a Virginia Mission Parish in the Orthodox Anglican Church
Serving Poquoson and surrounding communities.
Reading for Transformation
Several years ago, when I was in seminary, the school magazine came out with an article titled: Reading for Reformation. Having thought about the idea of reformation for many years, I was very much interested in what these recommendations might be. Some of them were very good, yet the list as a whole seemed very bland, especially in light of the present post-Christian culture we live in. I should have liked to have seen something more counter-culture, more engaging, more...radical?
The problem was probably me. I had become accustomed to the vision of a reformation that would essentially go backward, recovering and updating the essence of the 16th century Reformation. But as the years went by, I began to see that reformation of religion is a little like refried beans. There is, after all, a theoretical limit to the number of times beans can be refried.
So I began to look for words that would describe what it was that I was longing for. It was clear that another word was needed. How about Reconfiguration? No, that would never do. Who could ever be moved reading about the "Great Reconfiguration" in a future history book?
The more I thought about this, the more perplexing was the problem. Finally, I decided that the problem was me. Or perhaps it has risen from the depths of my own, essentially Evangelical upbringing, which had instilled ideas about Reformation that made Reformation impossible. For it seemed that the Evangelical ethos celebrated the 16th century Reformation as the high point of history. But if the 16th century is the high point of religious history, then the present collapse of Christendom under the foot of Modernity would seem irrevocable. Perhaps this explains the Present Protestant preoccupation with the Parousia - judging that the project of 'redeeming the time' has gone about as far as it can go.
An athlete should retire at the high-point of his career, not the low. Will the Lord then rest from his labors when his Church appears to be in shambles, humiliated and shamed? Surely, there is more. So much more. Just as in our own personal development in maturity.
Modernity tells us that youth is divine and that every decade beyond our twenties is nothing but a slow decline into impotence and infirmity. Yet for the Christian, this is not so. Every decade seems to bring with it a completely different world of joy, fertility and adventure. And we look back upon our younger years not with poignant nostalgia but with a bit of sheepishness - and even shame - that we could have been so naive and simplistically self-centered, brutish and crude.
We must be sure that we desire the return of Christ not so that our enemies might be punished before our eyes, but that Christ himself might be fully admired in everyone's eyes. Are we ready for that? Have we sufficiently glorified Christ in this adventure that we have all been given to play out? I suggest that this question is the basis for a renewed vision to be co-laborers with Christ for the redemption of our time. And I would further recommend that we read and pray and work for Transformation - not Reformation. We must mortify that which is sin, but we must magnify that which Modernity has legitimately achieved - that which is true and honest, just and pure, lovely and virtuous.
It is a harvest that the Lord is looking for. 'God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live.' It is life for us that he desires. God primarily desires a marriage for his Son; not a divorce from the wicked. (Yes, that awful business will be attended to, the memory of which, at least for us, will surely be washed away in the river Lethe.) God desires all men to be saved and come in to communion with truth. Yes, God reproves the world of sin, of righteousness and judgment through us - but that's because he loves the world. Doesn't he? Don't we?
We are his garden, it does not appear what we shall be. But we are transformed day after day - first the blade, then the ear, then the full fruit in the ear. it is an amazing transformation. I would call for a vision of transformation - not only of ourselves, but for our corporate, cultural self. A transformation that, when complete, will fully glorify the world's husbandman as a fitting bride for his Son.
The Jonas Genre
Towards the last part of 2009, I published a book, called The Jonas Genre. it is a book about reading the New Testament Materials - particularly the first three gospels - in a new way - an ordinary way.
Just as the Old Testament materials cannot be properly understood unless they are properly placed within their literary, historical, and theological settings, neither can the New Testament. If we are prepared to see that revelation is ongoing, interconnected, and unfolding in the Old Testament, then we must be prepared to see this process in the community dialogue of the New Testament. The New Testament materials are not like the Delphic Oracles. They are as ordinary and inter-connected as nature herself, just as Jesus was conceived within the womb of an ordinary, natural woman. And we must read them as ordinary, interconnected literary materials or we will be unaffected by their divine authority.
I wrote this book because today's Christian faces an enormous monolithic consensus - in the universities and in the general culture - that the New Testament materials are not reliable witnesses to the historical Christ. It is said that the apostles didn't even write the records that ordinary history attributes to them, or that their records are primarily mythical, or that the early church suppressed or destroyed dissenting Gospels. These are very serious arguments. The integrity of the New Testament materials must be established before we can go anywhere with this religion. This book attempts to address these arguments.
Reader Review of The Jonas Genre:
- by Harvey of Brooklyn, NY:
"To say I was blown away by The Jonas Genre is a simple statement of fact.
I was not expecting to see someone close the loop and bring simple, obvious (upon the facts being finally arrayed) closure to the interminable prattling of scholars holy and profane over the gospel accounts. How, when, why were they written, edited, redacted, revised by their authors and in what form were they originally promulgated—I confess I never expected to pick up a manuscript and find answers that resonated with my own reading, wondering, speculation and simple curiosity over what I have delighted in reading for fifty-one years.
Brought up in a Brethren tradition emphasizing the inspired inerrancy of holy writings more than the human side (of progress over decades as an author grows in his sense of what he’s written about, how it fits in with ancillary knowledge and developments) I knew, but not well of human frailty in NT authors. Thus I was ripe for the thesis of The Jonas Genre. Mr. Hubbard writes as someone who, familiar with the loose ends, the ravelings, the patience of the Inspirer of holy writings and the down to earth progress in one’s knowledge, appreciation, growth and acquiescence of the divine and human confluence that guides a pen—can deftly acknowledge, take up one by one, and reknit a thousand loose strands into one cohesive whole. The final statement, brought to graphic life by the account of Simon Peter’s struggles as he over-lived Paul’s life and labors and faced again (!) what he had so assiduously avoided until seeing God’s hand, and Jesus’ prophecies in his struggles, brought me to tears. What a joy and relief to have in plain sight, what has been the holy grail of scholars for two thousand years!
The simple realization that there must have been individual progress and increasing enlightenment following the wrenchings and pullings of the struggle between Paul’s gospel and the Jewish-rooted acquiescence of James and others during the transition period opens a door. Unaware of the process they were experiencing, these witnesses wrote. We read. We too often read unaware that the gospels, Acts, epistles are a work-in-progress. Paul Hubbard has kindly, patiently gone back to explicate the process the writers were going thru at the time of each writing. And the detailing of this process, this progress, provides the unencumbered path to understanding the reaction of a Matthew, or a Peter a Mark or a Timothy as they lived through (and attempted to write during) the greatest change since the fall."
Teh Jonas Genre is available at Amazon.com, but if you email me directly, I can get you a copy for much less.