Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Chronology of Narnia

No, the title of this post is not a spelling mistake.  For some time now I've been working on a defense of reading C.S Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia in the order they were published rather than in the order that Harper Collins has reissued the books in.  I know the reason behind why Harper Collins has reissued them in the so-called chronological order (although even that chronology can't be totally accurate as the actions of A Horse and His Boy happen near the end of but not after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe).  However, I believe it is a mistake to read the stories in this new order and I believe it is pretty clear that this is not really what Lewis wanted at all, despite the case that the publisher makes based on one of Lewis's letters responding to a child's question (of course an old-school English gentleman is going to agree with a young child who says that he believes that reading the books in their chronological order is the best way).  I also believe that to read them in the "chronological" order rather than in the published order will greatly diminish the experience for readers and may even turn off younger readers altogether in much the same way that reading The Silmarillion, the events of which happen long before the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, would deter most readers from ever attempting The Hobbit and LOTR, especially young ones.  I have been working on my case for a while now, but I find that Trevin Wax has already done it in a convincing manner by compiling the reasons some others have put forward.  While the arguments he has pulled together don't say all there is to say in favour of reading Narnia in order of publication - there are more reasons and literary proofs he could have given - in themselves they already make a convincing argument for publication order.  I heartily commend his compendium of arguments for why you should read Narnia in publication order.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Kevin DeYoung has a great post about the gospel and the Ethiopian eunuch from Acts 8 over here

The gospel really is for everyone.  And when we receive the gospel, like the eunuch, we look back and we start to see ourselves in the story of God's redemption.  We start to see that even while we were still sinners, still unfit to enter God's gates with thanksgiving in our hearts and his courts with praise, while we were still disqualified to number among his people, precisely then Jesus was already at work to remedy this situation through his blood on the cross. 

Something I read...the religious drawer

"It is common for many Christians in the West today to see their religious faith as just one aspect of their lives.  Picture your life as a chest of drawers.  You have a drawer for work.  You have a drawer for entertainment.  You have another for family.  And over to the side is a drawer that contains your religious practices.

Many Christians open up the religious drawer on Sundays and go through the motions of attending church, reciting the creeds, singing, and praying.  But on Sunday afternoon, they shut the drawer until the next weekend.  The religious drawer does not impinge upon the other drawers at all.  It stays nicely tucked away in a corner, off to the side.  Entertainment choices, leisure time, our ideas of success, our work ethic, the way we spend out money, our sexual choices -- each of these other drawers is left untouched.  We may affirm that Jesus is Lord of all, but our lives show that Jesus is Lord only of our religious practices.

But think about this:  if our faith is only applicable to "sacred practices" (like Bible study, prayer, and church attendance), then we have a faith that has little to say about what we do with the vast majority of our time.  Christianity becomes a mere addition to an old way of life.

The biblical picture is much richer.  And it is this biblical picture that we are called to proclaim to those around us.  "Jesus is Lord" is an announcement that applies to every aspect of our lives.  It is not subversive at all to worship Jesus in the privacy of our religious lives.  The church is counter-cultural by proclaiming Jesus as Lord over every area of live, not just our religious activities.

We cannot divide up our lives into "sacred" aspects and "secular" aspects, as if Jesus were Lord of only our sacred practices.  The Bible teaches that every area of the Christian's life should be sacred -- set apart under the lordship of Christ.  Our labor must be unto the Lord just as our leisure must be unto the Lord.  We do not confess that Jesus is Lord only of one drawer in the chest.  He is the chest's Maker, and he becomes the chest's Redeemer -- having purchased all the drawers with his precious blood."

                                                                   - Trevin Wax, Holy Subversion, p. 139-140

Exegetical Fragments...The Gospel's as the story of Jesus becoming King

The gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke begin and end with discussion about Jesus as king.  He is feared and persecuted by the rulers and authorities both at his birth and at his death because of the claims that he is a king.  With the gospels bracketing the life and ministry of Jesus at beginning and end with controversy and discussion over his kingship, it is reasonable to conclude that the kingship of Jesus factors heavily into the central record of the life of Jesus recorded in the gospels as well.  In other words, if Matthew and Luke focus on the kingship of God in Christ at the start and end of their accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, it makes good sense to see the rest of their gospel narratives as expanding on or pertaining to this theme of kingship as well.

Of course this is the case, especially in Matthew’s emphasis on the “Kingdom of Heaven”, which really means not the place where disciples of Christ go when they die, but the rule of God, the kingship of God.  In and through Jesus, God is both announcing and (re)establishing his kingship in the world.  God has always been sovereign over all but, in his longsuffering, he has permitted rebellion to go on for sometime as he has simultaneously prepared the historical stage for the entrance of the King and prepared the conditions for the message of the King to spread far and wide, to the whole earth, and not just to the people of Israel who ought to have recognized the King as their king.

[It should be noted that both Mark and John also discuss the controversy over Jesus’ kingship at the end of their gospels as well, especially John, where it is a prominent part of his narrative.  Rightly understood, among other things, the beginning of John’s gospel establishes the right of Jesus to the kingship that he claims at the end of the gospel.]

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Expositional Fragments - The gospels and the history textbooks

A couple of weeks ago on Easter Sunday I had the very great privilege of preaching on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In my study and prep for the message, I chose to read all of the gospel accounts starting with the triumphal entry through to the end of each gospel.  This was a great practice in and of itself.  Like any four people writing accounts of the same thing, each writer has his purposes, themes and emphases that inform his writing and there is much rich material for reflection in what each writer chooses to emphasize, especially when compared with the others.  But what is not so common or typical is the amazing level of unity in these four unique accounts of the same events.  This shouldn’t surprise the faithful student of the Scriptures.  After all, it is our conviction that each of these four authors were Holy Spirit-inspired as they recorded their accounts.  If the Holy Spirit was working in and through each of these four individual writers, then we ought to expect a high degree of agreement.  And yet because the Holy Spirit was working in and through four different authors, and not in such a way as to nullify those author's own "voices", we ought to expect these four accounts to be unique in obvious ways. 

Many modern-day skeptics attempt to show all the contradictions of Scripture.  They work through the Bible on a superficial level with highlighter in one hand and a red pen in the other and scour the pages for so-called contradictions.  They take great delight in finding the order of certain events different between the gospel accounts, or finding differences in what was said in a given conversation, for example.  But imagine if everyone applied the same standard of necessary uniformity to other books of history (while the Bible is certainly more than a book of history, it is not less) that skeptics typically apply to the Bible. 

I am a bit of a WW2 history buff.  I have read several books about WW2 in general as well as on particular episodes or major characters in the war.  Rarely do four scholars completely agree on the bare facts (time, key people, order of events, etc.) of all that happened during a particular episode of the war.  It is even more rare to find complete agreement between four scholars on exactly what was said, what causes brought about what effects, what motives stood behind certain actions, etc.  And this is an event that happened well under a century ago and was arguably one of the most well documented events in all of history.  To see this truth demonstrated, one only has to read four biographies of Winston Churchill by different authors!   

If any historian today found four different manuscripts from four different sources that were speaking of the same historical event, and if those four documents had even half the degree of unity on the event they were reporting that the gospel writers have on the life and ministry of Jesus, the history texts would already be in the process of being rewritten.