I’ve been reading an excellent book recently by Richard Twiss Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys: A Native American Expression of the Jesus Way. At one point in the book Twiss recalls a moment when as a very young Christian he was wrestling with how his Native identity related to being a Christian. He sought out the counsel of pastor who quoted to him Galatians 3:28 where Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. What the Christian leader said after that, Twiss reports:
After reading it he commented how cultures should all blend together for us as Christians, and then concluded by saying, “So, Richard, don’t worry about being Indian anymore–just be like us.”
Then Twiss reflects:
Though he was unaware of it, essentially what he as saying was, “Forget you Indian-ness and embrace our white culture as the only Christian culture”. Being young and naive as well as deeply grateful for Creator’s love in setting me free from drug and alcohol abuse, and sincerely committed to becoming a wholehearted follower of Jesus, I believed that church leader. I really had no choice, being a new Christian, and he, being in a position of spiritual power/authority, gave an answer from the Bible about cultures. So for the next twelve years I lived the Christian life as it was culturally modeled for me by non-Native friends and Christian brethren–something I later found to be less than I am, and much less than the Lord Jesus wants me to be! (104).
This story burdens me greatly! While not every evangelical would interpret the passage this way, Twiss’s story accurately represents what many Christian’s think the verse means: following Jesus means the end of ethnicity. The reasons for this are multiplex, but one of the major factors is the traditional reading of Paul, and especially of his letter to the Galatians. In my commentary on Galatians I will show that Paul’s argument centers on the importance of ethnic distinction. What’s more, Paul’s theology promotes the theological necessity of ethnic difference within the ecclesia – this is his “truth of the gospel” (2:5, 14). This thesis is novel for our contemporary moment, but it is rooted in its first-century world in which the letter was written.
What the church did to Jewish Jesus believers in the second-fifth centuries – ruling it was impossible to be both a Jew and a Christian, it has done to most other marginalized people groups: force them to assimilate into the dominate culture, which had been theologized, rather than seeking to foster the unique cultural expressions of Jesus followership.
I have to say, the struggle of Messianic Jews in the last 30 years, which I’ve had the privilege of learning about, has interesting and significant parallels with the struggle of Native American Jesus believers. It seems that is all starts with a misunderstanding of Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
I'm having a further read through Brent Nongbri's book Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 2013), where he argues that there is no ancient word equivalent to "religion" because modern notions of "religion" are rooted in a modern dichotomy between religion and secularism. According to Nongbri, the idea of "religion" as something separate from politics, economics, and science is a recent development in European history, one that has been projected … [Read More...]
Over at Bible and Interpretation, Michael Kok- a young scholar, who has written a wonderful PhD thesis on the second century reception of Mark's Gospel - has posed some questions for the Early High Christology Club:First, is there a concern to date a “high Christology” as close as possible to the founding of the “Christian” movement? Kok is concerned that scholars depict a situation where "recognition of Jesus’ divinity was a virtually instantaneous response to charismatic experiences rat … [Read More...]
On the whole "exile" debate, note John Goldingay's approach: We are not in exile; we are simply people who have been outvoted, literally and/or metaphorically. Exile happens to people who are not citizens and not members of imperial powers. We can't use the image of exile to let ourselves off the … [Read More...]
David A. deSilva Day of Atonement: A Novel of the Maccabean Revolt Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2015. Available at Amazon.comNew Testament scholar David deSilva (Ashland Theological Seminary) has written an absolutely brilliant historical novel about the Maccabean revolt. The story is readable, … [Read More...]
Over at Theologues is my lengthy and critical review of Tony Jones' book Did God Kill Jesus?There is some okay stuff in this book, but on the whole, it is a failed attempt to displace traditional accounts of the atonement and it sets forth an impoverished view of God and an inadequate account of … [Read More...]
I've been browsing through Bradley G. Green's book Covenant and Commandment: Works, Obedience and Faithfulness in the Christian Life. I really liked his fair and sympathetic yet not uncritical reading of N.T. Wright on justification and his interaction with Andrew McGowan on federal headship in a … [Read More...]
Michael J. Gorman Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015. Available at Amazon.comMichael Gorman is a genius at weaving together Pauline theology, cruciformed spirituality, and the Missio Dei. This volume is part three of a "partly deliberate, … [Read More...]
Douglas A. Campbell Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2014. Available at Amazon.comDoug Campbell's book is an adventurous, bold, and thought-provoking attempt to re-think Pauline chronology with a pure reliance on the epistolary data. Campbell makes some … [Read More...]
Mark Sheridan Language for God in Patristic Tradition: Wrestling with Anthropomorphism Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015. Available at Amazon.comIn this volume, Mark Sheridan wrestles with biblical anthropomorphism, the depiction of God as a human figure, with human emotions and … [Read More...]
Faithlife (aka Logos) has a great interview with Dr. Stephen Chester about the Apostle Paul. Stephen has done some great work on the reception of Paul among the Reformers, esp. Martin Luther. In fact, before anyone engages in Lutheran bashing, they really should a few articles by him (see here and … [Read More...]
J.B. Lightfoot Eds. Ben Witherington & Todd Still The Acts of the Apostles: A Newly Discovered Commentary: The Lightfoot Legacy Set: Volume 1 Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014, Available at Amazon.comJ.B. Lightfoot (1828-89) was one of the preeminent biblical and patristic … [Read More...]
Amos Yong The Future of Evangelical Theology: Soundings from the Asian American Diaspora Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014. Available at Amazon.comAmos Yong, a theology professor at Fuller Seminary, in this volume offers some reflections on the future evangelicalism from a Asian-American … [Read More...]
Ben C. Blackwell, John K. Goodrich, and Jason Maston (eds). Reading Romans in Context: Paul and Second Temple Judaism Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. Available at Amazon.comThis is a very helpful volume about the Jewish background to Romans which shows how parts of Romans can be read … [Read More...]
Matthias Henze (ed.) A Companion to Biblical Interpretation in Early Judaism Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012. Available at Amazon.comThis is a very useful volume about Jewish interpretation of the Hebrew and Greek Bibles. The introductory chapter by James Kugel describes the origins of … [Read More...]