What is more…

an excercise in getting to the point

Tag: Time

Oh ’10?…

One of my early memories: on some television sitcom, I see a teenage girl, talking about a date and how she didn’t feel appreciated by the guy. She says “Doesn’t he know, its the ’90s. Women can do anything they want.”

“It’s the ’90s” was not an uncommon phrase to hear when I was growing up [from ages 6-16]. It just flowed off the tongue. It made sense. Everyone knew you were talking about the nineteen-90s. I remember in high school, wondering what we would say after the year 2000. “It’s the zeros” just didn’t seem to make sense. At some point I heard someone use the phrase “the oughts” (or “aughts” depending on how you spell it). I wondered if that would stick. Looking back, I suppose that most often I would say of any particular year “oh-7” or “oh-8.” Eventually the fear of confusion between that and, say, 1907 or 1908 just went away.

This morning I was looking at a calendar for next year, and I realized, I don’t know how to say 2010, or how we will refer to the next decade. Of course we can say “two thousand and ten” but that will be too cumbersome most of the time. Perhaps “twenty-ten” will be more common. It certainly makes more sense than “twenty-nine” which sounds closer to the year was Jesus was walking around in Galilee. Maybe we will refer to the next decade as “the teens” but that sounds a bit adolescent. Besides, we don’t really even refer to the 1910’s as the teens.

In the tradition of “oh-7” and “oh-8,” my guess is that I will refer to the next year as “oh-10″ rather than simply ’10. But that makes me wonder: when will it be appropriate to refer to any year in this century simply by the last two numbers like we did in say ” ’86 ” or ” ’95 .” In nineteen years will we be saying “Doesn’t he know that it is ’29?”

Kind-of weird to think about… probably weirder to blog about. These are the things that go through my head when classes no longer vie for my attention. In any case, I hope that you have a wonderful ’10, however you choose to say it.

Time…

I am currently very busy on final papers so wont be posting much. Today, for a paper, however, I did create this picture and would like to share it with you. These four figures each illustrate a different way of looking at time and history. Pretty soon, I will be posting the paper from which they come, and in which I explain what they mean.

For now – what do you think each Figure represents? Here are the options:

Judeo-Christian

Modernity

Postmodernity

Pagan

Shalom, Travis

Time, Cross and Glory: The Christian Movement as Missio Dei

OZ Cross5

This week I attended the Princeton Theological Seminary Student’s Lecture  on Mission. The presenter was Dr. Scott Sundquist, of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. In his lectures, “Time, Cross, and Glory: the Christian movement as Missio Dei,” Professor Sundquist described the task of helping Communist Chinese Economists learn how to study Christianity. They were interested, he said, in Christianity’s ability to reform the culture and morals of a society. And yet, they did not even understand the meaning behind the most basic Christian symbol: the cross. “Can one study Christianity from a materialist-communist perspective, without distorting it with one’s own worldview? Can Christians study their own history in a postmodern environment that has a disdain for the historical? What is the interpretive key that can unlock the meaning of Christian history?” These are the central questions that Dr. Sundquist sought to answer in his lectures. In this post I’ll briefly explain his interpretive “keys:” time, cross, and glory—drawing implications for the formation of a missional theology for the Church today.

Slightly altering the order of presentation, let us first consider the central Christian symbol—the cross. Why is it that among the world’s religions, Christianity is the only one whose symbol is one of suffering? Not only the cross, but also the Eucharist (“My body broken…my blood shed…”) and Baptism (a symbol of the death of the old self). According to Dr. Sundquist, “Suffering is the key to understanding who God is for us.” At the center of the Christian religion is a suffering savior, who identifies with the poor and oppressed and is willing to suffer on their behalf. In order to understand salvation from a Christian perspective you must understand both “missional incarnation” (God-with-us) and “redemptive suffering” (God-for-us).

This, of course, has implications for Christian ethics and ecclesiology. If God chooses to reveal God’s self in this two-pronged way, then Christians who are being faithful to God will follow suit. The combination of “missional incarnation” and “redemptive suffering” in the ethical sphere, Dr. Sundquist calls “cruciform apostolicity.”  Those who follow Christ will bear the risk of suffering, as demonstrated in every major revival in Christian history, according to Sundquist. Suffering, then—while not to be sought, in and of itself—is to be expected in the pursuit of faithful witness to the suffering God.

And yet, suffering is not exactly what the Christian faith is about. As Protestants, we use a cross and not a crucifix. The cross is empty, as is the tomb; the emphasis is on the victory over suffering that Christ has secured through resurrection. Similarly, in the Eucharist the risen, alive Christ is with us and in us. As for Baptism, the Church would not grow at a very fast rate if we left people underwater! Those who die to the old self are then raised to new life. The good news of the Christian faith is that suffering, while certainly a reality, does not have the last word. The paradox of the Gospel is that it is precisely in suffering that Christian glory is revealed. The Scriptures, according to Dr. Sundquist, present suffering that leads to glory is a normative experience for the Church (e.g. 1 Peter 1:10-12, 1 Peter 4:12, Ephesians 3:8-13, Romans 8:15-19).  Once again, the implications are apparent. If suffering leads to glory, then suffering is not pointless. We can endure suffering because we know that God is with us in it, and that God has a plan beyond it. Presupposed in this view of suffering and glory is the third aspect of Dr. Sundquist’s lectures—a certain view of time—to which we turn presently.

Christianity is a radically historical religion. In Jesus Christ, we have a God who entered history, acts in history, and has a purpose for all of history. His-story is going somewhere, so to speak. Of course, this is also a very Jewish way of understanding history. The Hebrew Scriptures emphasize the importance of God’s creating activity (Genesis 1-2), God’s acts within history (e.g. the exodus), and God’s future fulfillment of history, described as new creation (Isaiah 65-66).  This view of history as a linear metanarrative challenged Platonic Greek thought which the early church encountered, and continues to challenge both Eastern views of history (as cyclical), and postmodern views of history (as irrelevant).

The Church must properly understand and emphasize God’s role in the creation of history in order to properly understand God’s redemptive acts in history, and God’s redemptive purpose for history. Only a God who is sovereign over history is one who can redeem through suffering—and redeem suffering itself. Otherwise, the suffering that we encounter is more often viewed as a result of a created order that we need to escape (ironically a pitfall of both Buddhism and fundamentalist Christianity!). Or, conversely, when the Church loses sight of God’s sovereignty in history, Christians seek to enact redemption on the horizontal plane, by their own power. This was the false optimism that seems so naïve to children of the postmodern generation when they look back at Christians like James Dennis and the Student Volunteer Movement (“…to evangelize the world in this generation”). The reality, however, is that redemption is always an act of God, and any hope that Christians may rightly hold must be grounded in the future consummation of history that will be a result of God’s initiative, and not our own (although God certainly works through human agency—thus the tension!). When we understand God’s sovereignty over creation and history we are guarded against the opposing threats of hopelessness and triumphalism, and thus freed to practice “cruciform apostolicity” in the sure hope of ultimate redemption and glory.

sunquistscott

Scott W. Sunquist is the W. Don McClure Associate Professor of World Mission and Evangelism at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary