Wednesday, June 11, 2008

book review 5--a christianity worth believing

Jesus' message wasn't centered on individual people leaving this world and living in little rooms of glory in heaven. It was about the kingdom of God thriving on earth, just as it was in heaven. And this heaven was not another place but anywhere Gods agenda was fulfilled.
p. 220

So, is Pagitt really trying to say that there is no such place as Heaven, let alone Hell?

..."Do you know where you will go?" has this limited sense to it. It clearly implies that there is a place. Embedded in the question is the expectation of a location called heaven as opposed to a location called hell. So to answer the question, one has to build a congruent view of these places called heaven and hell, of life and eath, of God and faith and works. The question assumes an entire worldview
p. 221-222

What about things Jesus said, such as about going to prepare a place for us?

While it might not seem like it a first glance, even Jesus comments about "going to prepare a place for you" and "in my Father's house there are many rooms" come from the rabbinic tradition and are meant to create a picture of God's redemption on earth.That's the way Jesus intended it and the way the disciples heard it.
p. 223

Perhaps the one thing I most notice about this statement of Pagitt's is that he gives no source for such an opinion. There is no footnote, he does not refer to any commentaries or any other thing. He refers to "rabbinic tradition", but does not tell us where he gets such a claim. I find such silence telling.

Here is another example of such a thing, and of someone wondering where the emergent 'interpreter' got his take on a passage. This one is about McLaren's statements in "Everything Must Change", where he tries to say that the Revelation 19 prophecy about Jesus' return, a prophecy filled with imagery of judgment and violence, is actually about some kind of pacifistic non-violent non-judgmental thing probably having to do with Jesus' first coming. Here is what some asked about McLaren's claims.
Now this is more than ironic because one can find numerous commentaries by people who are experts in apocalyptic literature and they do not deny the theme of what McLaren has pejoratively dubbed 'the jihadist Jesus'. I, for one, would be interested in knowing if McLaren has found any seasoned commentators who so reverse Revelation 19 so that it is a peaceful non-violent second coming.

I think that's a fair question to ask, both of McLaren, and of Pagitt in what he's saying. If he has sources, where are they? He uses footnotes several times in the book, why is this passage without any support?

The early Christians saw heaven not as a place we go to but as a reality that comes to us. They talked about redemption and healing coming through God's creation, not apart from it.
p. 229

Now, is this true? Did Jesus and the early Christians not think of Heaven as another place?

(And is it an accident that Pagitt's book doesn't capitalize Heaven or Hell in some of those passages I referred to? I haven't capitalized them in his quotes because his book doesn't have them capitalized. I can't help but think that such a thing is not accidental.)

What about Jesus' account of the rich man and Lazarus the beggar? Was that only a story? Was it not telling us anything about what happened to those two men after their physical life ended?

What about the words Jesus said to the thief who was being crucified beside Him? Was the promise of being that day in Paradise with Him an empty promise? Was there no Paradise for them to go to? The man was dying, one may say as good as dead, it being only a matter of hours. When he asked for Jesus to remember him when He comes into His kingdom, one may safely think that he wasn't thinking of some kind of far-off earthly reality.

What about Jesus' statement in Matthew 7

21. Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
22. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?'
23. And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'

Quite a bit said here. There is certainly an element of judgment here, one may think as well that such things take place some time after physical life has ended. There is as well Jesus rejecting people, telling them to depart from Him, something Pagitt's holism cannot allow.

But here the kingdom of Heaven is obviously something not of this world.

What about in Acts, when Steven is about to be martyred, and he has the vision, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!", Acts 7:56

What about II Corinthians 12, where Paul tells us about a man, perhaps himself or someone else, "such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter."

Pagitt's holism has already been shown to be questionable, and it is so here, too.

In his book "Christian Beliefs", Wayne Grudem points out some places in the New Testament where there is support for the ideas of separation.

II Corinthians 5
1. For we know that if our earthyly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2. For this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitations which is from heaven,
3. If indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.
4. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.
5. Now he who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us his Spirit as a guarantee.
6. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.
7. For we walk by faith, not by sight.
8. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Philippians 1
21. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.
23. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be Christ, which is far better.
24. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.
25. And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith.
26. that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

How very different this is from Pagitt's claims. How does he explain this away, by claiming "Hellenization" and that Paul is introducing Greek dualism here? That Paul didn't really believe any of that stuff about being separate from the body and being present with the Lord? Is he going to say that Paul is not speaking truth, that it's some kind of culturally acceptable lie he's saying in order to make thing palatable for those Greek-thinking people in Corinth and Philippi?

So much in the Bible refutes almost everything Pagitt teaches in this book. So many, perhaps all, of the dualisms Pagitt wants to do away with are in the Bible, and even supported by Christ--Heaven and Hell, body and soul, material and spiritual. For Paul, this body is a tent, a dwelling but not a permanent one, and instead of this life being the end of it all, we actually are not at home here, but long to be at home with our Lord.

I'm actually rather embarrassed that I had to reference another book to find these passages. I knew about them, though, and had been taught this, but did need a refresher.

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