Monday, March 5, 2007

So today I had an hour to spare while I was waiting for a ring to be resized so I decided to walk to the Borders which is close by. I figured that I'd spend 30-40 minutes in no other place but the front shelves that hoist up the "Borders Bestsellers."

Upon entering Borders, this was the first book I found by Terrence Real, The New Rules of Marriage.

Upon opening the book I read that two of the six chapters of the Table of Contents had something along the lines of "Are you getting what YOU want? as the chapter title.

So I decided to flip through these chapters. I didn't get very far before I came across this statement: In speaking to the reading, Real writes that our view in marriage ought to be: "what can I give you to help you give me what I want." Though to be completely honest, I wasn't shocked to read these kinds of selfish and psycho-therapeutic phrases throughout the book.

Then I moved to the other side of this shelf. My eyes immediately were drawn to this book by John Shelby Spong, Jesus for the Non Religious.

Now, according to my knowledge of the Bible, those who are "non-religious" (to use Spong's vernacular) are "those whom the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36) and "he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life" (1 John 5:12).

However, this is not what I found in the book. I found Spong giving a lengthy discourse on who Jesus really is. What he does in the book is try to describe Jesus to those who are completely ignorant as to who Jesus of Nazareth truly was.

I read chapters that were all about the miracles of Jesus being misunderstood. In Spong's words, he noted that those who take the miracles in the Gospels (and especially those performed by Jesus), are clearly misinterpreting the biblical record and are ignoring the author's purpose for writing. Not too shocking, but yet very discouraging.

Then I flipped to another chapter that was titled something along the lines of "Was Jesus really able to raise the dead?" Well, according to my Bible, yes. According to my studies and what I said yesterday in my sermon at church about Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead (cf. Mark 5:35, 42). However, Spong seemed to be dogmatic that Jesus really did not raise the dead. This girl was merely sleeping. Furthermore, Lazarus was merely recapitulated. He was not really dead.

Being completely disheartened at this point, I walked yet one shelf over (still 15 feet from the front door of Borders at the Bestsellers table) and found this work:

As a preacher, when you see a bright blue book with big white letters that unmistakably and undoubtedly tell you "What Jesus meant, you want to pick it up and read it. This book by Gary Wills simply put the climax to my discouraging afternoon at the Borders Bestsellers table after about 40 minutes.

In this work, Wills goes through many of the statements in the gospels and endeavors to say what Jesus really meant - as if what Jesus spoke in the Gospel accounts is in some way vague (does anyone else see a similarity between this and the Emerging Church movement?) So, of course (foolishly) I open the book to the Table of Contents and find some chapters to skim. Though it ended up being more than merely skimming.

Perhaps the most striking statement that I read was when Wills made the audacious claim that Jesus Christ is clearly an egalitarian. Namely, that men and women have equal rights in the Christian ministry - there is no superiority, no heiarchy, no limited rights to women; everything that a man can do, a woman can do.

So this obviously captured my attention, being an advocate of biblical counseling and "not-so-much an advocate of secular psychology and egalitarianism." Wills said that Jesus said... but then he quoted from Galatians 3:28 which says:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Wills sought to prove that clearly in this statement we see that there is NO hierarchy in the Christian life - men and women have equal rights, just as slaves and those who are free, etc. The only (and it's a big one) problem with this statement is that he pulls this verse completely and absolutely out of context. For we know that beginning in Gal 3:23 (through v.29) he speaks of those who are under the Law as being shut up under sin (v.23), but yet the Law's purpose was to ultimately lead us to Christ by showing us our own inadequacies and failings before a Holy God (v.24). Paul then speaks of how faith has come resulting in Justification by faith and thus we are no longer under this "tutor" (that is, the Law to lead us to Christ). Why? Simple because we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (v.26). So what is Paul's point? Simply to express that all those who believe - by faith - in Jesus Christ are justified before God. That's it - whether one who believes is a Jew, a Greek, a male, a female, a slave, a free man, it doesn't matter, everyone has to come to Christ the same way - by God's grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Period. That's it.

In sum, my day today was...good, until about 3:30pm. Then I walked into Borders to see what the average person in the church pew is reading. This discouraged me.
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