Monthly Archives: February 2012

Satan’s Temptation in Mark’s Gospel

Mark only briefly mentions Satan’s temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  Whereas Matthew and Luke elaborate the three-fold temptation, Mark has merely this:

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him (Mark 1:12-13, NIV).

It may be that Mark wants his readers to interpret the Satanic temptation in light of Jesus’ later interchange with Peter:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mark 8:31-33, NIV).

It is not that Peter doesn’t want Jesus to be Messiah.  He objects to Jesus’ messianic mode, the means whereby Jesus must accomplish his mission.

Peter wants a Messiah of power, one who will drive out Israel’s enemies in a spectacularly triumphant display.

Jesus is familiar with this temptation and he knows just where it’s coming from.  He heard it before in the wilderness.  Satan’s strategy was not to get Jesus to surrender his identity, to pursue something other than being Messiah.  Satan’s aim was to keep Jesus from going to the cross, to get him to accomplish his messianic goals through power and spectacular triumph.

The more I read Mark, the more I’m struck its counter-cultural power.  It is so radically subversive, calling into question our idolatries and our distortions of Christian identity.

We see power and prestige as unmixed goods.  Mark would have see them as threats, perhaps even Satanic temptations.

Mark 1:9-15 was the Gospel text in the lectionary for this past Sunday.  Here’s the prayer:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Knowing Jesus in Light of the Cross

The cross is central to the Gospel of Mark.  Though his Gospel is much shorter than the others, Mark’s passion account is just as long as Matthew’s and Luke’s.

Mark also introduces the plot to kill Jesus much earlier (3:6) than the others.  Mark fixes his readers’ gaze on the cross, the lens through which they must see everything about Jesus and his mission, the identity of God, the nature of discipleship, and everything else connected with Christian realities.

Mark uses several devices to shape his readers’ vision along this line.

William Congdon, "Crucifixion #2" (1960)

Most prominently, perhaps, is the “messianic secret.”  Throughout Mark, Jesus exhorts everyone to keep quiet about him.  In Mark 1:40-43,

a leper came to him and fell to his knees, asking for help. “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be clean!” The leprosy left him at once, and he was clean. Immediately Jesus sent the man away with a very strong warning. He told him, “See that you do not say anything to anyone

This happens so often that it seems that Jesus is the “anti-evangelist” in Mark (3:7-12; 5:35-43; 7:31-37; 8:27-30; 9:2-9).

That’s not necessarily the case.  It’s just that Mark has a keen grasp of the human tendency toward triumphalism and power.

Mark makes his readers wait until the very end of his account to fully experience all that God is. 

Don’t get caught up in the miracles, the healings, the exorcisms, the transfiguration.  Keep quiet about all of that.  Hold your fire.  If you get excited too early, you’ll miss it.  You’ll preach and embody something less than the truth.

When does it come, then?  When do we get the full revelation of the identity of God and of his Son, Jesus?

That comes in this climactic scene:

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-39).

Mark purposefully juxtaposes the tearing of the temple veil and the confession of the centurion so that the climax of Mark answers this question: “where is God?”

In this scene, the temple is exposed as a sham.  The veil isn’t torn to symbolize that the way to God is open.  It’s torn to indicate that the temple apparatus is a fraud, corrupted by power and greed.  There’s nothing there and there’s nobody home.

So where is God?

He’s that dying corpse out on that cross. 

And Mark puts the dramatic confession in the mouth of a Roman centurion.  God’s people missed it.  The religious leaders missed it.  Jesus’ own disciples were mystified and offended by the cruciform character of Jesus’ identity and mission.

Readers and hearers of Mark need to make it to the end.  And then take up and read and hear again, and again.  Like his disciples, we find ourselves arguing about positions of prominence (10:35-45) and wishing Jesus had accomplished salvation some other way (8:27-38).

Like his disciples, we need to keep quiet, knowing our tendency to fashion Jesus in our own image.  We need a constant re-orientation by the cross-shaped narrative of Mark’s Gospel.

Prayer for the Season

O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Prayer for the Weekend

Father, grant us grace to take up our crosses and follow Jesus in the way of suffering and death.  We know that the only way to resurrection and victory is through suffering and the cross, but it is difficult.  We love our pleasures.  We love the trivial pursuits that take up our time and fill up our days.  We also love our sinful practices, those secret sins to which we return again and again, even though we know that they are the way of death.  Give us wisdom and discernment to understand that we need to give ourselves over to death in order to experience life.  Help us to put to death our sin that we may share in the life of Christ by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

The Kingdom of God as Sanctifying Space

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is constantly touching people.  Not only this, but he touches people he isn’t supposed to be touching, according to the purity codes of his culture.

In Mark 1, Jesus heals a leper:

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42).

In Mark 5:21-43, Mark wraps one healing story within another, and there’s loads of touching going on.

Jairus pleads, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  

As Jesus makes his way to Jairus’ house, a woman with a long-term bleeding condition presses through the crowd and secretly touches Jesus.  Mark emphasizes her contact with him:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ” But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering” (vv. 24-34).

In vv. 35-43, Jesus arrives at Jairus’ house and his daughter has already died.  Jesus heals her by taking her hand (v. 41).

In this double account, Jesus is doubly unclean.  According to Leviticus 15, touching a bleeding person makes him unclean, and according to Numbers 19, touching a dead body makes him unclean.

Mark intensifies things in 7:31-37, with Jesus doing all sorts of touching—he puts his fingers in the man’s ears and seems to exchange spittle with him!  This is not only disgusting to modern readers but extremely offensive in an ancient near eastern context.

This is happening all over the place in Mark.  Jesus hangs out with the all the wrong people (Mark 2:15-17) and he touches everyone he isn’t supposed to touch.

Why all the touching?

For Mark, the Kingdom of God is an invasion of purity.  The Kingdom of God is sanctifying space.  Wherever Jesus is, that’s where the presence of God’s Kingdom is located, and its power is reversing old patterns and dynamics.

It’s no longer the case that touching unclean people makes one unclean.  When Jesus touches unclean people, they are healed and made clean. 

In the Kingdom of God purity is contagious.

This is an affirmation that all are welcome to join God’s Kingdom.  It’s also a challenge to God’s people to embody Jesus’ glad invitation to marginalized groups to fully participate in the Kingdom of God.

It seems to me that this is also an invitation to churches to consider how they may have unintentionally made certain people feel unwelcome.  Do certain ethnicities feel out of place in our churches?  How about divorced people?  Do single mothers feel that they don’t belong in our communities?

Mark invites us to consider how we can transform our imaginations and community dynamics so that all are welcome and no one feels “unclean.”

N. T. Wright on God’s Redemption of Humanity

Some theological traditions have a difficult time with Scripture’s vision of humanity’s robust role within creation.  Perhaps it has to do with an overdose of an Augustinian conception of human sinfulness. 

This affects how we conceive of all facets of salvation.  Does God save us from creation and give us a heavenly destiny?  Or, are we saved so that we might rightly oversee the spread of shalom throughout creation?

In Simply Jesus, N. T. Wright summarizes it nicely:

Jesus rescues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended.  Thus the heavenly chorus sings the new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll;
You are worthy to open its seals;
For you were slaughtered and with your own blood
You purchased a people for God,
From every tribe and tongue,
From every people and nation,
And made them a kingdom and priests to our God
And they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

This, then, is how Jesus puts his kingdom achievement into operation: through the humans he has rescued.  That is why, right at the start of his public career, he called associates to share his work and then to carry it on after he had laid the foundations, particularly in his saving death.  It has been all too easy for us to suppose that, if Jesus was king of the world, he would, as it were, do the whole thing all by himself.  But that was never his way—because it was never God’s way.  It wasn’t how creation itself was supposed to work.  And Jesus’s kingdom project is nothing if not the rescue and renewal of God’s creation project.

Nor was this simply pragmatic, as though God (or Jesus) wanted a bit of help, needed someone to whom certain tasks could be delegated.  It has to do with something deep within the very being of God, the same thing that led him to create a world that was other than himself.  One name for this something is Love.  Another is Trinity.  Either way, deeply mysterious though it remains, we should recognize that when Jesus announced his intention to launch God’s kingdom at last, he did it in a way that involved and included other human beings.  God works through Jesus; Jesus works through his followers.  This is not accidental.

Some things (like the crucifixion itself) had to be done by Jesus himself, alone.  Other things (like the itinerant ministry around Galilee) could and should be shared.  God and Jesus don’t do what they do by blasting a way through all opposition.  They do what they do by working with the grain of the cosmos, by planting seeds that grow secretly, by calling humans to be cocreators (pp. 212-213, emphasis added).

Daily Lenten Meditations

My friend Linda Mortensen is posting daily meditations through the season of Lent on her blog, Home Alone With Books.

This one introduces the series, and here’s her post for today.

A Homily for Ash Wednesday

*A homily given on Ash Wednesday at Midtown Christian Community, Feb. 17, 2010

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Joel 2:1-2,12-17
Isaiah 58:1-12
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Psalm 103

Our passages for today have a fairly recognizable pattern to them.  We are called upon to repent, to turn from destructive practices and habits, and to genuinely begin to do what is right.  But upon closer inspection, there are some edges to these texts that prevent us from skipping too quickly through them.  They trip us up a bit.  They hurt.  Their identification of our sinful ways is more searching than we might have expected.  These texts make us uncomfortable.  But what is wonderful is that God’s goodness, mercy, condescending love, his overpowering forgiveness, and his sweet redemption, are also greater than they first appear.

First, our texts call out against hypocrisy and complacency.  These are constant problems for the people of God, sins into which we are always falling.  Just like biblical Israel, it is easy for us to assume that we’re on the inside track with God.  We’re doing his work!  He’s so proud of us!  Look at us!  We’re not at Comfy-Cozy Baptist Church down the street.  We’re Midtown, we’re doing cutting edge ministry, on the frontiers of God’s work in the world!

We can easily get to the place where we congratulate ourselves for what we’re doing, and we feel that God is congratulating us, too.  And this privileged status has some benefits, one of which is that we can now begin to judge others.  It’s kind of fun!  We never run out of material!  Others are always falling short of the standard, always failing to measure up. 

It’s so easy to get to the place where all we can see is the sin in others’ lives.  We become blind to our own failings, shortcomings, small rebellions, seemingly insignificant dishonesties.  It’s easy to do this, as the story of Israel demonstrates repeatedly.  It’s easy to become self-satisfied and self-congratulatory, to assume that we’re God’s favorite.  What happens when we have this mind-set is that we give ourselves something of a “free-pass” when it comes to sin.  God hates the sin of pagans, and we’re part of God’s solution, so since we’re so amazing, we get to enjoy a few freebies here and there—a little bit of sin on the side.

This is hypocrisy, born of complacency.  Assuming that we’re on the inside track with God, so God sort of turns a “blind-eye” to our sin.

But this is a deception and an illusion.  Our anger at others; our destructive speech; our lack of generosity; our lustful fantasies; our greed and consumeristic idolatries; our small-heartedness; our bitterness and lack of forgiveness; our lack of concern for others; our deep-seated and soul-destroying jealousies.  These are just as destructive to us as to anyone; and these are just as grievous to God when they are found among us as when they are found among anyone else.

God wants to reclaim and redeem creation; God calls sinners everywhere to repent and receive life.  We need to see ourselves primarily as the audience for that message, not necessarily the ones who announce it. 

That is, the gospel call to sinners comes first to us.  We are corrupt.  We are broken.  Destructive practices creep in so easily and we are totally susceptible.  So we need this season of Lent—self-examination; quiet and searching reflection; because we are the ones who need to repent.  And hypocrisy and complacency are chief among the practices, habits, and attitudes from which we need to turn.

This much is pretty clear from a first reading of these texts.  But the Scriptures for tonight anticipate our first move and cut it off.  We are warned against false or inadequate repentance.  The prophets Joel and Isaiah talk about Israel fasting, weeping, wailing, and tearing their garments—it isn’t enough.  Why?  God tells them, “I’ve seen all this, I’ve seen your tear-filled services where you’ve all come forward and made loud commitments to never sin again, but that’s not what I want!”  Why would he say that?  It’s because Israel, like us, had become good at public pronouncements of contrition and public performances of confession and remorse . . . , but then went home and kept on living exactly as before.

Many of us have been trained to consider the end of a service the end of our responsibility.  And we’ve been taught to think that “awareness” is an actual accomplishment of something.  That is, if we become aware of our sin and our sinful practices and habits, and we kind of express remorse for it, we’re done.  It’s sufficient to pray something like this: “Oh God, I’m horrible for doing this and that, I’m so bad, please forgive me, I seriously will never ever do it again, I’m so serious, I’ll live for you and be amazing and be so committed, how can I not when you’re such an amazing God who died for me and I stand in awe of you and I stand amazed in your presence and you’re so amazing because you love the whole world and I just want to live for you and I love you, God, and you’re so amazing . . . forever and ever and ever . . . Amen.” 

We think that when we’ve rattled off a long-winded prayer like this and called forth an impressive series of machine-gun style passionate prayer-groanings, that we’ve actually done something.

But according to the prophets, this isn’t anything.  Our awareness of our sinfulness and our destructive patterns of behavior and of thought are all worthless unless such awareness has its end in changed patterns of behavior in the days, weeks, and months that follow. 

Here’s what Isaiah says:

Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.Is not this the fast that I choose:

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Think carefully about commitments that you make to God.  Think very carefully about doing any sort of public act of contrition, or even of praying to God anything at all, if you don’t intend to leave our gathering here this evening and make any changes.  It’s easy for us to express love for God out loud, or even in prayer, but to make no plans to go out and repair a damaged relationship.  Some of you know that you need to take steps to make something right between you and God, or between you and another person.  Some of you know that there are destructive habits that you are cultivating that will destroy your soul.  But you have carved out a nice haven somewhere in a back-room of your mind and heart, and you have no intention of dealing with that, of cleaning it out.  That’s not good.  A treasured bitterness against someone.  A refusal to forgive.  A fantasy about revenge against another person.  Deal with these.  Drag them out into the open before God and ask him to cleanse you and give you wisdom to walk in pathways of goodness and truth.  Ask him to help make you whole.  And ask a trusted friend to help you walk through that process so that you can walk in God’s own life.  That’s where true joy and true freedom are located.

Beware of false repentance.  Public wailing, or even quiet passionate prayer now, with no intention to leave here and make small but concrete changes—it’s a waste of time.

These texts are bit more challenging than we first imagined.  And they don’t relent.  A second thing these texts highlight for us is the tendency to avoid positively and purposefully pursuing reconciliation, redemption, and the flourishing of others.  Again, if we examine ourselves, our patterns of behavior and our habits of thought and speech, we might not find much hypocrisy.  Fine!  That’s wonderful.  But God is not content to leave us in a place where we’re not currently making a mess of things.  God wants us to be purposeful and positive agents of his life to this community and to the world, which means that we all must be positively and actively engaged.  To say, “well, I’m not currently doing any harm to anyone” isn’t sufficient.

In the 2 Corinthians text, Paul talks about the lengths to which he went in order to bring about others’ reconciliation to God.  He put up with all sorts of hardships, suffered loss, humiliation, and personal injury, all so that God’s grace could reach into the lives of others and effect redemption.

We need to take this to heart.  Where are we being complacent?  Where are we stuck in small patterns of selfishness and self-orientation?  Perhaps there are very small steps we can take to actually contribute positively to this community or to the lives of others.  As part of Lent, you might consider giving up a small portion of time each day or each week so that you can carry out small acts of service to others in the name of Jesus.  Give up your own use of that time and give it as a gift to someone else.  You might consider a technology fast—those pockets of your day where you are consumed with staring at a tiny screen, engaged in text-speak with others about fascinating issues like what movie your friend saw last week, and, OMG, the guys want pizza tonight, but the rest of us want subs!

There are many other ways in which we fail to pursue redemption and reconciliation.  Perhaps we have relationships that are broken, and we think that “giving them to God” ends our responsibility.  You ought to reconsider.  Perhaps you need to give someone a call and ask for a long conversation that might bring about forgiveness and reconciliation.  The point here is that God’s grace floods our lives when we purposefully and positively walk in the truth, actively taking steps of obedience, no matter how threatening the situation or fearful we may be.

Well, to this point we’ve only considered our responsibility—God’s call to us to repent and the opportunity for self-examination that Lent affords to us.  But there’s something fundamental to all of this, something that is essential.  Something that, if we don’t have it, there’s no point to any of this.  God’s gracious character.

If we consider Lent, and our passages for tonight, with our self-generated conception of what God must be like, we might come away with something like this: Lent is a season for all of us to repent, to change our ways.  So, let’s do this, knowing that when we do, God will appreciate us doing our part.  Or, let’s do this, and God will approve of us as we meet his expectations of us.  Or, God will make his expectations clear when we repent and try to please him.

But we don’t find any of these things in our passages, because this isn’t who God is.  That’s who God would be if we were God.  Just as these texts have edges to them that trip up our hypocrisies and our follies, so God has surprising edges that demonstrate he’s a far more lavish lover than we’d expect.  He’s an overpowering forgiver, a magnanimous lover, and his grace to us is overwhelming.

In addition to the sweet promises in the Isaiah passages, the phrases of Ps 103 are pure grace:

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins
and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave
and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness; 

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our sins from us.

As a father cares for his children,
so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

For he himself knows whereof we are made;
he remembers that we are but dust.

God’s grace undergirds the entire project of confession, self-examination, and repentance.  If that weren’t the case, we’d be crazy to open ourselves up.  If God were like us, we would never open up the dark corners of our hearts for examination, would we?  I wouldn’t!!  But if we are guaranteed in advance that there is nothing but forgiveness and restoration, nothing but pure grace from God, then we are set free to be open and honest, to be truly vulnerable before the searchlight of God’s Spirit.  If I know that when I confess, I’ll find only grace and overpowering forgiveness, this sets me free to admit all my failings and ask for help.

As the psalmist says, God already knows us.  He knows our failings and our follies.  He knows our inner torments and our hidden sins.  He knows what we’re made of—and he loves us.  He longs to set us right and put us on the path of life.

So, take advantage of this Lent season as a time of self-examination, self-discipline, and simplicity.  Embark on a journey of letting God examine you, to search you and find any hurtful way in you, and to lead you in the everlasting way.

A Practical, Creative, & Wonderful Opportunity for Lent

Chris Seay invites individuals, small groups, and churches to spend 40 days of solidarity with the poor.  This is a very simple and practical way to draw upon God’s grace and become agents of God’s goodness to others.

Our daily dinner together is a big deal for our family.  We eat well, we eat lots, and we have good laughs!  We’re very blessed and because we have plenty in our fridge and our cupboards we’re very rich in relation to most of the rest of the world.

We’re going to spend the Lenten season eating purposefully simple dinners for the benefit of a dear friend who has lived her life in service to others in the name of Jesus and barely has enough to provide for basic needs.

Check out Chris Seay’s web-site and get hold of his book, A Place at the Table, for practical ways to pray for and serve the poor during this season.

The Use of Scripture in Hebrews

I’m enjoying James Thompson’s commentary in Hebrews.  His summary of the author’s use of scripture in ch. 2 captures nicely the relationship of the historical-critical method to theological interpretation of the Bible.

The historical-critical reading of scripture has been an invaluable instrument for the reading of the Bible, for its insistence on discovering the meaning of a passage in its original context often prevents arbitrary readings and provides a common method for interpreters from a variety of religious traditions to examine the same texts.  While few today question the validity of historical-critical exegesis, many interpreters now challenge the view that a text has only one meaning, insisting that the meaning of a text depends on the questions we ask.  Interpreters increasingly recognize that the meaning of a text is not exhausted by our attempts to hear the word in its original context.  Early Christians maintained that what had occurred in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was of such importance that it transformed their entire biblical story, becoming a lens for reading all of scripture.  The author of Hebrews read scripture through his knowledge of the plot of the entire narrative.  Thus the meaning of the text was not frozen with the original readers but took on additional meaning when interpreters read it in light of the entire plot.  With the faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the ultimate king, the author gave a messianic interpretation to the royal psalms.  Because of his faith that the exalted Christ was equal to God, he read passages praising God as references to the one at God’s right hand.  The author neither claimed to interpret the passages in their original context nor spoke of them as predictions fulfilled in Christ.  As a preacher, he read scripture on behalf of the community in order to find a word for his own time.  He anticipated the later church as it interpreted scripture on the basis of the church’s faith in Jesus Christ.  Thus the author’s method of interpreting scripture through the eyes of faith is not a practice to be jettisoned but a model for interpretation within a community that asks not only what scripture once meant but also what it means for those who week its guidance in the present (p. 59, emphasis mine).

I like how Thompson acknowledges the value of both methods.  This is important because methodological plurality allows the church constantly to hear God’s word afresh and ever-more clearly.