Orthodoxy and Relevance

Christians have long talked about life as a journey, whether as runners or pilgrims or travelers or something else. Journeys tend to involve forks in the road, decisions to make, and obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, the decisions of this journey are between light and darkness, holiness and sin, redemption and backsliding. In these instances, the follower of Christ is called to choose the path of faithfulness. Other times, however, the decisions we make along the way do not seem to be inherently good or bad—it’s not immediately clear whether one path is better than the other.

Such an image of journey has been on my mind lately as I’ve wrestled with what seems to be an increasingly common trope for contemporary Christians: the ongoing debate between orthodoxy and relevance.

Per Merriam-Webster, orthodoxy means “right belief, sound doctrine” and relevance means “the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.” Based on those definitions, you wouldn’t expect contemporary Christians to believe that orthodoxy and relevance are at odds with one another. But if you talk to many Christians, you’d be wrong. Let me explain. Continue reading

Sermon-less Church: A Thought Experiment

“If you took away the sermon from your worship service, what sort of theology could you construct from what remains?”

Sometime back, a Facebook friend shared this quote from Pastor Mark Jones and it got me thinking. What would a sermon-less church service look like? What messages and theology would it convey? Would we attend? Just how central is the sermon to Christian worship? Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Bibliography

This post is the final in the series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Ancient Sources

Clement of Alexandria. Quis Dives Salvetur. Edited by P. Mordaunt Barnard. Texts and Studies 5, 2. Nendeln: Kraus Reprint, 1967.

English Standard Version Bible. New York: Crossway, 2010.

Epistle of Barnabas. Translated by Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume Two. Loeb Classical Library 25. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Conclusions

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

RevelationThis study has undertaken an investigation of the Christology of the Apocalypse of John, seeking to fill a lacunae that has only been rarely and partially addressed in contemporary scholarship. This project has not sought to exhaustively address any of the issues mentioned above, only to draw together piecemeal existing studies and offer a unified argument for Revelation’s portrayal of “Jesus as Lord.” Much work remains to be done on this topic, especially the expansion of this project into a more detailed and comprehensive examination of the names, images, and actions of Jesus in Revelation.[1] Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Long BeachRevelation also highlights the importance of doxology in the contemporary world. Throughout the history of Christological development, interpretations of who Jesus is necessarily took place in the context of the place given him in Christian devotional practices.[1] While there are obviously limits to defining doctrine based on the sensus fidei, the fact remains that contemporary Christian doxology may fruitfully inform understandings of who Jesus is and how he is appropriately worshiped. Revelation also encourages active and vibrant doxological practice in today’s church communities, calling Christians everywhere to join in the worship of God and Jesus along with the saints across time and place. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Sacred ScriptureThe Apocalypse holds a unique position within the Christian scriptures, being the only piece of explicitly Christian prophetic material to make the canonical cut. First and foremost, Christians must engage Revelation’s prophetic utterances within a context of Old Testament prophecy, much of which ultimately points towards the coming of Yahweh’s kingdom on earth. Second, interpreters should take seriously Bauckham’s dictum that, “Biblical prophecy always both addressed the prophet’s contemporaries about their own present and future immediately impending for them and raised hopes which proved able to transcend their immediate relevance to the prophet’s contemporaries and to continue to direct later readers to God’s purpose for their future.”[1] Third, a preterist approach to Revelation—arguing that most of the Apocalypse’s prophetic material has been fulfilled—should find value in Revelation as not only as a demonstration of the faithfulness of God and how he works in the world, but also as a source for purging and refurbishing the Christian imagination. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Modern Christianity (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Early Church FathersAs a professing Christian standing in the Great Tradition of the Church, I believe that the faith and practices of early followers of Jesus form an important authority for contemporary expressions of Christianity. Regarding devotional practice, worship of Jesus remains not only acceptable, but is in fact required for those professing orthodox Christian faith. The appropriateness of Jesus devotion remains not only a facet of Church tradition, but also of the earliest Christians faiths recorded in the New Testament, which testify to the fact that Jesus was and is Messiah, Redeemer, Coming Judge, and Lord, all within the context of monotheistic belief in one God. The identification of Jesus with Yahweh was not a later accretion. Rather, Jesus’ identification with God—Yahweh come to earth—was a hallmark of the earliest Christian communities. Those who diverge from this (minimally) “binitarian” understanding of God-Jesus stand outside the boundaries of orthodox Christianity. Therefore, contemporary followers of Jesus are called to affirm with the Great Church of history that “Jesus is Lord” and worthy of worship. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Early Christianity (Part III)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

Chester Beatty Papyrus (Romans)While early Christian literature remains maddeningly obscure in its identification of source texts, theological influences, and employment of traditional materials—thereby rendering futile many attempts at identifying a single source as the genesis for any given idea or practice—Revelation’s general conception of the boundaries of Jesus devotion nonetheless seems to have coordinated with other now–New Testament writings in the formation of limits concerning what constituted acceptable Christian confession and practice. Continue reading

Jesus in the Apocalypse of John: Implications for Early Christianity (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the Christology of the Apocalypse of John.

New TestamentOf course, the profusion of Jesus devotion in Revelation is not unique to the Apocalypse alone, but rather stands in continuity with other now–New Testament literature. John’s Christology—especially the implicit recognition of the divinity of Jesus, his identification with Yahweh, and worthiness of devotion—unsurprisingly parallels most closely the Christology of the Fourth Gospel, although Hurtado’s consideration of high Pauline Christology contains numerous similarities to the Christology of the Apocalypse as well.[1] Continue reading