Saturday, October 08, 2011

Christ, Passover, and the marriage of Yahweh and Israel

I want to write something briefly here today.  Christians generally affirm that per John 5 and Luke 24 that the scriptures, properly understood, point to Christ, and that Christ said He fulfilled the scriptures.  As N. T. Wright and countless other theologians have noted Christ established the Lord's Supper as a Passover with a difference, redefining the Exodus and Passover around what He would accomplish on our behalf in winning victory over Satan, sin, and death. 

But then there's Song of Songs, which has been read at Passover celebrations for generations.  What does this set of romantic love poems have to do with Passover?  Passover celebrates Yahweh delivering His people out of bondage in Egypt and leading them into the wilderness where He established His covenant with them.  God betrothed Himself to Israel in the wilderness and promised them a home.  The covenant itself and the prophets reveal that apostasy and rejection would precede full and ultimate restoration.  This means that Christ is the one through whom and to whom God's marriage to His people is redefined.  The Wedding Feast of the Lamb takes the marriage of God to Israel and reinterprets this metaphor for relationship in light of Christ, who becomes the Groom. 

The implications for this on how both Jews and Christians have interpreted Song of Songs should not be that difficult to grasp.  Jesus said that the law experts and Pharisees searched the Scriptures because in them they were sure they would find eternal life.  If Song of Songs, then, is part of the scriptures, then the great  interpretive paradigm of the perspicuity of Scripture means that if in John 5 Jesus says unequivocally that "the scriptures point to me" a biblical book must be about Christ, properly understood. 

What, then, do we make of pastors who reject this interpretive lens provided by Christ Himself through apostolic testimony regarding Song of Songs?   Song of Songs can certainly be a set of poems about romantic love but if Christ spoke the truth through apostolic witnesses then Song of Songs can't be interpreted as only referring to romantic love.  Otherwise Jesus' words in John 5 and Luke 24 cannot be true. Then we have to ask why those pastors who have invested so much in an interpretive approach to Scripture that sees Song of Songs as only chiefly about sex are forced to implicitly say Jesus was a liar, don't we?  After all, if Song of Songs does not point to Christ when it is properly interpreted then Jesus wasn't telling the truth about the scriptures as we have received them or about why the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures for the benefit of God's people.

Either Christ was a liar (because Song of Songs does not speak of Him) or the person who refuses to see Christ in Song of Songs is a liar (by refusing to accept the truth about Christ's claims that Scriptures point to Him and He fulfilled the Scriptures and that this must include Song of Songs).  There doesn't seem to be a legitimate third option here for any conservative professing Christian who affirms the Trinity and the inspiration and authority of the canon of Christian scripture. The only people who can stake out a legitimate third path by saying Christ is not in Song of Songs are liberals who cordon off parts of the scriptures as not speaking authoritatively about doctrine or ethical teaching. 

I am not concerned here to discuss how liberals interpret Song of Songs because they are open and upfront about their intepretive approach.  The liberal, a conservative will say, already refuses to accept the Lordship of Christ except on his terms.  So it is the otherwise "conservative" pastor or teacher who claims the Lordship of Christ and the authority and authenticity of the Scriptures, who nevertheless refuses to grant a typological element in Song of Songs, and that person alone, who is in the peculiar position of saying Jesus is a liar only about one book in the canon. On this subject in general and a case study in particular I will have much more to say down the road, God willing.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Batman: The Agony of Loss and the Madness of Desire part 2 just went up on Mockingbird

Part 2 of the new series for Mockingbird has just gone up.  I've been eager to tackle this set of essays for months but if life teaches me anything it is that the things that seem easy can prove difficult and things that seem difficult can prove easy. 

As with any literary venture the difficulty of writing is never the writing itself.  Nearly anyone with adequate motor skills in the hands and patience can write or type pretty much anything.  What delineates the difference between doggerel and poetry; what delineates the difference between prose that is prosaic and prose that is effective is not the mere physical activity but the clarity and potency of thought.  A writing teacher in high school once admonished me (and the rest of his class) with the axiom "Sloppy writing is the result of sloppy thinking."  As Black Dynamite might say, "This is also true."  What Dini, Burnett, Timm and the others did with Batman: the animated series was (and is) too big a thing to attempt to summarize in a mere 500 or 700 words. 

I am still, to be honest, tackling essays 4-6 in this project because writing about this revolutionary TV show has proven more difficult than the earlier series I have written for Mockingbird.  Knowing what to include and what to omit is important.  For part 3 (coming up) I eagerly wished to include the observation that Mr. Freeze and Batman have related musical mottos.  When Batman appears in an episode to lay the beat-down on a criminal we often hear an bold Wagnerian brass fanfare outlining his musical motto, the theme that became the opening music for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm.  If you listen to Mr. Freeze's music in "Heart of Ice" at the start of the episode you'll hear that Freeze gets the same notes.  Yet in contrast to Batman's Wagnerian brass chorale, Mr. Freeze's melody is taken by a piccolo over pizzicato strings and harp glissandi.  It's as though Batman's fanfare had transformed from Wagnerian boldness to the desolate, emotional detachment of a waltz from a string quartet Shostakovich wrote to mourn the loss of his wife to cancer. 

Some of Walker's most brilliant composing and scoring lays in that strange, surrealist waltz and I wanted to write about my fondness of the music.  The Mr. Freeze theme is an ingenius reworking of Batman's motto because both Freeze and Batman are defined by their experience of loss and desire and how they respond to it.  Where Batman first looks within at his wounds and then looks outward to serve his neighbor, Victor Fries, having reached out to seize what he thought was a solution to his problems and failed, turns inward and resolves that he will ultimately make the rest of the world feel his misery and wrath as he wallows in self-pity.  Fries is a tragic figure for all sorts of reasons but I don't want to get too spoilerish about part 3 now that part 2 just went up!  Let's just say that "Heart of Ice, Heart of Wrath" was kicking my butt until I accidentally reached for G. K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy when I was really going for C. S. Lewis' The Four Loves.  I'll just leave you in suspense about what Chesterton and Lewis have to do with Mr. Freeze.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

HT Scotteriology: Crystal Cathedral Bankruptcy

I'd read about news of this megachurch going bankrupt in the wake of political battles amongst Schuller's offspring over who would control the empire.  Turns out the empire is bankrupt. 

I had no idea about the 4k raised in the face of 50 mil in debt, though.  That was astonishing.  When I first read Scotteriology's blog post opener "put on your surprise faces" I figured, "Yeah, whatever, I probably won't be surprised."

Boy was I wrong!  $4,737 of $50,000,000 is a majestic case of what is in some biblical parlance known as "missing the mark". 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mark Driscoll on T. D. Jakes--suspend judgment until it's proven that Jakes wrote The Shack

From PastorMarkTV
Admittedly, sometimes when speaking, a teacher presents a belief in a way that is inaccurate and unclear. So called “discernment” bloggers who are usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors make their living taking what people said wrongly, transcribing it, and then falsely—or at least wrongly—accusing them of heresy when it is untrue.

The ear is more forgiving than the eye, and when we say something wrong, people tend to give the benefit of the doubt. But, when what is said is then written down, there is far more scrutiny as a statement is parsed like a Bible verse, which is unfair. ...

In closing, I want to thank Pastor MacDonald for putting together what could be an amazingly insightful event around the Trinity and many other issues that the Church needs to consider. I thank God that I have an opportunity to be involved and ask some questions. I want to encourage folks to wait until the event before making any final judgments about anyone or anything. And, I want to encourage all the men who are signed up to show up. We worship a Jesus who died for what he believed. The least we can do in his name is get on a plane for what we believe.

Okay ... so Driscoll is encouraging everyone to wait until there's a meeting of the minds before making any final judgments about anyone or anything.  I'm glad to know Driscoll is encouraging people to suspend final judgments about the doctrinal purity and character of a man like Jakes who has been preaching for decades, just like Driscoll himself refrained from making final judgments about William Young and Young's novel The Shack back in 2008. Driscoll totally waited to actually go talk to the best-selling author about what his actual views on the Trinity are before going off in public denouncing Young as a heretic.

Oh ... wait a minute ...

Maybe Mark Driscoll didn't avoid making a rush to a final judgment about anyone and anything in the case of William Young and The Shack. So when Driscoll says we should wait with Jakes, and that we should not assume the worst about mere words like "manifestations" in a doctrinal statement maybe he just means "Do as I say, not as I did."  There needs to be time for the megachurch pastors Driscoll, MacDonald and Jakes to meet and discuss this stuff.  We should give folks the benefit of a doubt because Jakes hangs out with James MacDonald sometimes, I guess, and we are supposed to be doing what Driscoll says we should do and not follow his example. Driscoll seems tentative only because Jakes sometimes associates with MacDonald and MacDonald's cool so a good ol' boy network among megachurch pastors has to count for something, doesn't it? After publicly using Joel Osteen as an example of an unhealthy prosperity theology (Driscoll denunciations can be so stern he can make people sound like heretics even when he agrees they're fellow believers 02-05-2013) and implying that Ed Young Jr's sex sermons were creepy and overselling sex (and obviously not as good as Driscoll's own quarter year Peasant Princess) .... maybe Driscoll just feels he needs to cut a megachurch pastor some slack now? I don't know.

But here is something I am relatively confident about--William Young is, let us remember, a novelist and not a pastor.  He is not regarded by anyone as a pastor, or a theologian, or a spiritual authority on jack squat.  Let me reframe this a bit for further clarity, William Young self-published his one novel with a few other guys' help (who he's been suing, apparently) and it's a novel.  It's a made-up story that does not present itself as a sermon, as a catechism, as a creed, as a confessional statement, or anything other than a tale about a person.  Young never seems to have been out to create the next Nicene Creed or the next Heidelberg catechism or some Westminster Confession.  It's just a novel, and it is to date, apparently the only novel he has published.  There may not even be a second one, folks.

T. D. Jakes, by contrast, is a megachurch pastor who has been in ministry for decades, and Driscoll believes Jakes deserves the most leniency we can muster.  Innocent until Driscoll thinks Jakes is guilty even though Driscoll seems to have not really bothered to investigate things much. Okay, that Senator Grassley probe from 2007 didn't come up with anything untoward.  Untoward was what got Jakes' son Jermaine in legal trouble but that's a different kind of untoward behavior and that's not T. D.'s fault except in the neo-Calvinist realm of headship where "headship means that as the father, even if it's not your fault, it's your responsibility."  Driscoll at least used to put it that way. 

But something seems backwards here.  Wouldn't the person to be uncompromising and confrontational with is an actual pastor who preaches at a megachurch with 30,000 members; who's been in ministry for decadess; who has met with presidents of the United States; and has published numerous books? Wouldn't the person to take the wait-and-see approach have been the one-hit wonder novelist no one had heard of before, who has no theological training, apparently isn't even attending a church, and hasn't even had any other work published? 

I'm not talking about the actual contents of either Jakes' writing or Young's writing here (I don't care for either, for what little that's worth).  I'm talking about a sense of proportion and scale.  Complaining about Young's novel and not addressing whether or not Jakes' doctrine is problematic is like some parent who thinks that rock and roll is a corrupting influence on his kids because of "Henry VIII" by Herman's Hermits. So he forbids his kids to listen to that degenerate song.  He then turns around and says to his kids that he's gotta take the devil music to the church parking lot bonfire.  He'll be back in maybe twenty minutes.  One of the kids pipes up that a friend has lent him a country album.  Well, country music is all right, thinks the father.  So he gives them permission to listen to that innocuous-looking album by Ween called 12 Golden Country Greats. They can listen to that.  What could possibly go wrong? 

Off the father goes to dispose of that Herman's Hermits album.  His kids listen to Ween.