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Daily linkathon 9/27

If you can’t be at the Desiring God conference in Minneapolis…the next best thing is following it online, at the Desiring God blog and The Resurgence live chat (when Mike Anderson is able to get an internet connection) 🙂

If you want to follow the Ligonier West Coast Conference and can’t be there, you can do so at the Ligonier blog.

Those who have lost a loved one may find Greg Laurie’s blog to be a resource that ministers to them as they work through their loss. Greg, who lost his son, Christopher, in a car accident this summer, has been writing most recently about heaven.

iMonk reviews a book called Saving Paradise by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker.

Here’s the book description from its Amazon.com page:

When Rita Brock and Rebecca Parker began traveling the Mediterranean world in search of art depicting the dead, crucified Jesus, they discovered something that traditional histories of Christianity and Christian art had underplayed or sought to explain away: it took Jesus Christ a thousand years to die.

During their first millennium, Christians filled their sanctuaries with images of Christ as a living presence in a vibrant world. He appears as a shepherd, a teacher, a healer, an enthroned god; he is an infant, a youth, and a bearded elder. But he is never dead. When he appears with the cross, he stands in front of it, serene, resurrected. The world around him is ablaze with beauty. These are images of paradise—paradise in this world, permeated and blessed by the presence of God.

But once Jesus perished, dying was virtually all he seemed able to do.

Saving Paradise offers a fascinating new lens on the history of Christianity, from its first centuries to the present day, and asks how its early vision of beauty evolved into one of torture. In tracing the changes in society and theology that marked the medieval emergence of images of Christ crucified, Saving Paradise exposes the imperial strategies embedded in theologies of redemptive violence and sheds new light on Christianity’s turn to holy war. It reveals how the New World, established through Christian conquest and colonization, is haunted by the loss of a spiritual understanding of paradise here and now.

Brock and Parker reconstruct the idea that salvation is paradise in this world and in this life, and they offer a bold new theology for saving paradise. They ground justice and peace for humanity in love for the earth and open a new future for Christianity through a theology of redemptive beauty.

iMonk also offers this from his review (boldface emphasis mine):

…Brock and Parker believe placing the cross at the center of Christianity’s message, devotion and worship (in the eucharist) was a disaster, losing a love of life in this world and accepting all kinds of violence as redemptive. It’s a bold and divisive claim, and if you haven’t taken it on in your consideration of postmodern Christian communication, you need to calm down and do so.

Saving Paradise makes dozens and dozens of controversial claims, and some of them are, in my view, completely ridiculous (such as the acceptance of same gender sex in early monasticism and the ordination of women as bishops and priests). But other claims are truly thought provoking and compelling. The artistic, historical and documentary case they build for the role of paradise and the absence of constant evocation of the crucifixion is strong and disturbing. I may not agree with their conclusions, but much of their evidence is not to be tossed aside lightly.

Brock and Parker are, without a doubt, going to strike evangelicals as those often talked about gnostic oriented progressives who want to remove the atonement as the center of Christianity. Their point of view as women theologians well outside the boundaries of traditional orthodoxy is obvious. In another book, Brock states her view openly: “We were convinced Christianity could not promise healing for victims of intimate violence as long as its central image was a divine parent who required the death of his child.” In other words, the atonement, as generally presented, is powerless to help many absued women because it presents an abusive God.

As offensive as such a view is to many evangelicals, it is a view that requires more than a shout-back. Brock and Parker have responded with a volume of historical evidence. Many will not find them worthy of a response, but I’d like to hear it. Ironically, just today I received Mark Driscoll’s book Death by Love: Letters from The Cross. I haven’t read the book, but it appears to be the pastoral application of exactly what Brock and Parker say can’t be done. If Brock and Parker are right, Driscoll is presenting a message very different than what prevailed in the early church, and a message that legitimizes oppression and violence with the blessing of the Christian God.

I do not recommend this book if you can’t read a point of view with which you deeply disagree and be open enough to learn what is of value along the way. If you can pull off that trick, then Saving Paradise will be one of the most interesting and thought provoking books you’ll ever read. Perhaps it will provoke a substantial historical response. Where is the crucifixion in early Christian art? How invest are we as Protestants in the eucharistic theology of presenting the crucified Jesus over and over? Have we lost the resurrection’s influence over all aspects of our community practice and life? Do we consider the pastoral application of the atonement to women, the abused and victims of violence, or are we too male and theologically ivory-towered to think about such things?

So, Michael Spencer is not giving his unadulterated approval of Saving Paradise, but is saying that there are some things of value here to learn.

I think there’s always something of value to learn anywhere, but you have to have a filter to discern the truth from the lie.

That filter has to consist of Scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit and only of those two factors.

If you buy this book, make sure you have that filter on, but when you read it you’ll probably find it’s there and already working.

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