Archive for February 3, 2007

United Methodist Church: Nothing but Nets

Nothing but NetsWhat will cause a child to die in the next 30 seconds and causes neurological impairment and chronic anemia in some of those who survive? If you happen to know about the Nothing but Nets campaign, then you may know that the answer is malaria. The people of the United Methodist Church have entered into a partnership with groups such as NBA Cares in response to a challenge in an article by Sports Illustrated’s Rick Reilly. Reilly describes this terrible illness, carried by mosquitoes, that kills some 3,000 kids every day. In response to this challenge, you can purchase a mosquito net for $10, all of which goes to purchase nets that can help reduce malaria by nearly 60%.

For United Methodists, this is also an advance special, and has its very own number – Advance #982015. I’m going to challenge both of my churches to give to this campaign in the months ahead, and I figure basketball season is the perfect time. Perhaps we can even use our in-state rivals, The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, as motivation for people to give. There is such an intense rivalry between these teams, folks will be excited to give to help their team “win” by purchasing nets for their particular team to see which team can give the most. In the meantime, the kids around the world who are in danger of malaria are the real winners when we give nets that will literally save lives. I challenge you to think of a creative way to raise money for this. Someone is counting on you.

February 3, 2007 at 6:45 pm Leave a comment

Did Jesus Know He Was God?

N.T. WrightOne of the big questions many folks wrestled with at the seminary I attended was the question of Jesus’ self-understanding. If Jesus was fully-human and fully-God as we confess, then did Jesus know he was God? One of my professors, Dr. Chuck Gutenson, posed this question to the subject of his dissertation, Dr. Wolfhart Pannenberg, who quickly reminded him that our very definition of “know” is wrapped up in a certain Greek understandings of epistemic certainty that muddy the waters significantly. Of course, one can point to a bible verse here and there that “prove” Jesus knew he was God, most notably the “I Am” passages within John. However, the question seems to be deeper than mere proof-texting can handle.

Fortunately, we have wise and prayerful guides like Dr. N.T. Wright who have addressed this question. Here are some of Wright’s thoughts in an article on Jesus’ self-understanding
that pushes some boundaries but seems to still be faithful to the deep confessions of Christian believers.

In modern Jesus studies Wright believes,

We still live in a climate of thought in which two propositions are assumed as axiomatic: (a) no first-century Jew could think of incarnation, let alone believe it, let alone believe it of himself; (b) no sane people (and we hope Jesus was sane, though even his family said he was mad!) could think of themselves as the incarnate Sons of God.

Wright’s own argument is that Jesus’ self-understanding are only understood in temrs of the return from exile and the return of YHWH to Israel. These two events were wrapped up in a personal appearance of God rather than some idealized figure, and Jesus, according to Wright, understood himself to be fulfilling the very actions of YHWH himself when he entered Jerusalem and was eventually killed. In other words, Jesus’ self-understanding was intimately tied to his vocation as the one who would enact YHWH’s return and Israel’s restoration.

Wright summarizes,

My case has been, and remains, that Jesus believed himself called to do and be things which, in the traditions to which he fell heir, only Israel’s God, YHWH, was to do and be. I think he held this belief both with passionate and firm conviction and with the knowledge that he could be making a terrible, lunatic mistake. I do not think this in any way downplays the signals of transcendence within the Gospel narratives. It is, I believe, consonant both with a full and high Christology and with the recognition that Jesus was a human figure who can be studied historically in the same way that any other human figure can be.

So, for Wright, Jesus’ understanding of himself was wrapped up in a complicated understanding of his vocation to act in ways that were only appropriate of God, but still had some room for doubt. If this is true, it should give us signficant hope for our own vocational struggles. What are some problems you see with this proposal?

February 3, 2007 at 6:54 am 1 comment

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February 2007

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