Saturday, April 19, 2014

LATEST REVIEW OF SUBVERSIVE MEALS

Review of SUBVERSIVE MEALS by Naum Trifanoff:

The best book I've read in 2014 to date ("but you say that about every good book you read!" :))

Scholarly gaze into the Roman banquet practice and cultural milieu that permeated the practice and how the early Christians/church flipped it upside down. But first, the author explores Roman culture and how those that separate church and state in Scripture error by imposing a modernist imprint upon that age -- a time when everything was *political* and the one of the *political* of customs was sharing a meal together -- from who was invited, to seating arrangements, to the benedictions and libations offered to political overlords (with "Lord Caesar" arched above all), favor exchanges and reciprocity driven status seekers.

Then, the Christian practice of "communion service" is studied -- where Christians ape the Roman practice, with the deipnon (sharing of a meal similar to a potluck today), then the symposium (a time of worship, prayer, ministry, thoughtful discussion) with libation and bread/drink offered up in remembrance of Jesus. But the Christian practice was a "subversive" twist on the Roman custom -- fellowship (koinonia), friendship (philia) and equality (isonomia), preached by Paul in NT was the model -- male, female, master, slave, Jew, Gentile, all equals at the table, and believers urged to kill their egos, and serve each other.

The penultimate chapter is ostensibly about prophecy, but I discovered the bits (author covers some bible passages from Acts, Corinthians, Thessalonians, Revelation) about 1 Cor 13, sandwiched (pun!) between 1 Cor 12 and 1 Cor 14 awe inducing in that I'll never be able to hear 1 Cor 13 (the famous "love" passage) again without seeing what the author reveals -- the moorings to Christian banquet, and conduct of Christians to self-sacrifice -- Between his treatment of the superiority of love (vv. 1–3) and the temporality of gifts (vv. 8–13), Paul lists the attributes of love, which serve as the antithesis of the way the Corinthians have behaved at mealtime. The manifestation of these virtues during the symposium will assure civility, and serve to regulate the gifts for the benefit of all. Love acts as a template against which the Corinthians can judge their behavior during the second course of the dinner.

The book ends on a question: How should an understanding of the Lord’s Supper in the first century impact communion services in the twenty-first century? -- It makes the whole cracker waer and thimble of grape juice look so silly. But then these times aren't those times either, and to sit down at a meal just doesn't carry the same gravitas it once did (we're such a drive-through culture). Or does it? That debate and/or answer is not entertained in the book, however.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Newest Amazon Review of HEAVEN ON EARTH

Heaven on Earth outlines the Kingdom in a manner that is both theological dense and pragmatic - a rare quality. By J Lofton 
Frustrated with common explanations of biblical themes being reduced to powerless moral metaphors? Ready for the dots to be connected in a powerful, informative, and pragmatic method? Then Heaven on Earth is the next book for you to read.

Heaven on Earth strikes the balance between scholarly exploration and pragmatic actuation you would hope to find in any book on a Christian's bookshelf - however rare that may be to find. Striking that balance on such a central theme as the Kingdom is sure to make for a timeless resource for generations of Christians. Streett shines a light on the Kingdom, as explained in Scripture, in such a clear and concise method it feels as if the reader has drawn the conclusion apart from the author and just before the author makes the same point. Reading this book is more like having a conversation than rote reading.

Apart from the aesthetic fluidity of the writing, the content of the book highlights how a proper understanding of the Kingdom of God leaves no aspect of one's worldview untouched. I found this explanation personally refreshing as it relieved so many various, and seemingly unrelated, frustrations I've developed over the years both within the church and within mainstream Christian thought.

Heaven on Earth has quickly earned a place within the go-to books on my shelf. I cannot recommend this book more highly for both the young believer just starting out and for the seasoned veteran needing a refresher on the passion he or she once held. If the central theme of Jesus' ministry is that the "Kingdom is at hand", it would be wise to know what exactly is at hand and how that affects everything. From my personal desires to the role of relationships to the mission of the Church to death itself - the Kingdom leaves nothing untouched. To live for the King, one must have a thought on His Kingdom.

Friday, March 14, 2014

"AM AND FM" CHRISTIANS

This is part 4 of John Armstrong's five part series on "Heaven on Earth" that can be read in its entirety on his Act 3 website. It deals mainly with one of my favorite chapters entitled "AM and FM Christians." I believe you will enjoy reading it.
---
Alan Streett’s book, "Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now" (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2013), is nicely laid out along canonical lines. By this I mean that he surveys his subject following the arrangement of the biblical canon, starting with Genesis, and then working his way through the mountain tops of the Old Testament. After surveying the Gospels, and addressing his theme in the epistles, he lands on the heavenly heights of the Apocalypse.

Streett shows the reader that the kingdom of God was first revealed in Genesis 1:28 by the command to: “Fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion . . . over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” The kingdom of God is first revealed in the opening chapter of the Bible! Here is the foundation of all theology, including kingdom theology. (Time and again I am amazed, so much so that I am no longer amazed, at how every central theme of the Bible is revealed in the narrative of Genesis 1-3!)

Following this proper beginning Streett takes the reader through the Old Testament. In twenty pages he gives a racy overview of how the kingdom theme worked prior to the coming of the King. This is followed by chapters titled: “Rome: The Final Empire” and “God’s Appointed and Anointed King.” (I’ll give you just one guess regarding who this person is.)

King Jesus reveals his kingdom through exorcisms, physical healing, miracles and teaching rooted in the everyday stories of this world, stories that focus on the here and now before dealing with the future. Charismatic, and non-charismatic, Christians will both benefit from Streett’s clear words about signs and wonders and the coming of the kingdom in the person of Jesus. There is no need to draw fire from either side when you adopt his big picture perspective.

In the middle of the book there is a chapter with this fascinating title: “AM and FM Christians.” He writes: “The kingdom of God is located wherever God’s end-time Spirit is present and welcome. When first-century believers gathered, they knew God was there with them. They expected him to speak and minister to them and through them. In this sense, they carried on the kingdom ministry that Jesus started” (Heaven on Earth, 149).

But what does this “AM and FM” metaphor mean? Most Christians function like an AM receiver. “Their capacity for hearing God is limited to one signal – the written Word of God. These believers operate at mainly a cognitive level. They enjoy sermons and their Bibles daily. God speaks to them through his written Word” (Heaven on Earth, 151). This is where I lived much of my Christian life until sometime in my thirties. I find it all too common among most Christians I know. FM Christians have an additional frequency. They are tuned in to the “still, small voice of God” (Heaven on Earth, 151). They listen with spiritual ears and they see with spiritual eyes. These FM believers are often the Christians who take giant steps of faith, steps deemed unreasonable by other Christians. All Christians are equipped with both AM and FM capacity but most use only their AM signal.

But how do you hear this FM signal? Streett says we must “get plugged in” (Heaven on Earth, 152). You are plugged in when you are “born from above” since those who “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) are those who have been born of God. To rightly hear we must move from an “analysis mode” (AM) to a “faith mode” (FM). Only here can we hear God speak to us through the ears of faith (Galatians 3;2; James 1:5-6).

Streett lays out a series of six practical steps that you can take in order to hear God’s voice. He really lays out a simple process whereby the Christian can “practice the discipline of silence” (Heaven on Earth, 154). The process should become a daily routine. This is one that Christians for centuries have called meditation and contemplation. The simple prayer he urges the reader to offer to God is: “Lord Jesus, speak to me.” You can’t get more basic than that. When this prayer is made with genuine sincerity and humility God answers!

Streett summarizes: “God wishes to speak to the hearts of individual believers and to his people when they gather. I am not advocating in any way New Age mysticism, but New Testament Christianity” (Heaven on Earth, 167). I find it sad that this qualification is needed but I get the reason why.

I resonate deeply with this entire emphasis with one small qualification. I would not hesitate to call this Christian (“evangelical”) mysticism. Streett opens the door to what my Catholic friend said to me last winter about the absence of contemplation among evangelicals. He suggested that he had never seen such activism without the contemplative lifestyle that would feed it deeply. I can only wish that every person who reads Streett’s words would go much, much deeper and learn how to do lectio divina and attentive contemplation. Thanks to evangelicals, like the late Dallas Willard, this is becoming a deeper reality among many Protestant evangelicals. But as I noted earlier, this book is a primer thus it will reach ordinary people who are often deeply suspicious of the word mysticism. The book reaches the intended target. This is one major reason for why I love it so.
---
Order Heaven on Earth from Lifeway, Mardel, Barnes ad Noble or from your favorite bookseller.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Heaven is NOT our Eternal Home!

According to the Genesis account, Adam was made OUT of the earth, FOR the earth, to FILL the earth, take DOMINION over the earth, be SUSTAINED by the earth, and will RETURN to the earth. The scope of salvation history is focused on earth. In the end we will inherit the earth.

Humans were not created angels to live in Heaven, nor with wings to traverse the skies and live in nests, nor with fins to live in the sea. We are made for earth.

Where did we ever get the idea the goal is Heaven? Could it be we have bought into Greek dualism?

For a fuller exploration of this subject, read “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now.” Available from Amazon in paperback or as a Kindle/eBook download.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brian McLaren Recommends SUBVERSIVE MEALS

When asked on his blog what he is currently reading, Brian McLaren responds, "I just finished reading two books that I really enjoyed and believe others will enjoy." He first writes:

"1. Subversive Meals is a book about the original meaning of the eucharist. It is fascinating, well-researched, and yet accessible. It's an example of what good yet readable religious scholarship looks like. The subject, the eucharist, is tremendously important … and you'll feel so even more strongly after reading this important book. R. Alan Street deserves your attention in this valuable contribution to ecclesiology, biblical scholarship, and practical ministry."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

FREE "STUDY GUIDE"

Over the past few months, I have received several requests from readers suggesting I write a Study Guide to accompany HEAVEN ON EARTH. With the help of students and my wife, I have put together a discussion guide containing 84 questions (5 or 6 questions per chapter), designed to stimulate conversations among those using the book for group study. It can also be used by individuals who wish to ponder in more depth the meaning of each chapter or those who want to explore ways to apply the principles in the book to their respective churches.

The format is not fancy -- 8 1/2 X 11'' divided by chapters. I am offering the guide FREE and will send it as an attachment to all who email me.

Leave a comment with your email address or email me: at astreett@criswell.edu


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Write a Review

College and seminary professors often choose their textbooks based on book reviews written by scholars and published in journals or on their blogs. If you are a scholar or PhD student, and would like to write a review for SUBVERSIVE MEALS, please request a copy from James Stock at: james@wipfandstock.com