the 2 Peter 3 passage, and see here on Revelation 21-22 and here for 'new heavens and new earth'. Since you've read all those, why not read the whole series?

Kyle said...

Thanks for your input, guys. I did find it interesting that in the book of Acts first usage of oikoumene, the NIV translates it as "the whole roman world" or something like that.

I'm tempted just to say that, no, it's not as cut-and-dry as all that. But I can't read Romans and imagine that God's not going to redeem his Creation. I'm not a Gnostic.

Welcome to the blog, Cameron.

I'll read your articles, Byron.

Simon, adherence to Tradition and the willingness to critique and adopt the various traditions of the Church as they seem faithful to Scripture and the ancient apostolic proclamation doesn't mean being swayed by every wind of doctrine, which is what the Rapture is all about. It was invited by some American a hundred and fifty years ago, and then popularised by Scofield. It doesn't pass any reasonable test of reception that I could imagine. It doesn't make more scriptures make more sense, and it doesn't flow from any historically sensitive reading.

David said...

Byron, you're my new hero! I agree whole-heartedly.