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Archive for January, 2010

Holy Subversion: An Interview with Trevin Wax

Trevin Wax is the Associate Pastor of First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, TN, and he maintains a popular blog called Kingdom People. Trevin kindly agreed to answer some questions about his recently released book, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals [sample pages here].

James Grant: Can you provide some background for the development of Holy Subversion? Where did the idea originate?

Trevin Wax: During the five years I lived as a missionary/student in Romania, I was confronted with many questions: How has my culture cluttered my view of the gospel? How have I succumbed to the prevailing worldviews of my Western Americanized society? Can the gospel be properly proclaimed without a community of faith living according to the story it tells? Looking at the United States from the outside-in, I began spotting places where the mindset of the Christian community mirrored the surrounding culture.

As I saw the Church in Romania transition from oppression to freedom, I began studying the history of early Christianity. I quickly discovered that the gospel today is just as revolutionary as it was then. The Roman Emperor would not have been threatened by a private religious experience for individual believers in Christ, just as the Communist regime in Romania was not concerned with private religious feeling. It was the subversive, communal nature of the gospel – “Jesus is Savior and Lord” – lived out by believers that threatened Caesar’s own kingship, and in Romania, led to the toppling of a dictator. The early Christians were pledging allegiance to another King, an action that subverted the Caesar worship of the day.

In the United States today, we do not live under an oppressive dictatorship. But the postmodern, consumerist culture of 21st century America has its own creed and praxis – one that needs to be directly challenged by the Church, if we are to reclaim the subversive nature of our confession.

James Grant: Your title uses the term “subversion,” and this becomes a prominent theme throughout the book. What do you mean by subversion?

Trevin Wax: Yes, the words “holy” and “subversion” do not typically go together. There are two ways to understand the word “subvert” or “subversion.” The first definition refers to “overthrowing” or plotting the downfall of a kingdom.

The second way that “subverting” something is commonly understood refers to “undermining” or “pushing something back down into its proper place.” In the book, I use the term “subversive” in the second sense. Most of the time, the idols in our lives are not bad things. They are good things that have become idolatrous because we have placed them above God himself. The goal is not merely to destroy our idols, but to return the gifts of God to their proper place where they can be enjoyed once again to the glory of God.

So our job as Christians is first to identify and unmask some of the often-unnoticed idolatries that seek to muzzle our message and demand our allegiance. Then, we must think through specific ways in which the Church can counter our culture by subverting its prevailing idolatries and pushing them back to their rightful place, under the feet of Jesus.

James Grant: Another image in the book is the idea of “Caesars.” What do you mean by “Caesars,” and why is it helpful for us today?

Trevin Wax: I presented portions this material at an Intervarsity conference in early 2007. The breakout session that elicited the most feedback was the one I did on naming the “Caesars” of our day and finding ways to subvert their influence. I use the image of “Caesar” as a creative way of linking us to the early Christians. We may not be confronted with Emperor-worship today, but the same powers and principalities behind the first-century Caesar are also behind the idols of our day: sex, money, power, leisure, success, etc. These “Caesars” demand ultimate allegiance, and they need to be demoted back to their proper place so that our lives can show that Jesus is King.

James Grant: You examined six “Caesars” we have to guard ourselves against: self, success, money, leisure, sex, and power. Does one stand out more than another?

Trevin Wax: The greatest of these is Self. The reason that “Self” is the first chapter to deal with a specific “Caesar” in the book is because it is the one from which all the others flow. Wealth, leisure, sexual pleasure, and power – all of these things can either be enjoyed and utilized for the glory of God, or they can be results of seeking first the Self. We live for ourselves or we live for God. “Subverting the Self” prepares the way for us to live for God in other areas of life as well.

James Grant: A prominent theme of your book is the importance of Christians engaging culture. Can you give us some thoughts on your view regarding “Christ and culture,” and how your view informed this book?

Trevin Wax: There is no way to solidly critique the idolatries of our day and not run up against current cultural manifestations. I don’t typically use the phrase “engaging” when speaking of culture, because the idea seems very nebulous to me. I’m never sure what people mean by that unless they are careful to explain their definitions.

There are two poles moving through this book – the Church as a counter-culture that provides an implicit critique of the culture we live in, and the Church as a culture-creating institution that actually displays a culture of its own. At times, the critique of culture comes out. Other times, it’s the church as its own institution, creating a new way of life for the world to see, a way that stems from the power of Christ’s resurrection.

Ultimately, the cross and resurrection are central to my understanding of Christ and culture. If Jesus did indeed come back from the dead on Easter morning, the whole world is fundamentally changed. New creation has begun. The church is now the foretaste of the new heavens and new earth that God will bring about at the end of time.

We are to provide people a glimpse of the reality that Jesus is indeed Savior and Lord. Our churches should be a place where the veil is torn and people see the reality of Christ on his throne – the reality that one day all will see when he is unveiled and every knee bows and tongue confesses.

James Grant: What other avenues of study and writing developed from your work on this book? How about other writing projects?

Trevin Wax: I have two writing projects in the works. One centers on the beauty of truth, specifically the truth of the Christian metanarrative. Another centers on the counterfeit gospels at work in our society (and sometimes in evangelicalism) and how only the true biblical gospel has the power to save.

James Grant: Thanks Trevin for taking the time to answer some questions. If you are interested in his book, you can purchase it here, and you can read some sample pages here.

See original interview by James Grant here

January 29, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Author,Book News,Books,Idolatry,Interviews,News & Announcements,Q&A | Author: Crossway Staff @ 7:57 am | (2) Comments »

The Kingdom of God on Trackback Thursday

9781433513404This week’s trackback Thursday features The Kingdom of God by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (released in trade paperback this month).

A reminder of how Trackback Thursday works: Simply link to the blog post from your blog, leave a comment on Crossway’s Facebook Page, or re-tweet Trackback Thursday on Twitter @Crosswaybooks. Winners are picked on Friday morning.

A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Moved
(Excerpt from The Kingdom of God, pp 219).

And what in the next world? Well it is glory! It is to be with Him, it is to be like Him, it is to reign with Christ as kings and priests. “Know ye not,” says Paul to the Corinthians, “that the saints shall judge the world . . . Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” (1 Cor 6:2-3). Christian people do you realise these things? Nobody else realises them. Men and women are in the world today because they know nothing about the glory that is coming. City life! “What a thrill I get out of it!” the say, “the kicks, the enjoyment!” But they will soon by lying on their deathbed and they will not be able to enjoy it; they will be leaving it, and they will have nothing, it will all be shaken, and they will be shaken. And here is the glory that they have refused. That is why men and women are not Christians; they know nothing about this glory; being with God and being with Christ and reigning with Him, and triumphing with Him and enjoying Him to all eternity. The blessings of the Kingdom!

And then, there is the safety and the security of the kingdom: “We receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved.” Everything else can be removed; there is nothing stable in this world. People used to think the British Empire was stable—how much of it is left? Those everlasting mountains—stable? Of course they are not. They are moving the whole time and an earthquake can wreck them, a bomb can smash them. Nothing is stable. The whole world will be convulsed in a final cataclysm, nothing will remain. But here is a kingdom which cannot be moved.

January 28, 2010 | Posted in: Books,Kingdom of God | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:40 am | (7) Comments »

Why John Piper Wrote “A Sweet and Bitter Providence”

John Piper says he wrote A Sweet and Bitter Providence because there is a way to suffer that honors Christ and glorifies God:

(Original post from desiringgod.org)

| Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Books,Interviews,News & Announcements,Video | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:28 am | 0 Comments »

The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love

97814335090561The world thinks it loves love—a love defined by unconditional acceptance and the freedom to do as it pleases. But God’s love differs from the world’s expectations. It is centered on his character and it draws clear boundaries between what is holy and what is not.

Unfortunately when it comes to membership and discipline, the church often reflects the world’s view of love. In The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love, Jonathan Leeman argues that Jesus has commissioned the local church to exercise admission, oversight, and sometimes dismissal.

Leeman writes:

This book is about something more than just membership and discipline. It’s also about love. The world thinks it understands love, just like it thinks it loves God. Yet it doesn’t. It only understands idolatrous phantoms or fabrications of them, shadows that bear some of the shape but little of the substance. The local church, therefore, is called to be a three-dimensional display of true love. And the practices of church membership and discipline are precisely what help to make the local church visible and clear. They demonstrate love’s demands. They help us to know, in the apostle John’s phrase, who are the children of God and who are the children of the Devil (see 1 John 3:10). Church membership and discipline give structure or shape to what it means to be a Christian—a person who displays God’s love. They help to mark the church off from the world, so that the world can then look and see something in but not of itself.

Can marking off something possibly be a loving thing to do, particularly to the outsiders? I will argue that it can, especially if one of the goals is to give the outsider a hope of its own inclusion into something divinely loving and divinely beautiful.

January 27, 2010 | Posted in: Books,Church Discipline,Church Membership | Author: Crossway Staff @ 12:14 pm | 0 Comments »

Fleshing Out Gospel Community

9781433502088When Timmis says he and The Crowded House take Gospel community seriously in a way that confessional evangelicals have not traditionally, he refers to an emphasis on living out one’s theology in the crucible of relationships with others who are seeking to do the same.

In “Total Church” Timmis and Chester make the statement, “The theology that matters is not the theology we profess but the theology we practice.” Later they say what counts is teaching that leads to changed lives.

“As I look at the church and look at my own life, my problem isn’t the theology that I know or the talks that I have listened to, it is the life that I live,” Timmis said. “It is actually living out that life and being obedient as a child of God.

“So, I can talk about the sovereignty of God in lofty theological terms and I can cite Calvin and the ‘Institutes’ until I am blue in the face. But if I don’t submit to His sovereignty in the intimate details of my life then I know nothing of sovereignty. But (rightly understanding and living in light of) His sovereignty is that which, when my five-year-old is dying in the hospital, that His truth sustains me. That I fall back into His sovereign arms with my heart breaking because I know that He is a God who is good. So, that is what we mean by it (the theology that matters is the theology we profess).”

Timmis said that while confessional evangelicals have done a good job of teaching sound theology, their work at seeing people live out such theology has been lacking.

“What we want to do is equip the people not to be theologically smart so that they can pass exams, but people who are intentionally godly, who are radically godly in how they live their lives,” he said. “So, we have got to place as much emphasis upon Bible learning as we have upon Bible teaching. We have been satisfied with preaching a good sermon. We have told the Bible well and we go home and we have a sense of satisfaction, patting ourselves on the back and that is just very dangerous. We have got to find a way to take that word and massage it deep into people’s lives so it changes life.”

Excerpt from Towers “Steve Timmis on the Nature of Local Church Ministry.” We encourage you to read the full article here.

January 26, 2010 | Posted in: Church and Ministry,The Sovereignty of God | Author: Crossway Staff @ 7:56 am | 0 Comments »