Regent Tradition Conference

This past Saturday I headed back to Regent College for their Tradition Conference with guest speakers and Emeritus faculty Eugene Peterson and Bruce Waltke.

Here are the things of note (at least that I took down) that I thought were insightful. Also, I have some recordings of the sessions, they aren’t the best quality, but if you would like them, I could send them. This is a pretty long post, but I feel it is worth it. If you find any hypocrisy, it is probably in my poor summary, or maybe they are / I am just challenging your belief! ;)

Bruck Waltke spoke on money and what a few Proverbs had to say about that topic.

“Wise Advice About Smart Money”

We are in danger of living by the world’s proverbs and not God’s. We are called to live by God’s commands and the Proverbs can help illustrate how to live. Proverbs give a philosophy of living and behavior. Proverbs also tend to say more about money more than any other topic. We can exegete (and Waltke has here and here) proverbs will take on a deeper, more meaningful meaning instead of the usual “sound bite” interpretations. Proverbs can be read as a full collection and not just the individual sayings.

Chapter 10 has the first major unit and suggests that earthly treasures have no lasting value (even if they have some temporary value) but righteousness has true value. In proverbs, righteousness is defined as serving the community over yourself or even more specifically, disadvantaging yourself for the advantage of others. There is also a practical side in this section: money is needed to help people and that takes work. In our culture we want to make money quick and without having to work. Lazy hands make for poverty. Even though proverbs deals with practical situations, it is not meant to be reduced to a “how to” manual. It is a guide.

Let’s look at the dangers of money. The main danger is that money could supplant God. ANY situation that causes that is bad, regardless of what it is. Money has a way of making itself our God. God is that to which our heart clings - who or what is your God? God is that which gives us security and significance? Who or what gives you security and significance? For many people, security is in their portfolios and bank accounts. Significance is in their toys they have and carry around. Security will be found somewhere: power, manipulation, sex-appeal or even in teaching and lecturing.

You can make more money without Jesus than with Jesus. How do you deal with that? A “rich” person in Proverbs is someone who lives autonomously, someone who trusts themselves. 28.11 says that they rich are deluded. But having wealth does not mean you are “rich”; it is the attitude that will make you “rich”. The “rich” are seduced by money. Christ disadvantages himself to give to us. He perfectly illustrated righteousness. If you live like that, you are trusting God for security, not money.

Proverbs also suggests that it is also dangerous to have too much money. In Agur’s prayer in chapter 30 he asks not to be rich or poor, but simply for his daily bread (cf. Matthew 6.7-13). having too much or too little can make a relationship with God more difficult (but not impossible). Security is not what is in your pocket, but who is in your heart.

Limitations of money should also be looked at. Money cannot save us from death but it can lead us to eternal death. Psalm 49 tells us that we all die and that those who trust in wealth will have eternal death. Righteousness will deliver us from death. Proverbs 3 tells us money cannot compare to wisdom. Money can provide the food and table, but not the fellowship around it. Money can provide a house, but not a home. In North American culture we have lots of food in our houses, but little fellowship.

While money can cause problems, there are also temporal and spiritual values to money. 22.7 suggests that money can give us security against slavery. In this discussion of slavery we can’t think of the African American experience, it was different in OT times. Kidnap slavery (like African American slavery was) was a capital offense but that is not what proverbs is referring to. Indentured slavery is the common form in those times. People who defaulted on their payments would become an indentured slave. They were treated generously. Regardless of that though, having money could still keep someone out of that type of servitude. Having money would also provide you with people who could work your fields and provide for your family. In modern times we don’t have slaves, but we have dishwashers, computers, and driers. These conveniences take money. It takes money to get an education. Money can help lead to an abundant life.

Aside from those temporal benefits of money, there are also spiritual benefits. While having wealth can mitigate a loss of relationship with God, the opposite is true as well. Band conscious alienates you from God and having too much or too little can cause this. Having too little money can cause someone to take advantage of welfare systems, to take advantage of others’ generosity. 14.20-21 tells us that the poor can be shunned from society. We don’t want to be around people who are completely dependant on us. But also take note that we can’t just stop reading there, the next proverb tells us that it is a sin to despite your neighbor and that blessed are those who are kind to the needy. Having money can also enable someone to be righteous - it can often be easier to help others if you have the means to help. The problem that arises is that when you gain more and more money, you become more and more involved with the things of this world.

How do you get money and not be destroyed spiritually? God has given to us abundantly so we can use it to bless others. This is what Proverbs teaches. You teach so as to help the helpless. You share with those in need, put money into the community. Ephesians 4.28 tells us that we are to work in order to share with those in need.

Proverbs gives us wisdom to help us have enduring wealth. Fear of the Lord must come first. Humility and trust in God who has revealed himself is crucial. Submission brings lasting wealth and riches. Second is to honor God. 3.9-10 tells us that we can give God social weight by giving Him our best, our “first-fruits”. Third is to be righteous and to do righteousness. 11.23-27 says that seeking good will find favor. We are to go through life giving with an open hand. Fourth is to not become indentured to your neighbor (cf 6.1-5). Fifth is to not feed the leech (cf 30.15 and 2 Thess 3.10). Sixth is by doing hard work and not being lazy (cf 10.4-5, 6.6-11, 14.23, 24.30-34). Seventh is to be content with what you have and don’t be indulgent (cf. 21.17). Eighth is to be patient (cf 13.11). Don’t go for get rich quick schemes. Ninth is to take care of your investments (cf. 24.27 and 27.24). Tenth is to marry a competent wife (cf. 31.10) [heh :) ]. And finally we should train our children to be righteous (cf 22.6). We shouldn’t just train to make money, but train to give.

Finally we should look at Proverbs 4.20-27. We should take from this book a desire to “do” and not just learn to “be”.

Eugene Peterson spoke on living in faith.

“Death and Resurrection for Saints and Other Sinners”

The practice of Death
Death is good for us, if we were immortal, we would be insufferable. ;) Looking at the life of Abraham, the binding of Isaiah (the Akedah) on Mount Moriah is a defining event. How could God command murder, and not just any murder, but murder of a beloved son. The Akedah is a defining moment that happens in the middle of Genesis. It seems that God’s promises were taken away in the Akedah. How could this story be allowed to block the path towards Jesus? This story is here to illustrate the “way of faith”.

“The way of faith” illustrated in Abraham and the Akedah is crucial to our understanding of Death and Resurrection. It is a call to living in an obedient relationship that ventures into land we know nothing about. We have to give up control. Faith entails a total reorientation towards “earth as it is in heaven”. It is also important to note that it is not our duty to impose our will or God will (or at least what we think God’s will is) on others or on the world around us. Abraham believed in God - faith was reckoned to God as righteousness. The book of Hebrews uses Abraham as the model of faith. Abraham is the dictionary by which we look up the meaning of faith. The Abraham story suggests that the way we walk on our journey is not about our “duty” (although that is included), but about faith. Abraham narrates a story in which God is personal, in which He speaks. Abraham is the model of faith, but we are not told many specific details about his live because we are not to copy every detail.

Abraham was also called to a “way of sacrifice”. Abraham was a veteran in sacrifice. He was often called to leave wherever he was and each episode brought further cleansing. The sacrificial life is the means by which a life of faith matures. Abraham did not become our model by having things explained to him, he went out and lived life - in the practice of sacrifice. Abraham is present to his son in the same way he is present to God. The phrase “Here am I” is used because Abraham is present and willing to do as God calls him to.

Faith and sacrifice are also part of the “way of testing”. In Abraham’s life, numerous altars were built, there was generosity, tithing, conception, births, covenants, judgments: everything leads up to the Akedah at Mount Moriah. Life of faith is not an abstraction, but life with real people on real ground. Mount Moriah is embedded in context. Is God a mystery we can embrace or is He a formula we can figure out to control? Nothing is as demanding on our faith as Mount Moriah. We cannot trivialize our faith, the way of faith does not serve our fantasies: it is a way to God on His terms, not ours. At Mt. Moriah, we accept a God we do not understand. Abraham failed many tests (as we do), but he still had faith and kept on going. If testing dissolves what we thought was faith, we are better off because we should not have had faith in that in the first place! If God’s testing hadn’t dissolved it, it would have dissolved our lives.

The practice of Resurrection
The practice of resurrection is something that is unique and distinctive and irreducible in Christian living. Spiritual formation entails both birth and growth. In order for us to come to maturity, to the full stature of Christ we must grow in Him. We are always to be in growth but birth has gotten more attention that growth has. Churches are often at the heart of the problem: some are more concerned with “converting” or the “born again” and not with spiritual growth in Christ. Growth in Christ is equally essential. The Church run on the adrenaline and euphoria of new birth (please see this post). Some think it is a waste of time to make growth the importance. This focus is North American style and not part of the history of the church.

Practice of Resurrection is what Spiritual Formation is all about. “Practice” implies action, it is doing something. It is not just an exercise in getting better, it is more like a participation in something larger - like practicing law or medicine. Resurrection is not something we either do or believe, it is a way of life, a resurrection life. Everything we think and do is shaped by Jesus’ resurrection. There should be an overwhelming sense of wonder in the event. Matthew uses fear and great joy. Mark uses alarm and amazement. Luke uses perplexion, burning hearts, terror, joy, wonder. John uses surprised exclamations and rejoice. The witnesses were preoccupied with Jesus’ death, that is what defined Jesus and their lives - but then it was resurrection, a complete opposite and new way of life. This new way occurs under the conditions of wonder and mystery. Fear and desire at the same time. Sudden danger, sudden beauty. This is all done on God’s terms as defined in Jesus, there is nothing we contribute to make the resurrection happen.

There are no mysteries in North America, just problems. The mentality is that if we throw enough money at something, research something enough, spend enough time on it, we can figure it out, we can solve the problem. The Christian Life and God are approached that way. We try to figure it out, we try to solve it instead of it being a mystery to be entered into. We need to recover the sense of mystery that is inherent in the Christian life that has been removed by our culture.

The work of an artist can help reclaim some of that mystery. When we are under pressure, we often don’t practice resurrection. We need to see artistry in that situation. Jesus himself employed fictions. We live in a vast world of creation and salvation. Sometimes it takes an artist to see something and help others to see in that way and see what they see.

We need to embrace the conditions in which resurrection takes place. Resurrection needs to take place in our congregations. We tend to think “if the conditions were more favorable, resurrection (growth) would work…” We need to forget these lies. You have these people, this pastor, this church! This is what the Church of Christ has always looked like - it is made up of sinners. God works with us, even at our worst and yet He makes salvation work. The conditions are also extremely ordinary. He uses us in our every day lives. Growth in Christ is often like we are on an expedition without the proper gear. We need to equip ourselves with the right gear and go from there.

What do we do to help in Spiritual Formation? This is the wrong question. We need to ask, “what does God do?” We are called not only to a life of faith and action, but a contemplative life. Adoration, appreciation, wonder are all parts of that life. We are to submissively and obediently follow and enter into resurrection on God’s terms, not ours. We should also cultivate wonder - mystery is a good thing, enter into it. Contemplation steps back and looks first at what is right before us.

So there is the just of the talks. I hope I did them justice! I guess you could order the recordings from Regent Bookstore and come up with your own summary!


Categories: Regent College, Theology Tags:
  1. salmypal
    May 24th, 2005 at 07:22 | #1

    They sound like very interesting talks. I especially liked the one about the money…because it’s so true. Every month I wonder how we’re gonna do it and every month we do it. I haven’t had a “fulltime” job in four and a half years…you’d think by now I could just trust Him already.

  2. May 24th, 2005 at 08:22 | #2

    “Resurrection needs to take place in our congregations. We tend to think “if the conditions were more favorable, resurrection (growth) would work…” We need to forget these lies. You have these people, this pastor, this church! This is what the Church of Christ has always looked like - it is made up of sinners. God works with us, even at our worst and yet He makes salvation work. The conditions are also extremely ordinary. He uses us in our every day lives.”

    Again, it’s not what we’ve got (these people, this pastor, this church, etc),but Who’s got us.

  3. May 24th, 2005 at 12:37 | #3

    They were interesting talks, indeed. I thought both talks went well together too. Money issues should be dealth with in faith. We are so worried about making ends meet that we forget who defines those ends in the first place.

    I think it is both ways dbctan, we have them and they have us. We are all broken and living under God’s grace and mercy. We need to stop looking for the “perfect church” or “perfect pastor” and realize we all have our own issues and we should enter into relationship with such things in mind.

  4. May 24th, 2005 at 21:02 | #4

    This is probably in bad taste to mention…but doesn’t that one guy look a bit like a happy drunk? Now just hold on a min. I didn’t say he actually WAS a drunk. That would be ridiculous because he couldn’t very well be preaching and be drunk. Someone would likely notice. I’m sure he’s just plain happy. Now that I think of it, I’d like to be so happy I looked like I was drunk…!

  5. May 24th, 2005 at 23:29 | #5

    I don’t worry too much about bad taste around here ;) What does it mean to be “proper” anyway? It might be kinda funny to see old theologians drunk. :)

  6. May 25th, 2005 at 07:57 | #6

    I wonder what they would say? Probably just really corny things or no real interest…but then again, you just never know.

  1. April 12th, 2010 at 21:44 | #1