May 6, 2013
When I heard Jonathan Martin was releasing a book I knew I had to get my hands on it and review it. Thankfully, the people at Tyndale House Publishers were gracious enough to send me a complimentary review copy of Prototype. Though I have already posted them I am including the foreword by Steven Furtick and the first chapter of Prototype, as well as the Q & A Session with Jonathan Martin, at Tyndale’s request.
I do not often read “pastoral” books, by that I mean books by popular pastors, but when I do the book is either controversial, or something I believe will actually impact my spiritual life. I have been told for years by friends and others to read this or that book by a particular popular pastor because of its impact on their life. I can not even count on my two hands how many times I was told to read Radical by David Platt, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Desiring God by John Piper, Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll, and others. This was never a surprise since I am an avid student of Christian theology, spirituality, and biblical studies. However, I never read any of them as excited as some were about them. I am sure I would agree with a good portion of what many of them say, regardless of my thoughts on some of the authors, and I am sure I somewhat already know what they are getting at, but I never found a deep urge to read what they had to say.
The same cannot be said of Jonathan Martin’s Prototype. In my prior post about Jonathan, I explained how both exciting and inspiring he and his work is, so I jumped at the opportunity to review Prototype.
Before I even talk about the content, the title by itself is reason enough to be curious about it. “Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You’re More Like Jesus Than You Think?” What I love about this is what it is not saying: “this is a book that will teach you how to be more like Jesus,” or “This is ten principles from the Bible that will improve your life,” but instead it’s saying “You are already more like Jesus than you think you are.”
Then there is the idea of Jesus as the “prototype,” the truest of humans, the first of a new humanity that we can be a part of. If you are a student of New Testament studies, this idea of Jesus as the “blue print” for a new humanity is not new, but Jonathan Martin has put a twist on it that includes not just doing what Jesus did and taught, but seeing how much we are like Jesus already.
In the first chapter, Jonathan tells a story about how when he was younger he used to ride around in a circle on his bike over and over again making up stories, traveling in time and to distant worlds all in his imagination, and years later he discovered that is the place he felt God the most, without necessarily “knowing” it was God or having a familiar spiritual experience. There was a sense of creativity and wonder that came on his bike ride that was not realized anywhere else. When I was reading the first chapter I found myself in a university café, crying as I read these words,
We have more than enough reasons to settle for being older and wiser and weathered and seasoned and smarter—reasons to know better. But isn’t there something truthful about those experiences that you can’t quite shake? What if when you were younger and less encumbered by the expectations and identities that have been assigned to you by so many other voices, you understood the deeper things about life and God and the world than you do now? Wouldn’t that be worth going back for?…That sense of being known and delighted in stalks human beings the world over, even when we do everything in our power to act as if we do not know love (14-15).
For me, my “boy on the bike experience” was found when I would play video games with incredible stories and afterward would take the stories in a new direction in my mind. I would place myself in the story, I would make myself look differently, I would add new characters, and of course I would go out back with a sword (pole) in hand, and fight evil (imaginary enemies and physical trees) in the name of love, justice, and perseverance. When I grew older and looked back on those experiences they seemed silly—little immature me swinging a pole around, talking to myself as the neighbors could see me in full view, but I did not care, I loved the creativity that seemed to pour effortlessly out of me. Now when I think about it, maybe that was the place where I felt God the most without even realizing.
Jesus was so sure of his identity, as the beloved Son of God, he was always aware of the Father’s presence, and he never needed assurance from others. We seek so much assurance about who we were, what our talents are, and what we should do with our lives that we forget we are truly loved by God.
Now, the great thing is Jonathan does not leave it at that. He is fully aware that life takes us in directions we never foresaw, which is why the third chapter is titled “obscurity.” He speaks of the wilderness experience many of us are so familiar with, we seem so distant from God and so close to the words of the enemy, but Jesus himself had that same experience in the wilderness. The wilderness is not a bad thing, though that is how perceive it, it is the place where God takes us to face ourselves and find out who we really are, “Obscurity is not punishment. The wilderness is the place where our identity is solidified. The wilderness has its perils, to be sure; yet in a sense there is no safer place. In the wilderness we find out who we really are. We find out what we’re afraid of. We find out who our enemies are…It is a remarkable thing to simultaneously have our brokenness and belovedness revealed in equal measure” (61-63).
The wilderness leads us to our calling out into the world. Mostly, this is subversive work that undermines the systems of the world and the enemy. Jonathan puts it well, “We are called to bring the future acceptance of God’s good and imminent reign back into the world, which still operates on antiquated definitions of success and worth” (67). Another significant aspect of our calling is how terribly unfit we are for it. Jesus called together a group of young men who, by our “enlightened” standards, are sub-par at best. This is common throughout the Bible. Jonathan makes note of Moses, who was a murderer and couldn’t speak well, and David, a murderer and an adulterer. Further, when David looks to build an army, he gathered men who were in debt, disgruntled, and hardly a satisfactory kingly army, yet they are titled, comically at that, David’s “mighty men.”
Jonathan tells story after story of people in his church who are misfits, yet used by God in fantastic ways. Mostly these people have been incredibly hurt and wounded, as many of us have, but God wants to use our scars to heal the world. Instead of putting on masks and trying to show the world they can be perfect and happy like we act we are, authenticity and humanness shows we are human just like the Jesus we serve.
The path to human power and influence, then and now, has always required that we conceal our scars, cover our wounds, and overcome the power of violence with greater violence. Yet the strange story of how Jesus became King inverts that entire order—by revealing His scars, exposing His wounds, and overcoming the power of violence by allowing the violent to overcome him (94).
Using our wounds to heal the world is a part of God’s futuristic work, which began in the resurrection of Jesus. I was pleased to see that Jonathan had read and researched the resurrection as a historical event, as I have done, but did not need apologists or historians to realize what the resurrection is already doing in the world, and that it does not come without doubt (though, he notes, it comes without cynicism)
The claim is not just that the resurrection of Jesus changes people—but that His resurrection power has already changed the world. The problem, of course, is that there are so many ways in which the world is still living in protest to its deepest calling…people who live their lives in the power of the Resurrection—that is, living as people from the future—in a real sense begin to take responsibility for God in the world (129).
The resurrection is doing something real in the world, and we are signs of it. We are people of the future who are not without doubt, but “we take our fears and our doubts and our dreams, and we toss them in the general direction of Jesus to do with as He sees fit (139).
It is in community that we feel, touch, smell, and taste this future we are already a part of. We do this through the sacraments, which in the church traditions I have been a part of have mostly been ignored. We celebrate baptism, and we take communion once a quarter if we’re lucky, but we do not act in solidarity with the Church at large by diving into the depths of the sacraments. Jesus is mysteriously present in the sacraments, but also in his people who are messy, sinful, and fractured. If you haven’t realized this by now, you either have not been paying attention or you are too busy criticizing everyone outside of your bubble. There are, of course, some truly negative and unappealing parts of this messiness, but we cannot simply cut ourselves off from tradition and Church history. I really like how Jonathan puts this,
The desire to cut ourselves off from those who came before us is no virtue. Even when we are flatly, and perhaps rightly, embarrassed by the behavior or the history of our churches on some level, we still exist in continuity with them. We are forever tethered to our grandmother’s church, and this is as it should be. Our grandmother’s church has given us many good gifts. But even when it has been very wrong, it still belongs to us (191).
All this comes to a head in the last chapter “Witness.” As people of the future who have identified with Christ and have discovered we are truly loved by God, though find ourselves in a world of obscurity where we are covered in scars but somehow empowered by what the resurrection of Jesus has done in our lives and in the world, we are to be witnesses to what Jesus has done.
What the world needs now are signposts of what’s ahead, markers for the new world just around the corner. The world does not need heroes; the world does not need more messiah complexes. The world does not need Christians who want to ride in on a white horse to save the day. What the world needs are witnesses. Nothing more and nothing less. The earth needs people who can bear witness to the ways in which the world has already changed through the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (197).
All in all, I was very impressed and touched by this book and would HIGHLY recommend it. I had to stop myself from including more than I already have in this review because there is so much to say about it. There is plenty more, including a concluding “Letter to a Ravaged Bride,” which is very powerful, but I will leave that to you to read when you pick up this book and discover you are more like Jesus than you already think.
I first heard about Jonathan Martin last summer by way of several tweets of his a friend of mine had retweeted, and I was surprisingly both moved and excited by the things he had to say. As an aspiring biblical scholar I was appreciative of Jonathan’s tweets and blogs, it also made me excited to see he was a fellow Pentecostal and held a Th.M. from Duke. For those who know me, you know I rarely listen to podcasts, especially sermons, but I listened to quite a few sermons that Jonathan preached at his church, Renovatus located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Jonathan’s style was refreshing, but also “homey” for me since he was a little long-winded like any good Pentecostal preacher. The church seemed to hold a healthy nostalgia to it that I had not seen in a Pentecostal church; I have been involved in two churches for the majority of my life at this point, one was a southern Pentecostal church that was unapologetically expressive in their passionate worship including use of spiritual gifts, but they were also extremely critical of anyone who was not just like them, the other is a more modern church with charismatic elements such as expressive worship, but with a heavy emphasis on service to others. Renovatus seems to be fairly explicit about their Pentecostalism, but not in a way that demeans others, and is not so tied to a way of doing church that they have not reinvented themselves as the more modern expressions of church like the Association of Related Churches have. The church also takes communion every week, which is not common in Pentecostal churches, and emphasizes continuity with church history by doing so.
In short, I think all the things Jonathan Martin is doing at Renovatus, on the internet, and now in writing is something to be emulated and praised. He has just recently come out with his book Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You’re More like Jesus Than You Think?, which I will be posting my review of next week. Tyndale House has asked me to include a link to the foreword and first chapter of the book, as well as a Q & A session with Jonathan Martin, in my review. I wanted to go ahead and share those with you today so you can get a feel for the book before reading my review. I will include these again in the actual review.
Be on the look out for my review next week.
As my “about” section indicates, I am terribly inconsistent in my blogging habits. After beating my previous record in most views in one day, I simply put blogging in the back of my mind instead of having it consistently on my mind. For that I apologize.
I have some good news though! I am currently working through two books for review: Jonathan Martin’s Prototype and David Neville’s A Peaceable Hope: Contesting Violent Eschatology in New Testament Narratives. So those will be coming in the near future, as well as a couple treats about Prototype that Tyndale has sent me to share with you all in my review.
Also, if you have not heard, following a period of a lot of prayer and consideration I have decided to attend Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. I will be moving back home to live with my family in Douglasville, which is in the metro-Atlanta area, and will be pursuing my Master of Theological Studies degree there. I am very excited to get back into full-time schooling! I have been in love with the campus of Emory University ever since I visited it on a field trip my senior year of high school for my AP World History class, so needless to say I am ecstatic!
Well, be on the look out for those book reviews, as well as other posts I have been considering.
February 26, 2013
I seem to be “at risk” when it comes to writing too long of blog posts, especially my book reviews. With that being said I am going to do my best to summarize the contents of Roger Stronstad’s The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. If you want to know what is different about the second edition you can find that information in Part 1 and Part 2.
Stronstad begins by challenging the prevailing methodologies of his day in Lucan studies that tended to neglect Luke as a theologian in his own right who had a particular interest in the Holy Spirit. This interest is what makes Luke a “charismatic theologian” and ties the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles together as a whole unit. Stronstad’s main argument about Luke’s pneumatology is the prophetic-vocational role of the Holy Spirit found in Luke-Acts. The Spirit empowers those chosen by God for particular tasks or missions and are usually called prophets.
Luke’s pneumatology has its roots in the Old Testament, particularly the in the tradition of the Septuagint. Stronstad looks at the work of the Spirit in the prophetic ministries of Moses, Elijah and Elisha, Saul and David, and Isaiah. He also discusses the apparent cessation of prophecy addressed in some rabbinic literature in the intertestamental period, though this has been contested (see John R. Levison’s Filled with the Spirit).
The next move, naturally, is Luke’s emphasis on the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus; Stronstad calls this “the Charismatic Christ.” There is a myriad of Spirit-inspired activity in the Infancy narrative: Jesus in conceived by the Spirit, John the Baptist is said to be filled with the Spirit in the womb (marked for prophetic vocation), Elizabeth and Zechariah are said to be filled with the Spirit and prophesy, Mary prophesies, a man named Simion is said to have the Holy Spirit upon him and he prophesies, and an old widow named Anna is called a prophet.
Following in Luke 3, Jesus is baptized and the Spirit descends on him in the form of a dove, which Jesus interprets as his prophetic anointing in fulfillment of a redaction of Isaiah 61 in Luke 4 in the synagogue at Nazareth. The Spirit has empowered him to preach good news to the poor, to perform miracles, and to proclaim the kingdom of God, which he does throughout his spirit-empowered ministry throughout the gospel. After his death and resurrection, Jesus ascends into heaven with the promise of pouring out the Holy Spirit on his disciples.
This leads to the Pentecost Narrative in Acts 2. Jesus’ anointing by the Holy Spirit is used as paradigm for the baptism of the Holy Spirit experienced by the disciples at Pentecost, so we should expect they carry out a similar spirit-empowered mission throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Upon the reception of the Spirit, Peter preaches to the crowd outside and shares about the eschatological fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2 about the Holy Spirit being poured out on all flesh. From this moment on the church is empowered for mission, one that is almost identical to that of Jesus’ ministry and is empowered by the eschatological spirit. The gift of the Spirit for the purpose of mission is only given to the penitent. Stronstad uses the examples of Cornelius’s household, the Samaritan believers, and the disciples of John the Baptist at Ephesus.
For Stronstad, the uniqueness of Luke’s pneumatology in the New Testament is the emphasis on empowerment for mission. While Paul may have a more developed pneumatology that attributes the Spirit to the fullness of the Christian life, Luke brings something different to the table discussion. This, I think, has been mistakenly misunderstood to mean that Lucan and Pauline pneumatology cannot be reconciled, but I think this is incorrect. Paul and Luke both have something to say about the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers, and that of Jesus, but in order to have a more robust pneumatology we should be reminded not only how the Holy Spirit works in our lives when it comes to justification and sanctification, but also how the Spirit empowers us for the missio dei, the mission of God, to live under the reign of God and be signs of its presence in the world.
February 18, 2013
In the first part of this review I covered the changes made in the second edition from the first edition of Roger Stronstad’s The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke. Part one can be found here: Part 1. In this part I will cover the changes made in the second half of the book.
Chapter Four: The additions to chapter four can be described as refinement of argument. While the changes are not as extensive as those in chapter three, which change the whole flow of the chapter, they add some points and examples that strengthen Stronstad’s propositions.
In the section “Peter’s Pentecost Interpretation,” Stronstad analyzes five factors that characterize Peter’s interpretation of the gift of the Spirit: eschatological, prophetic, universal, attested by signs and wonders, and marks a day of salvation. The bolded factors are unique to the second edition.
Signs and wonders attest the gift of the Spirit: there was a sound of wind, tongues of fire appeared, and also that of speaking in tongues as the Spirit enabled. Of the day of salvation, the Day of the Lord, which was to be a day of judgment, was not that of Pentecost, although the Joel text may imply that in context. Instead of judgment, salvation is offered to people of all nations and three thousand are saved upon hearing the word of the Lord.
Next in the section “Peter’s Pentecost Application,” Stronstad makes two additions. First, in support of his argument that “Peter restricts the eschatological gift of the Spirit to the penitent,” he uses the examples of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who in the infancy narrative are “filled with the Spirit,” which enables them to prophesy. Before these events take place Luke notes that they are “righteous in the sight of God” (Like 1:6). He also uses the examples of the Samaritans, Corenelius’s house, and the Ephesian disciples in Acts 8:14-17; 10:44-48; 19:6) where Luke has said they are believers. In addition, Stronstad says those who interpret these narratives to mean the baptism of the Spirit is synonymous with conversion are “guilty of twisting Luke’s data for their own theological ends” (64). He points out that there are fifteen records of conversion in Acts, none of which are described as “baptism in the Spirit.” (64).
Stronstad then follows these examples with another addition to the second editioin, which is the third emphasis of Peter’s message at Pentecost. He says, “Peter announces that the last days have arrived—both the Christ and the Spirit have been operative in Israel” (64). Since this was announced to Jewish pilgrims, they should have expected to “freely participate in the promised eschatological gift of the Spirit that they had just witnessed” because they were already the people of God. However, while the gift of the Spirit is for “all human kind, Peter informs his audience that the term applies to ‘all the penitent’ not ‘all [ethnic] Israel’” (64-65).
Chapter Five: There are a few changes in chapter five, starting with a short introductory paragraph to the section “Spirit Baptisms from Samaria to Ephesus,” which speaks of the disciples as the initial fulfillment of John the Baptist’s prophecy that Jesus will baptize his followers in the Holy Spirit, making it “coextensive with the gospel” by moving from Samaria to Ephesus (72).
Stronstad then omits his section from the first edition called “The Gift of the Spirit to Saul” and includes a main section titled “A Caesarean House Church is Baptized in the Holy Spirit,” which includes the section from the first edition on Cornelius. Following this is the section on the Ephesian believers, which has been reframed in the second edition. After this, he includes yet another new section that summarizes the content of “Spirit Baptisms from Samaria to Ephesus.”
Chapter Six: As far as I could tell, there were no obvious changes or additions to chapter six. If there were any, they were minor corrections in grammar and syntax.
This concludes what is new about the text, in part three I will summarize and interact with the content.
February 14, 2013
Every Valentine’s day I think of this poem by Margaret Atwood called “Variations on the Word Love”. I remember reading it my senior year of high school in my AP Literature class. I found both its wit and depth so intriguing. I figured I would share it with you:
“This is a word we use to plug
holes with. It’s the right size for those warm
blanks in speech, for those red heart-
shaped vacancies on the page that look nothing
like real hearts. Add lace
and you can sell
it. We insert it also in the one empty
space on the printed form
that comes with no instructions. There are whole
magazines with not much in them
but the word love, you can
rub it all over your body and you
can cook with it too. How do we know
it isn’t what goes on at the cool
debaucheries of slugs under damp
pieces of cardboard? As for the weed-
seedlings nosing their tough snouts up
among the lettuces, they shout it.
Love! Love! sing the soldiers, raising
their glittering knives in salute.
Then there’s the two
of us. This word
is far too short for us, it has only
four letters, too sparse
to fill those deep bare
vacuums between the stars
that press on us with their deafness.
It’s not love we don’t wish
to fall into, but that fear.
this word is not enough but it will
have to do. It’s a single
vowel in this metallic
silence, a mouth that says
O again and again in wonder
and pain, a breath, a finger
grip on a cliffside. You can
hold on or let go.”