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Jesus Creed

Colossians Remixed 1

We begin today a series on Colossians and to do this I will be reading my way through a book many of you have perhaps read: Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmat, a husband and wife team, wrote Colossians Remixed.
Here’s a guiding theme for the whole: “The epistle to the Colossians, we are arguing, was an explosive and subversive tract in the context of the Roman empire, and it can be and ought to function in an analogous way in the imperial realities of our time. This letter proclaimed an alternative reality, animating a way of life that was subversive to the ethos of the Roman empire” (8).
W-K (my abbreviation) believe commentaries are mired in modernity and they seek to offer a “cultural, political, social and ecological reading” of Colossians. And what they offer they live out.
One of their conversational partners is William, a young man reared in a Christian home who left that faith during his university years, entered the capitalistic world, and then informs W-K that he has become a “theist.” He thinks “money is boring and that people who get excited about money are even more boring than the money itself” (15). He has concluded that “autonomy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I no longer believe that I am totally in control of my life.”
But he has problems with the Bible as a postmodern. With Paul’s claim to divine authority and his letter partaking in that authority and with all Paul’s “everythings” and “alls” William has problems. Here’s how W-K summarize William’s problem with Colossians: “You posit a divine authority to yourself as author of the letter, wipe out any opposition that suggests things might be looked at differently, put clear restrictions on personal and communal life, and then top it all off with a divine sanction for patriarchy and slavery. And you want a postmodern person at the beginning of the twenty-first century to read this text, learn from it and maybe even receive it as divinely inspired Scripture? I don’t think so!” (18).
I’ve published Colossians as a separate text here.

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Tim Gombis

posted September 17, 2007 at 5:21 am

Looking forward to this series, Scot! One question; as a commentary writer, what do you make of their assertion about commentaries? What is their relative value and how can commentaries be written to avoid the pitfalls they mention?

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Scot McKnight

posted September 17, 2007 at 6:07 am

It is too easy to blame something on modernity and then feel the upper hand. I sensed that a little.
Commentaries are written for different reasons, and one of them is to explain the text in its terms so far as we are possible. That’s not simply modernity; it good reporting. We all benefit from those commentaries and they did too. (Which they wouldn’t deny.)
Some people want someone to suggest meaning and implication and application … there are those kinds of commentaries too.
Many commentaries don’t go far enough … most who read commentaries do so for both “what did it say” and “what does it mean” reasons.

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Jeff Wisdom

posted September 17, 2007 at 6:23 am

I had a class read this book last spring. It provoked some very interesting conversation among students (and the prof!).
Should be an interesting tour through Colossians

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posted September 17, 2007 at 6:26 am

Prereview: Colossians Remixed « a simple desire

[…] A book that seems worth reading. via Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed weblog. […]

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Beyond Words

posted September 17, 2007 at 8:07 am

I’m really looking forward to this series. My husband and I met Brian Walsh at Cornerstone Festival the summer before the book was released, where he gave a seminar on Colossians and Empire. Since then, I’ve read Colossians Remixed at least twice.
As a Canadian, Walsh’s political views come with a different set of presuppositions than those held dear by most of us, but they are entirely consistent with his views of Christians’ call to subvert the Empire. He’s an amazing teacher and very approachable–he even went to some concerts with us–and we’ve kept in touch by e-mail occassionally.
I”m looking forward to your posts and the comments they’ll generate. What I’d like to hear from other people who’ve read the book is how to move from conviction to praxis–especially since you raised the issue (in the context of commentaries) of blaming modernity and taking the upper hand! I know I struggle with how to enlist others in the Body to explore these ideas because the attempt can often come across as promoting my own moral superiority.
In holding any deep conviction, there’s always the danger of feeling superior or appearing to want to take the upper hand. Ironically, that’s just the sort of behavior typical of Empire, and the polar opposite of the Kingdom of the Beloved Son!

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posted September 17, 2007 at 9:13 am

Scot, is this volume you would recommend purchasing?

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Scot McKnight

posted September 17, 2007 at 9:29 am

I would recommend purchasing if…
1. You will be preaching through or studying Colossians.
2. You need a good example of how Paul may have been responding to the Roman empire in the subtleties of his language.
3. You would like to see how Canadians and Europeans perceive the specter of empire in our world.
It is a one of a kind commentary because it isn’t a verse by vers format. Which means, it has to be read like a book when one is reading Colossians; it can’t be simply consulted easily.

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Steve Cuss

posted September 17, 2007 at 12:04 pm

Hi Scot,
A friend of mine recommended this book and I read it last year. As a fellow post modern, I thoroughly enjoyed this commentary – a rare combination of classic scholarship and imagination. I’ll be preaching through Colossians in January and will be leaning on W-K for my material. I would love to see more commentaries offered in this style.

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posted September 17, 2007 at 2:20 pm

I recently preached through Colossians, and used this and NT Wright’s good commentary as well… For all the reasons and more Scot mentioned (7), Remixed is a good commentary. Some might want to use it in dialouge (as I did) with a more ‘traditional’ exegetical commentary, mostly for easy reference.
If anyone’s interested here are two of my messages:
(Hope that’s OK Scot!)
Jesus and the Empire (I): Imagine Grace
Jesus and the Empire (IV): Pax Christi
Beyond Words (5), we found it helpful in our church to provide open forums where we could discuss the praxis of this series. Asking questions like ‘what are our empires?’.. ‘how do we live subversively for Christ?’.. and ‘what is freedom/how ‘free’ are we really?’ This helps people own those answers for themselves, as opposed to feeling like there is a particular political/moral agenda from the pulpit.

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Julie Clawson

posted September 17, 2007 at 10:42 pm

Kent – I know you asked Scot, but I would add to his list that this book is one of the few easily accessible ‘postmodern commentaries’ I’ve encountered. It’s a fantastic introduction to a different way of engaging with scripture for those of us who come from an evangelical background.

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Beyond Words

posted September 18, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Thanks, MattR, #9

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