January 25, 2009 Commentary:
Creation, Fall & Redemption
Welcome to another edition of the White Horse Inn. Our theme, as you know this year, is "Christ in a Post-Christian Culture" and in this broadcast we're taking a look at the doctrines of creation, fall, and redemption and how they relate to our understanding of the relationship between Christians and a post-Christian culture.
The Kingdom of God is specifically defined as the reign of Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King, and its advance through the preaching of the Word, accompanied by the Holy Spirit and by the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. It's not a kingdom that derives its source from human authority nor does it depend on any worldly factor at all for its success. It's the kingdom of God that creates the people of God, not vice versa. The Kingdom comes upon us as a fog or as the wind as Jesus actually says in John 3:8, and it sweeps us into it. Or to use the analogy Jesus uses it is to be born a second time, to die to one's identity in Adam only to be raised in Jesus Christ in newness of life. So as the Spirit blows with his Word going before him through his Spirit-filled messengers, all believers, a new community is created; heaven comes to earth and the Kingdom of God spreads its shade across the nations.
The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear that the physical land and nation of Israel were not the ultimate promise, but a mere shadow of what was to be. Even after the people were led into the Promised Land, we read, "they did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them, from a distance." And they admitted they were aliens and strangers on earth. Even in the Holy Land of Israel? Yes, says the writer to the Hebrews, people who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own, but they were in their own country! Not really argues the writer to the Hebrews,. If they had been thinking about the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. Instead they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be their God for he has prepared a city for them, Hebrews 11:13-16.
This is so vital for our understanding of the kingdom of God because most Christians today tie the kingdom to a socio-political and geographical place on earth, either Jerusalem or Washington, or maybe both. "But thine is the kingdom we pray. The kingdom belongs to God, not to man, it's not the possession of any nation or people, but the gracious gift to all believers. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness says Paul and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. Therefore, we are receiving a kingdom, it is not a kingdom that we are building, but a kingdom that we are receiving, and in this broadcast we want to take a look at how that kingdom comes through the series that we find throughout Scripture of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.
Click here to see the related information for the January 25 broadcast.
January 18, 2009 Commentary:
The City of God
Hello and welcome to another broadcast of the White Horse Inn. You know it is significant that Jesus Christ never founded a college, never wrote an encyclopedia, he never held public office, he never funded a voluntary organization for transforming society and nevertheless he turned the world upside down. Same thing with the Apostle Paul he says, "I determine to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified." He said, "We preach not ourselves, but Christ." He never laid out a blueprint for transforming the culture, and nevertheless the culture was remarkably transformed in the wake of his ministry.
Jesus had taught the early Christians to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar, and unto God that which is his. Furthermore, Paul had counseled them to be obedient to their rulers, Romans 13 comes to mind, and instructed them, "make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work well with your hands just as we told you so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders, and so that you will not be dependent on anybody;" hardly a blueprint for world transformation. And yet the churches were transformative, the Christians were in fact salt and light. First of all by their witness to Christ as the Word of God spread we read throughout the book of Acts, and also as that church gathered together for the Apostle's teaching, for the Sacraments, and for prayer. As they shared their material gifts with each other so that no one was in need.
It was the victory of Constantine at the Milvian Bridge in 312 that secured a respite from persecution for the Christians as the new Emperor converted to Christianity and brought the empire with him. However, in the process Christianity became confused with the empire. The Holy Roman Empire as it came to be called. And it was in this background that one monk Aurelius Augustinus, we know him as Augustine, began penning his book The City of God. He began writing that great classic, The City of God, just after Rome had been sacked by the Goths and Vandals. When Rome was sacked, Jerome, another great Latin church father, lamented, "What will become of the church now that Rome has fallen?" Many of the Romans blamed Christianity itself. Augustine had a more paradoxical way of thinking about the relationship between Christ and culture and that is what we are going to be looking in this broadcast of the White Horse Inn.
Click here to see the related information for the January 18 broadcast.
January 11, 2009 Commentary:
Re-Thinking Christ & Culture
There is no commentary this week because of the interview with Dr. Craig Carter, author of Re-thinking Christ & Culture: A Post-Christendom Perspective.
Click here to see the related information for the January 11 broadcast.
January 4, 2009 Commentary:
Christ in a Post-Christian Culture
Hello and welcome to the first broadcast in 2009, where we are bringing to you a new series this year, "Christ in a Post-Christian Culture."
On a cold November day in 1095. Pope Urban II roused the great crowd assembled before him to take up the cause of holy war against Islam. Instead of fighting each other the people must unite against the common enemy and retake the Holy Land. "If you must have blood" he exhorted, "bathe in the blood of infidels." Substituting itself for its ascended Lord the church assimilated a civilization to that body of Christ. The church father Eusebius declared that is was from Christ and by Christ "that our divinely favored emperor Constantine receiving as it were a transcript of the divine sovereignty, direct in imitation of God himself the administration of this world's affairs." Included in this said Eusebius the emperor "subdues and chastens the open adversaries of the truth in accordance with the usages of war."
Where did Jesus go after he accomplished our redemption? The disciples themselves missed the point of Jesus' journey from Galilee to Jerusalem. He had prepared them for his departure in the Upper Room as he explained to them how his ascension to his Father meant that the Spirit would descend to dispense the gifts of his victory. Even after the resurrection when he explained how all the Scriptures pointed to his saving work, they weren't ready for his ascension, just before this momentous event they still asked, "Lord, now will you restore the kingdom to Israel?" They were still thinking about a kingdom of earthy power here and now, not a kingdom of grace and the preaching of forgiveness until Christ returns at the end of the age. As they stood gazing at the ascending Lord the disciples were told by two angels , "men of Galilee why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
Refusing to be located in the time between these two comings of Christ, the church often substitutes itself for its absent Lord and then announces prematurely that the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. We could find abundant examples on the left and the right, from Democrats and Republicans, ever since our nation's founding. Furthermore, such confusion and Christ and empire is simply an extension as that entity known as Christendom. Just compare the pomp and circumstance with which Memorial Day and Independence Day are celebrated in churches across America with the relative obscurity of Ascension Day and the relevance of this legacy becomes obvious.
Focusing on the challenges of secularism and Islam, Evangelicals and Roman Catholics increasing congeal around the salvaging of a Judeo-Christian culture. In a Time article on the relation of Pope Benedict and Islam, conservative Catholic scholar Michael Novak explained concerning the pontiff, "His role is to represent Western Civilization." Last year our theme was "Christless Christianity". Essentially to the extent to which American Religion is Christless it is certainly post-Christian! A lot of conservative Christians will agree that we are living in a post-Christian culture. Some want to re-Christianize it in various ways others are given to hand-wringing over the collapse of Christendom, but if the argument we made last year is about right, namely, that Christless Christianity increasingly characterizes our churches across the theological spectrum then we can't really lay the blame at the feet of secular humanists out there. Nearly fifty years ago in an interview with Billy Graham's decision magazine, C.S. Lewis was asked if he thought there was a de-Christianizing of Western culture, and Lewis replied, "I'm not qualified to speak of the de-Christianizing of the culture, but I am terribly concerned about the de-Christianizing of the church."
But now, in 2009 we turn to the constructive part of our task. How do we engage in faithful witness to Christ in a post-Christian culture? Where do we begin with our co-workers, our fellow students and professors at college, our neighbors, and even family members whose knowledge of the Christian faith is mediated largely by what they see on TV and other distortions and caricatures that they encounter on the ground. There was a time when evangelism could at least assume a superficial awareness of basic Christian teachings, but that era has past. Is that a tragedy or is it actually a tremendous opportunity for genuine witness to Christ? That is going to be the broad topic that we are going to be covering throughout this whole year and we are going to introduce that topic in this discussion.
Click here to see the related information for the January 4 broadcast.