Back to the future

Leave a comment

Sometime in the next month or so, I will be giving birth to our first child, a son. It’s uncertain when this will happen, and we have to be ready at any moment. No matter how much we plan, anything could happen on the day. There are a lot of unknowns about the whole situation, a fact which undermines my fierce planning instincts, heavily influenced by our hyper-organised, “fail to plan, plan to fail” culture.

But I still have faith that the event will occur, and that the result will be a healthy baby and the enlargement of our family. I have faith that this will be our future.

Many people in today’s society claim it is possible to live without a faith, and some go even further and argue that people who follow religions are irrational because they believe in things that no one can see.

But there is one thing that everyone believes in, but cannot see – that’s the future. We all believe it will happen, don’t we? And most of us have a fairly complete picture of what it will look like. Western culture is particularly future-oriented, but even non-Western cultures that have a cyclical view of time still believe that history will carry on and that what we do now has consequences for the future. We study, work, save, try to stay healthy, and even bear children to ensure our futures are secure.

As Christians, we look back in time to see our future, which goes beyond the present life. We look at the acts of Christ two millennia ago – his birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension. And we can do this because of the promises we find in the Bible and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.”

– 2 Corinthians 5:4- 7

Easter is a good time to reflect on the promises of God which were made in ancient times, and which carry on for today and for a time that we do not yet see. Christ came once before, but he is surely coming again, and we will live with him. That’s a future we can put our faith in.

This article originally appeared in themedianet.org 

Advertisements

Bite-size reviews of Think and Generous Justice

2 Comments

Generous Justice: How God’s grace makes us just

New York pastor Tim Keller tries to address a wide range of audiences in his latest book, Generous Justice – suspicious orthodox Christians, passionate younger evangelicals, agnostics. To all he tries to make the case that the Bible is devoted to promoting justice and therefore is a key part of the Christian faith.

At points in the book Keller is too ambitious in trying to address all the concerns of these audiences. But upon finishing the book it would be hard for any reader to not be convinced of God’s concern for the poor as laid out in the Bible, and his commands for his followers to live Christ-like, sacrificial lives for those less fortunate.

Think: The life of the mind and the love of God

In Think John Piper sets out to “help Christians think about thinking”.  Piper successfully ties together thinking earnestly about God and treasuring and loving him, arguing that the mind and the heart are inextricably linked when it comes to worship, studying the Bible and how we treat others.

However, Piper has a tendency throughout the book to get caught up in stale agendas and arguments to combat what he sees as the rise of relativism both within Christianity and society in general. He thus devotes two entire chapters to the subject of relativism, which could have been better used to write positively about the rise of scholarship within the Christian community in the past few decades.

Next up: A more thorough review of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas.

Submission: to let him win…you over

4 Comments

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”false” link=”term=apology&iid=38972″ src=”0037/9126f29f-54f1-43b8-a5db-1eea42e71cf1.jpg?adImageId=10588741&imageId=38972″ width=”380″ height=”284″ /]
There’s been a right storm a-brewin’ here over the comments of one Anglican vicar on the topic of submission within marriage. As an aside I think it’s a classic case of a sermon preached into the context of a church community not translating well into the equality-at-all-costs media. As a result I don’t feel I have the full picture of what happened. But it has got me thinking about what submission actually is, particularly within the context of a marriage, and in light of Christ’s relationship with the church and how that is depicted in the Bible.

Ephesians 5:24-25: Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

This is often the verse people refer to when they talk about submission. Notably, in v. 21 Paul tells the Ephesians to submit to  one another out of reverence to Christ. He takes a similar tact in 1 Corinthians in the context of gender roles and head coverings when he says “all things are from God.” It should go without saying that any conversation about the roles of husbands and wives within marriage should be set in this context.

It got me thinking, though – what kind of role does Christ have in relationship to the church, and vice versa? And it’s also worth thinking about God’s relationship to ancient Israel as depicted in the Old Testament. And then, what about Song of Solomon? How does the husband treat his wife in that book, and how does she respond? Shouldn’t these emotionally-charged, expressive, poetic depictions of relationships inform our systematic theology about submission and love just as much as Paul’s instructions to the early church?

The Old Testament is full of the imagery of God being “married” to his people Israel. He is constantly trying to woo them back to him when they have turned away or are not listening to him. Jeremiah 3:14 “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband.” (Interestingly the ESV translates husband as “master” and the KJV translates it as “married unto you.”) In Song of Solomon the bride appears to have a dream where she fears her husband has abandoned her. He then returns to win her back but she doesn’t answer the door. When she finally does he isn’t there, but he’s left a gift of myrrh for her and she is crushed with regret. The whole book is about the bridegroom wooing the bride and the back and forth of praises between them. Then in Christ we find the ultimate bridegroom who calls on the church to respond to the Father, and to be forever united with him. Christ tells the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The church is called to submit to Christ by listening to him first of all, just like Israel had to listen to God and the bride in Song of Solomon had to open that door.

So perhaps one aspect of submission for a wife is to allow her husband to win her over, to persuade her back to him. I don’t necessarily mean sitting down and having a reasoned discussion about a decision you need to make as a couple. If a marriage is functioning even at a most basic level, the truth is that you are constantly sharing and shaping each other’s opinions every day, and you become less and less two independent individuals and more and more one entity. I’m merely talking about a continually wooing back into a loving, whole relationship where you not only travel in the same direction but you travel together, as one flesh. And the role of the husband is to allow this process to happen, to use persuasion and service to his wife rather than domination to win her over.

People often assume that the wooing of a man for a woman ends at marriage, but nothing could be further from the truth. And this is also not to say that a wife can’t woo her husband in some way – I’m just basing this thought experiment on the imagery that is found in the Bible and not trying to turn the stories in the Bible into an allegory for 21st century life. But it’s such a freeing thought, isn’t it? Submission is not “obey and never question” but it’s “listen and always respond.”

My husband has posted two blog entries related to this topic, if you’re interested. One is about psychology and sociology informing our theology, and the other is about blindspots and how language can influence our priorities.