Am I Still an Evangelical?

This is the question that I seem to be routinely asking myself: “Am I still an Evangelical?” Note that I did not say, “Am I still a Christian?” I still believe as passionately now as I first did now over 20 years ago. I can still wholeheartedly confess and affirm the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the other major creeds. What I wrestle with now are some of the more non-esssentials that I once thought were part and parcel of the Christian faith. On top of this, I would include also the number of times that I have been accused of holding liberal views because I question the status quo or dare to read—and appreciate and find fruitful—books outside what appears to be the approved evangelical camp of authors, both past and present.

I want to be clear, it is not that I have changed by mind regarding what I consider to be non-essentials; I probably still would say that I loosely hold to them. I just find myself wrestling with them more now than I did roughly 10 years or so ago. What I find disheartening is the questioning of one’s faith or accusations of liberalism. One’s commitment to Christ is not based on their view of inerrancy, evolution, women in ministry, or who they vote for or not. My commitment to Christ is based on my trust in his life, death, and resurrection. Everything else in a work in progress.

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The Resurrection and the Eschaton

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For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Rom 8:19-23).

Today is the day we gather and celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God. He who went willingly to Calvary for the sin of His elect, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame”, this one rose from the grave, because God “would not allow his Holy One to see decay [οὐ δώσεις τὸν ὅσιόν σου ἰδεῖν διαφθοράν] (Acts 13:35; cf. 2:27). There is no greater hope for the follower of Christ than in the resurrection of his Lord.

While we often think of the resurrection as bringing a future hope—the hope of heaven, eternity with Christ, etc.—we must not forgot what the resurrection brought to our world. What do I mean by this? Well, we live in tension, the tension between the already and the not yet. On the one hand the kingdom of heaven is here now. Eternity—resurrection life—is ours presently as followers of Christ. When Christ came out of that tomb he brought with him enteral life and a foretaste of what this will look like at the end of time. For example, Paul states: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor 5:17). This is not wishful thinking, this is reality! Because of the resurrection of Christ, the new life—resurrection life—has invaded our world of sin, death, and decay. What we long for, what we yearn for—”the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23)—began at our regeneration. Paul makes this point when he proclaims:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7).

All of this to say, the resurrection is more than heaven. It is more than the sweet by-and-by. It is the story of God redeeming his creation and making all things new! So, as we think about the resurrection of Christ, remember that you have been raised with Christ now! The same God who raised Jesus from the grave has also raised us from the grave, and one day we will see the completion of this amazing truth in all its glory and splendor. One day, the not yet will become the now, and the already we long for will be here! So we cry out “μαράνα θά!”

#QOTD: Martin Hengel on Acts

downloadThe title “Acts of the Apostles” has always led the reader of his work astray. It should really be called “From Jesus to Paul”, with the sub-title “From Jerusalem to Rome”, and describes very strictly the straight line followed by the gospel from unbelieving Israel to the Gentiles. The apostles—including Peter—essentially have the function only of preparing for the appearance and activity of Paul, of providing a bridge between Jesus and Paul. Once they have done their duty, the can disappear. To serve Paul’s greater glory they have to leave the stage one after the other: he alone remains behind. The reason for such a “one-dimensional” account does not lie simply in the theme of divine guidance—this could also have been worked out in a multiform way—but in the central and positive interest in the person and missionary work of Paul. He is the real goal of this work.
Between Jesus and Paul: Studies in the Earliest History of Christianity: 2.

#QOTD: Joachim Jeremias

There can be no doubt that in his frequent use of the passive as a circumlocution for the divine activity, Jesus followed the style of apocalyptic. We may not, however, put the connection between the two in any stronger terms. For Jesus accords to the “the divine passive” and incomparably greater place than is given in apocalyptic. He uses it not only in apocalyptic sayings in the strict sense (e.g. about the last judgment and the eschatological division), but also—enlarging its scope—to describe God’s gracious action in the present: even now God forgives, even now he unveils the mystery of his reign, even now he fulfills his promise, even now he hears prayers, even now he gives the spirit, even now he sends messengers and protects them, whereas he delivers up the one who has been sent. All these “divine passives” announce the presence of the time of salvation, albeit in a veiled way, for the consummation of the world has dawned only in a veiled form. The extension of the “divine passive” beyond purely future apocalyptic sayings, which has been carried out so widely, is connected with the central part of Jesus’ preaching and is one of the clearest characteristics of his way of speaking.
New Testament Theology, Vol. 1: The Proclamation of Jesus, 14