Saturday, December 22, 2007

Friday Photo Late

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.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dual Citizens, Pt. 7

Dual Citizens

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6


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.”[1] 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. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996.

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. Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2004.

McKnight, Scott. 1 Peter. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.

Metzger, Paul. “Christ, Culture and the Sermon on the Mount Community.” Ex Auditu 23 (2007).

Michaels, J. Ramsey. 1 Peter. Word Biblical Commentary. Waco: Word Books, 1988.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper & Row, 1956.

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. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.

[1] Matthew 5:13.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dual Citizens, Pt. 6

Dual Citizens

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Part 6

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.[1] 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.[2] 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….[3]

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).”[4]

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.[5] 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.

[1] The mystic category, not being a part of the discussion, will be left untouched.

[2] Volf, 15, 16.

[3] Volf, 27.

[4] Volf, 24.

[5] 1 Peter 3:9.

Nike and the New Self

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

Dual Citizens, Pt. 5

Dual Citizens

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5

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.”[1] This dual citizenship enabled them to live out a social ethic, on account of their eschatological hope.[2] 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.[3] 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.”[4] Unlike Paul, who urges his readers to abstain from vast lists of conduct,[5] 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.[6] “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.”[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

[1] Epistle to Diognetus V. 5, 8, quoted in Bruce W. Winter, Seek the Welfare of the City, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 12.

[2] Ibid., 19.

[3] 1 Peter 1:15, 16.

[4] 1 Peter 1:13, 14.

[5] For examples of Paul’s lists, see Ephesians 4:25-5:5; Colossians 3:5-11.

[6] BDAG.

[7] BDAG.

[8] Winter, 20.

[9] 1 Peter 3:8, 9.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Dual Citizens, Pt. 4

Dual Citizens

Part 2
Part 3

Part 4

First Peter, more than any other epistle, speaks of the relation between the Church and society.[1] 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 Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and the sprinkling with his blood.”[2] Already he is establishing their identity both in who they are in God and by their social status.[3] Peter’s first label for them is “elect.” The Greek word evklekto,j is a term that refers to an action performed by God. This is a fairly common designation for New Testament Christians, not only carrying the weight of their election in God, but it also refers to “their present historical existence and their final vindication;”[4] both are actions that are performed by God. Their identity is not contained only in who they are now, but who God has called them to be from eternity with an eschatological focus. They not only exist in their present situation, but have an eschatological designation awaiting them. This allows Peter their second labeling: “exiles.” Because they have been elected by God, they are now “strangers” or “exiles.” The Greek parepi,dhmoj refers to temporary residence in a foreign land.[5] In the first verse of his epistle, Peter is trying to stress to them that this is a temporary home for them. This is not to preclude them from establishing themselves in their communities, but it allows them to be free from partaking in the sin that the world offers.[6] Finally, Peter labels them as the diaspora, “Diaspora.” This, probably more than any other word, is bound up with a Jewish identity, however, commentators generally agree that Peter is writing to Gentile believers.[7] By using terms that would generally be used with Israel, Peter is including the Gentiles in the long history of redemption that God has been working since creation. Peter opens up a great deal of understanding for the way they are then to live.

One such understanding comes from the last time Israel was called “exiles” in Jeremiah 29:4-7. Jeremiah, much in the same way that Peter does, instructs Israel exiled in Babylon how to live. He writes, “‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.’” Instead of instructing Israel to stay outside the city walls, as they are wont to do, Jeremiah tells them to move into the city and to put down roots. They have the promise that they will be returned to the land of Israel, but are still instructed to establish themselves. Why? By seeking the welfare of the city and praying for it, they too will benefit from its prosperity. And while this is the answer that the text gives us, I would like to offer another answer.

God is not only concerned for the Israelites, but also for the Babylonians, and therefore the people of “Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia.”[8] It is at the heart of God to redeem all that he has created.[9] However, if the elect is not living in and amongst those who do not (yet) know God, then they have no witness to who God is and what he had done in other’s lives.[10] Peter emphasizes this further in his epistle: “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”[11] The Gentiles,[12] those who are not in Christ, are in the same position that the elect once were. Their task then is found in the preceding verse, “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”[13] Proclaiming carries with it the sense of an audience and I would posit that Peter intends that their audience be the Gentile communities where they live.

[1] 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.

[2] 1 Peter 1:1, 2.

[3] McKnight, 46.

[4] J. Ramsey Michaels, 1 Peter, Word Biblical Commentary, (Waco: Word Books, 1988), 7.

[5] Ibid.

[6] 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.

[7] Ibid., xlv; McKnight, 24; Paul J. Achtemeier, 1 Peter, Hermeneia, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996), 80.

[8] 1 Peter 1:1.

[9] Whether he does or not will not be addressed in this paper.

[10] Romans 10:14-17.

[11] 1 Peter 2:10.

[12] Peter refers to those who are not in Christ as Gentiles. See 1 Peter 2:12.

[13] 1 Peter 2:9.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dual Citizens, Pt. 3

Dual Citizens

Part 2

Part 3

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.”[1] 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 Roman Empire in 313—or at least the tolerance of Christians—Christendom has reigned. The Church of Rome had complete control for 1200 years, playing a key role in the movement and structure of Europe. In 1517, when Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, the power moved to the hands of national governments that were tied to national churches. When the dissenters in England decided they needed their own land to express their particular strand of Christianity, they moved to the New World. In what would become the United States, the plurality of denominations led the writers of the Constitution to separate Church from State. Since this point in history, the Church has been perpetually loosing its place of prominence in society. Metzger recognizes this: “We no longer live under Christendom or in a utopian Christian society, though many Christians still long for it and lobby on Capitol Hill to take it back.”[2] For the Church to think that it can return to its place on top of society is folly and its efforts futile. As unfortunate as this is, the Church in charge has not demonstrated itself to be equipped to rule in a manner that exemplifies Christ. Need the Crusades be mentioned? We now live in a post-Christendom world, so the need for a different understanding of the Church’s engagement with culture is needed.

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.

[1] Paul De Neui, “Christian Communitas in the Missio Dei: Living Faithfully in the Tension Between Cultural Osmosis and Alienation,” Ex Auditu 23 (2007): 6.

[2] Metzger, 27.

Photo Friday

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

Dual Citizens, Pt. 2

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.[1] 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.”[2] 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.”[3] 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. [4]

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.[5] 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.

[1] H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, (New York: Harper & Row, 1956).

[2] Paul Metzger, “Christ, Culture and the Sermon on the Mount Community,” Ex Auditu 23 (2007): 2. Note: the page number in this and in De Neui refer to their printed page numbers.

[3] Metzger, 2.

[4] Metzger, 2-3.

[5] Metzger, 28.

24: 1994

Ever wonder what your favorite shows would have been like 17 years ago? We'll we have a clip from 24 from 1994.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dual Citizens: Living as Culturally-Engaged Christians in First Peter

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 Sodom and Gomorrah, however eminent their destruction. Jacob deceived everyone with whom he came into contact. Joseph rose through the ranks of Egyptian royalty eventually using his authority to bring reconciliation to his brothers, who sold him into slavery. When Israel’s sanctuary in Egypt turned into slavery, Moses had to interact with Pharaoh for their freedom. When Joshua led the people of Israel across the Jordan, they had to fight with those who already lived there for the land that God had given them. Even when the kingdom of Israel was established, the Philistines, the Amalekites, the Ammonites, and the Syrians were constantly asserting their culture over that of the Israelites. Lucien Legrand, in his book The Bible on Culture, shows how, throughout the Scriptures, the people of God both rejected and embraced the cultures around them. In the history of Israel, God raised up persons to play the prophet, which warned against establishing themselves as a kingdom—like all the other nations—and at the same he selected for them a king to rule over them.[1] Moving into the New Testament, Legrand looks at both Jesus and Paul. Both lived and moved through different cultures. Jesus, embodying the culture around him, spoke Aramaic and obeyed the Torah, but he did not fit neatly into the subcultures of the day either.[2] Paul, on the other hand, fit himself into all categories. Legrand goes so far as to have three chapters on the man, which focus on his Jewish-ness, his Greek-ness, and the integration of the two.[3] Paul, himself, writes in 1 Corinthians 9:19 that though he is free from all, he has made himself a servant of all—to the Jew a Jew and to the Greek a Greek. To summarize, the interactions between the people of God and the cultures around them have found many different forms throughout the history of redemption. This paper seeks to show that the former conversations between Christ and Culture are no longer valid because they are based in Christendom. Instead we need a different cultural hermeneutic that is based on the concept of dual citizenship found in 1 Peter.

[1] Lucien Legrand, The Bible on Culture, (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2004), 18.

[2] Ibid., 83-96.

[3] Ibid., 115-151.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Toward the End

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.