“Christianity looks like that—Christianity looks like love absorbing sin and death, trusting God for resurrection. Seen in the light of the Easter dawn, the cross is revealed to be the lost Tree of Life. In the middle of a world dominated by death, the Tree of Life is rediscovered in the form of a Roman cross. The cross is the act of radical forgiveness that gives sin, violence, and retribution a place to die in the body of Jesus. The world that was born when Adam and Eve in their shame began to blame, the world where violent Cain killed innocent Abel, the world of pride and power that tramples the meek and weak—at the cross that world sinned its sins into Jesus Christ. And what happens? Jesus forgives. Why? Because God is like that. In the defining moment of the cross Jesus defines what God is really like. God is love—co-suffering, all-forgiving, sin-absorbing, never-ending love. God is not like Caiaphas sacrificing a scapegoat. God is not like Pilate enacting justice by violence. God is like Jesus, absorbing and forgiving sin.”

Water to Wine by Brian Zahnd

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Water to Wine

Water to Wine

Brian Zahnd, Water to Wine: Some of My Story. Kindle Edition (Spello Press,  January 11, 2016).

https://www.amazon.com/Water-Wine-Some-My-Story-ebook/dp/B01AIOZL7O?ie=UTF8&btkr=1&redirect=true&ref_=dp-kindle-redirect
From time to time I come across books that seem real interesting to read, and sometimes they are a sweet deal. A few months ago I came across “Water to Wine: Some of My Story” by Brian Zahnd, but had a lot on my plate, so I put it on my list of books to buy in the future; and today I ran into this amazing deal! On Amazon it is currently free for Kindle only, for a limited amount of time.

I have yet to read it, and will be writing a review once I have finished it. Go download it, read it, and let’s talk about it together!

The book has a 5-star rating, as of now, with 98% of its reviews grading at 5 stars and 2% at 4-stars.

Here is the summary/description provided by Amazon:

Why would the pastor of a large and successful church risk everything in a quest to find a richer, deeper, fuller Christianity? In Water To Wine Brian Zahnd tells his story of disenchantment with pop Christianity and his search for a more substantive faith.

“I was halfway to ninety—midway through life—and I had reached a full-blown crisis. Call it garden variety mid-life crisis if you want, but it was something more. You might say it was a theological crisis, though that makes it sound too cerebral. The unease I felt came from a deeper place than a mental file labeled “theology.” I was wrestling with the uneasy feeling that the faith I had built my life around was somehow deficient. Not wrong, but lacking. It seemed watery, weak. In my most honest moments I couldn’t help but notice that the faith I knew seemed to lack the kind of robust authenticity that made Jesus so fascinating. And I had always been utterly fascinated by Jesus. What I knew was that the Jesus I believed in warranted a better Christianity than what I was familiar with. I was in Cana and the wine had run out. I needed Jesus to perform a miracle.” –Water To Wine

 

New Brand, Same Man!

First of all I want to say thank you to al of you who read these posts. I have come a long way, and have had a lot of changes come about; I am sure there will be more opportunities to grow. As many of you will notice, there is a “new” blog on your newsfeed. This page was formerly “Chariskaiirene”, and I have decided to change it up a bit and find a “brand; in other words, I want as much of the site as possible to reflect the goal of it all.

Seeing as the hope is to publish material that has the air of a coffeehouse conversation, but that tackles all sorts of subjects pertaining theology, church life and all things Jesus, I have decided on “Coffee Bar Theology” as a perfect match.

I can’t wait to see where this site goes, and the fun that will be had along the way. Sign up for notifications on new posts,  comment on posts you feel the need or desire to engage, and share with your friends and family and keep the conversation going!

Grab a buddy, a coffee, and a chair; let’s talk!

Limited Time Free on Kindle: Blood Work by Anthony Carter

Looks like a good book, and it is free! Check it out and let me know what you all think. I have downloaded it and have added it to my summer reading list! I would love to hear your thoughts if you have either read it and/or once you have read it.

The Domain for Truth

free-ebook_620_BloodWork

There is a limited time free offer from Reformation Trust of a free Kindle book by Anthony Carter titled “Blood Work.”  Here’s the book’s description:

Evangelical Christians often sing and preach about the blessed blood of Christ and the wonderful things it accomplishes for believers. To the uninformed ear, such language can convey the idea that Jesus’ blood had semi-magical qualities. Actually, Jesus’ blood was normal human blood, but the Bible refers to it in metaphorical terms to portray the many benefits that come to Christians because of Jesus’ death. In Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation, Anthony J. Carter traces this theme through the New Testament, showing how the biblical writers used the powerful metaphor of the blood of Jesus to help Christians grasp the treasures Jesus secured for them in His death on the cross. In doing so, he provides a fresh perspective on…

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Forgotten Passion: Reflections on Christ

       Here’s a quick thought that ran through my head and I did not want to abandon, in case it escaped me. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Please comment, like, share!
The sad truth is that many are ready to rejoice with Christ in glory, and they forsake participation with Christ via the cross. It has become a game of pick and choose in which comments and mention of glory are seen as literal; yet talk and mention of the cross and suffering, must be seen as figurative.
      We live in a world in which we seek to carry a velvet cross with padding and wheels, Why have we as a society chosen to side with the rich young man who says they have given all, when at a closer look what we have given is simply that which causes us discomfort. Are individuals who give what means nothing, really presenting a life as a living sacrifice?
     We are not called to die with Christ in the sense that we decide to follow him and that is all. To “be crucified with Christ” is to deny oneself, not to simply deny one’s sinfulness. To be a follower of Christ is to deny our take on life, in favor of the theology of the cross.
      If there is ever an example of denying oneself it would be found in Jesus,”let this cup pass from me if possible,” (paraphrase) he cried out. But without hesitation, and cup in hand, he faced suffering, denial of his desires to empower and strengthen others.
      During Passover and Easter, Christians as a whole, place emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus; sometimes at the price of overlooking the Passion of Christ (suffering from the Latin “pathos”). In doing so, we forget that the work of the cross is not entirely the resurrection–although it is the completion of his work and the hope–but also on the suffering and denial of himself and his power.
      So as we approach Easter, let it serve as a reminder and hopefully a calibrator which reorients our minds not only on the finished work of Christ, but on what his life and denial of self accomplished; for it is what we are constantly called to imitate.
      We are not called to imitate his resurrection, we are called to imitate his denial of self and self sacrificing love. It is not us who glorifies, but Christ who glorifies us, in our faith in him, and our imitation of his denial, as evident in the entirety of his passion.

Genuine Pluralism and Christianity

 

Last week on my Facebook page I presented a question, I asked how in the face of globalization and religious pluralism we are to engage those who hold differing beliefs. The week before that, I revisited the concept of pluralism in regard to Christianity. On that post, I received quite a bit of dialogue and here is my response to genuine pluralism and interfaith relationships; as well as my response to how someone can maintain their Christian distinction and authentically communicate Christ, in the midst of genuine pluralism and engagement of other religious faiths in a meaningful way.

Due to the onset of globalization, which Muck describes as ” the idea that most of the world participates in a global culture (among others) connected by better and better worldwide communications,” those who hold different views aren’t isolated from us, and live in other countries; they are our neighbors, doctor’s, teacher’s, lawyer’s, elected officials, and people we have some sort of connections with.[1] The evolution of technology and the increased level of travel, has brought with it an ability for unity; as well as a clash of differing religious beliefs. How then are we all to act in the face of increased plurality? It is my opinion that in order to engage the plurality of religious beliefs, we should adopt an attitude of genuine pluralism. What is genuine pluralism?

Until recently, I would have driven down a much different path when answering this question; I would have missed the subtle, yet very important, use of the term “genuine” in relation to the term “pluralism”. Prior to this discussion, I would have viewed “pluralism” in a negative light; as a move towards acceptance and appropriation of differing views. Now as I reflect on that which I have learned and have had the opportunity to engage, I have to admit a change in my understanding of the term. With this new knowledge, also came a change towards embracing the practice of genuine pluralism. Genuine pluralism, as defined in the article, “From Diversity to Pluralism”, is “the engagement that creates a common society” from a community that is diverse.[2] With this interpretation of pluralism, it can be seen that pluralism is important, and for various reason.

First of all, genuine pluralism promotes an atmosphere of learning and education; which helps curb the existence of ignorance—an element which leads to hostile environments, that doesn’t promote peace. One of the main goals in adopting pluralism as an approach to differing religious beliefs, is the eradication of ignorance, via a humble desire to learn from and about others. The existence of ignorance is a major component of tolerance—to be understood in a negative sense, as opposed to compassion, and a true desire to understand the perspective of others. Tolerance is usually seen as a positive, a step towards compromise, or as an action taken by the “bigger man.” But is adopting a stance of tolerance really an act of “goodness?” I think not. To tolerate someone is not to seek communion and foster deep relationships, it is to do the bear minimum. If I were to use an example of the difference between tolerance and that which flows from genuine pluralism, it would be in using the difference between hearing and listening as a model. To hear is to acknowledge sound, and to listen is to engage that which is being said and to seek to understand and respond accordingly. In communication, to merely hear what is being said is to have one’s motives as of the utmost importance, and to listen is to desire to respect the other(s) and have a meaningful conversation. This appreciation of “the other”, an individual aside from oneself, is a key component to genuine pluralism, which is important to society as a whole. In educating ourselves and others, as a whole, humanity learns to care for one another; which leads to reason number two.

The second reason why genuine pluralism is important is because, it helps society as a whole. Due to the uniqueness found, not just from person to person, but from culture to culture, there is much that can be learned from neighboring faiths. With a proper understanding and orientation of the beliefs and cultures of those who surround us, pluralism and interfaith movements allow us to “collaborate, to combine our differing strengths for the common good.”[3] In using the American promise given to immigrants, we are able to see the appeal of this approach to pluralism and interfaith engagement. As Horace Kallen states, immigrants are told, “come as you are, with all your differences and particularities, pledged only to the common civic demands of American citizenship.”[4] The importance of adopting a stance of genuine pluralism is clear, but is it possible to engage in genuine pluralism, while maintaining their Christian distinctions and authentically communicate Christ. Fisher would say that it is not possible to do so. I strongly believe that one can engage in genuine pluralism, while maintaining their Christian distinctions and authentically communicate Christ. To embrace pluralism is not to avoid disagreements, it is to seek to learn and remain united in the face of said disagreements.

In order to engage in genuine pluralism, and authentically communicate Christ one should embrace Muck’s model called “giftive missions.”[5] In this model of missions, we do away with the models of engagement that shuts down dialogue, the ability to foster true relationships, and the ability for interfaith commitments. In this form of missions, one does not seek to simply convert a person of a differing belief, but one seeks to bring the “greatest of all gifts, the story of what God has done for the world through Jesus Christ.”[6]  A Christian who embraces Muck’s model, does not become a “sell out” for the sake of creating and fostering peace, but is able to develop true and deep relationships that go far beyond telling someone about the Gospel; it allows a Christian to also live out the Gospel. Normally two main approaches to individuals of non-Christian faiths can be distinguished. On the one hand, the individual does absolutely nothing, in regards to the “spiritual disposition” of non-Christians; on the other hand, a Christian takes on the stance of “sparing no energy in eradicating the non-Christian religions of this world.”[7] The solution to the problems, which resort from the two aforementioned approaches, is not found in an open acceptance of the beliefs of the other—in fear of landing on one of the extremes. The solution is found in adopting Muck’s proposal, which allows the Christian the ability to tend to their responsibility, of witnessing to the gracious gift of salvation, to come alive.

To conclude, I feel as if I should discuss the impact that today’s religiously plural context has on genuine pluralism, as well as the theological implications of religious dialogue. Today’s religiously plural context, has a big impact on genuine engagement. Just like during the reign of the Roman Empire, technological advancements and the free market system, are catalysts to the spread of belief systems. The difference between the dawn of Christianity and today’s religiously plural society, is the effect to which globalization takes hold of religious beliefs. The technological advances we enjoy, also come as a burden to those who seek genuine engagement. The rise of technological advancements, the introduction of freedom of religion, as well as rise of globalization, has “resulted in extensive knowledge of other religions for many of the world’s religious people.”[8] It is no longer acceptable for those who require to work in mission’s ministry to be ignorant of the beliefs of others—especially the major religious views. The theological implications that arise from such a burden are, that we must cooperate with those of differing faiths, and we must compete with them as well; in order to do both, we must become knowledgeable of those differing belief systems. We must cooperate for two reasons: 1) because of the “biblical injunction to love one’s neighbor as oneself” and 2) because religion seems to be “our last hope for civilized humane cooperation among the peoples of the world.”[9] Competition is a theological implication of such religious dialogues, because proclaiming the Good News of Jesus as The Christ, is “the very essence of the Gospel.”[10]

As an academic and a Christian, it is my duty to seek unity in diversity; as should be expected by one who attends a university. As Ravi explains in his video, the term university “comes from the joining of the two root words, unity and diversity.”[11] As a Christian I must seek to do just that, exist in peace with all, if possible; and if the need to disagree arises to present the truth with gentleness and respect.[12]

 

 

[1]  Terry C. Muck. Christianity Encountering World Religions: The Practice of Missions in the Twenty-first Century.” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009). 17.

[2] “From Diversity to Pluralism.” The Pluralism Project Harvard University: Encountering Religious Diversity. http://www.pluralism.org.

 

[3] Mary P. Fisher. Living Religions. 9th Edition (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc., 2014), 507.

[4] “From Diversity”

[5] Muck, 7.

[6] Ibid., 8.

[7] Ibid., 7.

[8]  Muck, 22.

[9] Ibid. 30.

[10] Muck, 29.

[11]  Ravi Zacharias, “Secularization, Pluralism, Privatization – Pt 1” https://www.youtube.com/51d19a89-361e-4eca-b2a5-16fddffe4140.

[12] Roman 12:18; 1 Peter 3:15.

 

Why learn Hebrew?

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          As a graduate student, and as one who desires to pursue postgraduate studies this is a question I have had to ask myself, Why study Hebrew? During my early undergraduate years when I solidified my course of studies, I was confused as to why anyone would go through the torture of learning a language so far divorced from their own. And when I found out the form of Hebrew mainly studied by Biblical scholars is a “dead language” (There are four main forms of the Hebrew language: Classical,Rabbinical/Mishnaic, Medieval/Rabbinic, and Modern) it was clear that Biblical scholars enjoy crying themselves to sleep at night. For those who are familiar with Biblical Studies the benefits of studying  Classical/Biblical Hebrew are pretty familiar, and even then they sometimes elude us; and it is important to remind ourselves.
          Upon glossing over the text I was taught beginner level Hebrew on, I encountered a list of reasons for why one should learn Hebrew, Dr. Lee Roy Martin came up with in his book Introduction to Biblical Hebrew. Here is a shorter version of that list:

Continue reading “Why learn Hebrew?”