Beamer Remembers 9-11

Beamer remembers 9-11Lisa Beamer with Ken Abraham. 2002. “Let’s Roll! Ordinary People Extraordinary Courage.” Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Some days cast a shadow.

For anyone worked close to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, the story of Flight 93 is personal. How close to an airliner crash site is safe? Who says that a terrorist will even hit their target? After my mom called me on that Tuesday morning at 9:30 a.m. to talk about the Twin Towers, I sheltered in place in my office at the foot of Capitol Hill until they turned the lights out around 2 p.m. and I left for home. At that point, I drove through the ghost town that Washington had become, over the Fourteenth Street Bridge into Virginia, and past the Pentagon, which was still burning. The only cars on the road were police vehicles.

Introduction

Lisa Beamer’s book, Let’s Roll,is a Christian memoir written by the wife of Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93 which was hijacked by terrorists with the intent of crashing the plane into the U.S. Capitol building. The back cover reads:

“[Lisa] offers a poignant glimpses of a genuine American hero—his growing-up years and their marriage and last week together. She talks candidly about the devastating day her children learned their daddy had died, the birth of her third child, and how she’s found the codependence to go on in the face of such tragedy and loss.”

Prior to 9-11, planes were hijacked now and then, but only to divert the plane to another destination. This implied that the best strategy for passengers to survive on a hijacked was to relax and enjoy the flight. The idea that a jet liner might be used as a suicide bomb was unheard of, unimaginable.

The Choice

Four planes were hijacked on 9-11, each by a team of terrorists. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City and another crashed into the Pentagon Building in Northern Virginia across the Potomac River from Washington DC. The loss of life was staggering.

The fourth plane, United Flight 93 out of Newark, New Jersey bound for San Francisco, was late in being diverted. Because of this delay, passengers on the flight learned over their cell phones about the fate of the other three flights while they were still over Pennsylvania. Consequently, they realized that they had a choice: do nothing and surely die or fight to regain control of their plane and possibly live. Todd Beamer was one of the passengers who decided to fight.

Going Out on Faith

As the hijacking unfolded, Todd called United Airlines to report the takeover and spoke with Lisa Jefferson who asked him for a few details. Sitting next to a flight attendant, Todd reported:

“[there are] 27 passengers in coach, 10 in first class, five flight attendants, and no children that he could see. ‘He told me that three people had taken over the place,’ said Lisa, ‘two armed with knives and one with a bomb strapped around his waist with a red belt. The two with knives had locked themselves in the cockpit.”(200)

Lisa spoke with Todd for about 15 minutes. As the hijackers realized something was up, they began rocking the place back and forth to throw off their pursuers. Todd told her:

“’We’re going to do something…I don’t think that we are going to get out of this thing.’ Todd said, ‘I’m going to have to go out on faith.’ He told me that they were talking about jumping the guy with the bomb.”(211)

At around 10 a.m., Lisa overhead Todd talking with someone else. He said: “Are you ready? Okay. Let’s roll!”(214) The plane was 15 to 20 minutes away from Washington. The cockpit recorder records dishes crashing and screaming. The terrorist piloting put the plane into a dive. Then, impact.

Assessment

I read this book in a single setting. Because I go into tears just thinking about these events, writing a review posed a challenge. Nevertheless, if you want to read about Todd Beamer’s life and the events of 9-11, Lisa Beamer’s Let’s Roll is a page-turner.

Beamer Remembers 9-11

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Books, Films, and Ministry

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Monday Monologues: The Myth of Perpetual Youth, September 17, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray for adults and talk about the Myth of Perpetual Youth.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Monday Monologues: The Myth of Perpetual Youth, September 17, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Adult Prayer

Dad_SWH_SRAH_2012bMost Merciful Father,

We give thanks that you are:
“merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exod. 34:6 ESV), an example to the rest of us.

We confess that too often we are short tempered, ungracious, impatient, unloving, and unfaithful.

But for your example, we would be worse, but we are thankful that have provided us role models in the church that follow you day by day.

We remember and thank you for our heroes from September 11, 2001 who gave their energy and, in some cases, their lives to protect us from evil men. May their sacrifices never be forgotten.

We pray for more adults in our life, community and country to lead us to follow your example. Nurture and protect them that we might benefit from their example and guidance and follow you more fully each day.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us strength to meet the challenges of each new day with grace and a peaceful heart.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Adult Prayer

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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The Myth of Perpetual Youth

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The phenomena of adulting may seem like a curiosity of postmodern slang, but it is actually at the heart of a powerful shift in American culture having profound implications for the Christian church. Since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the American economy has failed to deliver on the “American Dream” for the majority of citizens prompting a search for a new cultural myth to replace it. Unable to deliver an increasing standard of living for everyone—a nuclear family, house, two cars, healthcare, and pension—even though denial continues to be practiced, the “myth of perpetual youth” has increasing substituted for the American Dream. In effect, advertisers have led the way in declaring—don’t worry about not having a spouse, house, car, health plan, or pension—just enjoy being young: age is just a number.

The Christian Family

This increased focus on youth stands in opposition to the Gospel.

One of the defining characteristics of the Christian faith is honoring each individual as being created in the image of God. The Apostle Paul’s writing is particularly clear on this point. He writes:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28)

No ethic group is better than any other; no economic class is better than any other; and no gender is better than any other. But Paul goes further in his household codes:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph 6:1-4)

He is essentially saying that because we are all created in the image of God, no age group is better than any other.  Neither a new born nor a senior standing at the gates of heaven is better than one another. Christians are to value life stages equally, honor the stage you are in, and not cling to any particular stage as if it were intrinsically preferred. 

In this sense, Christianity is a holistic faith that embraces each stage of life with equal joy. This makes particular sense in a Christian context because our faith is rooted in history. Creation is the beginning and the second coming of Christ will be its end. Knowing the end is in Christ, we can journey through life in Christ meeting the challenges of each stage in life without fear. 

The Allure of Youth

The holistic nature of the Christian lifestyle puts it in direct conflict with today’s youth culture where putting on a big of weight or allowing people to see your gray hair puts you at risk of being shunned and ridiculed. Celebrities in our culture—athletes, movie stars, musicians, fashion models, the rich—all hide their age judiciously and show as much skin as possible to reinforce the illusion that they remain young. The Christian idea that beauty consists of character and appearance in sync runs counter to this obsession with appearance.

Promotion of Inadequacy

While this obsession with youth may seem random, the disfunctionality of remaining an adolescent well into adulthood and encouraging adolescent attitudes about market purchases is a direct consequence of strategies employed by advertisers. Inadequacy marketing directly assaults the spirit of most religious teaching, irrespective of theology, because most religions aid our maturation and help us to contribute to society. Hence, the phrase—the dark art of marketing—is truly dark.

Marketing expert Jonah Sacks (2012, 89) writes:

“all story-based marketing campaigns contain an underlying moral of the story and supply a ritual that is suggested to react to that moral.”

Inadequacy marketing has two basic steps. Step 1 focuses on creating anxiety focusing on an emotion at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, which ranks needs from physical needs (base) to emotional needs (top).⁠1 The advertising moral always begins with “You are not…and plays off of at least one negative emotion: greed…fear…lust.”  In step 2, the ritual proposed is implicitly or explicitly to shop and buy a particular product—pictured as a magical experience (Sachs 2012, 89 and 93).  While not all marketers employ inadequacy marketing strategies, the airwaves are inundated with them daily and the same strategies are employed by authors, film-makers, advertisers, religious leaders, and politicians of all stripes. Advertisers use inadequacy strategies because they work, but an inadvertent result of so much of it is to encourage base instincts and a negative self-image particularly among children and those already prone to suggestion.

Implications

If large corporations find it in their financial interest to keep us feeling inadequate, then the increasing focus on youth in our culture is likely not a random outcome. If people regress to a younger age or never mature beyond a adolescent (teen or preteen) view of the world, what does that imply?

The obvious implication is that an environment is created that mitigates the natural maturation of young people and encourages adolescent attitudes and behaviors. One could speculate that even darker outcomes are possible, such as:

  • Is the increased violence in society a consequence of this immaturity, because adolescents are much less likely than adults to associate their actions with consequences? 
  • Is the growth in anxiety associated with problem that more people have not developed the coping skills required to survive in an adult world? Alternatively, is anxiety among young people to be attributed to the excessive attention from other age groups following their every move and mimicking their behavior?
  • Do the increasingly androgynous tendencies in society (gender confusion) reflect a preteen asexual mentality? Does the tendency towards hypersexuality (or perhaps even pedaphia) reflect a teen mentality being adopted by other age groups?

Clearly, much is at stake in encouraging people to follow a normal pattern of maturation rather than getting stuck in a particular stage in life.⁠2

References

Jonah Sacks. 2012. Winning the Story Wars: Why Those Who Tell—and Live—the Best Stories Will Rule the Future. Boston: Harvard Business School Press. 

Footnotes

1 Sacks (2012, 130) lists Abraham Maslow’s needs as: physiological (base), safety, love and belonging, self esteem, to self actualization.

2 This ts a theme of a popular song: U2 – Stuck In A Moment You Can’t Get Out Of (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emFUtuotHL4).

The Myth of Perpetual Youth

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Gehrz and Pattie Illumine the Pietist Tradition

Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie II, The Pietist OptionChristopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III. 2017. The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity. Downers Grove: IVP Academic.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

For those of us who spent our youth in rural America, today’s landscape looks fundamentally different. International trade, inspired by the demise of the Bretton-Woods system, undermined local economies previously based on agriculture, manufacturing, and mining and left them without a solid economic base. The interstate highway system, television, Wal-Mart, and the internet all conspired to drive out what remained of local cultures. In postmodernism local churches and their denominations have suffered their own tsunami that has left many Christians and their pastors wondering how to respond.

Introduction

In their book, The Pietist Option, Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III (hereafter G&P) write:

“Why ‘option’? As I’ve written elsewhere, we’re talking about a kind of ietism doesn’t happen accidentally; it requires a conscious choice to respond to God’s grace. The Pietist option is to opt in to a distinctively hopeful way of coming back to Jesus growing to be more and more like him, living at peace as part of his body, and fulfilling his mission in service to others.”(9)

What is curious about their discussion is that pietism is not so much a movement or a revival as a rediscovery of the New Testament (NT) “Hebrew anthropology”,my term for the holistic view of faith that had over the years been corrupted by Greek dualism. If mind and emotions are inseparable, then we cannot respond to the Gospel with one or the other, as is so frequently assumed—a different approach is required. G&P work hard to help the reader rediscover what is essentially ancient Christianity. They call it Pietism.

What is Pietism?

G&P write:

“Some identify Pietism with shared practices (personal devotions, small group meetings, evangelism, charitable work) or share emphases (conversion, right feeling, and action prioritized over right belief, ecumenism, a greater role for the laity). There’s something to both approaches, but we want to propose something a bit different: Pietism share certain instincts.”(5)

G&P summarizes these instincts as follows.

The first instinct focuses on relationship—“We know God more through prepositions than through propositions.” In other words,“we experience life in, with, through, under and for God.” The term,“dead orthodoxy,” is more what they mean by propositions.(6)

The second instinct has to do with community—“We’re better together than apart.” (6)

The third instinct is experiential—“Christianity is both less and more than we think.” G&P expand on this saying:“Pietists who live in, with, and for the person of Jesus probably feel his presence more than they think about the idea of Christ.” (7) They differentiate Jesus the person from Christ the Messiah, believing in both but focusing on the humanity of Jesus.

The fourth instinct takes seriously the eschatological reality of God—“We always have hope for better times.” (8) If the future is in Christ, then Jesus should inform everything we do today.

Organization

Gehrz is a professor of history at Bethel University in Saint Paul; Pattie is the senior pastor at Salem Covenant Church in New Brighton, Minnesota. They write in divided into two parts:

“Part One: Christianity in the Early Twenty-First Century

  1. What’s Wrong?
  2. Hoping for Better Times

 Part Two: Proposals for Renewal

  1. A More Extensive Listening to the Word of God
  2. The Common Priesthood for the Common Good
  3. Christianity as Life
  4. The Irenic Spirit
  5. Whole Person, Whole-Life Formation
  6. Proclaiming the Good News.”(vii)

They begin with an introduction—“Come Back to Jesus”—and end with a benediction, appendix, suggestions for group discussions, notes, and two (names and scripture) indices. Through their book, the names Spener and Francke come up repeatedly (see references below).

Assessment

Christopher Gehrz and Mark Pattie III’s The Pietist Option: Hope for the Renewal of Christianity is a helpful book for anyone who has wondered about the Pietist tradition. Virtually every denomination in America has been influenced in some way by this tradition, yet that influence remains hard to pin down. G&P try their best to sort out this enigma and, taken as a whole, their short book provides ample light.

References

Spener, Philip Jacob. 1964. Pia Desideria(Orig. Pub. 1675). Ed. and Trans. By Theodore G. Tappert. Philadelphia:  Fortress.

Sattler, Gary R. 1982. God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good: A Brief Introduction to the Life and Writings of August Hermann Francke. Chicago: Covenant Press.

Gehrz and Pattie Illumine the Pietist Tradition

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Books, Films, and Ministry

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Monday Monologues: Resilience Of the Gospel, September 10, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray for cooler weather and talk about Resilience of the Gospel.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below.

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Monday Monologues: Resilience, September 10, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

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Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Praying for Cooler Weather

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Photograph of Boxing GlovesBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty Father,

We praise you for the gift of your Holy Spirit,

who provisions, sustains, and guides us

when cooler heads do not prevail.

We confess that this has been a long, hot summer,

fires burn in our forests, but also in our hearts.

Thankfully,  you are God and we are not.

You protect us when we act like mythical lemmings–

running off cliffs when stressed by competition and deprivations.

Teach us to model ourselves after Jesus Christ,

who taught self-sacrifice and unity

when the world taught war and division.

In the power of your Holy Spirit,

save us from ourselves and

turn our hearts and minds to you.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Praying for Cooler Weather

Also see:

Giving Thanks 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Resilience of the Gospel

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Simple FaithBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

The history of conversions to Christianity has a surprising number of staunch critics of the Gospel that after examining the biblical evidence (sometimes without any witness other than the Gospel itself) admit their own errors and profess faith in Christ.

Even though the final stages of their decision process is often idiosyncratic, many go through a period of deliberation extending over years, suggesting that coming to faith has emergent properties (the product of the whole is greater than the sum of the parts) that are not easily explained.

If the criteria for accepting evidence in the postmodern era focuses on who tells the better story, then these conversion stories provide substantive evidence that the Gospel is indeed one of the best stories around.

The Apostle Paul

The pattern set by the Apostle Paul is emblematic. The Book of Acts introduces Paul, formerly a devout and highly educated Jew known as Saul, as a key instigator in the stoning death of Stephen (Acts 7:58). As a prosecutor of Christian converts from Judaism, we can surmise that Saul’s only evangelists were Christians being dragged off to prison and, likely, killed (Acts 8:3).  And Saul was not just another prosecutor, he was infamous among disciples, as we read:

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2)

But even this prosecutor was not beyond salvation. On the road to Damascus Saul met the risen Christ and was blinded by the experience. He was then led by hand to Damascus where he refused to eat or drink anything for three days. On the third day, God appeared to a disciple named Ananias instructing him to visit Saul. Knowing  Saul’s reputation, Ananias objected.  Nevertheless, Ananias visited Saul, healed his blindness, and baptized him. Within days, Paul began preaching that Jesus is the son of God in the synagogues and learned that his former colleagues among the Jews were plotting to kill him. Paul escaped Damascus by being lowered at night over the city walls in a basket (Acts 9:3-24). 

Paul’s conversion changed his life from chief prosecutor to Christian evangelist (that is, wanted criminal) within no more than a couple weeks. Paul’s conversion story made a big impression on the church, which we know because the author of the Book of Acts, Luke, repeated the story three times (Acts 9, 22,  26) and because many Christians never got over their fear of Paul because of his role in persecuting the church (Acts 9:26).

Confession

Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD)  began life as a wealthy pagan son of a Christian mother who as a young man had a son by a concubine. Fond of partying, sexual immorality, and keeping questionable company, he confessed of robbing a neighbor’s orchard just for kicks and giggles. When at age 32 Augustine finally came to his senses, he confessed his sin to God in private, as he reported:

“Such things I said, weeping in the most bitter sorrow of my heart. And suddenly I hear a voice from some nearby house, a boy’s voice or a girl’s voice, I do not know, but it was a sort of sing-song, repeated again and again, Take and read, take and read.” (Foley 2006, 169)

Augustine borrowed a book of scriptures from his friend, Alypius, and opened it randomly coming to this verse:

“Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Rom 13:13)

Convicted immediately of his sexual sin, he took this passage as a word from God to him personally and went to his mother to announce that he was a Christian (Foley 2006, 160).

Hounds of Heaven

Having lost his mother at an early age and being dispatched to various, questionable boarding schools thereafter by his father, C.S. Lewis became a bitter young, philosophical atheist. Nevertheless, Lewis writes using different metaphors about God’s pursuit of his soul. For example, he writes:

“But, of course, what mattered most of all was my deep-seated hatred of authority, my monstrous individualism, my lawlessness. No word in my vocabulary expressed deeper hatred than the word Interference. But Christianity placed at the center what then seem to me a transcendental Interference. This is my business and mine only.”(Lewis 1955, 172)

and

“And so the great Angler played His fish and I never dreamed that the hook was in my tongue.”(Lewis 1955, 211)

But for Lewis the metaphor that he highlights most obviously is that of a divine Chess master in two separate chapter titles: check and checkmate (Lewis 1955, 165, 212). What metaphor would appeal to a scholar and intellectual? Lewis writes of returning to faith in 1929, when he was 31 years old (Lewis 1955, 228).

Taking Stock

Other stories of conversion abound. Among the most dramatic stories are those of Muslim converts who have grown up knowing really no Christians at all, but drawn for some reason into studying the Bible and becoming believers. Or consider the story of atheist and journalist with the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel (2016), who, after learning that his wife had become a Christian, sets out to prove Christianity is a hoax and ends up becoming not only a believer, but also an evangelist and pastor. Or how about Rosaria Butterfield (2012), who, as a leader among lesbian feminists, set off to write a research paper on the Christian Right only to come to faith and become a pastor’s wife.

The template for these conversions is often hostility to the Gospel, deep study of it, and a final ah-ha moment—often unexpected—when the decision for faith takes place. This template suggests that the Gospel story is compelling, but it requires serious reflection and the journey of faith is unique to the individual.

References

Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne. 2012.  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert:  An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.  Pittsburgh:  Crown & Covenant Publications.

Foley, Michael P. [editor] 2006. Augustine Confessions (Orig Pub 397 AD). 2nd Edition. Translated by F. J. Sheed (1942). Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.

Lewis, C.S. 1955. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life. New York: Harcourt Book.

Strobel, Lee. 2016. The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Orig Pub 1998). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Resilience of the Gospel

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Yoder: Apolitical Jesus Unbiblical, Part 2

John Yoder, The Politics of JesusJohn Howard Yoder. 1994. The Politics of Jesus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

As a young person I expressed my Christian faith most publicly when I registered as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War. This stance surprised my family and many close friends, but I firmly believed that as a Christian I could take no other position on such an unrighteous war, in spite of my prior ambition to become a career military officer. Because of the military draft, every young man my age had to make up his own mind about the war. To my eighteen-year old mind, Jesus provided obvious political leadership that many others apparently missed or ignored. To me, it is ironic that John Yoder wrote the first edition of The Politics of Jesusat roughly the same time (1972) and in view of the same set of circumstances.

I surveyed Yoder’s arguments in part one of this review. Here in part two I turn to examine his core arguments in greater depth.

Jesus and a Social Ethic

Yoder asks: “Is there a social ethic” [in Jesus’ ministry]? (11) He goes on to observe:

“Jesus did not one to teach a way of life; most of his guidance was not original. His role is that of Savior and for us to need a Savior presupposes that we do not live according to his stated ideals.”(18)

For most of us who thought that “what would Jesus do?”(WWJD) is a serious template for life, Yoder’s observation is provocative. If this seems hard to fathom, consider the basic premise of any social ethic—society has a right to survive (5)—seems at odds with my own stance as a conscientious objector. To view Jesus as a serious political contender, one needs to address this dilemma. Is being a savior at odds with social survival?

God will Fight For Us

One of the core arguments for Jesus being apolitical is that both Herod and Pilate over-reached their authority and were somewhat delusional in putting Jesus to death for sedition. Why would Pilate go so far as to release a known zealot[1] and send Jesus to the cross in his place? Was Jesus a real political threat? (49)

Yoder offers two arguments for why Jesus posed a political threat to Herod and Pilate. The first argument that first century Jews believed that God would fight on their behalf, as he did in the Exodus experience (Exod 14:13; 77) and on many occasions recorded in the Books of Joshua and Judges. Unlike today when people downplay the existence and work of God in human events, Jews and gentiles like looked for and feared divine intervention. Jesus’ miracles provided interim proof of this exact sort of intervention and his claims to be a messiah (e.g. Matt 26:64) would have taken seriously.

Jesus as Advocate for Year of Jubilee

In his second argument, Yoder argues that the Gospels as a whole support the idea that Jesus advocated a year of Jubilee (Lev 25), quite likely 26 AD. This implied:

“The jubilee year or the sabbath year included four prescriptions: 1. Leaving the soil fallow; 2. The remission of debts; 3. The liberation of slaves, 4. The return of each individual of his family’s property.”(60)

In my mind, the prominence of Isaiah 61 in Jesus’ call sermon (Luke 4) and the Beatitudes (Matt 5) makes it most likely that Jesus advocated jubilee:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;” (Isa 61:1-2 ESV)

Here the phrase, the year of the Lord’s favor, is a reference to the year of jubilee.

Can you image the stir that debt forgiveness would have if advocated by a politician today? Think student loans and mortgages. The advocated would not need to advocate violence in order to be considered both an enemy of every lender and be taken very seriously by debtors. The fact that the Lord’s Prayer includes—”forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”—is not just another turn of phrase in Yoder’s eyes, but a firm reminder of Jesus’ radical theology.

What Kind of Role Model was Jesus?

Yoder goes about this task of “stating it” that proves difficult because as an academic writer he must chase down many misconceptions about Jesus’ ethics. Chief among these is the church’s traditional focus on the spiritual content of the New Testament (NT) and a de-emphasis on political elements. So Yoder asks whether NT authors, principally Luke, Paul, and the author of Revelation, understood and embraced the thrust of Jesus’ social ethic. What of Jesus’ legacy did NT authors treat as exemplary?

Yoder sees the thread running through the NT being the tension between effectiveness and obedience (233). NT authors do not see Jesus’ teaching and modeling of social behavior—hanging out with sinners—as being exemplary (unlike later Franciscans). Rather, Jesus is our role model primarily in being obedient unto death. Forgiveness, enemy love, humility, patience, charity, and servanthood all leave room for God to act decisively in our lives—a kind of mini exodus event. Yoder writes:

“We are left with no choice but to affirm that the General Epistles in which the popular thought pattern of the earliest church has undergone least reflective analysis, and the liturgical elements embedded in apostolic writings which testify to the coming age, are restatements in another key of the same kind of attitude toward history that we found first in the more organized writings of the Gospels and of Paul. A social style characterized by the creation of a new community and the rejections of violence of any kind.” (242)

Obedience does not preclude effectiveness (a cause and effect phenomena), but the priority is clearly on obedience.

Assessment

John Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus is an intensely interesting read for an academic work. Social activists in the church will likely find this book required reading, but even evangelicals will want to be aware of the arguments being put forth.

Footnotes

[1] Zealot is the wrong term for Barabbas, as Yoder explains. The term only came into use after Menachem’s uprising in 66AD (56).

Yoder: Apolitical Jesus Unbiblical, Part 2

Also see:

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at:http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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Monday Monologues: Boundaries, September 3, 2018 (podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra, www.StephenWHiemstra.net
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I pray about spiritual gifts and talk about boundaries.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologues: Boundaries, September 3, 2018 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2018_Trans

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