Category Archives: Books

On Constantinian Sacralism in the Modern Church

From Dave Black Online:

Thanks so much, Eric, for raising again the perennial question about the Reformers’ insistence on maintaining medieval ecclesiology. I attribute today’s neo-sacralism directly to the Reformers and their faulty theology of the church, against which the Anabaptists inveighed. Under the tutelage of such sacralism church leaders today continue to accommodate biblical Christianity to the Constantinian distortion. Not least is this seen in the return to medieval theology in which “the Son of Man goes forth to war, a kingdom to subdue.” I continue to maintain that the Anabaptists were not indebted to the Reformers, were indeed not even a part of them. I spend a whole chapter in The Jesus Paradigm on this subject mostly because missions cannot thrive in a climate of sacralism. The Anabaptists were oblivious to national borders, and so am I. The New Testament plainly teaches that every Christian is a fulltime minister of the Lord Jesus Christ, a missionary even, and that every true believer will experience something of the cross. To this day there is a hesitation, even on the part of Christians who plainly acknowledge a debt to the Anabaptists, to import biblical ecclesiology into their churches. I say shame on us. We should know better.

(Dr. David Alan Black is the author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm and Christian Archy.  This extract from his blog is used by permission.)

Last Day for Blogging/Essay Contest Submissions

Today is the last day to submit your entry for our blogging/essay contest.  Entries will be accepted up to midnight eastern time tonight, based on the sent date/time from your e-mail.  If you are posting on your blog, please make sure to e-mail us as well at the same time.

Links and/or entries will be posted here tomorrow, and the judges will begin their work.  We will be including one additional prize which was not announced (no changes to the awarding of the original prizes), and will announce that tomorrow as well.

Blogging/Essay Contest – 21st Century Church

Energion Publications will host a blogging/essay contest.  Entries are open immediately and will close November 2, 2009 when Dr. David Alan Black’s new book Christian Archy is released.  Judging will take place during the first week of November, and winners will be announced by November 16.

To enter, simply write an essay in answer to the question: What should a congregation following Jesus Christ in ministry look like?

If you are a blogger, post the essay on your blog and link back to this post, then also e-mail pubs@energion.com just to make sure.  We will add your post to the list of those participating.  If you are not a blogger, e-mail your essay in either Word document or Open Document Text (OpenOffice) format to pubs@energion.com and indicate in the e-mail that you are entering the 21st century church contest.

Entries will be judged in the following areas, with each area receiving a score of from one to ten:

  1. Biblically rooted
  2. Historically aware
  3. Complete
  4. Clear and Concise
  5. Overall impression, including appearance, discussion generated, and anything one of the judges wants to include

Note that 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 may conflict in the approach of some people.  That is why there will be three judges, who come from different theological traditions:

Alan Knox (The Assembling of the Church), a doctoral candidate at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Geoffrey Lentz (GeoffreyLentz.com), associate pastor of First United Methodist Church in Pensacola, FL, doctoral student at Drew University, and author of The Gospel According to Saint Luke: A Participatory Study Guide.

Elgin Hushbeck, Jr., author of Evidence for the Bible, Christianity and Secularism, and Preserving Democracy, (all from Energion Publications), and owner of Aletheia Consulting, Inc.  Elgin is a member of a Christian Reformed congregation.

Each judge will rate the entries independently.  One of our copy editors will also rate the essays, but that rating will only be used to break a tie.  Judges will not consider whether or not you use or quote from Energion Publications products or web sites in your post.

The prizes are:

First prize – Free copy of The Jesus Paradigm + two other Energion Publications books, with a $25 gift card for Barnes & Noble

Second prize – Free copy of The Jesus Paradigm + one other Energion Publications book, with a $15 gift card for Barnes & Noble

Third prize – Free copy of The Jesus Paradigm with a $10 gift card for Barnes & Noble

(If you have previously received and reviewed a copy of The Jesus Paradigm you may choose any other book in our catalog as an alternative.)

All other participants get the joy of participating in the discussion, and hopefully a fair amount of link love.  All posts regarding this contest will be cross-posted to JesusParadigm.com, and you can comment/link there to enter as well.  Feel free to participate in the discussion even if you don’t want to enter the contest.

Note: All prizes will be awarded.  Prize winners have no obligation to Energion Publications other than the necessary steps to enter the contest.  Judges will be instructed to disregard use or non-use of Energion Publications books and web sites in judging the entries.

Would Jesus Have Written a Book?

Dave Black discusses this in a new article on Dave Black Online.  He starts:

This was a question I pondered recently. Of course, the query is utterly pretentious. I just as well might have asked, “Would Jesus have used Twitter?” The question is an anachronism because it removes Jesus from His historical context.

Still, I wonder. Writing a book is perhaps the ultimate act of hubris. By writing a book one must assume that she or he has something vitally important to say to others. And the publisher, in making the author’s words available to a broader audience, is complicit in this arrogant act.

Read the whole article.

As publisher and thus complicit person, this is a worthwhile thing to think about.

Dave Black on Announcing the Reign of God

The following post is entirely extracted from Dave Black Online and used with permission:

I know, I know. I’ve been talking a lot about discipleship, but it’s what my mind is firmly affixed to these days. (My therapist tells me I may never recover….) I took the past couple of days to read a book that was mentioned in the comments section of Geoffrey Lentz’s review of The Jesus Paradigm. I had never had the opportunity to read Mortimer Arias’s Announcing the Reign of God before.

Of course, this is a book we conservative, Bible-believing, inerrantist, non-liberation-theology evangelicals aren’t supposed to read. All the more reason for doing so. I honestly was pressed on points I needed to think deeply about. What surprised me the most was how I agreed passionately with the author, even though he and I come from completely different theological backgrounds. There are 5 things I’d like to list that summarize what he is saying in this book:

1) The Gospel is the Gospel of the kingdom, the kingdom that Jesus introduced.

2) This kingdom-of-God emphasis has practically disappeared from evangelical preaching. It’s been replaced by an emphasis upon individualized salvation and identification with the organization of the church. The kingdom of God as the focal point of the Christian life has virtually been absent.

3) The kingdom of God, as preached by Jesus, embraces all the dimensions of human life: the spiritual, the physical, the intellectual, the societal, and the social. The kingdom cannot be reduced to an inner religious experience on the one hand or an ecclesiastical organization on the other.

4) Kingdom evangelization is Christ-centered evangelization. He is both the evangel and the evangelizer. He is the center and content of the Gospel and embodies the Good News in His words and deeds.

5) Because Jesus’ evangelization was kingdom evangelization, so was His disciples’. Their message was, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 10:9). To proclaim the kingdom of God was to call people to follow Jesus without looking back. Therefore, just as Jesus taught, preached, and healed, so His disciples in the church are to do the same.

I make many of these same points in The Jesus Paradigm. Jesus invented discipleship. He modeled discipleship. He taught discipleship. And He commanded discipleship — not decision-making! And His command was a command to be engaged in kingdom evangelization. The kingdom of God is a multidimensional reign that has to do with the totality of life. It involves much more than a belief system. It means following Christ on the way of the kingdom, and this way is a downward path involving not only verbal proclamation but also incarnating the Gospel in the lives of people. It is, as Bonhoeffer reminded us, a “costly discipleship.”

I believe that one of the most difficult challenges for evangelicals today is to test our understanding of the Great Commission against this teaching of Jesus. Our missionary activity falls short if we limit ourselves to calling for personal faith in Christ without pointing to the requirements of the kingdom. Yes, we can always escape to a convenient “altar call” and “pledge card” mentality and call it evangelization, but this is not the total message of the Scriptures and the vision of the all-embracing kingdom of God. I suspect the devil loves it when we preach a Gospel without discipleship, as is inevitable once we become preoccupied with “getting people saved.” Following Christ means following Him in costly discipleship or it means nothing at all. This is the conclusion Eduard Schweitzer came to in his 400-page book The Good News According to Mark — that “discipleship is the only form in which faith can exist” (p. 386).

I am aware that I have brushed with broad strikes an infinitely deep subject. I just try to remember that my job is not just to talk about discipleship but to live it out by mimicking Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2) and doing the kingdom. Frankly, it’s obvious to me that the evangelical church is not getting the job done, especially when American Christians spend 97 percent of their income on themselves (according to George Barna). Evangelism is not primarily about techniques, training, programs, or knowing more. It’s about living out the Jesus paradigm by overflowing the life experienced in Jesus.

Announcing the Kingdom of God is a great book and a superb critique of modern American evangelicalism. I highly commend it.

Review by Arthur Sido

Link to review by Arthur Sido.

Positive comment:

All in all, this is an excellent book. Well written, accessible, challenging, reasonable for the most part. There is no higher compliment that I can give a book than to say it was challenging to me, made me want to read the Scriptures more diligently and that I marked pages and quotes liberally. This book did all three. …

Reservations:

However, no book is perfect and the big issue I had with The Jesus Paradigm had to do with the running political commentary. …

Editorial note: I would love to see some constructive engagement with this issue in comments.  A challenging book should cause us to challenge back as we seek truth. — HN

A New Testament Theology Recommended

Speaking of books, all of my valuable time this past week was taken up by reading the various New Testament theologies that are out there in preparation for my fall class on the subject. I’ve decided to require Frank Thielman’s Theology of the New Testament. Thielman is very readable and interesting, and he takes a canonical (rather than a systematic) approach. The focus on the cross is wonderful, and at 800 pages the book is a veritable mine of information. Thankfully the author refuses to be dull or boring.

Thielman, Theology of the New Testament
Thielman, Theology of the New Testament

If you’ve never read this book (or any book on New Testament theology for that matter), I strongly urge you to do so. The New Testament is so wonderful, so full of surprises, so deep and wide and profound that you can never wrap your mind around it — and that’s just for starters! Good stuff, I tell you. It’ll be a small class (yeah!), so I’ll get to treat it more like a graduate seminar than a typical class — which means high class participation.