Your Jesus is Too Safe: An Interview

I’ve been following Jared for a couple years on his blog, The Gospel Driven Church. At this year’s Gospel Coalition, I happened to run into him while waiting in line for the Band of Bloggers luncheon. And then I won a copy of his new book. So, I figured the least I could do is review the book and interview him. And shamelessly demand his autograph in hope of a future cash-in.

You can see my review of the book here. For more info on the book, see the blog tour that’s currently under way.

Daniel: Give a little general background on yourself, and more specifically what drove you to write a book designed to clarify the biblical Christ.

Jared: The book really came out of a convergence of things in my life. Ten years or so ago a coworker in a bookstore handed me a copy of a book by N.T. Wright called The Original Jesus that really pushed my thinking about Jesus and the four Gospels. I really felt like I was seeing them for the first time. And that kind of began my intellectual journey in the historical Jesus stuff. And then about 5 or 6 years ago I began sort of a Gospel renaissance in my life, sort of a combination of embracing a more Reformed theology, getting under the mentorship of some really gospel-centered writers and pastors, and then a personal crisis the brokenness of which I cannot even put into words as of yet. But all of that left me with the stripped down all-importance of the gospel in my life and the preciousness of Christ.

So the book is sort of the outworking of my interest in the historical Jesus and my passion for gospel-centeredness in my life and in the evangelical church at large.

Daniel: You draw a lot of your thoughts on the kingdom of God from George Ladd. What was your introduction to his writings, and what steered you towards accepting his view of the kingdom of God?

Jared: I came to Ladd’s view of the kingdom completely by accident. I was still in my “end times” cage phase, in the process of trading in the pretrib, dispensational premil of my upbringing and moving to some sort of post-trib, historical premil. And I knew that Ladd was a historic premil guy with a post-trib view. I think I started with his book “The Blessed Hope” about the second coming. And that got me hooked on him. I read “The Presence of the Future” because it was about eschatology, assuming then that eschatology equaled “end times.” Between that book and “Gospel of the Kingdom,” I was hooked, and as Ladd dovetailed into my new reading of N.T. Wright’s stuff, my understanding of the kingdom really grew by leaps and bounds. Actually, I don’t know if I ever thought of “the kingdom” much before that.

And I’m an amillennialist now, so I think I was only an end times junkie by God’s wonderful irony, where he takes our dorkiness and turns it into good.

Daniel: Of the different legitimate portraits of Christ (King, Savior, Sacrifice, etc.), which do you think the Neo Reformers tend to overemphasize? Underemphasize?

Jared: I don’t know if I know who the neo-Reformers are — I once referred to myself as neo-Reformed and somebody (Bill Kinnon, I think) corrected me and said I wouldn’t want to refer to myself that way, as if they are like the Truly Reformed or something — but I think the guys in our tribe — the young, restless, Reformed or what have you — tend to overemphasize Jesus the Lord. Actually, it is not that that is overemphasized. I don’t think you can overemphasize Jesus’ Lordship. (I hope nobody takes that one sentence out of context to “prove” that I think that!) I just think that we can get off kilter when we underemphasize the incarnation, Jesus the Man. Mark Driscoll says some great things about these two opposite errors — focusing on one to the exclusion of the other — in his contribution to The Supremacy of Christ in the Postmodern World.

Daniel: In chapter 9 (Jesus the Sacrifice) you give two examples of persecution outside the United States. Do you see persecution coming to the United States for those who refuse to co-opt Christ into a mammon-mongering society?

Jared: No. Not anytime soon.

Most of us are too busy playing with a Jesus who’d never offend the powers that be anyway.

But I think talk of persecution in this country is extremely premature (and usually immature).

Target not honoring Jesus at Christmas gets whined about (as if we want some corporation commoditizing Jesus anyway) while believers in Pakistan are being burned alive in their homes. Christians in American can be such whiny idiots.

Daniel: In your context (Element and your new church) how have you seen the community of believers resist secularization/marginalization and be a bold light for Christ?

It happens any time we go serve people who aren’t like us. I see it when the Element community served monthly at the inner city after school program and the homeless mission, and when a few of our folks went to secular Japan gospel or to AIDS orphans in Africa.

Where I’m at now, dudes go finish homes for people in the mountains who have run out of money. Not church people. Just mountain people. And we’ve got a couple who run a community theater here that works with lots of kids from not only nonChristian homes but homes where, for instance, there are two mommies and what-not. People where I’m at now (Vermont) are missional without even knowing what “missional” means or that it exists as a word.

Daniel: In chapter 8, you share about your cousin Steve’s family, and how they’ve been drawn closer to Christ through the birth and growth of their son, Colton. Can you give an update on how they’re doing?

Jared: Doing great. Colton is ten now, I think. I know he loves MarioKart and swimming. He is in most ways a typical little boy: precocious, playful, boisterous, although he does use a wheelchair. I know they know God is sovereign, and they are just taking it a day at a time. They see him as a miracle. Because he is!

Daniel: In chapter 1, you state: “The promise is the king himself. The promise is Jesus.” This is an excellent thought: the promise to Christians is God Himself. Do the gloves have to come off to show that this is the true message of Christianity in a world of salvation prayers, prosperity gospels, and general man-centeredness? If so, how does the local church distinguish themselves from and deal with these other gospels within a community?

Jared: I’m gonna come at this question from another angle, if that’s okay. Because I think what you’re essentially asking is this: How do we get this message into more churches (or every church, if that’s possible). And I think that will take, yes, gloves coming off within pastoral tribes. It’s trickle down. Most evangelicals have no idea how big and how central the gospel is, and they won’t know because our sort of tribe for all intents and purposes exists in a vacuum. They don’t know we’re here, and when they do, they see we’re critical of what they’re involved in, so they tune us out. But they love their dynamic, engaging pastors who CEO their big churches. If we could get to THOSE guys, we could revolutionize evangelicalism with the gospel. (Or God would, not us, but you know what I mean.)

The cynical will say it cant’ be done. And they’re probably right. This is why Bible Belt evangelicalism will supposedly be gone in a generation. Or one of the reasons why evangelicalism is collapsing (if you’re an iMonk fan).

But if we could somehow reach and convince all these movers and shakers in other pastoral tribes, we could reach the majority of evangelicals.

I see some positive signs. That Francis Chan and Matt Chandler speak among the Catalyst and Exponential crowd bodes well. And likewise that guys like Driscoll are buddies with guys in the “arena church” crowd. That could be one of the weird benefits of the multi-site church movement. I’m not a fan of the whole video venue thing, but it has caused a blending of pastoral tribes, and I’m hoping the Driscolls, Chandlers, and Chans of the world are having great, respectful, fruitful influence on other leaders. And I hope they’ll be willing to go knuckle to knuckle when the glory of the gospel is on the line.

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  1. #1 by Bill Kinnon on August 13, 2009 - 2:06 pm

    It’s a great book from Jared – and I hope he sells a gazillion copies.

  2. #2 by Jared on August 13, 2009 - 7:42 pm

    Bill, will you buy the first bazillion? 🙂

  3. #3 by vizaviz on August 14, 2009 - 7:08 am

    I’ll take a couple dozen. Bill takes a couple dozen. Multiply that by a few thousand, mix and stir, and voilà! Second edition.

  4. #4 by Bill Kinnon on August 14, 2009 - 7:29 am

    Of course I will, Jared. And I will give them to all my bazillion friends, too. Forget a 2nd Edition, we want a 2000th Edition. 🙂

  5. #5 by vizaviz on August 14, 2009 - 7:50 am

    2000th edition? This won’t be an introduction to Jesus, it’ll be the 20-volume seminary course book on Jesus!

  6. #6 by Randy on August 19, 2009 - 11:12 pm

    FAMOUS RAPTURE WATCHERS – Addendum

    by Dave MacPherson

    (The statements in my “Famous Rapture Watchers” web article appeared in my 1983 book “The Great Rapture Hoax” and quoted only past leaders. Here are the other leaders who were quoted in that original printing.)

    Oswald J. Smith: “…I am absolutely convinced that there will be no rapture before the Tribulation, but that the Church will undoubtedly be called upon to face the Antichrist…” (Tribulation or Rapture – Which?, p. 2).

    Paul B. Smith: “You are perfectly free to quote me as believing rather emphatically in the post-tribulation teaching of the Bible” (letter dated June 9, 1976).

    S. I. McMillen: “…Christians will suffer in the Great Tribulation” (Discern These Times, p. 55).

    Norman F. Douty: “…all of the evidence of history runs one way – in favor of Post-tribulationism” (Has Christ’s Return Two Stages?, p. 113).

    Leonard Ravenhill: “There is a cowardly Christianity which…still comforts its fainting heart with the hope that there will be a rapture – perhaps today – to catch us away from coming tribulation” (Sodom Had No Bible, p. 94).

    William Hendriksen: “…the one and only second coming of Christ to judgment” (Israel in Prophecy, p. 29).

    Loraine Boettner: “Hence we conclude that nowhere in Scripture does it teach a secret or pre-tribulation Rapture” (The Millennium, p. 168).

    J. Sidlow Baxter: “…believers of the last days (there is only one small part of the total Church on earth at any given moment) will be on earth during the so-called ‘Great Tribulation’ ” (Explore the Book, Vol. 6, p. 345).

    Merrill C. Tenney: “There is no convincing reason why the seer’s being ‘in the Spirit’ and being called into heaven [Revelation 4:1-2] typifies the rapture of the church…” (Interpreting Revelation, p. 141).

    James R. Graham: “…there is not a line of the N.T. that declares a pre-tribulation rapture, so its advocates are compelled to read it into certain indeterminate texts…” (Watchman, What of the Night?, p. 79).

    Ralph Earle: “The teaching of a pre-tribulation rapture seems first to have been emphasized widely about 100 years ago by John Darby of the Plymouth Brethren” (Behold, I Come, p. 74).

    Clarence B. Bass: “…I most strongly believe dispensationalism to be a departure from the historic faith…” (Backgrounds to Dispensationalism, p. 155).

    William C. Thomas: “The return of Jesus Christ, described by parousia, revelation, and epiphany, is one single, glorious, triumphant event for which we all wait with great eagerness!” (The Blessed Hope in the Thessalonian Epistles of Paul, p. 42).

    Harold J. Ockenga: “No exegetical justification exists for the arbitrary separation of the ‘coming of Christ’ and the ‘day of the Lord.’ It is one ‘day of the Lord Jesus Christ’ ” (Christian Life, February, 1955).

    Duane Edward Spencer: “Paul makes it very clear that the Church will pass through the Great Tribulation” (“Rapture-Tribulation” cassette).

    J. C. Maris: “Nowhere the Bible teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ is heading for world dominion. On the contrary – there will be no place for her, save in ‘the wilderness,’ where God will take care of her (Rev. 12:13-17)” (I.C.C.C. leaflet “The Danger of the Ecumenical Movement,” p. 2).

    F. F. Bruce: “To meet the Lord [I Thessalonians 4:17]…on the final stage of…[Christ’s] journey…to the earth…” (New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 1159).

    G. Christian Weiss: “Some people say that this [‘gospel of the kingdom’ in Matthew 24:14] is not the gospel of grace but is a special aspect of the gospel to be preached some time in the future. But there is nothing in the context to indicate this” (“Back to the Bible” broadcast, February 9, 1976).

    Pat Brooks: “Soon we, in the Body of Christ, will be confronted by millions of people disillusioned by such false teaching [Pre-Tribism]” (Hear, O Israel, p. 186).

    Herman Hoeksema: “…the time of Antichrist, when days so terrible are still to arrive for the church…” (Behold, He Cometh!, p. 131).

    Ray Summers: “Because they [Philadelphia] have been faithful, he promises his sustaining grace in the tribulation…” (Worthy Is the Lamb, p. 123).

    George E. Ladd: “[Pretribulationism] may be guilty of the positive danger of leaving the Church unprepared for tribulation when Antichrist appears…” (The Blessed Hope, p. 164).

    Peter Beyerhaus: “The Christian Church on earth [will face] the final, almost superhuman test of being confronted with the apocalyptical temptation by Antichrist” (Christianity Today, April 13, 1973).

    Leon Morris: “The early Christians…looked for the Christ to come as Judge” (Apocalyptic, p. 84).

    Dale Moody: “There is not a passage in the New Testament to support Scofield. The call to John to ‘come up hither’ has reference to mystical ecstasy, not to a pretribulation rapture” (Spirit of the Living God, p. 203).

    John R. W. Stott: “He would not spare them from the suffering [Revelation 3:10]; but He would uphold them in it” (What Christ Thinks of the Church, p. 104).

    G. R. Beasley-Murray: “…the woman, i.e., the Church…flees for refuge into the wilderness [Revelation 12:14]…” (The New Bible Commentary, p. 1184).

    Bernard L. Ramm: “…as the Church moves to meet her Lord at the parousia world history is also moving to meet its Judge at the same parousia” (Leo Eddleman’s Last Things, p. 41).

    J. Barton Payne: “…the twentieth century has indeed witnessed a progressively rising revolt against pre-tribulationism” (The Imminent Appearing of Christ, p. 38).

    Robert H. Gundry: “Divine wrath does not blanket the entire seventieth week…but concentrates at the close” (The Church and the Tribulation, p. 63).

    C. S. Lovett: “Frankly I favor a post-trib rapture…I no longer teach Christians that they will NOT have to go through the tribulation” (PC, January, 1974).

    Walter R. Martin: “Walter Martin finally said…’Yes, I’m a post-trib’ ” (Lovett’s PC, December, 1976).

    Jay Adams: “Today’s trend is…from pre- to posttribulationism” (The Time Is at Hand, p. 2).

    Jim McKeever: “Nowhere do the Scriptures say that the Rapture will precede the Tribulation” (Christians Will Go Through the Tribulation, p. 55).

    Arthur Katz: “I think it fair to tell you that I do not subscribe to the happy and convenient theology which says that God’s people are going to be raptured and lifted up when a time of tribulation and trial comes” (Reality, p. 8).

    Billy Graham: “Perhaps the Holy Spirit is getting His Church ready for a trial and tribulation such as the world has never known” (Sam Shoemaker’s Under New Management, p. 72).

    W. J. Grier: “The Scofield Bible makes a rather desperate effort…it tries to get in the ‘rapture’ of the saints before the appearing of Antichrist” (The Momentous Event, p. 58).

    Pat Robertson: “Jesus Christ is going to come back to earth again to deliver Israel and at the same time to rapture His Church; it’s going to be one moment, but it’s going to be a glorious time” (“700 Club” telecast, May 14, 1975).

    Ben Kinchlow: “Any wrath [during the Tribulation] that comes upon us – any difficulty – will not be induced by God, but it’ll be like the people are saying, ‘The cause of our problems are those Christians in our midst; we need to get rid of them’ ” (“700 Club” telecast, August 28, 1979).

    Daniel P. Fuller: “It is thus concluded that Dispensationalism fails to pass the test of an adequate system of Biblical Interpretation” (The Hermeneutics of Dispensationalism, p. 369).

    Corrie ten Boom: “The Bible prophesies that the time will come when we cannot buy or sell, unless we bear the sign of the Antichrist…” (Tramp for the Lord, p. 187).

    [In light of II Tim. 3:14 which says that we can’t know too much about Bible teachers (Dave MacVersion), I invite you to read my article “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” which can be found on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site. If you are into other issues, look up “David Letterman’s Hate, Etc.” on search engines.]

    (The above I just saw on the web. Very informing!)

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