Monday, January 15, 2018

Jesus Is Jacob's Ladder

Today in morning worship, the pastor preached on John 1.43-51. In this Passage Jesus finds Philip, Philip finds Nathanael, and then Nathanael finds Jesus. It has the oft used phrased "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" It also has a New Testament allusion to Genesis 28.12.
"And he said to him, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'” - John 1.51 
"And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!" - Genesis 28.12 
(In other news, after finishing reading through the bible cover to cover last year with my friend Joanna, this year I decided to try out a thematic reading plan where the creator of the plan tried to arrange passages together where they often deal with the same themes. Tonight's reading was Psalm 91, Genesis 28, and John 1. Some might say coincidence. The biblical among us (read: reformed) would say providence.)

In Jacob's dream, you are led to believe that the location where he had his dream is holy ground. This is suggested by the fact that it is in the midst of the land promised to Abraham, and further by the fact that Jacob builds an altar to the Lord.
"Then Jacob made a vow, saying, 'If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.'” - Genesis 28.20-22
There are three things in this vow that I want to bring up.

"If God will...give me bread". Here is Jesus in John 1 starting his ministry by gathering disciples to himself. In a few chapters he will be pushing would-be disciples away by claiming to be the bread of life, particularly the bread that fed Israel in the wilderness (John 6.48-58). If you do not eat of Christ's flesh, you will have no part of him.

"If God will...give me...clothing to wear". In both his letters to the Romans (Romans 13.14) and the Galatians (Galatians 3.27), Paul makes explicit reference to putting on Christ. This is understood metaphorically as if we were to put on clothes. If you are not clothed in Christ you have no part of him.

"If God will be with me...then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God's house". The tabernacle-temple was the house of God among his people in the Old Testament, the place where God would dwell among his people. Jesus claims to be the temple (John 2.19-21), and further Jesus is the chief cornerstone that lays the foundation for the church to become the temple (Ephesians 2.19-22). We are united to Christ and become the body of Christ. What Christ is we are. As in marriage, the two become one.

What Jesus is telling Nathanael in John 1 is that he is the greater things that would be seen. While Jacob saw a dream of angels ascending and descending between earth and heaven on a ladder, Jesus Christ is claiming to be that ladder. While Jacob associated the place where he slept with holy ground, the place where God would bring heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven, Jesus is telling Nathanael that he is the place, or more precisely the person, where God would bring heaven down to earth and earth up to heaven.

Nathanael has perceived that Jesus was the king in Psalm 2. Jesus is telling him that he is the God-man, the one in whom heaven and earth, divine and mortal, God and man, were going to be joined together. Jacob built and altar to God and asked for bread and clothing; Jesus is that altar, that bread, and that clothing. Jesus is Jacob's ladder. In Christ, the divine descend to us, and we ascend to the divine.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Books Books Books (2.0)

I read a lot this year. Less than I had hoped, but more than I've read in a long time. Like last year, my 2017 reading list is listed below. Books that I did not read are shown with strikethrough text. Underneath that is my projected list for 2018.

2017

The Road To Serfdom (FA Hayek)
Bird Box (Josh Malerman)
The Four (Peter Leithart)
Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
Messiah The Prince (JK Wall)
Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
Paul (Herman Ridderbos)
Summer Knight (Jim Butcher)
The Desire Of Nations (Oliver O’Donovan)
Abaddon’s Gate (James SA Corey)
The Sirens Of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)
Dune Messiah (Frank Herbert)
The Homebrew Industrial Revolution (Kevin Carson)
Anathem (Neal Stephenson)
*The Gift Of Death (Jacques Derrida)
The Coming Of The Third Reich (Richard Evans)
Howard’s End (EM Forster)
A Meal With Jesus (Tim Chester)
Defending The Faith (DG Hart)
Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien)
Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson)
Two Towers (JRR Tolkien)
Christification (Jordan Cooper)
**Le Morte d’Arthur (Thomas Malory)
**We Become What We Worship (Greg Beale)
Men At Arms (Terry Pratchett)
**The End Of Protestantism (Peter Leithart)
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Jim Butcher)
Mansfield Park (Jane Austen)
(Books that I read that weren't on the original list)
The Covenant Of Grace (John Murray)
Resurrection And Redemption (Richard Gaffin)
What Is The Mission Of The Church (Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert)
The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom (Andrew Abernethy)
Children of Dune (Frank Herbert)
Screwtape Letters (CS Lewis)
Pauline Eschatology (Geerhardus Vos)
Seeing Christ in All of Scripture (Westminster faculty)
The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (John Murray)
The Abolition of Man (CS Lewis)
Death Masks (Jim Butcher)
The Great Divorce (CS Lewis)
**God in our Midst (Daniel Hyde)
**Jesus and the Desert Tabernacle (JV Fesko)

**Books that I am currently in or plan on finishing before the new year.

2018

Black Experience in America:
Critical Race Theory (Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado)
Between the World and Me (Ta Nehisi Coates)
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (Frederick Douglass)
The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
The Power of Unearned Suffering (Mika Edmondson)
Two-Kingdom Theology:
Calvin's Political Theology and the Public Engagement of the Church (Matthew Tuininga)
Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms (David VanDrunen)
Kingdoms Apart: Engaging the Two Kingdoms Perspective (Ryan C McIlhenny)
The Two Kingdoms (Brad Littlejohn)
Wholly Citizens (Joel Biermann)
Fiction:
Blood Rites (Jim Butcher)
Dead Beat (Jim Butcher)
Way of Kings (Brandon Sanderson)
Dracula (Bram Stoker)
Perdido Street Station (China Mieville)
Feet of Clay (Terry Pratchett)
Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)
Foundation (Isaac Asimov)
God Emperor of Dune (Frank Herbert)
Heretics of Dune (Frank Herbert)
Chapterhouse: Dune (Frank Herbert)
The Return of the King (JRR Tolkien)
North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell)
A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
The Player of Games (Iain Banks)
Cibola Burn (James SA Corey)
Nemesis Games (James SA Correy)
Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut)
Aeneid (Virgil)
The Idiot (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
Interview With the Vampire (Anne Rice)
Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman)
Underground Airlines (Ben Winters)
Sunshine (Robin McKinley)
The Left Hand of Darkness (Ursula K. Le Guin)
Theology:
Against the Gods (John Currid)
The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Edward Fisher)
The Structure of Biblical Authority (Meredith Kline)
The Mystical Presence (John Williamson Nevin)
God Dwells Among Us (GK Beale)
Making Room (Christine D. Pohl)
The Coming of the Kingdom (Herman Ridderbos)
Perspectives on Pentecost (Richard Gaffin)
The Desire Of Nations (Oliver O’Donovan)
Primeval Saints (James Jordan)
Assorted Non-Fiction:
Hillbilly Elegy (JD Vance)
Homebrew Industrial Revolution (Kevin Carson)
Evicted (Matthew Desmond)
Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell)
The Big Short (Michael Lewis)
Damning Words (DG Hart)

Every year that I have had a reading list now (4 in a row), I have made the list more ambitious. For 2018 I have 52 books listed, an average of one a week. The reason is that I am going to be pushing 40 books this year and I had at least 2 months of very little reading. I can do better. Swing for the fence and maybe you'll get a triple, probably a single of a double, but maybe a triple; certainly no home run though because you're not that good. At least that is what I always say.

One of the things that I haven't done with my reading list thus far is to have a concentrated area of reading. That is why one of the main differences with my plan for next year is that I picked two topics that I wanted to focus in on and then read a number of different books on each topic. I picked the black experience in America and two-kingdom theology.

I chose 6 books for the black experience in America. Because I have heard the term used by advocates and critics, and only have a vague idea of what it is but have never thought deeply about it, I chose a book on Critical Race Theory. In addition to that I chose a well known book from the Harlem Renaissance for a perspective on African American arts. I also chose a book from a former slave, a book by a civil rights activist in the 60s, and a book by a civil rights journalist in the modern, post-Ferguson era. Finally I chose a book written by a black Orthodox Presbyterian pastor on MLK Jr. The goal was to have some breadth of reading and to help me think more empathetically. In short, listen to experiences of others that I will never have myself and assume that they're being honest about their experiences and how they perceive the world. In other words, treat my black neighbor how I would like to be treated.

I chose 5 books of two-kingdom theology, all from different perspectives. One from David VanDrunen's project, representing to a degree the Escondido school of thought. Another short book from a classically reformed view. A third book that I chose was the doctoral thesis on Calvin's view of the two-kingdoms from a former student of VanDrunen. This book I view as very valuable since it is a critic of the Escondido school of thought, but from one who has a level of familiarity and respect that I think is missing in a lot of other views. The fourth book I have is a neo-calvinist critique of two-kingdom theology. Finally I have a book on the two-kingdoms from a Lutheran. I have my own bias toward VanDrunen, but I wanted to read broadly on this topic as well. Learn to be fair and charitable with criticisms and alternative views.

Last year I opened up my reading list to have democratic influence to mixed results. I finally gave myself permission to give up on a book (Furiously Happy) and I choked through a few others that I didn't really like (Frankenstein and Anathem). But with Bird Box and Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children, there were some gems as well. This year I added a few books due to recommendations as well, and I elected to give Neal Stephenson (author of Anathem) another chance because I want to like him. Two years ago I read Dune, this last year I read books 2 and 3 in the first trilogy, but next year I'm planning on reading the entire second trilogy. I absolutely love the world, and hopefully by 2019 I will be starting the process of rereading Dune once I have read the 6 Dune books. I am aware books 4-6 get really weird and a lot of fans of the first three never finish them. I am still hopeful.

Finally my favorites. Lets say I'll limit it to a top 5 (in no particular order). Dune Messiah. The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom. The Pauline Eschatology. The Aeronaut’s Windlass. We Become What We Worship. The Pauline Eschatology was one of the most challenging books I have read, but it was so rewarding (and I know I have only scratched the surface finding the gems within). The Aeronaut's Windlass was one of the easiest books I read. I wasn't sure if I'd like it because it is a steampunk story but I absolutely loved it, and it may have turned me onto steampunk (there is a steampunk book on next years list and now I am exploring steampunk bands...please send help). And finally, Dune is just my favorite world to date...challenged only by the world of the Dresden Files. Here's to hoping 2018 is an even better, more disciplined and productive, book year.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Breathe

Breathe 
by: J Edward Knox

- - - - - -

Breathe in, breathe out
Release your fears, release your doubt
Breathe out, breathe in
Prepare to start over again

Monday, May 8, 2017

Massah-Meribah And The Judgment Of God

The events that transpired at Massah and Meribah have fascinated me for years. While as a child I received the story on it's most surface level, that God was giving his people water so that they didn't die of thirst in the desert, a few considerations from men that I deeply respect have brought this passage to life for me in profound ways. Edmund Clowney helped me understand that what was going on in both of these texts is actually cosmic treason where God is on trial. My pastor helped me understand that this passage has profound implications for how God deals with his people. It is best at this point to have both of the events before us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Tale Of Two Trees

Reading through the law, there are a number of things that point to Christ and his work. As I have been going through a the scriptures cover to cover with a friend, a few things have jumped out to me in new ways. Two pieces of the law, both involving a tree, foreshadow not just Christ and his work but also point specifically to the cross itself and what is accomplished at the crucifixion. One of these passages is in Exodus 15, the other is from Deuteronomy 21.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sabbath: Creation And Redemption

Reading through the Pentateuch again has been helpful. I have been seeing a number of things in a new light. One of those things, something I knew was there but never really thought through, is the two explanations for the Sabbath. While the substance of the Decalogue is the same in both Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5, there are different explanations given for certain commandments. The explanations given for the fourth commandment in each account a
re the most different:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Sinai: Sabbath And New Creation

"Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights." - Exodus 24.15-18
As I have been reading through the Bible this year from beginning to end, certain passages are starting to jump out at me. This passage in particular made my inner biblical theological geek sing full-throated praise. What is being literally described is spectacular enough, but looking through the lens of redemptive history, this passage seems to explode. Two themes jumped off the page at me: Sabbath and new creation.