Sunday, December 27, 2015

Scrooge: A Man and His World Transformed

All through A Christmas Carol (1843), the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmases Past, Present, and Future have all been working to weaken Ebenezer Scrooge’s Olympian self and strengthen his Christian one. By the fifth and final chapter, they have succeeded. If the first chapter described Ebenezer at his dreary Olympian worst, this last correspondingly describes him at his radiant Christian best.
Ebenezer experienced as significant a transformation of personality as is humanly possible. If Olympian Ebenezer replied to every contrary opinion with a contemptuous “humbug,” Christian Ebenezer rediscovered the gentle art of laughing. “There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!”

Christmas Future: You Reap What You Sow

In A Christmas Carol (1843), Dickens tells us the story of how Jesus intervened in the life of Ebenezer Scrooge. The story opens with Ebenezer demonstrating energetic indifference toward all others on Christmas Eve. His Olympian personality definitely dominates.
Strangely, Jesus does not remain indifferent to Ebenezer even though Ebenezer is hostile to him. Instead, Jesus decides to energetically care for Ebenezer. His goal is to significantly weaken Ebenezer’s Olympian self and equally strengthen Ebenezer’s Christian self.
He starts by confronting Ebenezer on Christmas Eve with the ghost of Jacob Marley. Jacob had been Ebenezer’s partner in life and had died on Christmas Eve seven years before.  Jacob managed to speak such words of truth, and support them with a sufficient rattling of chains, to loosen the suffocating grip that Olympian Ebenezer had on Christian Ebenezer. After Jacob’s visit, Olympian Ebenezer no longer enjoyed unquestionable control of truth. His power was broken but not yet ended.
To eclipse that power, Jesus sent other spirits to Ebenezer: the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. They further strengthened Ebenezer's Christian self.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Present

In A Christmas Carol (1843), when the Ghost of Christmas Present visits Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens lards the narrative with a tremendous variety of words all meant to emphasize vitality.
Take, for example, his description of this ghost. He is a jolly Giant, glorious to see; who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn (Stave 3, “The Second of the Three Spirits,” here and following). Already we begin to see that everything about Christmas Present is going to be big, bright, and overflowing—all in stark contrast to the small dark stinginess of the now shrinking Olympian self of Ebenezer.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Like all of us, Ebenezer Scrooge had two personalities: a wholly Olympian one and a wholly Christian one. The first was structured in terms of the six false gods of Olympianity; especially Pluto, god of money. The second was structured in terms of Jesus: the only true god/man of truth, freedom, love, and vitality.
In the first chapter of A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens takes great pains to show us the destructive indifference of Ebenezer’s dominant Olympian personality and ours.
But he doesn’t leave the story there. Jesus was determined to break the control of Olympian Ebenezer over Christian Ebenezer. To do this, he first sent the ghost of Jacob Marley as a most unusual messenger of liberation. Jacob had been Ebenezer’s business partner in life. By successfully challenging Olympian Ebenezer’s control of the truth, Jacob had been able to weaken Olympian Ebenezer enough to open the possibility for Tufluvian Ebenezer to develop. His task completed, Jacob left stimulation of that development to three subsequent spirits: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

First Step Forward: A Christian Ghost Frightens Olympian Scrooge

At the beginning of A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens thoroughly acquaints us with the obnoxiously Olympian personality of Ebenezer Scrooge. We witness Olympian Ebenezer expressing his callous indifference, in diverse ways and to varying degrees, toward random passers-by, his nephew, his clerk, two gentlemen collecting money to benefit poor people on Christmas Day, and even a young boy wishing to exchange a carol for a penny.
If that were all there was to the story, it would have been forgotten long ago. But Dickens created a story of far greater substance. He showed us how Ebenezer Scrooge went from having a dominant Olympian personality to having a dominant Christian one. How that happened might be instructive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Scrooge: Fifty Shades of Indifference

With his timeless book, A Christmas Carol (1843), Charles Dickens created for us the cautionary tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Like the rest of us, Ebenezer had a wholly Olympian as well as a wholly Christian personality. His wholly Olympian personality especially devoted itself to Pluto, the god of money. For this reason, Olympian Ebenezer practiced intentional indifference toward anyone useless to him for the purpose of making money. Our Olympian personalities do the same.
We first learn that Olympian Ebenezer walked from home to work and back in a way which deliberately discouraged strangers from speaking with him. No one, Dickens tells us, exchanged greetings with him, asked money of him, or sought directions from him. Even service dogs wisely guided their blind masters away from him. How did Ebenezer feel about all this avoidance by others in their response to his clear contempt for them? It was the very thing he liked (Stave 1, “Marley’s Ghost, here and following). Yes, rather than pricking Ebenezer’s Christian conscience, their behavior only fed his Olympian indifference.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Olympian Scrooge Talks with His Christian Nephew

Each one of us has a wholly Olympian personality. It is structured in terms of those six tedious gods of Olympianity. Sadly, our society and culture are structured in terms of them too.
At the same time, each one of us has a wholly Christian personality. It is a gift to every one of us from Jesus: the only true god/man of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. Hopefully our churches are structured in terms of him too. In that way they would provisionally represent the Kingdom of Heaven already present here on Earth.
At any given moment, it’s always a matter of which personality is stronger: our Olympian or our Christian one.
At the beginning of A Christmas Carol (1843), that timeless tale by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge’s Olympian personality definitely dominates. Indeed, during the conversation with his nephew Fred on Christmas Eve, it is solely his Olympian personality expressing itself. In refreshing contrast, it is Fred’s Christian personality responding creatively to Olympian Ebenezer rather than Fred’s Olympian personality fighting Scrooge’s hostility with some of its own.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Olympian Scrooge: Delight in Being Bossy

Although regarded as a Christian nation, England in the 1840s was a predominantly Olympian one. Without even realizing it, its inhabitants adored the six false yet conventional gods of Olympianity even while thinking of themselves as Christians.
Charles Dickens, miraculously, understood this. Disliking it, he challenged the self-evident worship of Pluto, god of money, by revealing Pluto’s cruelty, and that of his minions, by writing A Christmas Carol in 1843. By creating the obnoxious character of Ebenezer Scrooge, he exposed the Olympian indifference that passed for wisdom in his Olympian society and culture and ours.
Dickens opens his book on Christmas Eve, of all times, at Scrooge’s place of business. After describing Scrooge’s Olympian character, he illustrates it by describing how Scrooge as boss chooses to relate to his clerk.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Ebenezer Scrooge: Exemplary Minion of Pluto

Contemporary America society is enslaved by and devoted to six false yet destructive gods. These are the gods of Olympianity: the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion. Pluto, god of money, is one of these dreary gods.
Pluto, like the other Olympian gods, is parasitic by nature. He has no vitality of his own, gets none whatsoever from Yahweh, so must take all he can from us. He does this by paying us to be indifferent to our fellow human beings. He gains whatever vitality we suck from our neighbors through that indifference. He’s feeling particularly robust these days.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Asking for What We Need to Live as Faithful Witnesses (Matthew 6:11-14)

When teaching us how to pray, Jesus tells us to always put Abba’s cause first (Matthew 6:9-10). We do this first by developing personal and communal ways of living that honor Abba. Next we need Abba to send Jesus to us with fresh words of liberating truth. Finally we need Abba to grant that the Holy Spirit might burn brightly in our hearts so that we might discern the always surprising words of Jesus and have the pluck to do them. In these ways we honor Abba, his kingdom comes through fresh words from Jesus, and we do his will as expressed through those words. In these ways we live as the faithful witnesses that Abba created, Jesus reconciled, and the Spirit redeems us to be.
Today Jesus teaches us to ask Abba for what we need to live as Christians who honor him by hearing and doing his will:

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Putting His Cause First (Matthew 6:9-10)

On a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus once taught some disciples how they might pray to God. Through those same words, Jesus invites us to enjoy, with him, this same unimaginable privilege today. Jesus teaches us afresh to:

     9 “Pray then in this way:
     Our Father in heaven,
          hallowed be your name.
     10 Your kingdom come.
          Your will be done,
              on earth as it is in heaven.

(Matthew 6:9-10, New Revised Standard Version).

Abba! Our Father. Right off Jesus frees us to join him in this unimaginable privilege. From all eternity, God the Father freely loved God the Son and Jesus freely loved God the Father, both in the unity of God the Holy Spirit. In teaching us how to pray to God, Jesus frees us by grace to join him in this same relationship of freedom and love which he has always enjoyed with God the Father by nature.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Freedom for Yahweh: Meaning What We Pray

“You can be sure that on the Judgment Day you will have to give account of every useless word you have ever spoken” (Matthew 12:36, Good News Translation).

American society and culture are Olympian. They are organized in terms of the six false, destructive, yet conventional gods of Olympianity: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption. So too is the Olympian personality that we each have.
The Olympian gods, along with the Olympian societies, cultures, and personalities which they dominate, regard words strictly as means to an end and that end is always power: keeping it and increasing it. To Olympians, then, words are not true or false. They are useful, effective, successful, or not. In conformity to these gods, our Olympian personalities find words useful if they increase our political power, for example, or justify war, express our delirium over the latest technological gadget, improve our sexual attractiveness, get us a promotion at work, or increase the monetary value of the gifts we receive at Christmas. The gods are happy, we’re happy, it’s all good.
Oddly enough, Jesus takes a different view. To him, words are true or false. True words are words which express our core identity as faithful witnesses to Jesus as well as the core identity of Jesus as the one true god and human of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. Words which do not do this are false.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Freedom for Abba: Prayer to the Point (Matthew 6:7-8)

Freedom is never a state of being. It is always an act. At any given moment, we are either actively free for God and actively affirm our liberation by him from the six false gods of Olympianity. Or we are actually enslaved by those gods and acting as both their victims and minions rather than as faithful witnesses to God.

One important way we affirm our freedom for God and from the gods is by praying to him. Happily, Jesus frees us to do this by speaking to us, today, through the same words of truth he spoke yesterday to liberate his disciples for this same purpose.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Celebrating New Year's Eve Tonight (November 28)

Every religion has its own calendar. According to the calendar of Olympianity, today is November 28: two days after Thanksgiving, one day after Black Friday, and just another day in this year’s 37-day-long season of Bacchanalia stretching from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day (January 1, 2016). Yes, this is the season of the year in which Olympians strenuously seek happiness through conspicuous consumption.
Happily, as faithful witnesses to Jesus, we have a meaningful alternative. According to the Church calendar, today is New Year’s Eve. That’s because tomorrow is New Year’s Day: the First Sunday of Advent.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Organized Sports as Religious Experience

America: profoundly Olympian
As witnesses to Jesus, one mistake we make is thinking that American society is secular. It isn’t. It is profoundly religious—but definitely not Christian.

By far the dominant religion in America is Olympianity. Olympianity is the religion of power. It is the world’s oldest, most popular, yet least recognized religion. Like all Olympian societies, America is structured in terms of six false yet conventional gods: (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.

From a strictly sociological point of view, we can easily verify this. The gods served by any society are those who provide two essential services. One, they provide us with security, happiness, importance, justification, and meaning. Two, they protect us from insecurity, misery, unimportance, guilt, and meaninglessness. Because of their significance to us, the gods, and the people who serve them best, are the objects of our devotion and the subjects of our conversations.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Freedom: Olympian or Christian With No Neutral Third Option

Let us recall that we each have two distinct and opposing personalities: one, Olympian; the other, Christian. Our Olympian personality is formed in terms of the six false gods of Olympianity. Our Christian personality is formed in terms of the one true god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dying Churches: Olympian Works vs. Christian Fruit (Galatians 5)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 English Standard Version).

In his Letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul stresses that Jesus Christ is the truth who sets us free, from the law in this case, to love and leads us into fullness of life. In that same letter, Paul also says that Jesus frees us from the works of the flesh (5:19) so that we might freely produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit (5:22).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Unbearable Challenge of Freedom

We may readily affirm that Jesus Christ is the truth who sets us free to love and leads us into fullness of life. So we may readily affirm that freedom is one essential aspect of our core identity as truly human beings; or, again, of the core identity of our Christian personality.

Sadly, each one of us humans still has two distinct and opposing personalities: one Olympian, structured in terms of the false Olympian gods; and one Christian, structured in terms of Jesus. Worse, our thoroughly Olympian society and culture greatly strengthen our Olympian personality at the expense of our Christian one.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Third Temptation: Controlling Even God Matters Most (Luke 4:9-13)

In this series of three definitive temptations, the devil wants Jesus to be savior his way. First he tempts Jesus to affirm that reality matters most. Values like truth, freedom, and love aren’t measurable and therefore don’t exist or matter much. Jesus disagrees, affirming that Abba’s words matter most.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Second Temptation: Controlling Reality Matters Most (Luke 4:5-8)

Then the devil led [Jesus] up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8, New Revised Standard Version)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The First Temptation: Reality Matters Most (Luke 4:1-4)

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” (Luke 4:1-4, New Revised Standard Version).

Jesus has just been baptized by John. He is about to start his brief but singular public ministry.

To prepare him for this, the Spirit leads him into the wilderness (v. 1). The wilderness is a place where we are completely on our own. There is no one there to help when danger confronts us.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Desacralizing Money by Using It to Support Christ’s Alternative Society (Acts 2, 4)

 44 All the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. 45 They would sell their property and possessions, and distribute the money among all, according to what each one needed (Acts 2:44-45, Good News Translation, here and following).

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Possessions Bind Us to Pluto (Luke 18:18-25)

Today a certain ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18-25). For now, let us define eternal life as an unconditional companionship with Jesus which survives our death.

Jesus starts with the basics: You know the commandments. Today’s embarrassing truth: Jesus could not assume we Christians know these basics. To refresh our memories, these are the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17): (1) no other gods, (2) no idols, (3) no misuse of the name of Yahweh, (4) keep the Sabbath, (5) honor father and mother, (6) no murder, (7) no adultery, (8) no stealing, (9) no false witness, and (10) no coveting (wanting what others have). Let us note that the first four commandments concern our relationship with Yahweh; the second six, our relationships with our neighbors.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hoarding and Self-indulgence or Sharing (Luke 12:13-22)?

Global society and culture are Olympian; that is, they are structured in terms of devotion to six gods that the ancients thought lived on Mount Olympus. These six Olympian gods are (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.

Globally, every one of us human beings has two personalities. Each one of us is both fully Olympian and fully Christian. Our Olympian personality conforms to social and cultural norms by devoting itself wholeheartedly to those six false yet enticing Olympian gods. Our Christian personality devotes itself to Jesus Christ. Which personality we express varies from one moment to the next.

In the Parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus contrasts devotion to the gods with devotion to Abba (God the Father) through him (God the Son) by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A First Attempt at a Christian Understanding of Marriage and Sexuality

1. We will attempt to understand any biblical passage in its biblical context. In Leviticus 18, we may read this prohibition: You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (v. 22, New Revised Standard Version, here and following).

Let’s put that verse into its biblical context. Leviticus 18 is largely about the prohibition of certain sexual acts. In it Yahweh forbids sexual intercourse between close relatives (vs. 6-18, 20), with one’s wife while she is menstruating (v. 19), between two men (v. 22), and with any animal (v. 23). In this passage Yahweh also forbids the sacrifice of children to Molech (Jupiter).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

How We Christians Make the Issue of Homosexuality an Olympian One

1. We treat it as a moral issue rather than as a spiritual one. Jesus did not come to get us to conform to some new moral code—not even one based on the Bible. Instead, he came to free us from any and all moral codes. The question, then, is not one of morality. The question is one of spirituality. In our way of living, are we devoting ourselves to the six rather dull Olympian gods of power? Or are we witnessing to the one true god of freedom?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Chalcedonian Glance at Platonism and Augustine on Human Nature

In The Civilization of the Middle Ages (1993), Norman Cantor tells us that the “most influential philosophical system in the ancient world…was Platonism” (14). Everyone who was anyone had to understand, if not embrace, this dominant Olympian way of thinking. According to it, “ignorance was the cause of evil and…properly educated men would exercise their rational faculties and do good” (75).

Friday, June 12, 2015

Understanding Human Nature Using the Chalcedonian Formula

Today we will briefly discuss an understanding of human nature from a Chalcedonian, paradoxical, biblical point of view. Quickly, we may say that every human being has (1) a wholly Christian personality as well as a wholly Olympian personality, (2) without separating the two, (3) without mixing the two, and (4) keeping them rightly ordered.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Chalcedonian Formula (AD 451): An Insight for the Ages

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” says [Yahweh] (Isaiah 55:8). From the prophet Isaiah we learn that the thoughts and ways of Yahweh are unimaginably different from our own.  We may even boldly affirm that Yahweh’s way of being god is absolutely different from our creaturely (let alone sinful!) way of being human. The pressing question for us is how to understand him.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Disentangling Church and Empire

Augustine's world
Augustine of Hippo remains one of the most influential theologians in the history of the Church. One reason for his enduring significance: he responded creatively to difficult days.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Call of Gideon: Startling Leadership, Stunning Reversals (Judges 6:36-7:23)

Gideon provided startling leadership to the people of Yahweh during some of their darkest days. This startling leadership led to a stunning reversal of fortune. Before, the Midianites exercised impoverishing control of Israel. No one, Midianite or Israelite, could even imagine a change in this relationship. Yahweh, however, could. Soon enough, Israel stood triumphant over Midian.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Call of Gideon: Unexpected Adventures (Judges 6:25-35)

In response to the suffering of his people, Yahweh spoke surprising words to Gideon. Yahweh called this weakest man of the weakest clan a “mighty warrior” (Judges 6:12). Yahweh then commissioned Gideon to deliver Israel from Midianite control (6:14). When Gideon understandably doubted his own ability to do so, Yahwe assured him, “I will be with you” (6:16). Their conversation ended when Gideon affirmed his call (6:22-24).

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Call of Gideon: Surprising Words (Judges 6:1-24)

In the Book of Judges, we read of how the people of Yahweh routinely abandoned Yahweh to worship the six false gods of Olympianity. Of course, once they did that, the Olympian gods and their minions made life difficult for Yahweh’s people. Yahweh’s people would then cry out to him for help. Mercifully enough, Yahweh would raise up a leader through whom he would free his people from their slavery.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book of Judges: Strange Behavior Then and Now

1. In the time of the Judges
The Book of Judges records a time both sad and happy for the people of Yahweh. Sadly, from about 1400 to 1100 BC, Yahweh’s people settled into a destructive pattern of behavior in their relationship with Yahweh. They constantly rejected him and devoted themselves to the six false gods of Olympianity. Happily, Yahweh did not abandon them as their behavior deserved. Instead, he freed them from those gods and their oppressive minions over and over again.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

TV News: The Lectionary of Olympianity

Television is the Bible of Olympianity in our day. Not only is it the normative source of our society’s shared beliefs, values, norms, and goals. Not only is it the normative structure of the Olympian personality that smolders darkly inside us all. It is also the source of the Grand Narrative: the master story through which we understand our world and in which we all have our place.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TV: The Bible of Olympianity

The Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is our normative witness to Jesus Christ.
Jesus talks to us today. All he says to us today, however, is consistent with what he said to the prophets and apostles yesterday.
This means, of course, that to discern and affirm what Jesus is saying to us today, we need to read the Bible. Sadly, we Christians have largely abandoned it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Witness to Jesus Becomes Morality

Jesus freed us human beings from religion. He freed us from the six false gods of power, from the Olympian worldview based on them, and from the sacred world expressing it. The writers of the New Testament all witness to this.

Gradually, however, their faithful witness to Jesus was subverted and became Christianity.

Not only that. Jesus freed us human beings from morality. Gradually, however, faithful witness to Jesus was subverted and became Christian morality.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Witness to Jesus Becomes Christianity

Jesus freed us human beings from religion. He freed us from the six false gods of power, from the religious worldview based on them, and from the sacred world expressing that. The writers of the New Testament all bear faithful witness to this.
Gradually, however, their faithful witness to Jesus was subverted and became Christianity.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Olympianity as Religion and Sacred World

Olympianity is humankind’s principle religion. It is where we always begin and, eventually, always end up.
From a biblical point of view, Olympianity as a religion began in 4004 BC. That was when Adam and Eve ruptured humankind’s relationship with the one true god of freedom, truth, love, and vitality. When that happened, six conventional gods of power, falsehood, indifference, and death rushed in, enslaved us, and corrupted us enough to get us to devote ourselves to them. These six false gods are (1) Jupiter, god of politics; (2) Mars, god of war; (3) Vulcan, god of technology; (4) Venus, goddess of sex; (5) Pluto, god of money; and (6) Bacchus, god of consumption.
Since that time, God has always freed some individuals from those false gods to live as dynamic witnesses to him.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Subversion through Success: An Obsession with Unity

The very success enjoyed by the early Church led to its subversion. By the 300s, a once qualitatively  Christian Church had become primarily Olympian through its growth in power, people, and property. This had consequences.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

With All Our Mind: Thinking Paradoxically

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986).
Strangely enough, conversion to Jesus, and repentance from the six Olympian gods, involves radical changes not only in what we know but in how we think. To love Jesus with our whole mind means following the biblical witnesses in their way of thinking. It means learning to think of things paradoxically.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Christian Freedom Subverted through Olympian Success

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986).
By the 300s, the Church suffered permanent subversion through Olympian succes. It became quantitatively Olympian and lost its qualitatively Christian character. This had consequences.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Christian Witness Becomes Olympian Civilization

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986). We also continue to learn from the experience of the early Church. Beginning in the 200s, and fully by the 300s, the Church suffered permanent subversion through Olympian success. It became quantitatively Olympian and lost its qualitatively Christian character.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Early Church: Freedom or Ritual and Morality?

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986).

The world worships the six false gods of Olympianity: the gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption. They are the conventional gods of power and base their control over us—and ours over others—on falsehood, indifference, and death.
In contrast, Jesus is the one true god of freedom, truth, freedom, and vitality. He frees us from the six Olympian gods to share his light, love, and life with others.
Beginning in the 200s, and fully by the 300s, the Church suffered permanently from subversion through success. It became quantitatively Olympian and lost its qualitatively Christian character.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Church: Quantitatively Olympian or Qualitatively Christian?

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986). Today we also continue to reflect on the subversion of the Church through success; that is, on the corruption of the Church through its pursuit of growth in power, people, and property.
By the 300s, the Church began to suffer permanently from subversion through success. With it came an alliance with elites in other social groups and an overwhelming number of people. With it the Church became a mass institution rather than remaining the small, distinct, faithful witness that Jesus had called it to be.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Subversion through Success

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986). We will reflect briefly on the subversion by success which Christianity suffered beginning in the AD 200s.
In the first two centuries after the ministry of Jesus, the faithful witness to him by his disciples was clearer and more consistent than it would remain. Persecution of his witnesses was also real, sometimes severe, but sporadic. This combined reality—faithful witness sometimes to death—inspired many Olympians to become Christians themselves.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Subversion through Olympian Ways of Thinking

In his book, The Subversion of Christianity (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley, Eerdmans, 1986), Jacques Ellul talks about how Jesus was wholly faithful to Abba while Christians and churches gradually became wholly devoted to the Olympian gods. Today we will reflect on how theology became subverted by wrong ways of thinking; or, how we have failed, yesterday and today, to love Jesus with our whole mind.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Christian Anarchism vs. Olympian Powers

The word anarchy comes from “an-” meaning “without” and “archos” meaning “ruler.” We may understand anarchy to mean non-power or freedom in contrast to power or control.
Jesus is the one unconventional god of freedom and therefore of truth, love, and vitality. In dreadful contrast, the gods of Olympianity—of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption—are the six conventional gods of power and therefore of falsehood, indifference, and death.   
Early Christians lived as faithful witnesses to Jesus. Here and there, Jesus has persistently enabled other Christians to live as faithful witnesses to him from that time to our own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Freedom from Religion and Morality!

Today we continue our reflections on The Subversion of Christianity by Jacques Ellul (trans. Geoffrey Bromiley; Eerdmans, 1986).

Jesus vs. religion
Jesus did not start a new religion. He freed us from all religions to live as faithful witnesses to the one true god. By doing so he fulfilled the entire Old Testament witness to that god.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Freedom from Pluto and Jupiter

In his book, The Subversion of Christianity, Jacques Ellul explores how Christians and churches abandoned their faithful witness to Jesus and became Olympian.

Olympianity: power; Jesus: freedom
First he notes that virtually all Christians and churches in our day devote themselves to the six conventional gods of Olympianity. Olympianity is the universal religion of power. Christians worship the six false Olympian gods of politics, war, technology, sex, money, and consumption because, through them, they expect to gain control and measure the importance of their lives in terms of that control. Churches worship these same gods to change society or at least remain relevant to a society which also worships them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Olympian Churches, Prophetic Responses

“How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You lock the door to the Kingdom of heaven in people's faces, but you yourselves don't go in, nor do you allow in those who are trying to enter!
“How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You sail the seas and cross whole countries to win one convert; and when you succeed, you make him twice as deserving of going to hell as you yourselves are!” (Matthew 23:13-15, Good News Bible).
Jesus is teaching in the Temple in Jerusalem. By doing so he challenges the authority of the religious authorities. They want to get rid of him. Soon they will succeed. For now, though, he speaks unpleasant truths to them in the hearing of the people.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Our Worst Nightmare: Olympianity Victorious in the Church

In the mid-1980s, Jacques Ellul published a book entitled The Subversion of Christianity (translated into English by Geoffrey Bromiley). He did so because he wanted to know: “How has it come about that the development of Christianity and the church has given birth to a society, a civilization, a culture that are completely opposite to what we read in the Bible, to what is indisputably the text of the law, the prophets, Jesus, and Paul? There is not just contradiction on one point but on all points…There is not just deviation but radical and essential contradiction, or real subversion” (3).

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Le Chambon: Where Goodness Happened

In an essay, “Where the Battle Rages: Confessing Christ in America Today” (published in Disruptive Grace), George Hunsinger, a professor of theology, reflects on a little church in a small village in the southeastern mountains of Gallia. He writes about how it might serve us as an example of prophetic witness to Jesus in difficult circumstances.
The story centers on the little Reformed Church in Le Chambon and its pastor Andre Trocme. “During the darkest days of World War II, in full view of the Vichy government and a nearby division of the Nazi SS, Le Chambon’s villagers, under the leadership of Andre Trocme, organized to do something beyond all telling, namely, to save thousands of Jewish children and adults from certain death” (109). Their story is told in a book by Philip Hallie, a professor of ethics, entitled Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of the Village of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Churches: Activist, Conversionist, Prophetic

In his book, Disruptive Grace: Studies in the Theology of Karl Barth, pp. 89-113), George Hunsinger, professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, included a 1987 essays entitled, “Where the Battle Rages: Confessing Christ in America Today.” In that essay, he speaks of churches activist and conversionist. For the sake of greater clarity of purpose, we will compare these alternatives with our prophetic mission groups.
Today Jesus is calling Christians here and there to serve him together as prophetic mission groups of two to twelve members. Our purpose, as a group, is to be what George refers to as a “confessing church.” Basically, that means ministering with one another in ways that allow us to live as prophetic witnesses to Jesus Christ both personally and as a group. Our mission as a group is to send members, two by two, to participate in local churches to invite them to live as faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

On Jesus Not Being a Means to an End

In his book Disruptive Grace, George Hunsinger, currently professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, criticizes Christians for regarding loyalty to Jesus as a means to an end. George reminds us that loyalty to Jesus is “the supreme end by which all other ends are judged and in which all worthy ends are included, though in practice there may be times when even worthy ends will need to be sacrificed for the sake of the supreme end” (96).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Death by a Thousand Smaller Compromises

In his book, Disruptive Grace (2000), George Hunsinger writes about the Church. It doesn’t face raging battles, as it might have in Martin Luther’s time (1483-1546); instead, it faces a last battle, as suggested by C. S. Lewis (1898-1963). The Church is not challenged yet robust; instead, when faced with the challenge of nuclear weapons, it collapsed. Today, in this third essay in a series on George’s book, we will reflect with him on why this collapse occurred.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Christians Say No to Nuclear Weapons--and War

Hiroshima 1945
In 1987, George Hunsinger, now professor of theology at Princeton Theological Seminary, wrote an essay entitled “Where the Battle Rages: Confessing Christ in America Today.” In it, he points out that, instead of facing raging battles, we Christians “have no choice but to fight a losing battle on diminishing terrain, a last battle to the bitter end from which there will be no escape” (Disruptive Grace, 90).
This essay contains a section entitled “Where the Battle Once Raged: a Survey of Political Carnage.” In that section, he surveyed the process by which the Church came to endorse the use of nuclear weapons.