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Matthew Bates – “Faith” means “Allegiance” to King Jesus (EP-49)

Matthew Bates – “Faith” means “Allegiance” to King Jesus (EP-49)

This is a conversation with scholar and author Matthew Bates. We talk about a little word with a big meaning: pistis. This Greek word is often translated "faith" or "faithfulness" but we discuss how it might be better to translate it as "allegiance."

Matthew W. Bates is Associate Professor of Theology at Quincy University in Quincy, Illinois. Bates holds a Ph.D. from The University of Notre Dame in theology with a specialization is New Testament and early Christianity. His books include Salvation by Allegiance Alone (Baker Academic), The Birth of the Trinity (Oxford University Press, 2015), and The Hermeneutics of the Apostolic Proclamation (Baylor University Press, 2012). He also hosts OnScript, a popular biblical studies podcast.

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Graduation: Now What?

Graduation: Now What?

We just celebrated our college graduation on Saturday. I teach a course on spiritual formation and vocational discernment. I believe that vocational discernment [finding your calling] is at the heart of young adult spiritual formation, perhaps all spiritual formation. The Reformation was a time when there was not only reformation of church and doctrine  […]
It’s All About the Relationships: On Mutuality and Accompaniment #AllPeoplePractices

It’s All About the Relationships: On Mutuality and Accompaniment #AllPeoplePractices

Image result for fix itMany of us just want to fix it. We see brokenness, pain, and injustice in the world around us, and we want to solve it. But it doesn't take long to realize that most of the time, we can't. At UM Church for All People (C4AP), our relationships with one another is our greatest asset. It's what grows the church. It's what build trust as we provide services. It's what we're able to offer forward to our partners as they disseminate their own resources into our community. If we were just about "fixing" people, we'd never move past a transaction of assistance into deeper relationship. And it's the deeper relationship that God would have for each of us. Authentic relationships are based on mutuality and accompaniment. They're not based on one person's ability to "fix" the other. There is a certain hubris to thinking we can fix anything anyway. It is easy for those with power and privileged to think that they are in control. It can feel like we have the resources and influence to save the day. But its ultimately all in God's hands, not ours.
Image result for wonder bread
Those on the marginalize know they can't fix it. They are often confronted with stark realities of structures and systems that stack the odds against them. They know that the outcome of their hard work is not in their control. And they know how to rely on God. They also know how to accompany. They know they can't throw money at their friends' problems, so they offer what they can: accompaniment. Not a false promise of a solution, but the abiding relationship that walks through the situation together. How many times have I prayed the Lord's Prayer? "Give us this day our daily bread." But I don't believe that prayer. I think I do. But I don't. I know I work hard. I earn a paycheck. I pay for my groceries. I give me my daily bread. But on some level, we know that's foolish. It's in sitting next to siblings in Christ that pray that prayer each day without knowing where they will get their next meal that has taught me how to trust God. Which brings us to the second aspect of authentic relationship: mutuality. Mutuality is when both parties are enriched by the relationship. It's notion that everyone has something valuable to offer to others. That the Body of Christ doesn't function simply as a one way flow of service. You may have served at a soup kitchen, but have you sat at table there as well? You may pray for the poor, but have asked them to pray for you? It is good to want to help others. Our instincts of compassion and service are at the root of so much of what is good in Christianity. But without mutuality of relationship, it can be draining and people will burn out. Image result for burnoutWe often get well meaning volunteers that want to serve the community. They will do good work, dedicating their time, money, and energy to the various ministries. But after a while, some lose their fever a drift away. This is not to devalue their contribution; everything has a season. But we've found that the volunteers that come and stay, do so because they realize that they get as much out of it as they put in, if not more. They realize are being fed, even as they feed others. They learn the beauty and richness of mutuality. During worship services at C4AP, there is a time for sharing of joys and concerns. On any given morning, someone may stand up and say "My gas got cut off, and winter's coming, and I'm scared. I know you can't fix it, but will you pray with me about it?" And the very next person might get up and say "Our last kid just went off to college. We're excited for her, but now we're empty nesters and we're sad she's gone. We know you can't fix it, but will you pray with us about it?" Image result for empty nesterIt matter that these prayer get lifted up equally before God. If we aren't vulnerable with one another, we maintain the charade that we have it all together. We deny ourselves the opportunity to trust in God and to trust in one another. Indeed, if we don't solicit the mutuality of prayers from those we think we are serving, then we reveal our own bias of believing God hears our own prayers better. Is not each person a child of God? If anything, the persecuted and downtrodden may be more in tune to God's voice. We worship a God of the Oppressed, and scripture is often written from and to those on the margins. Ultimately, we will have a better understanding of who God is when we are in relationship with the folks that Jesus hung out with while he was on earth. When we read the Sermon on the Mount with those that do indeed hunger and thirst. When we celebrate Christmas with those who have wrestled unexpected teen pregnancy. When we learn about the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well with those who have been shamed and ostracized from society. When we experience Holy Week with with those that have felt what it's like to be imprisoned and to stare death in the face. And when we experience resurrection with those that have a deep understanding of what it means to have victory over death. These relationships mutuality and accompaniment are at the heart of everything we do at C4AP. Through the Free Store, we open our doors to the community and invite the sort of daily interactions necessary to build commonality. By listening to our neighbors in this setting, we launched our community development work, like our affordable housing initiative and the Healthy Eating and Living program. Indeed, every step we have taken toward an opportunity rich community has had its roots in the relationships we build with the many that enter our doors each day. Image result for mutuality mlk We live into the duality of respecting each individual’s autonomy, while offering opportunity to those that want to grow. We understand that not everyone wants to climb the economic ladders of a broken system, and also recognize that life can be better for those who are interested in creating change in their own lives. We hold in tension the idea that “God loves us just the way we are, and God is not finished with us yet.” It might sound like a contradiction, but it reflects the notion that God accompanies each one of us, offering us all the opportunity of mutuality to live into everything that we can be.
Before You Go Bashing My Generation, Please Remember These Three Things

Before You Go Bashing My Generation, Please Remember These Three Things

Over the last few years, Millennials have gotten a lot of press.  There are numerous articles written about why Millennials are the laziest, least motivated, and most narcissistic generation.  These articles suggest that Millennials are over educated, but lack the necessary job skills needed to succeed in life.  They paint Millennials as being addicted to … Continue reading →
Part 3: Katharine Graham and the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the Pressmen’s Strike

Part 3: Katharine Graham and the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the Pressmen’s Strike

Part 3: Katharine Graham and the Pentagon Papers, Watergate, and the Pressmen’s Strike Note: (Part 3 in a 3-part series on Katharine’s Graham’s memoir, Personal History. Find Part 1 here and 2 here. Page numbers refer to the Vintage Books paperback edition of 1998, not the original hardcover from Knopf.) President Kennedy’s tragic assassination occurs about halfway through […]
Challenging the Assumptions of Classical Theism

Challenging the Assumptions of Classical Theism

What came to be known as the classical view of God’s nature has shaped the common, traditional way that most people think about God. It is based in the logic borrowed, mostly unconsciously, from a major strand within Hellenistic philosophy. In sharp contrast to ancient Israelites, whose conception of God at work in this strand of ancient Greek philosophy was most fundamentally a concept that explained all that was not self-explanatory—namely, the contingent, ever-changing, limited, compound world. [...] The post Challenging the Assumptions of Classical Theism appeared first on Greg Boyd - ReKnew.
Could Heaven Exist Without Hell?

Could Heaven Exist Without Hell?

“Miss Driver, look at my hand! I was playing Bloody Knuckles.” I winced appropriately, but then inwardly ranted about the stupidity of the game, not understanding anyone who plays Bloody Knuckles or appreciates boxing. Don't get me wrong. I like a good competition and totally understand that games sometimes mean getting beaten up. But those are in games which have a goal other than “inflicting pain” --goals like getting the ball to the other side of the field or earning points. Blame my gender, personality or pacifistic convictions. Whatever. But perhaps my reaction to hurting others explains why I struggled when Herman Reitz’ SS class discussed Joshua and Judges (books in the Bible about the Israelites fighting other countries). How could the God who taught turning the other cheek and dying for one’s enemy actually promote war and killing? How did my pacifistic stance fit with this Warrior God? But Miroslav Volf’s quote echoed in my mind every single Sunday: “If God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make a final end to violence that god would not be worthy of our worship". Perhaps I was the one who had it wrong. Perhaps instead of asking how a loving God fit with this wrathful God, I should have been asking why I expected a loving, peace-desiring God to not attack evil? As Martin Luther King, Jr. declares, “To ignore evil is to become accomplice to it.” Or Edmund Burke puts it slightly differently, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Which brings me to the question, do I really want a God who doesn't confront evil? Do I want a God who isn't angry at sex trafficking, murder, or laws exploiting the poor?
We’d call someone a bad parent who ignored his child playing on the street or didn't prevent his child from a candy-only diet. A loving parent protects his child from death and sickness. Yet, when God is saddened by how sin is harming us and He longs to protect us from the effects --well, we complain that He’s strict, harsh, hateful and in-our-business. “A loving God wouldn't require me to do that,” we say, or “A loving God will forgive me.” Yes, just like a parent will forgive his child for hitting a sibling, God longs to forgive us, but that doesn't mean a parent isn't showing love when he tells his child not to hit or doesn't want what is best for the child when he punishes the child for hitting. God longs to restore us to perfection and happiness, but He knows we won't see our need for restoration without consequences and guidelines. For perfection to happen, evil must be destroyed. I, personally, am often quiet when it comes to confrontation. If a friend is in a harmful relationship, I think, “I don't know the whole situation.” If an acquaintance is making stupid choices about his money, I say, “Well, it's none of my business.” If a coworker is deceiving his students, I argue, “I shouldn't impose my standards on him.” In one such situation, I kept my mouth shut about my disagreement with a friend’s decision. But later I realized that if he had been my sibling there is no way I could have remained quiet! I would have pleaded with him, cried for him and prayed that God would change him. The difference between the friend and the sibling? Love. The more I love a person, the more I am going to speak into his life. Similarly, God’s love for us means that He pleads for us not to sin, and He longs to cleanse the sin in our lives. He speaks into our lives --not because He hates us-- but because He loves us. Thus, a loving God requires that there be a hell. A God who wants His people to experience the joy and abundance of heaven will out of necessity remove those who want to continue to selfishly exploit and hate others. If governments didn't exist, then crime would be rampant. If hell didn't exist, then the biggest bully would be the winner, gaining the most comfort in this life and the life to come. If hell didn't exist, we'd know that God didn't care what happened on earth and that there was no fulfillment in pursuing Him. Joy requires sadness removed. Health means getting rid of the infection.
Love comes when selfishness flees.
Thus, a God of love must be a God of justice; our sin requires death (Jesus’ death), and heaven cannot exist without hell.
 
Work Cited:
Volf, Miroslav. Exclusion & Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996. Print.

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