Vintage Jesus Impact

I dialogued with a fellow a couple of weeks ago about Vintage Jesus. He had very mixed response. After our dialogue he was much more positive, but still pretty dismayed with the "hipness" and such. I affirmed the legitimacy of his his opinion while noting that it was aimed at people for whom this was their native language.

This morning, I get this email from him (I’ve edited it slightly to remove some identifying details):

I had to share a quick story with you about VINTAGE JESUS.  As you may recall, my major criticism of the book was its "hippness."  My fiance is getting her MDiv from a liberal school.  She is a smart girl and radiates the love of Christ to folks.  She’ll make a great pastor, but she’s not theologically inclined at all.  She’ll text me in the middle of class saying stuff like "My prof says Adam and Eve didn’t exist and Genesis is just a Sumerian story that was retold with different characters" or "The prof is saying that Jesus didn’t even exist as a person" or "Did you know that Paul was gay and that was his thorn in the flesh."   She’ll then ask me what’s true.  I really try and communicate good and sound biblical theology to her, but often times she doesn’t get it.  I even started my blog with her in mind.

Well, I sent her my copy of VINTAGE JESUS.  She read it over the weekend and loved it.  What she loved the most was the hippness of the book.  In her words: "It cracked me up and was entertaining."  She learned lots of theological truths that I had tried to communicate to her in the past.  She’s got a new Bible study starting this fall and just emailed all 12 ladies telling them that the pre-req is to read VINTAGE JESUS.

So, who knows if my criticism is even valid.  You touched her and at least 12 other women with the book’s hipness.  Keep up the great work!

I laughed aloud for joy. This story came from a very different direction than I’d expected. M.Div. students at liberal seminaries aren’t what I was thinking about, but I’m certainly glad for it~

Haddon 7 One fun development is that after almost eight years of being a grandfather, I’m about to become a great grandfather. You can see the portrait of Gelayol, our very pregnant Persian granddaughter, and her husband, Brian. She’s due Sept. 20. We eagerly await the word if the next generation will be girl or boy.

The last couple weeks have been unexpectedly packed. We are doing our American Theological Schools accreditation report. I turned my section on the MAET program in on the due date, a Monday in mid-August, with great relief. On Wednesday Randy Roberts, the president, came by my office and asked me a strange question that left me wondering. So I went to his office to inquire further. It turned out I’d missed the small fact that a whole chapter had been assigned to me. There was an email that announced that and I totally missed it. So now, two days late, with no thought or research, I’m supposed to write a whole chapter. Panic!

I gathered data, looked at materials, tried to think in terms of teaching, learning and scholarship at Western (the chapter topics), and began to draft. Then I went to Fort Worth for the Evangelical Theological Society executive committee meeting and spent three days with my sister an brother in law in Dallas, a true vacation. . . . except that I spent three or four hours each morning doing the chapter! But I got it done and the whole report is finished.

This is a part of what has made this a challenging month emotionally. I’m working with two marriages that are going very badly and that troubles me deeply. I feel very helpless to make things go in the right direction. Similar helplessness around missing SF is super hard. There are leadership challenges in consultations with two churches I care a lot about that are taxing my energy. Driving Hood to Coast again was great though tiring. I stood in Dave Wenzel’s mother’s yard in the middle of the night wanting so much to make the impossible long distance phone call. Happily Sherry was a Race volunteer, monitoring a turn of the race in downtown Portland. It was super to hear her giggling with her friend at 3 am! Did I mention that book 4, Doctrine: What the Church Should Believe has to to into high writing gear immediately? Not fun anticipation. I get to teach my first class at Corban on Labor Day, a mixed blessing. And I preach on prayer this weekend at Grace.

The Shack Discussion

I’m really thankful for the comments on the prior post. The Shack and Paul are raising the question of what is the LORD like in powerful ways. As long as it goes back to Bible, rather than what I’m comfortable with, I’m happy. But even when we go to the Bible we tend to see and return to what we are comfortable with, I’m finding. Weird how we do that.

Now to the excellent comments: Terrance wonders if The Shack will be read in fifty years. My guess is that it won’t. But the verdict of history could be in now! But whatever the long term impact, the immediate impact is huge. It is being read by millions now. The assessment needs to be done wisely and biblically.

I also remember Charles Sheldon’s book, What Would Jesus Do? which was written as standard liberal social gospel trash which emerged into real popularity in young evangelicals who put the "missional" writing back into the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then it became a national joke. So it’s hard to predict the future of a book. I wonder that about Vintage Jesus (shorter life) and Death by Love (longer life).  Thinking of no one reading the books I work on makes me all the more committed to not writing! But I’m working on Doctrine: What the Church Should Believe now.

Terrance and Cal are right on when we question the balance between otherness and closeness. That’s exactly where the rub comes. Most in my camp (Reformed Evangelical more or less) tend to otherness. They also go toward holy justice and wrath as key attributes and see grace and love in the setting aside of His righteous anger rather than a genuine compassion and desire to come alongside and help. Exodus 34:6-7 is the best balance I know.

Mike and I agree: Really seeing God is a relatively rare thing for Abraham, Moses, Isaiah and such folk. It’s virtually a never thing for ordinary people. Even David never saw the LORD. At least it’s not mentioned in the Scriptural account if He did. It is a commentary on our self centeredness that I want to see God RIGHT NOW!

But there’s a sense of His reality that comes through the Spirit and through the body. It can go a bit nuts, but it can also be quenched by sin or lack of pursuit. I think of intimacy in marriage as a similar concept.

Glenn, when I heard Mark’s criticism of The Shack, I suspected that he’d followed his on advice and not read the book. I can’t for the life of me see how anyone could accuse Paul of teaching goddess theology in The Shack. The issue of authority relation in the eternal Trinity is a big debate in the books, blogs, and in Evangelical Theological Society I’m doing a paper on that topic in November. I’ll argue there’s not enough biblical data to decide if the Son was submitted to the Father in eternity. The early church went that way as they developed the fourth century creeds of course.

Bottom line: Exodus 34:6-7. The most quoted verse in the Bible by the Bible.

Osborne And a historical note: Sherry is doing a scrapbooking day with Bonnie Holland tomorrow. She’s going through old pictures to do a brief family history. We’ve been laughing over lots of things. This was 27years ago, my first computer. 64k memory (kilo, not mega or giga!) was huge. TWO floppy disk drives with 92k-bytes each. CPM operating system and Wordstar. It was wonderful. I did most of my dissertation on this machine. But I’m really glad it’s gone now, replaced by my new "little guy" that has far more power of the huge IBM 360 that was in the basement of Milliken Hall in those days.

Also you see my coke bottle glasses. I’m totally thankful for Lasik surgery that means no corrective lenses of any kind for me now.