Monday, August 26, 2013

Degrees of Faith chart

I included charts in my book The Form and Power of Religion: John Wesley on Methodist Vitality to help illustrate the relationship between the form of religion and the power of religion.  I tried to show the interplay between the two through changes in shading, but in my mind's eye what I really saw was a moving chart.  By grace through faith, individuals transition from less mature degrees of faith to more mature degrees of faith.  Thanks to my father-in-law, I'm learning how to animate my charts.  Here's the first version.  It's not there yet but it's a step in the right direction.  Any of you who work with animation, please share your advice.

Monday, August 19, 2013

never bored

Here you go preachers; a little inspiration as you get ready for next Sunday.  From E. Stanley Jones, The Word Became Flesh--
For sixty years I've thought of one subject, have spoken about that one subject, and have written about that one subject-- that one subject, a Person, Jesus Christ.  After thinking and talking about one subject for sixty years, one should be bored and should want a moral holiday, want to get away and think of something else.  On the contrary, I was never so excited, so exhilarated, so full of surprise as now.  Something new breaks out from Him every day, a surprise around every corner, horizons cracking, life popping with novelty and meaning-- and value.  The Truth is making me free-- free to find more Truth and yet more Truth.  And so on forever and forever.
-Week 5--Thursday

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Church works it out

The individualism I heard in Paul’s exhortation to “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) rendered this verse unavailable as a foundational text for an ecclesiology. Wesley’s interpretation of this passage, both in his Notes (“Work out your own salvation - Herein let every man aim at his own things.”) and in his Sermon on Phil 2:12, 13, only reinforced my impression.

That is, it was my impression until I started learning Greek. Paul’s command reads-- τὴν ἑαυτῶν σωτηρίαν κατεργάζεσθε. The verb ending is second person plural, “you all work out.” The reflexive pronoun also has a plural ending, and this particular Greek pronoun does triple duty for first, second, and third person plural reflexive pronouns.

 The verb used here suggest intense effort according to HELPS Word-Studies--
katergázomai (from 2596 /katá, "down, exactly according to," intensifying 2038 /ergázomai, "work, accomplish") – literally, "work down to the end-point," i.e. to an exact, definite conclusion (note the prefix, 2596/katá); bring to decisive finality (end-conclusion). 
So, rather than reading this verse as Paul’s instructions to individual Philippians to work out his or her own salvation as a private struggle, it should be interpreted as a collective endeavor that Paul placed upon the group as a whole-- “thoroughly work out the salvation of all of you.” (Paul explained how to accomplish this goal in his Letter to the Philippians, but I’ll save that for another post.)

Salvation by grace through faith as a group process. The work of every church member for every church member as empowered by grace. Members supporting, encouraging, and challenging one another to pursue the goal that Paul identified in Phil 2:5-- to become Christ-like. The implications of this new creation worked into every facet of every member’s life. (Which sounds a lot like Wesley’s goal for his classes and bands.) That’s how I read Phil 2: 12 now.  Is this understanding of discipleship evident in your church's ministry?