Saturday, February 26, 2011

The New Book is Here

The long awaited book Dragons, John, and Every Grain of Sand: Essays on the Book of Revelation in Honor of Dr. Robert Lowery edited by Shane J. Wood is here! This book is a compilation of 19 different authors from around the world, including: Craig A. Evans, I. Howard Marshall, Craig Blomberg, Mark E. Moore, Yulia Lubenets, Tony Twist, Mark Scott, and many more. The essays cover general studies in Revelation, difficult passages in Revelation, and how to apply the book of Revelation in today's world. To order your copy of the book, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama as Anti-Christ...?

Sorry everybody...I thought this was so humorous both from a political perspective and from a linguistics perspective I had to post it. For those of you that are not sure what I would think about such a video, let me be very clear: THERE IS NOT EVEN A SINGLE SHRED OF EVIDENCE THAT WHAT THIS VIDEO IS PURPORTING IS IN ANY WAY SHAPE OR FORM TRUE!

It is completely absurd and an incredible example of the danger of the "Left Behind" mentality that can make anyone fit their theological agenda, and as a convenient by-product fit their political agenda at the same time. As a linguist, historian, biblical theologian, and an eschatological enthusiast, I want to adamantly declare: THIS IS ABSOLUTE LUNACY AT ITS BEST!

(Note: before this guy gives me any more "Hebrew" lessons, I think he should master English first [i.e., the word "heigths" from 2:45-2:59 AND 3:11-3:21 -- come on...seriously?])

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Gospel Bigger than the Streets of Calcutta...?

Recently I heard a sermon in which a statement was made that really bothered me. Normally in sermons, I simply give the minister the benefit of the doubt because I have been in their shoes and understand how sometimes the words we say can come across to some people in ways we never intended (which is why context is SO important to me). But after "hearing him out," discussing the comment in community, and reflecting further on the implications of such a statement, I have decided that there is legitimacy in my frustration. The comment stated was, "Some people have forgotten, recently, that we have a gospel that is bigger than the streets of Calcutta."

It's important that I establish up front my intentions for this blog. I do not intend to "sling mud" at the preacher (hence - I am not naming him nor where I heard the sermon), because I believe in the proverbial wisdom that when we "sling mud" at others (esp. fellow brothers and sisters in Christ) all that is accomplished is that we all get dirty and we lose a lot of ground. Therefore, it is important for me to communicate that my intention in this blog is to present and discuss an issue that is resting below the surface for Christians that has the potential for explosive misunderstandings. I hope this entry presents an opportunity for clarity and not further disparity on "The Relationship of the Church and the Poor."

There is a movement surging in the emerging generations that is renewing the call for the church to minister to the bodies of hurting people and not just their souls. This movement, being spearheaded by the likes of Shane Claiborne, Jonathon Wilson-Hartgrove, and others, is challenging the church to take seriously the consistent focus throughout the Bible to "care for the orphans and widows." This call, however, is not being welcomed with open arms, much to my chagrin, as is evident by the counter-call to this movement, "Some people have forgotten, recently, that we have a gospel that is bigger than the streets of Calcutta."

The first point of clarification I would like to resound is this: Do not react to this new call as if it were merely a re-emergence of the "social gospel." Ignorance seems to pervade the conversations about this new movement in that people opposing it are opposing a position that is not being purported. While it is true to say that some people become so consumed with helping people's physical needs that they neglect their spiritual one's (i.e., the social gospel, the salvation army, red cross, etc.), the current movement progressing through "The Simple Way," "Rutba House," and others like it are not arguing for the same mistake. Let me state this as clearly as I can: This movement is not one that is disregarding the soul by ministering to the body nor are they satisfied with disregarding the body and only ministering to the soul. Instead, they are committed to seeing the person as a whole person and ministering wholly to them.

While the social gospel castrated the message of Christ by ignoring the soul, so too does the teaching that reduces people down to only that which they cannot see and touch. Christ never made such an odd distinction when presenting himself to people and neither should we. As a matter of fact, the word sodzo in Greek means "I save, deliver or rescue." This word or concept, however, is not confined to either one's body or soul like many of our evangelistic efforts may be, but it actually describes the salvation of both body and salvation. In Matthew 1:21, this word is used to describe Jesus' saving power to rescue us from our sins (see also Matt. 19:25; Mk. 10:26; Lk. 8:12; 18:26), but this same word is used to describe the woman with the flow of blood's desire to be healed from her physical ailment in Matthew 9:18-22 to which Jesus replied, "Take heart daughter, your faith has healed you." (see also Matt. 27:42, Mk. 5:23, Lk. 8:36) This same word, then, is used to describe salvation of the soul (an already/not yet emphasis) and salvation of the body (an already/not yet implication). Similarly, our evangelistic efforts should be focused on rescuing the bodies of people along with their souls, because in my experience separating one from another is both theologically and ontologically impossible.

In other words, it is true to say that we do not have a social gospel but we must remember that our gospel demands us to be social. While the good news of Christ is that our soul is secure in his loving hands when we submit to him as our Lord and Savior, for some it is hard to hear this truth over the growls of their stomachs, the screams of their disease ridden bodies, and the cries of their hearts to be freed from the bondage of oppression and injustice. It is these sounds that filled the streets of the cities in Christ's ministry and home town, and it is these sounds that fill the streets of Calcutta. So while the gospel may be bigger than the streets of Calcutta to some, the beckoning sounds of these same streets would probably make Christ feel the most at home.

[For an atheist's call for Christians to spread the gospel in Africa by means of physically serving the needs of the continent please read Matthew Parris' article, As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God.]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Poor Inspiration

Inspiration is a funny thing. It strikes when it wants to, it lingers at its leisure, and it conceals itself with great profundity. Yet, when inspiration graces the stage, all eyes are captivated by its moment. The moment of inspiration is as elegant as a wedding gown and yet as vicious as a surgery with no anesthetics. The poking, prodding, constructing and deconstructing that goes into inspiration deserve to be feared - for no greater pain can come from a moment of inspiration. And yet, inspiration is the avenue to a beauty that words simply fail to describe. The product birthed from a moment of inspiration can change the lives of not only the mother but all those that come into contact with her new child. For inspiration leads to transformation, and as the caterpillar can attest, all moments of metamorphosis carry a dose of pain with its grandeur.

As many of you know or can at least deduce, this is my first post since last October. It is not because I do not enjoy the potential community presented by this forum nor is it because I despise writing to the specters I assume will read this entry. Rather, I simply did not encounter inspiration until this post. Simply put: God has transformed my heart and my mind to actively care for the poor.

I have long ignored the elephant in the room labeled Christianity when I recognized the trunk stretching out for another "hand-out". I have long distanced myself from the nameless faces that I pass as I drive down main street. I have long rejected the whispers of the spirit in the tears of the oppressed in order to justify my own status and comfort. The past 6 months have put this latency in my heart to death.

God has transformed me in a way I cannot describe. My family and I are still beginning this journey, and we know we are going to make stupid mistakes, a few enemies, and even some good friends mad, but we can hide from the beckoning of the Spirit no longer. For as a sinner who is poor in the spirit, I look at those that are poor in economics and I see myself in their eyes. I want to know their names, I want to know their stories, and I want to know their pain as my own.

How do we do this? I don't know. But my family and I are taking two steps. 1. I am going to be utilizing this blog to reflect on the realities of those that are poor around us for the next several months. I am convinced that opening myself up to possible criticism through a blog forum is the only way to also open myself up to the wisdom of God through his community. 2. My family and I are going to sell our house and move across town to the "impoverished" section of the city. We have had our hearts torn asunder by God's spirit and united with another family with whom we will move into an intentional community in this part of town.

I know this is foolish and I know this may seem rash, but something has to happen because inspiration has struck and her beauty has captivated my heart. I cannot let her out of my sight for her countenance strikes fear in my soul that can only be described as holy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Burning Straw Men

In the spirit of Fall, a house nearby has erected three scarecrow. Dressed in the typical flannel outfits reminiscent of Al Borland on Home Improvement and topped with the traditional pumpkin head eliciting images of Ichabod Crane in Sleepy Hollow, these straw men do their duty: scare unwanted visitors away. Similarly, in both political discourses and theological discussions, straw men are constructed to portray a particular position in a manner that people will be repulsed by its appearance. In these venues, straw men (or man) can be defined as: an improper interpretation of an opposing view for the purpose of destroying an opponents argument. For propaganda purposes this action is quite successful, but for those in the pursuit of truth these lifeless tools can be nothing short of infuriating.

As I muse, a couple of examples of straw men come to mind. First, the political debate between the two presidential candidates this past Friday night displayed a significant amount of effort from both sides in trying to construct and burn straw men. McCain defiantly opposed his accusation of being "just another Bush" by showing his maverick tendencies in challenging President Bush on multiple issues. Similarly, Obama hammered passionately on the drum of military savvy and support for the troops to shuck the persona of democrats being anti-military pansies that just want to tuck their tail and run from military opposition. Both sides, whether the audience acknowledged their attempts or not, were set on burning the "straw men" constructed by their opponents.

Straw men are infuriating to the person being accused of holding a position or supporting a view that they simply do not believe. While in the political realm these "straw men" are constructed intentionally to deter voters from a particular candidate, most of the time, extending the benefit of the doubt, straw men in the church are constructed through good intentions that are led by ignorance of a particular issue or idea.

I will never forget walking through the halls of first floor Boatman Hall at Ozark Christian College talking with a fellow tenant. This well intentioned fellow began belligerently talking about Calvinists--all but calling for a new crusade against them (which he did quip about later). In that moment I remember thinking two things:

  1. First of all, this is a complete misrepresentation of the Calvinist perspective.
  2. 2. Second, if John Calvin makes you this mad, I have to read all of the stuff about him that I can.
So, the following year I read hundreds of pages about John Calvin and from John Calvin that not only confirmed my disagreement with my friend's perspective, but also confirmed my suspicion -- a straw had been erected by the "anti-Calvinist" movement (To be clear: while I do not adhere to the five points of Calvinism, the position was not constructed by bumbling idiots but extremely intelligent and devote men, and the position simply has more biblical evidence than people give it credit for).

The danger in ignorantly villifying another position is simple: it is unfair to the opposing position and it simply makes the one with the false accusations look like a fool. Furthermore, in the body of Christ, we need to consistently function off of a "benefit of the doubt" principle that gives grace before the death sentence for any person or position.

It is for this exact reason why I felt convicted this past summer to read all of the Left Behind series. I had some of my theological friends saying things to me like, "How can you read through that junk?"; "I just can't get myself to read through those things--I simply would get too frustrated."; "I can find other things I would rather spend my time reading than that trash." While I understand their heart, I cannot get my mind around this mentality. For it is precisely because of the reason that I disagree with the Left Behind series that I am compelled to read them. If I think that I do not agree with something or someone, I can at least offer the courtesy of knowing their position (I would even suggest knowing your opponents position correctly better than they know it themselves). Why? There are a couple of reasons:
  1. What if you are wrong about the opposing position? What if you spend so much time arguing, destroying, and humiliating a position that is being unjustifiably misconstrued by the straw man character you have portrayed them to be? What an unfortunate thing to have unnecessary quibbles within the body of Christ that could have been avoided with a little more effort and study.
  2. Whether they are true or not, straw men caricatures hurt positions on some level. The politicians will attest to this fact. It is simply not true that all PR is good PR; sometimes, it can destroy someone's image or integrity. In the body of Christ, there is no room for people to sling mud before they can clearly see the target, because they may find that the target they were aiming at simply does not exist or is actually an innocent bystander.
  3. Oftentimes, we can learn more about our own position through thorough investigation of the opposing position. While we may not always dispel the concerns about the opposing position, we can at least learn more about the validity of our own--and that is a worthy pursuit in and of itself.
  4. In addition, if I truly believe that my position is correct, then what do I have to fear by reading the opposing point of view?
In conclusion, I want to simply call all Christians to a straw man burning extravaganza. Do not submit in ignorance to a negative perspective of an opposing view, but have the decency to study it in-depth before offering criticism that may be unguided, untrue, and unchristian. We have a responsibility as voices for the body of Christ to not only proclaim the good news with integrity and boldness but also to combat false news with wisdom and precision.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Essay!

For those of you interested, I have just completed an essay entitled "Reading the Book of Revelation as Story - A Literary Analysis of the Apocalypse of John." You can view and download it at my website: under the title "essays." Enjoy!

Making Him Famous,

Shane J. Wood

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Who Writes History?

I have been disturbed by a thought that is not new to me, but one that has hit me afresh. I have been reading the book The Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe -- and I have simply been astounded by the documented events that happened in the formation of the nation of Israel in 1948 that I simply was not told. Ilan Pappe is actually an Israeli historian who simply could not stand to have the truth not be told about the atrocities that have happened to the Palestinian people during these years of "destiny." By all measures, Ilan Pappe documents through transcripts of meetings, military orders, diaries, and other resources the atrocities committed by the Israeli people toward the Palestinian people who owned 94% of the land that was taken away from them, by force, and given to the nation of Israel (England played a major role in all of this happening until 1936 when they decided to let the UN make the decision about Palestine -- which after 9 months of looking at the issues ignored the pleads of the Palestinians [the natives of the land] and the other Arab nations ruling in favor of the Jewish people because of the recent Holocaust).

The methods planned out by the Israeli people in what is known as "Operation Dalet" (the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet) include: village raids, key individual executions in front of entire villages held at gun point, burning down of houses, planting of land mines in rubble to keep people away, rapes, and other atrocities (I am starting to understand more and more why the Middle Eastern countries do not favor the Western nations supporting Israel). By the end, over 800,000 Palestinians were forcefully displaced from their homes. While I was totally sickened by these truths that do not surface in any of my history books -- it struck me like lightening once again -- history is often written by those that are victorious in battle.

While it sometimes does occur, we often ignore, if not silence, the victims of empires expanding their spoils of war. For example, do we hear of the modern histories of the American Indians that lost their land in the war? Or more close to home, if we did not have the Bible, where would we hear in the annals of Roman history about the atrocities done to Christians? Very little information (outside of the antics of Nero) are found about the way in which Christians were constantly persecuted as atheistic, incestuous, treasonous, anarchists that were probably even cannibals -- at least that's the rumor.

I do not think, however, that this means that we should be suspicious of all history, but I do think this should make us think more critically about "the way things are." For example, I know the history books will write about the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime and the "War on Terrorism," but who is going to write about the perspective of the impoverished Iraqi who is trying to stay away from the crosshairs of each side? Who is writing about the women in Afghanistan who are caught in the middle of a political tug-of-war of the east trying to keep them hidden in traditional Islam and the west trying to "free" them by exposing them to shameful situations from their culture's perspective? Who will write the history of the generation of children experiencing genocide on the losing side of the chaos in Darfur?

All in all, I hope we are careful in our devotion to an idea of innocence toward a nation as written by history, because terrorism is simply a matter of perspective -- I pray we are constantly keeping God's call to a pure and faultless religion in the forefront of our minds. I pray we are caring after the one's lost in the cracks of our history books: the orphans and the widows.