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Christ Plays 2

posted by xscot mcknight

Christ Plays 2 (pp. 49-84)
This mega-blog with pastors and friends, and anyone else who wants to speak up, is about E. Peterson’s new book, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, and we are doing about 30 pages a week. This week’s reading is from the chapter “Christ Plays in Creation” and we are taking a big chunk of that chapter. I am summarizing the material and inviting others to reflect on the reading – but anyone who’d like to respond is welcome. I might add that it is rare that we are treated to a pastor-scholar, like Peterson, who brings his entire ministry and theology to fruition in a five-volume series on spiritual theology.
A major idea in this section is that the spiritual life is a life in this world. It is not simply a life for heaven, but also a life for now.
Thus, the kerygma is Jesus’ birth – that is, God reveals himself most completely in a human, living person named Jesus. “If you want to look at creation full, creation at its highest, you look at a person – a man, a woman, a child” (53).
The threat to the gospel is Gnosticism – a term Peterson will use often enough for the attempt to flee life as it is for a life that is not, or for a life where we’d like it to be what we’d like it to be. “The feature attraction is that we no longer have to take seriously … either things or people” (60).
Peterson’s introduction to Christ and the spiritual life in creation is grounded in two texts: Genesis 1—2 and the Gospel of John (St. John).
The grounding text is Genesis 1—2 and I think Peterson’s section here is brilliant (pp. 62-84). First, creation now: this is not just about the past but about now. Peterson asks this: “How can I get in on this [creating work of God]?” (64)
Creation involves time (Gen 1): he is at his best in discussing rhythms of time. Time is a gift of God in which we presently participate – the end time is not a future but the fullness of time now (67). We are created to live rhythmically in the rhythmical times of God.
Creation involves place (Gen 2): all living is local; we are called to our place. Utopia is a “no-place” but we are called to an actual place. Sometimes we are tempted to go to another place where things will be better. Peterson pulls out a wonderful story of Gregory of Nyssa who labored in Nyssa (ever hear of it?) – and he has this quotation: “His brother told him that he didn’t want Gregory to obtain distinction from his church but rather to confer distinction upon it” (74). How many of us need to hear that?
“Theology divorced from geography gets us into nothing but trouble” (77). God placed “humans” in the place he made: Eden.
He also develops the idea of freedom and necessity and the “enormous dignity” of being human in a place. Our freedom is constrained by our place (necessity). We negotiate between the two as limited constrained humans.
And there is intimacy in this place for humans: Adam and Eve.



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Rob Merola

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:18 am


It seems to me that one of the basic principles underlying Peterson’s writing in this section, apparent from the very first in the Wendell Berry quote with which the section begins, is that we as Christians are called to be full participants in creation rather than simply users of it.
It also seems to me that this runs counter to a very popular modern teaching that this life is merely a “dress rehearsal” for the next; that this life is simply a test to be passed in order to gain entrance into “real” life. To view life in this way is to obligate one to use it in preparation for the next life rather than really living it now.
I like very much what Peterson says here because I believe it recovers an ancient truth that eternal life is not something we receive when we die, but something that begins now. The New Creation–a new heavens and a new earth–begins in us as new creations birthed by God’s Holy Spirit. To this end I appreciate Peterson’s emphasis on time and place, and the and the place of rhythm as expressed in ritual in sanctifying these things.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:20 am


Rob,
That’s exactly what Peterson is onto — and I think it is worth pondering at this time of year — the season of Incarnation — just how much creation matters to God.



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Ted Gossard

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:46 am


so much of Christian spirituality has been so hard, it seems to me, on creation. It’s like they want us to deny our humanity. When in reality it’s all about seeing our broken humanity in Adam go- and the new humanity in Jesus come.
Peterson excels in counteracting this false (neo-Platonic, gnostic) denigration of humanity.



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Ted Gossard

posted November 30, 2005 at 8:47 am


my life to some degree has been a protest against what I viewed as a false spirituality denying the good of creation and enjoyment of it- and living as humans- with everything sacred.



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Ted Gossard

posted November 30, 2005 at 9:04 am


and living in the rythms of time was an eye opener for me- as well as in the place God has. I’m just now settling in to grow in that area, it seems- and embrace all of life, as God gives it.



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Ted Gossard

posted November 30, 2005 at 9:12 am


I wonder if somewhere along the line Peterson will address what I view as the eschatological tension of living in this world as Paul addresses it in 1 Cor 7:29-31. Enjoying God’s creation but not being caught up in it so as to lose sight of God’s kingdom in Jesus.



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Mark Perry

posted November 30, 2005 at 9:19 am


“Theology divorced from geography gets us into nothing but trouble” (77). God placed “humans” in the place he made: Eden.
I’m wondering what this says about the theology of the American church. Our cultural concept of place is certainly lacking. Having moved and lived in many different parts of the country, I struggle personally with the concept of place. I now live in a rurual area in which people do seem to have strong ties to place, but at times (it seems to me) it is an unhealthy view of place. A view in which progress/growth is minimal to non-existent. It is also a place where the coal mining industry has raped the land and not valued the creation. Perhaps farmers have a healthier view of place than most. Any thoughts?



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 12:42 pm


Mark,
This is a good question, and one that did not strike me as I read the chp in Peterson. Namely, I like his idea that the work of God is in a place (not in some ethereal future) on earth for here and now right where we find ourselves.
But, contending that God’s work is in a place does not permit us to equate “our” place with God’s work. “God’s” place is the whole world and not just “our” place.



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Steve McCoy

posted November 30, 2005 at 12:50 pm


Scot, I noticed the great timing with Christmas as well. Really good stuff.
Peterson on time, ryhthm, place is so well done. I’m planning to do some posts at Reformissionary on ‘the art of slowness’ soon, and much of this has been helpful.
P 52 he writes, “Wonder is the only adequate launching pad for exploring a spirituality of creation, keeping us open-eyed, expectant, alive to life that is always more than we can account for, that always exceeds our calculations, that is always beyond anything we can make.”
I think what makes this most interesting is how he doesn’t just mean the stars and flowers, but most importantly people who are made in God’s image. His story of scolding the girl picking wildflowers is memorable and convicting.



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Scot McKnight

posted November 30, 2005 at 12:54 pm


Steve,
I loved that story on himself too.
Yes, it is more than John Muir — it may be inherent to my Embracing Grace, but seeing humans as Eikons is no small element of God’s work and our spirituality.
On slowness … very few know about Robert Banks, Tyranny of Time, but I loved that book back when I needed most: when I was a beginning professor and staying up until 3am to get lectures ready for the next morning so I could use weekends to finish the dissertation and Sunday morning for preaching and worship and the evenings for family time — and Banks told me to slow down. I’ve thanked him everytime I’ve seen it for that book.



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Steve McCoy

posted November 30, 2005 at 1:18 pm


I’ll look into it Scot. Thanks.
I forgot to mention that as a pastor I really appreciated how Peterson used Genesis 1 & 2 to explain his thoughts. He could have spoken of time and place more abstractly, but he didn’t. Very powerful and very pastoral.



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Steve Walker

posted November 30, 2005 at 1:45 pm


This section intersects with something that struck me profoundly a few years ago from Peterson’s book Answering God, about the Psalms and prayer. He was speaking of David being a lay person – “His entire life was lived in the sacred ordinary that we are apt, mistakenly, to call the secular. The regular place of prayer is the ordinary life.” (p.50) I remember that one simple phrase “sacred ordinary” revolutionized my view of life.



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John Frye

posted November 30, 2005 at 2:42 pm


Eugene Peterson, in some of his earlier writings, was the first to make me aware of old gnosticism dressed up in new Western evangelicalism clothes. There is something in American piety that resists thinking that Jesus had to use the WC, so to speak. A lot of popular renewal piety is determined to jettison the earthy, the temporal, the dirty for the heavenly, eternal and glorious. So many want to be “connoissuers of the sublime.” We are quick to clean the Palestinian dust off of Jesus and make him the shiny God-Man, hovering with a halo just above *terra firma*. I know from the recent book by Michael Wittmer, HEAVEN IS A PLACE ON EARTH, that gnosticism permeates the “go to heaven when you die” gospel. Where else in the threat of gnosticism present in our beliefs and praxis?



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Georges Boujakly

posted December 1, 2005 at 12:08 am


Thanks for the posts.
For me, locating the creation narratives in the social milieu of the exile is precious and then connecting the exile to today is brilliant.
Bruce Waltke, (formerly a colleague of Peterson at Regent, now with the Lord) alerted me to the “liturgical week” undergirding the creation narrative. I have relished that hermeneutical idea for some time.



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John Frye

posted December 1, 2005 at 11:12 am


Georges,
I had Bruce Waltke for Hebrew and O.T. Introduction, O.T. theology and O.T. textual criticism at Dallas Theological Seminary. Did Waltke die? If so, I didn’t know. He was a great teacher.



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John Frye

posted December 1, 2005 at 11:47 am


Hi, let’s talk present-day gnosticism in the church!



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sip voip phone service

posted February 18, 2006 at 2:39 am


I really do agree on that one :).Great work, Aliyah



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disaster recovery team

posted February 27, 2006 at 6:58 pm


Wow! Great website. I totally agree with the comments. I set your site as one of my favorites.Super fun website!.



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Doug Wilson

posted March 10, 2006 at 9:42 pm


A correction of Georges Boujakly’s comment: Bruce Waltke is alive and (I hope) well — although I suspect he would be happy to be characterized as being “with the Lord”! He appears to be speaking tonight in Oklahoma – http://www.whitefieldsociety.net/static/04-conf.htm – and next week at Westminster in Philadelphia – http://www.wts.edu/news/events.html



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