10/08/2013

We're MOVING!


On May 25, 2004, the Vanguard Church website initiated.

It's been a wonderful nine years, building up a wonderful community of friends that are committed to glorifying God by constantly re-thinking things that pertain to the church.

We saw the "Emergent" conversation take off and also fizzle. We saw the "Missional" movement take root as a biblical framework for understanding the mission of the church.

We saw debates on politics (often the most heated!), debates on theology (often the most informative), and debates on church (often the most applicable).

It's been a good nine years.

Now my focus turns toward The Center to Reintegrate Faith, Life, and Vocations, the non-profit ministry that I direct. We equip God’s people to reintegrate the Christian faith with vocation so that they can participate in God’s mission on earth.

At the (re)integrate website (www.re-integrate.org), I've been blogging as much as ever - about how the Christian faith informs how we live and work, how the church can be more missional, and about leadership in the church.

I am also the content editor for "Faith" at www.TheHighCalling.org. Every Thursday afternoon, you will find posts that I've either written myself or have commissioned from others and have edited.





Let's Keep Connected!

You can follow me on twitter: @bob_robinson_re for my personal tweets,
and @re_integrate for tweets about reintegrating faith, life, and work.

You can connect with me at the Reintegrate Facebook page as well.

The Reintegrate Linked In page is a great place to connect with people.

I'm on Google Plus as well.

All my social media connections and websites can be accessed at about.me/bobrobinson .


4/16/2013

New Blog! (re)integrate!


So, have you come over to my new blog yet? Lots of articles over there for you to interact with! Come over and comment!


2/24/2013

Did Jesus Have a Wife?

The Coptic fragment 
In the September 2012 issue of the Smithsonian ("The Inside Story of a Controversial New Text About Jesus"), Ariel Sabar reported that the Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School, Karen L. King, had discovered an ancient Coptic fragment dating to the third or fourth century. 

“So here it is,” King said. On her desk, next to an open can of Diet Dr Pepper promoting the movie The Avengers, was a scrap of papyrus pressed between two plates of plexiglass.
The fragment was a shade smaller than an ATM card, honey-hued and densely inked on both sides with faded black script. The writing, King told me, was in the ancient Egyptian language of Coptic, into which many early Christian texts were translated in the third and fourth centuries, when Alexandria vied with Rome as an incubator of Christian thought.
When she lifted the papyrus to her office’s arched window, sunlight seeped through in places where the reeds had worn thin. “It’s in pretty good shape,” she said. “I’m not going to look this good after 1,600 years.”
But neither the language nor the papyrus’ apparent age was particularly remarkable. What had captivated King when a private collector first e-mailed her images of the papyrus was a phrase at its center in which Jesus says “my wife.”
The fragment’s 33 words, scattered across 14 incomplete lines, leave a good deal to interpretation. But in King’s analysis, and as she argues in a forthcoming article in the Harvard Theological Review, the “wife” Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples.
“She will be able to be my disciple,” Jesus replies. Then, two lines later, he says: “I dwell with her.”
The papyrus was a stunner: the first and only known text from antiquity to depict a married Jesus.

So what are we to make of this?

King has her own idea: "In King’s analysis...the 'wife' Jesus refers to is probably Mary Magdalene, and Jesus appears to be defending her against someone, perhaps one of the male disciples."

Archaeological discoveries are always interesting. I find it fascinating that people are always seeking to prove something when these things are discovered, as if one single fragment would prove or disprove 2,000 years of research on all the rest of the archaeological evidence. But with each new archaeological discovery, I'm reminded that (as you did when you were in the holy land) this stuff really does have historical roots!

In a follow-up article at smithsonianmag.com, Sabar writes,
"The writing was in the ancient Egyptian language of Coptic, into which many early Christian texts were translated in the third and fourth centuries, when Alexandria vied with Rome as an incubator of Christian thought. But King made no claim for its usefulness as biography, saying instead the text was probably composed in Greek a century or so after the Crucifixion, then copied into Coptic two centuries later. As evidence that the real-life Jesus was married, it is scarcely more dispositive than Dan Brown’s controversial 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code." 

So, even though the Coptic text dates to somewhere around 300-400 years after Christ and we might assume (though there is no proof of this) that it was a translation of a Greek text that might have been earlier (King says at least 100 years after Christ), people will hop on this and say that this proves that all the other archaeological evidence we have concerning Christ should be called into question.

I am all for critically analyzing all the evidence in order to constantly seek historical truth. And we have found many things that have brought better understanding of 1st Century history and thus the world in which Christ spoke (things like the Dead Sea Scrolls, etc.) But for 2,000 years, people have tried their best to prove that the New Testament accounts are false (as if the documents we have of the New Testament are not verified archaeological artifacts). And for 2,000 years, we have yet to have found anything that can possibly overturn the accounts recorded in those ancient texts.

Dan Story sums up what we know about the New Testament's texts:
There are more extant New Testament manuscripts than any other document from antiquity. More than 24,000 partial and complete copies of the New Testament are in existence today. By comparison, the ancient document second in number of available copies is the Iliad, which has only 643 surviving manuscripts. And this number is extremely high compared to other ancient documents. For example, the History of Thucydides, the History of Herodotus, Caesar’s Gallic War, Tacitus’ Histories and Annals, and many other ancient documents have fewer than two dozen surviving copies.
In addition to New Testament manuscripts, there are over 86,000 early patristic (church fathers’) quotations from the New Testament and several thousand Lectionaries (early church-service books containing selected Scripture readings) dating to the early centuries of the church. In fact, there are enough quotations from the early church fathers that even if we did not have a single copy of the Bible, scholars could still reconstruct all but 11 verses of the entire New Testament from material written within 150 to 200 years from the time of Christ.

So, it seems that a single new Coptic fragment has very little weight in light of the rest of the archaeological evidence.

And we must also ask some questions based on literary criticism. What does the text of this fragment really mean when it says, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife... She will be able to be my disciple... I dwell with her.”

Perhaps this is literal, but how do we know? Was this metaphorical or symbolic language? Both the apostles Paul and John used the metaphor of the "bride of Christ" to represent the people who are Christ's people, that is, his Church

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:2) and he likened human marriage that was talked about in Genesis to the relationship between the church and Christ in his letter to the Ephesians: "'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church." (Ephesians 5:31-32).

John, in the mysterious revelation given to him, wrote concerning how the church would be united with Christ in the end time this: "And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:2-3)

Notice that not only do we have a "bride," but we also have the idea of God "dwelling" with man!

Or take an account that Matthew recorded:
"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, 'Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.' He replied to him, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?' Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.' (Matthew 12:46-49)

This shows that Jesus could use family ties metaphorically. It is not beyond comprehension that someone writing a text 200 years after Christ might want attribute to Jesus that same kind of metaphorical language to address Jesus' relationship to his followers.

1/18/2013

Good Words from Obama - About Children Who Die Due To Abortion

President Obama's speech about what he intends to do to address gun violence was very good. 

But as I heard it and then read it online, the question occurred to me, "Mr. President, Why is this not all also true of the unborn that are killed by the violence of abortion?" 

Look at these excellent words from our President - and see how they are also applicable to the 1.3 Million children aborted each year.

"These are our kids... And so what we should be thinking about is our responsibility to care for them, and shield them from harm, and give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they’re capable of doing — not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country. This is our first task as a society, keeping our children safe. This is how we will be judged...If there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, then we've got an obligation to try."
"This will be difficult. There will be pundits and politicians and special interest lobbyists publicly warning of a tyrannical, all-out assault on liberty — not because that’s true, but because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves. And behind the scenes, they’ll do everything they can to block any common-sense reform and make sure nothing changes whatsoever."
"That most fundamental set of rights to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness…those rights are at stake."
"… when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us, we must act now."

12/11/2012

The Incarnation Dignifies Work


The fact that Jesus became a human and worked as a carpenter helps us reintegrate faith and work.
this is a parallel post with my new website, (re)integrate.
The reason Christmas fills me with wonder and awe is that it is the story of our all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, sovereign, creator God humbling himself to become one of us.
“In him (Jesus Christ) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Philippians 1:15-17)
This is who Jesus is. And then there he is: Living for nine months in Mary’s womb – yes, Jesus was once a zygote! He grew into an embryo and then was birthed like every other baby. He was laid in a  feeding trough. The all-powerful creator God humbled himself to be completely dependent on Mary and Joseph to care for him.
“Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Philippians 2:6-7)
Jesus grew in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52), under the care and tutelage of his parents. He apprenticed under Joseph and learned the noble vocation of carpentry.
Let this sink in: Before Jesus began traveling around proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, before he suffered and died for our sins, before he was raised from the dead for our justification and victory over death, he spent the majority of his life building things with his hands.
Tom Nelson, in his must-read book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship with Monday Work, writes,
“No doubt Jesus had strong, well worn, calloused hands. It is all too easy for us to overlook the fact that Jesus knew what it meant to get up and go to work every day. Jesus experienced both the exhilaration and the exhaustion of putting in a hard day’s work. Jesus faced work and a workplace profoundly affected by sin. I am sure Jesus dealt with difficult and demanding people in the workplace who complained about this and that.”
Jesus, the Son of God, worked.
One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, does a bit on Jesus and his being a carpenter:

Why do I find this funny? Because it puts Jesus squarely on the earth – the same man who performed miracles built cabinets.
Dallas Willard, in The Divine Conspiracy, writes,
“If he were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could have run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles. In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live within your family surroundings and time. None of this would be the least hindrance to the eternal kind of life that was his by nature and becomes available to us through him.”
Tom Nelson adds,
Working with his hands day in and day out in a carpentry shop was not below Jesus. Jesus did not see his carpentry work as mundane or meaningless, for it was the work his Father had called him to do.
This Christmas, allow yourself to be amazed by the incarnation. God, who is spirit, became human, for we are material. The fact that Jesus came to earth and lived as a human being informs us of God’s view concerning the dignity of our humanness, and the dignity of the material world in which we live.
Frederick Buechner, in his great little book Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC wrote,
“The Word became flesh,” wrote John, “and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That is what incarnation means. It is untheological. It is unsophisticated. It is undignified. But according to Christianity, it is the way things are.
All religions and philosophies which deny the reality or the significance of the material, the fleshly, the earthbound, are themselves denied. Moses at the burning bush was told to take off his shoes because the ground on which he stood was holy ground (Exodus 3:5), and incarnation means that all ground is holy because God not only made it but walked on it, ate and slept and worked and died on it. If we are saved anywhere, we are saved here. And what is saved is not some diaphanous distillation of our bodies and our earth, but our bodies and our earth themselves. Jerusalem becomes the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven like a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). Our bodies are sown perishable and raised imperishable (1 Corinthians 15:42).
One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God.
All work can indeed be holy. Let’s honor God with our work as we worship him because of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

9/28/2012

Voting Pro-Life. What Does That Entail?

A picture from the Facebook ad for "I Am Pro-Life"

So, here's the political conundrum for Christians:

We want to vote "Pro-Life," but what all does that entail? 

Certainly it means standing up for the marginalized voice of the unborn.

This is one of the moost pressing civil-rights issue of our time, in spite of what most Democrats mis-perceived it as (most Dems only see the abortion issue as a civil-rights issue for women, discounting the civil rights of the child).

Christians, in my opinion, must stand up for those that are oppressed by an unjust society - and there are none more oppressed than the unborn.

But being "Pro-Life" does not end in a woman's womb.

It also means standing up for the marginalized voices of those who's lives are in danger due to other issues that face society: wars, poverty, hunger, trafficking, environmental destruction that causes diseases and loss of life (just to name a few).

Which party is best positioned to deal with these Life Issues? To be Pro-Life, in other words, is more than the issue of abortion (though that is a major issue concerning Life). If a party seeks to expand the military, cut funds to the social safety-net, and ignore the impact of human actions that damage the environment because of business interests, is that "Pro-Life?"

What do you think? I'd love your input.

9/13/2012

Entrusted with the Ministry of the Reconciliation of All Things


this is a parallel post found at my new site, www,re-integrate.org 

God’s Mission and Our Mission of Reconciliation
reconciliationGod’s mission to reconcile all things to himself drives his purpose in calling a particular people to be the Church. As Ray Anderson states, “Mission precedes and creates the church” (The Soul of Ministry, p.158).
The Church’s mission is determined first by God’s mission through Christ, which is the mission of reconciliation.
Let’s compare Colossians 1:15-20 with 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)
God’s mission, in a word, is reconciliation. The scope of Creation was “all things;” the scope of the Fall was “all things,” and the scope of redemption, therefore, is “all things.” That is God’s mission in the world. This brings us to our mission in the world.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God wasreconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, andentrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
God’s mission through Christ of reconciling all things back to himself begins when he “reconciled us to himself through Christ,” and continues when we, as his “ambassadors,” perform “the ministry of reconciliation.”
In other words, our mission is to be God’s agents of restoring all aspects of the created order back to God’s loving rule and standards, reconciling all things back to God through Christ.
The Forgotten Ways at amazon.comGod the Creator is the ruler of all of his creation, not just the natural created world, but also of the human endeavors in society and culture (see my previous post). As Alan Hirsch says in his excellent book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church,
“Therefore, everything—one’s work, one’s domestic life, one’s health, one’s worship—has significance to God. He is concerned with every aspect of the believer’s life, not just the so-called spiritual dimensions…There is no such thing as sacred and secular in biblical worldview. It can conceive of no part of the world that does not come under the claim of Yahweh’s lordship. All of life belongs to God, and true holiness means bringing all the spheres of our life under God.”
In other words, God is in the process of reconciling “all things” back to himself, not just the individual souls of people, not just the natural creation, but everything, including society and culture. All things were createdby him, and he wants it all back.
But there’s a problem in American evangelical Christianity: we have lost the biblical understanding of God’s reconciliation ministry, and have replaced it with a neo-Gnosticism that truncates the gospel. More on that next.

8/20/2012

TWO WEEKS until the launch of Reintegrate!

reintegrate-W-PURPOSE

The new website will have "vocational channels" - with resources (articles, videos, podcasts) for specific vocations.

Channels will include

  • WORK & CALLING
  • CHURCH
  • FAMILY
  • CULTURE
  • BUSINESS
  • EDUCATION
  • GOVERNMENT
  • MEDIA
  • MEDICAL
  • ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
  • SCIENCE
  • TECH.

8/09/2012

David Barton exposed on NPR

Republican activist David Barton speaks before testifying before the Texas State Board of Education in 2009.I'm still amazed how many evangelicals, because they WANT to believe that America was founded as a Christian nation, buy into David Barton's revisionist history.

His new book on Thomas Jefferson is a farce.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” has an excellent piece on Barton, interviewing evangelicals like Warren Throckmorton of Grove City College and John Fea of Messiah College. Listen to this (or read the transcript).

Listen to the Story  [9 min 8 sec]

The Most Influential Evangelist You've Never Heard Of

Of course Christians should seek to influence society so that it better reflects the will of God... but we do not need to make up history to do so. This simply serves to undermine our task.

7/12/2012

(re)integrate is on its way!

logo design

logos

logo maker logo creator

free logos

Keepin' you in the loop: Reintegrate is on its way to becoming a reality! We have approval from the State of Ohio to be a non-profit, we are very close to closing in on our board members, and we will be sending in our paperwork for the federal 501(c)(3) status in a few weeks! Please pray for:
  1. The $850 needed for filing to the federal government for 501(c)(3),
  2. The development of our website,
  3. The publication of our first line of curriculum
  4. The establishement of partnerships with CCO, Qideas, Hearts & Minds Bookstore, The Washington Institute on Faith, Vocation, and Culture, and The High Calling.

4/24/2012

How the Media Wastes Our Time During Political Campaigns

Have you ever watched coverage of political campaigns on television and wonder, “Why does this sound so much like ESPN?

The experts on politics on cable news channels, on Meet the Press, This Week, and Face the Nation sound more like they are talking about a NASCAR race than a political race – who is out in front, how the guy trailing can gain on the leader, strategies for moving up and past the leader, strategies for saying in the lead. When the public is in desperate need for thoughtful analysis on public policy issues, the media instead focuses on other things.

Now we know why. A new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (reported at journalism.com) examined in detail the media’s coverage of the Republican primary race.

“The media often focus heavily on tactics, strategy and the numbers of the horse race. On top of that, during the primaries the policy differences between candidates are sometimes fairly minimal as rivals contend for the favor of party primary voters. In 2012, horse race and strategy dominated, but not to the degree they had in 2008.

From November 2011 to April 15, 2012, the coverage devoted to the strategic elements of the GOP primary fight (horse race, tactics, strategy, money and advertising) outnumbered the combined attention to all foreign and domestic policy issues by about 6:1.

Frames_of_2012_Campaign_Coverage

Overall, 64% of campaign coverage examined was framed around polls, advertising, fundraising, strategy and the constant question of who is winning and who is losing…

Over the last five and a half months, the candidates’ policy proposals and stands on the issues accounted for 11% of the campaign coverage. The vast majority of these focused on domestic issues…[which] accounted for 9% of the coverage…

There was far less attention paid to foreign policy issues such as Iran’s nuclear program, negotiations with Russia, and relations with Israel, all of which accounted for just 1% of the campaign coverage…

The candidates’ public records accounted for 6% of the overall campaign coverage studied.”

Frames_of_2012_Campaign_Coverage_Over_Time

So, only 17% of the media’s campaign coverage was focused on the issues: the candidates’ stands on issues and their records.

We Christians are complicit in this demise of political public discourse in the media.

Instead of taking the time to read deeply and widely about policy, we watch the claptrap that the media serves and parrot it back to each other. We rarely seek to understand the opposition’s arguments. Instead, we act like simpletons, watching only the shows that we think we already agree with so that we don’t have to think too deeply.

Instead of debating with civility with others about issues, we mimic the talking heads on our favorite cable talk shows by attacking the opposition’s character. We take this easy route since it is so much easier to dismiss those we disagree with by portraying them as utterly evil.

Instead of demanding that mass media coverage dive deeper into public policy issues, we continue to watch the junk the media shows, providing them with high ratings and little incentive to change their ways.

4/18/2012

Review: “Christ & Culture Revisited” by D. A. Carson

Christ_Culture_Revisited_DA_CarsonI went to seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and had a number of classes under D. A. Carson. He is one of the most thorough New Testament scholars in the world today. However, this does not necessarily mean that he is an expert on whatever he applies his word processor to doing. In his book, Christ & Culture Revisited (Eerdmans: 2008, now in paperback: 2012) he seeks to contribute to the conversation about culture by having us re-think Niebuhr’s categories through the lens of biblical theology.

Remember, H Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture assigned five paradigms to how Christians see Christ interacting with Culture: (1) Christ against Culture, (2) Christ of Culture, and (3) Christ above Culture (which includes the two subsets: (4) Christ and Culture in Paradox and (5) Christ the Transformer of Culture).

However sincere Carson is at the task, he makes serious mistakes in this book.

Carson first seeks to define “culture.” He defines culture by quoting Robert Redfield (“the shared understandings made manifest in act and artifact”) and Clifford Geertz (“an historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in symbols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic form by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes towards life”). Therefore, Carson starts out the book defining “Culture” as both conceptual ideas and human artifacts. However, most of the book treats culture as simply conceptual ideas (he spends an inordinate amount of space on “church and state,” as if that is the primary form of human culture) and he very rarely talks about the things that human beings actually do to create culture.

The major problem of Carson’s book is that he failed to do exactly what he said he intended to do.

He says that the only way to properly understand the relationship of Christ with Culture is to have a thorough understanding of all the “turning points in the biblical history of redemption.” He writes, “The omission or dilution of one or more of them easily generates a truncated or distorted vision of Christianity, and therefore of the relations between Christ and culture. Indeed, much of the rest of this book can be read as a meditation on how a robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against such egregious reductionisms.” (p. 82)

However, in his chapter in which he seeks to trace the turning points in the biblical history of redemption, “Creation” is quickly married to “Fall.” Carson’s understanding of Creation spotlights on human beings and their duty to delight in God—serving him, trusting him, and obeying him. In one (just one!) paragraph, Carson says that humans are embodied beings that are made in God’s image. But with only one paragraph of space given to this topic, Carson basically reduces our embodiment and image-bearing to being made “to know and love and enjoy God,” with “responsibilities of governance and care.” With that, Carson moves quickly to the fact that we are a “fallen race,” which he defines as human beings “de-godding God,” or idolatry.

The astonishing exclusion of the Cultural Mandate and a robust definition of the imago Dei as humans created to reflect God by making culture is a fatal flaw of this book.

How can a Christian theologian write about culture without a thorough discussion of Genesis 1:26-28, 2:5, and 2:15, the most important texts that biblically root the cultural call upon the human race? If Carson thinks he is providing a “meditation on how a robust biblical theology tends to safeguard Christians against such egregious reductionisms,” he fails right out of the chute: With the first and foremost moment in the history of redemption!

And his insistence on defining the Fall as simply the sin of human idolatry factors out the impact of the Fall on systems, structures, and institutions. Carson’s “history of redemption” is actually a truncated “history of the salvation of human beings.” It’s fascinating that a biblical scholar that warns against truncating the gospel does just that: truncating the gospel to just the salvation of humans. In Carson’s view, there is no robust understanding of a cosmic redemption of all things. To Carson, the shedding of Christ’s blood is only for the atonement of people.

The great New Testament scholar D.A. Carson seems to miss a crucial New Testament teaching: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)

How can Carson dismiss the cosmic redemption of “all things?”

Also, Carson speaks primarily about “church” as an institution that has, as its primary purpose, the ministry of proclamation of the Word of God and the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, all of which revolves around the primary mandate of evangelism. According to Carson, the Great Commission is what the church does, period. Therefore, what Carson ends up doing is relegating cultural influence to what some Christians can engage in on the side – important, yes, but not as important as what the church as an institution does.

Carson’s chapter on Postmodernism is also extremely weak. He shows little understanding of postmodern philosophy. He takes on James K. A. Smith, and in doing so, shows that he should stick with biblical exegesis and theology. Another glaring shortcoming is how male-centric the book is. Nowhere does he deal with how women are affected by culture. In his preface, Carson thanks a number of Reformed pastors for their suggestions (including Mark Dever and Tim Keller). Not one of his interlocutors who read the book’s manuscript is a woman (I was hopeful that “Sandy Wilson” might be a woman, but he’s a Presbyterian pastor in Memphis).

Like I said, I studied under D. A. Carson at Trinity. He was perhaps the most respected of all the incredible scholars that were on the faculty there. But looking back, I realize now that his truncated gospel and narrow understanding of redemption had a negative influence on my biblical understanding of what God’s mission in the world actually is.

I’m amazed that I could graduate with honors from Trinity, a world-class seminary, but never seriously wrestle with the theological implications of God’s cosmic plan for the redemption of his creation.