Some old photos that I was finally able to get around to processing. These are from Thanksgiving. My cousin and I were able to go around Newton and get some shots of the grain mill that's been there forever. The first is the grain mill inverted and the second is my shadow.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
I have tried to show in this paper that we need not a new way to think about the Church’s interaction with society, but a different one. Niebuhr’s typology no longer serves us adequately, because it is based in Christendom. First Peter, however, shows us that we live with a dual citizenship. We are both elect and exiled. We have an eschatological hope that is effected now in the communities in which we live outside of church walls. Our hope has public ramifications. I want to end with a final picture.
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us to be salt. He says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” This is the clearest picture to me. In my apartment, I have a ramekin filled with salt on my counter. It is always sitting there, ready so I can grab it when I need to season my food. I make sure it is always full. But with it sitting on the counter, it has no usefulness to me. It is only once I put it in what I am cooking when it becomes useful. As it dissolves in the boiling water or clings to the leaves of my salad, it becomes unperceivable to my eye, but it has a profound effect in the food that I eat. Since I began properly seasoning my food, I can immediately tell when something I eat is not properly seasoned. It lacks flavor and is not as dynamic as it could be.
It is the same for us as Christians. If we are not in and amongst society, we are not useful. We can no longer stay within our church walls, but we need to be in our communities living out our eschatological hope for the good of the city.
Achtemeier, Paul J. 1 Peter. Hermeneia.
De Neui, Paul. “Christian Communitas in the Missio Dei: Living Faithfully in the Tension Between Cultural Osmosis and Alienation.” Ex Auditu 23 (2007).
Legrand, Lucien. The Bible on Culture.
McKnight, Scott. 1 Peter. The NIV Application Commentary.
Metzger, Paul. “Christ, Culture and the Sermon on the
Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary.
Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture.
Volf, Miroslav. “Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter,” Ex Auditu 10 (1994): 16-27.
Winter, Bruce W. Seek the Welfare of the City.
 Matthew 5:13.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
What Peter does not call the believers to is separation. Throughout 1 Peter, he is calling them to a different style of living—one that does not move them out of society, but that changes the way in which they move through society. In 5:8, Peter explains that it is the devil who is our adversary and he is to be resisted, not society. Evil is not some impenetrable force outside the walls of the Church, but is personified in the devil as a lion that prowls around looking for someone to devour. Further, the believers are equally admonished to resist the desires of their own flesh. Ernst Troeltsch stated that, throughout history, believers typically operate in one of three ways: as a church, a sect, or a mystic. He argues that the church operates out of grace, while a sect operates out of law. The church affirms the world, while a sect separates from it. He’s arguing that believing the Gospel has social implications. On the basis of his thesis, not wanting to define the church as Troeltsch does, Miroslav Volf calls it a “soft difference.” Speaking of the Church, he writes:
It looked as if she did not forge her identity through rejection of her social environment, but through the acceptance of God's gift of salvation and its values. She refused to operate within the alternative “affirmation of the world” versus “denial of the world,” but surprised people with strange combinations of difference and acculturation. She was sure of her mission to proclaim the mighty deeds of God for the salvation of the world, but refused to use either pressure or manipulation. Rather, she lived fearlessly her soft difference. She was not surprised by the various reactions of individuals and communities among whom she lived because she was aware of the bewildering complexity of social worlds in which values are partly the same, partly different, sometimes complementary, and sometimes contradictory. And so it gradually became clear that the child who was born again through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead into a living hope was not a sect at all. The unusual child who looked like a sect, but did not act like a sect, was a Christian community….
A soft difference does not fully reject the culture around them, nor does it fully embrace it. Rather it is a difference that is lived out without fear of others living out their lives and a trust in the God that has elected them to their eschatological hope. Volf continues, “For people who live the soft difference, mission fundamentally takes the form of witness and invitation. They seek to win others without pressure or manipulation, sometimes even ‘without a word’ (3:1).”
Volf brings up another key observation about the Christians in 1 Peter—they are to be a community. This may not be as shocking to us as it should be. We all affirm that the Church is made up of many people from all social strata—whether locally or globally. Throughout 1 Peter, he addresses them with the second person plural u`mw/n. Peter never addresses them as individuals, but corporately. Their lives are bound to one another in their election. Their conduct is not an individual one, but one that is thoroughly communal.
So what does all this mean for us living at the end of Christendom? First Peter teaches us that we need to change our model of Church. Practically, though, what does this mean? It means we need to inform the people who they are in Christ, what that means and how that affects their life. Simply put: preach the Gospel. Too many churches are caught up in getting people in the door with snazzy sermon topics and programs that they neglect the message of redemption found in the person of Jesus Christ. Peter preached in such a way as to affect his readers’ identity. He called them elect and exiles not to entertain them, but to teach them who they have become in Christ. We must preach the new identity our congregations have in Christ. Further, we need to move away from programs that keep people inside the walls of the Church. The Church is not programmatic or structural, it is people. Grace Chicago, the church that I am apart of, purposely does not fill its members’ schedules with church-bound activities, so that they can live their hope out in their communities.
Living in the communities also means seeking the good of them. This is what Jeremiah 29:4-7 instructs. Peter uses another word: blessing. Desire and work for community improvements. Desire that others have adequate housing, schools, social support. I hesitate to give specific examples, because of the variety of communities that abound. But let it suffice to say that whatever you desire for yourself and your family, should also be desired for others.
If you've ever run, you've probably had the conversation with yourself. You know the one. It's when you think you can't go on any longer, but really you can. Nike has a new ad out that shows what that struggle can look like. It can also teach us about what it looks like between the old and new being in Christ.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
So Peter defines the believers both by who they are eschatologically (elect) and by who they are geographically (exiles, Diaspora). They have a dual citizenship. The writer of the second century epistle to Diognetus writes, “They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens they take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home and every home a foreign land. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh.” This dual citizenship enabled them to live out a social ethic, on account of their eschatological hope. The “now/not yet” is bound up in having a foot firmly planted in both kingdoms. The question arises “how then are they supposed to live?”
Peter has an answer for this in 2:11-12. “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Again, Peter gives a two-fold command: Be holy and live publicly.
The believer’s holiness is based on their Father’s holiness. It is because of God calling them holy that they are to conduct themselves in such a manner. Their minds are to be ready, sober-minded, focused on their hope that they have in Christ, no longer living in the “former passions of their ignorance.” Unlike Paul, who urges his readers to abstain from vast lists of conduct, the closest Peter gets to explicitly stating what these passions are is in 4:3, “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties and lawless idolatry.” These six prohibitions have public contexts. The Greek word avse,lgeia, here translated “sensuality” refers to a lack of self-constraint which leads to participation with socially unacceptable behavior. Passions, evpiqumi,a, refers to sexual cravings, or lusting. “Drunkenness” refers to individual instances of being drunk, while “orgies” and “drinking parties” refer to public excess done in an organized manner. “Idolatry,” the worship of images, was at the center of 1st Century life. Peter knowingly prohibits behavior that is going to be effected in the public sphere while, at the same time, instructing them to live publicly.
In 2:12, Peter instructs them to keep their conduct honorable amongst the Gentiles. Their lives, which are characterized by an eschatological hope that is effected in their conduct, are going to be on display for those they live among. These are lives that are lived out as a reflection of the grace which they have received from God. Further, in 4:4, Peter tells them that the Gentiles are going to be surprised at their different conduct, which, according to 2:12, will cause them to glorify God when he comes. Living honorably is living “good” or “useful.” In other words, it contributes to the rest of society. These good works, carried out in the public sphere, are done because of their hope that they have in God and in turn display what God has done in their lives by calling them out of the darkness in which they once lived and into a living hope. By not repaying evil for evil, reviling for reviling, but instead blessing, acting out of the unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind, they will be noticed.
 Epistle to Diognetus V. 5, 8, quoted in Bruce W. Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 12.
 Ibid., 19.
 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
 1 Peter 1:13, 14.
 For examples of Paul’s lists, see Ephesians 4:25-5:5; Colossians 3:5-11.
 Winter, 20.
 1 Peter 3:8, 9.
Monday, December 10, 2007
First Peter, more than any other epistle, speaks of the relation between the Church and society. Peter, rather than giving a five-fold tool for evaluating the interaction the believers have between themselves and society, understands the tension that new believers have between their old way of life and their new. Peter teaches the first century believers that a proper understanding of who they are in Christ will give them a proper understanding of how they are to conduct themselves in society.
From the outset of the letter, Peter is forming the believer’s identity. He addresses them as the “elect exiles of the dispersion in
One such understanding comes from the last time
God is not only concerned for the Israelites, but also for the Babylonians, and therefore the people of “
 Scott McKnight, 1 Peter, The NIV Application Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 21. Miroslav Volf, “Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter,” Ex Auditu 10 (1994): 16.
 1 Peter 1:1, 2.
 McKnight, 46.
 J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, (Waco: Word Books, 1988), 7.
 This becomes a large thrust of what Peter has to say. As we get to 1 Peter 2:11-12, this will become more evident.
 Ibid., xlv; McKnight, 24; Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter, Hermeneia, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 80.
 1 Peter 1:1.
 Whether he does or not will not be addressed in this paper.
 Romans 10:14-17.
 1 Peter 2:10.
 Peter refers to those who are not in Christ as Gentiles. See 1 Peter 2:12.
 1 Peter 2:9.
Friday, December 7, 2007
Niebuhr did a great service to Christianity in the 1950s. He provided categories with which to think critically about a Christian engagement with culture. Though these categories remain within contemporary discussions, their usefulness is relative to the degree to which they have been distorted by countless theologians over the past fifty years. First, there are no clear definitions of what or who Christ and Culture are. Does Christ refer to the historical Jesus or to the risen, exalted Christ? Since Niebuhr wrote in the 1950s, another possibility would be the body of Christ, the Church—which seems to be the most common interpretation. And what of culture? Is this art and music? Should we understand culture as the customs and familial units that inconspicuously govern our lives? Paul De Neui argues that the missio Dei is already at work in the various cultures of the world. He writes that “culture is the arena of the missio Dei and it is within this cultural arena of mission that theology is given birth, context, meaning, and life practice. Culture is a human product that cannot be separated from humans and God is not ashamed to enter incarnationally into culture fully and completely.” If we cannot separate ourselves from the human culture that we inhabit and have been created by, how then are we to be against it, or above it, or be anything other than of it? Conversely, maybe culture is to be understood as the society in which we inhabit; the world of business and finance, government and politics, the social strata, moral norms and the general make-up of society. If we thought of culture in this way, then it could at least become something much more tangible—something that we can feel, reflect back on and react to—unlike the proverbial fish in water.
The second complaint with the continual use of Niebuhr’s categories is incidental, but nonetheless important. He published his treatise in 1951. In the last fifty years, we have seen a great shift in the strata of life, not only in the West, but throughout the world. Since the “Christianization” of the
The word “different” is significant, in comparison to other words that could have been used. I hesitate to use the word “new” because this is not the first time that the church has found itself on the bottom of society. Before 313, the church was the bottom of society. Persecution was expected. The concepts of suffering and persecution are used throughout the New Testament epistles. And while we in the States are not under the same kind of persecution as the First and Second Century believers were, it is startling to hear that more Christians died on account of their faith in the twentieth century than in the centuries that have preceded. It would seem appropriate, then, to look at how 1 Peter speaks to the interaction between the Church and a society that was outside of Christendom.
A couple pictures from Thanksgiving weekend. My sister, Laura, and I went out to her boyfriend's (Ashley) place and some other friends and shot clays. I had a 5 hit streak at one point. Laura did shoot some and she even hit the clay, which seemed to have caught her by surprise, looking at the above photo. The second shot is of the back one of Ashley's horses. It's a little more golden in real life, but the web kills colors. Some one should stop the madness.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I'm continuing my posts on Dual Citizenship.
Niebuhr's Christ and Culture
This conversation has been most notable influenced by H. Richard Niebuhr in his book Christ and Culture. In it, Niebuhr describes five positions the Church can take with culture. The first two he labels the extreme positions: “Christ against Culture” and “Christ of Culture.” In these positions, the Christian has two options, the complete rejection of his surrounding culture or the complete acceptance of his culture. The other three fall in between these two opposites. “Christ above Culture” tries to synthesize the two; “Christ and Culture in Paradox” emphasizes the conflict between the two; and “Christ transforming Culture” seeks cultural renewal. Niebuhr himself concedes that all are sometimes appropriate, none of them basically correct, and it is impossible to find one correct answer. However, while Niebuhr is not without his critics, these five paradigms have been the predominate language used over the last fifty-six years since its publication.
Most recently, Paul Metzger, professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture at Multnomah Biblical Seminary and presenter at Ex Auditu, used Niebuhr’s typology to describe the church as “a cultural community that is shaped by the surrounding culture and prophetically confronts that culture for the latter’s own ultimate transformation.” He states that he is not using Niebuhr in a “slavish manner,” but that “each type serves a useful purpose, and has a role to play as part of the church’s overarching framework for engaging other cultures.” He goes on to say:
Positively framed, Jesus exemplifies each of the five types: Jesus is of culture as its protagonist, against culture as its antagonist, God’s “yes” and “no” to culture as the divine and human dualist, above culture as the great synthesist, and the one who ultimately transforms culture as the ultimate transformationalist. 
Metzger claims that his is no simplistic form of engagement and throughout his paper exemplifies his claims through the life of Dietrich Bonheoffer and by what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. In the end he calls the Church to be a Christ-centered, cruciform and ecclesially framed. But in the continual use of Niebuhr’s typologies, which Niebuhr himself concedes are sometimes all appropriate, none of them basically correct, impossible to find one correct answer, Metzger leaves us no further enlightened than Niebuhr.
 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, (New York: Harper & Row, 1956).
 Paul Metzger, “Christ, Culture and the Sermon on the
 Metzger, 2.
 Metzger, 2-3.
 Metzger, 28.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
It seems like it would be good for more than two or three people to read something that I worked so hard on. So over the next couple of days or weeks, I'm going to post my paper I wrote last week.
Since Abraham, the people of God have been wrestling with how to interact with the cultures around them. Abraham prayed for and interceded for
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I've been crazy busy as it is winding down to the end of the semester. Last week I wrote over 4000 words, and I have about 8000 left to write. I have the bulk of Ephesians and Colossians to translate, some worksheets, two small papers, two books to read, and an exam to take.
I'm slowly getting it all done and think I'll need the whole semester-- probably should have downshifted earlier.
One of the books I'm reading is George Marsden's Fundamentalism and American Culture. In his conclusion, speaking of a Christian view of history, he writes,
We live in the midst of contests between great and mysterious spiritual forces, which we understand only imperfectly and whose true dimensions we only occasionally glimpse. Yet, frail as we are, we do play a role in this history, on the other side either of the powers of light or of the powers of darkness. It is crucially importan then, that, by God's grace, we keep our wits about us and discern the vast difference between the real forces for good and the powers of darkness disguised as angels of light.