Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Jesus, in all of His fullness, is the good news." Frank Viola

I'm always recommending Frank Viola's book. Once someone pushed back by saying Frank Viola was heretical and sending me the link to one of those watchdog websites where the guy goes on and on about all the heretics out there. I had to scroll about a mile to get to mention of Viola and I don't even remember now what it said, but the episode sticks in my mind because Viola seems so dang sound to me. He's just very Jesus-centric. If you haven't listened to his Epic Jesus podcast, you should do so. You'll se what I mean. But I wanted to mention a recent interview over at the blog called illuminate. The blogger is Jamal Jivanjee. There's good stuff over there. Anyway, back to the interview. Jamal starts out with the following comment.
The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’ and Jesus Christ is the personification of good news. Simply put, He is the gospel! In the New Testament, Paul & the apostles would proclaim the actual person of Jesus Christ. This was much more than a message containing some propositional truths about Christ and a few things He did. I’m convinced that all of our problems are rooted in a small vision of Jesus Christ. Simply put, the church is in desperate need of a large and stunning view of Jesus Christ! This view of Jesus Christ is rarely presented, however.
I love that. This is the gist of what has been guiding me for a long time now. I'm sorry if it sounds simplistic and unworthy of a post-doctoral degree in theology, but what we need is more Jesus. Jesus is big and strange and category busting and inconvenient to one and all.

 I like Frank's definition of the Gospel, and his definition of the Kingdom. They're helpful. My guiding principle as I journal through the Gospel of Mark is very close to what Frank is talking about. Jesus and the Kingdom and the Good News are in many ways interchangeable. Jesus is the good news, and Jesus is the the Kingdom. These statements of equivalence may require qualification, but they are nevertheless essentially true.

 Read the interview for some insightful explication of this idea and others. I kind it difficult to snip a characteristic quotation from this wide-ranging interview, but here's a try:
If you examine everywhere the term “gospel” is used throughout the New Testament, you will discover that it’s always bound up with the Person of Jesus (His work is united with His Person. While people regularly separate His work from His Person, you can’t separate His Person from His work. The same is true with His teachings). In His preaching and teaching, Jesus consistently pointed to Himself. In fact, the early church regarded the four gospels to be “the gospel.” And what do those four gospels present? They present Jesus: His life, His story, His teaching, His work. Read the four gospels carefully sometime and count the number of times that Jesus speaks about Himself. You will have no doubts that His message—His gospel—was Himself. (I’m thrilled that some evangelical scholars are writing about this now.) Paul, Peter, John, et al. preached the same gospel as did Jesus. Their message was also Christ.
If we start with Jesus and keep the focus there, we will not get all bent out of shape by secondary things. And my point is, everything else is secondary.

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