Thursday, April 24, 2008

9 Years Later

Nine years ago today, Dana and I stood in the front of a small chapel on the campus of Troy State University surrounded by our family and friends and promised to love each other for the rest of our lives. In the years that have passed since then, she has consistently outdone me on that promise. I cannot even imagine anyone that I would rather walk through life together with. She has supported me beyond anything I would have ever dared to ask for. We have two beautiful little girls and I literally thank God every single day that she is their mother and my wife. Dana is a gift from God. I am still amazed that she would choose to be my wife.

I love you, Dana.

Adam

Monday, April 21, 2008

Family: Quick Update

I've got a grad school paper that I've got to finish by midnight, but I wanted to give a quick update of what's going on with us.
  • Our house in WV is under contract and we have a contract on a house in SC. We should actually be able to move house-to-house (which is a real blessing). Thanks to all of you who have been praying about this.
  • Chloe is crawling "faster than a speeding bullet" and she's also started "giving fives". I don't care who you are, that kid's smile can melt your heart.
  • Emma got her cast off. She was a little upset when her knee and ankle were still sore (even though we told her they would be). She is walking much better (more normal) every day. She says the funniest things. The other night we put her to bed and she'd been in there maybe 1 1/2 minutes when she yelled out "I had a bad dream!" We said something like "Honey, you haven't even had time to go to sleep yet." Without missing a beat, she replied, "It was a daydream...you know...when you dream while you are still awake."
  • Dana's parent's flew up this weekend for a quick visit. Its always great to spend time with them, though this grad school paper kept me from being as good a host as I should have been. Dana and the girls have really enjoyed their visit, and are chatting and dreaming about how easy it will be to "get together" or even for Emma to spend the weekend with them in the near future. Dana has also enjoyed having her personal "stylist" (her mom) at the house.
  • My parents are coming up at the end of may to help us pack up and move. It is not particularly easy for either one of them to get away, and we appreciate this more than we can even express to them.
Hope that sort of catches you up. Back to the paper!
AE

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Busy Week

I have a really busy week this week, so my blogging will suffer.  Should be back on schedule next week, with a few extra posts thrown in for book reviews.
AE

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quoting Theology: N.T. Wright on the Church's Mission

"There has been a lot of talk where I work about a 'mission-shaped church,' following a report with that title, urging today's church to regard mission not as an extra, something to fit in if there's any time left over from other concerns, but as the central and shaping dynamics of its life. But if this is to mean what it ought to mean, we must also reshape our ideas of mission itself. It's no good falling back into the tired old split-level world where some people believe in evangelism in terms of saving souls for timeless eternity and other people believe in mission in terms of working for justice, peace, and hope in the present world. That great divide has nothing to do with Jesus and the New Testament and everything to do with the silent enslavement of many Christians (both conservative and radical) to the Platonic ideology of the Enlightenment. Once we get the resurrection straight, we can and must get mission straight. If we want a mission-shaped church, what we need is a hope-shaped mission."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Moltmann's Hope (Part 6: Conclusion)

New

Rev 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” TNIV

If Jurgen Moltmann has a favorite verse in the Bible, Revelation 21:5 may well be it. As the title of one of his more recent books proclaim, Moltmann believes that our story “ends” with a “beginning”. However, it would be a mistake to assume that he believes that history is heading towards a return of all creation to its original state. On the contrary, Moltmann believes that this “new creation”, this “new heaven(s) and new earth”, this “future of God” is qualitatively new. He argues that:

The future is God’s new creation. It is not a return of primordial day, nor is it a prolongation of the past. Past history and the new future which is prophetically promised no longer belong within the same temporal continuum. They are contrasted as ‘old’ and ‘new’. They become two separate times which are different in quality. Their unity is to be found solely in the faithfulness of God, who lets the old become obsolete and creates what is new.”

Afterlife

So, what will the experience of the afterlife in this “future of God” be like? How will we experience it? In Moltmann’s view, all things, even human beings are made “new”. Christ’s resurrection serves as a “firstfruits” of this truth, and it is a truth that Moltmann cherishes. He writes:

“If Christ is to bring everything again, then nothing can be lost to him, not even that which we cannot hold on to here. What we have loved, what we miss, will return again in his future, for the resurrection is stronger than death. Everything which is divided by death will be found again in the resurrection. I find this hope to be very comforting, for it makes us ready to let go what we cannot hold on to, and gives us the strength to live with the pain of separation and forsakenness. The separation from the people we love and the forsakenness which love experiences are not the end, for they are not the last of all.”

For Moltmann, this is not just true in the personal sense or even solely in the sense of being true for human beings. In his view, this is true “cosmically”.

Not only does Moltmann believe that all things are “made new”, he further contends that these temporal things become eternal. This is achieved by God becoming “all in all”, which Moltmann conceives of as a sort of future panenthiesm. In essence, he believes that God will infuse all of creation with his presence. This is to be conceived as a future, universal indwelling, and is not to be confused with the pantheistic notion of God being absorbed into all creation. Thus permeated by God, the temporal becomes eternal.

Conclusion

In the end, I’ve really only scratched the surface of Moltmann’s eschatology. Being that his entire theological construct is rooted in his eschatology, there is no subject for him that is not eschatological. In all honesty, I have really only whetted even my own appetite to dig deeper into this rich and fertile soil. There are certainly areas of his thought here that make me uncomfortable, and that really challenge my thinking; i.e. his universalism (nuanced, though it may be), and his ambiguity about the physical manifestation of Christ in his return, just to name a few. However, given the choice between hope and despair, I choose hope. If you ask me which I see revealed in Scripture, my answer is “hope”. When I look at Jesus, I see hope overflowing from his every word and action. When I see the darkness in the world, I hope with Jurgen Moltmann for the God who “makes all things new”.

References

1. Grenz, Stanley J., and Roger E. Olson. 20th-Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age. InterVarsity Press, 1993.

2. Jenkins, Jerry B., and Tim F. LaHaye. Left Behind Boxed Set 1. Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.

3. Moltmann, Jurgen. Experiences of God. Fortress Press, 2007.

4. ———. Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.

5. ———. The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.

6. ———. God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1999.

7. ———. In the End--The Beginning: The Life of Hope. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2004.

8. ———. Experiences in Theology. SCM Press, 2000.

9. ———. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.

10. Moltmann, J├╝rgen. God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. Fortress Press, 1993.

11. “Trinity Institute: Jurgen Moltmann (1st Presentation), http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/calendar/index.php?event_id=40242

Friday, April 04, 2008

Adam Ellis...Preacher?

I've honestly tried to write this post 4 different times this week. It's difficult because there are people here, particularly the teens we've worked with, whom we will miss terribly. At the same time, there is another group of people whom we are really excited about working with in the near future. How do I communicate this without a) making the teens think that we are excited about leaving them...or...b) making our new church family think that we are not excited about our future with them. Everything I've typed in my previous 4 attempts at writing this post has seemed awkward and I've wound up deleting each one. I guess, I just state the facts. Here is the letter I wrote to explain the situation to the Grand Central Church.


To the Grand Central Church:


Over the last few years, Dana and I have seen incredible Spiritual growth in the students we have been blessed to work with. We are immensely proud of them. If these students represent the future of the Grand Central Church, then the future is bright indeed. It has truly been both an honor and a privilege to work with them the past few years.

I am writing this letter to inform you of our decision to accept the invitation of the North Augusta Church of Christ, in North Augusta, South Carolina, to work with them as their pulpit minister. It is our plan to remain on staff at Grand Central until the end of May.

We ask for your prayers as we relocate and as we transition to a new ministry role after 10 years in youth ministry. Our prayers are for the success of the Grand Central Church and particularly for the students who have been associated with our ministry as they partner with God in his dream for the world.

May you be blessed by God, and may He bless the world through you,


Adam Ellis

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Theology: Moltmann's Hope (part 5)

Parousia

Moltmann defies easy categorization. Many would want to classify him as theologically “liberal” because of his concept of “revelation as promise.” This classification gets derailed, however, when one considers his view of the parousia, or eschatological coming of Christ (some would call this the “second coming,” but Moltmann avoids this, as he feels that it is somewhat misleading in that it presupposes a temporary absence). In actuality, Moltmann believes in it quite strongly, although his interpretation is somewhat more nuanced than most popular level interpretations. He explains:

“The expectation of the coming Christ must not become the dream of revenge for people who ‘have had a poor deal’ here. Nor must it be turned into a dream of almighty power for people who are at present powerless. Finally, it has nothing to do with religious compensation for people who have been disappointed on earth. It is only the hope that was born of Christ’s resurrection and is alive in the power of his Spirit which find its completion in the expectation of Christ and the prayer for his coming. The parousia of Christ is first and foremost the completion of the way of Jesus: ‘the Christ on the way’ arrives at his goal. His saving work is completed. In his eschatological person he is perfected and is universally manifested in the glory of God.”

So, for Moltmann, Christ’s parousia is theologically indispensable. Moreover, he chides theologians who would simply do away with it as irrelevant mythology or render it as merely figurative, by asserting that to do so would be (and has been) a sign of Christianity’s conversion to a “civil religion.”

Judgment

Moltmann does not conceive of the coming judgment primarily in judicial or moral terms. Rather, he sees them in terms of justice or, in other words, when things are set right. Moltmann believes that there was a shift from this original concept of God’s judgment to the moral/judicial view that is prevalent today. As he puts it,

“There is another approach to the idea of the great Last Judgment. Injustice cries out to high heaven. The victims who have suffered from it do not hold their peace. The perpetrators who have caused the suffering find no rest. The hunger for justice and righteousness remains a torment on both sides. The victims must not be forgotten, the murderers must not finally triumph overt them. The expectation of a final universal judgment in which justice will finally triumph was originally a hope cherished by the victims of violence and injustice. It was their counter-history to the world of the triumphal evil-doers.”

Thus, Moltmann contends that to conceive of the Last Judgment in any other way, especially in the ways that have become popular in contemporary culture, is to do violence to the promise of God. In his view, a moral/judicial concept of the Judgment is fundamentally incompatible with hope.

Moltmann believes that he finds further support for his view of the Last Judgment in the Biblical identity of the Judge: Jesus Christ. He explains:

“According to the Christian ideas of the New Testament, Judgment Day is ‘the Day of the Son of man’ who came ‘to seek that which was lost’. It is in fact ‘the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil 1.6). It is to be the day when the crucified Christ will be manifested before him. ‘We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ’ (2 Cor. 5.10). On that day both will emerge from their concealment into the light of truth, the Christ who is now hidden, and the human being who is hidden from himself. The eternal light will reveal Christ and human beings to each other. What is now still hidden in nature will also become clear and lucid, for as bodily and natural beings men and women cannot be isolated from nature, not even before the face of God and at the Judgment.”

Because the Judge is Jesus Christ, and because of Christ’s fundamental nature, Moltmann finds the Last Judgment to me a source of unimaginable hope; not only for some people, but for “all things.” There is more than a hint of universalism, and even panentheism in his thought here. But as with most things it is nuanced by Moltmann’s particular view of hope for God’s future.