Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Advent of Crucifixion 4

At the heart of Andrew Purves’ fine book, The Crucifixion of Ministry, is a profound christology: the vicarious humanity of Jesus. I wish more pastoral theologians worked this way.
Purves’ book is not so much repetitive as it is ruminative on a singular theme.
The struggle we all fight, I suppose, is the one that trusts in God to do the work while we yearn for that work to be done. Sometimes our yearning takes over our waiting. Purves attempts to find models for how to conceive of this.
After sketching Athanasian, Nicene and Chalcedonian christology and the fundamental God-centered insight these bring to how we undestand christology — Jesus as the Incarnation of God and Jesus as the Man who stands before God for us, Purves says it can be summarized in a key analogy.
Here is a key at the desk:
1. Medieval Catholicism: you can climb the upward latter and get it.
2. Protestant pietism: you can come forward and get it.
3. Calvinism: the teacher puts the key in your hand and asks you to keep the room clean.
The latter, he says, emphasizes the work and ministry Christ does.
He prays for us, he teaches for us, and he works for us.
Christian worship is participation in Christ’s worship, the Trinitarian worship.
Christian preaching is participation in the words of Christ.
Christian teaching moves from the teachings of Jesus to Jesus to the teacher to communion in the life of the Trinity.
Christian serving is participation in the serving of Christ.

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Ted M. Gossard

posted November 27, 2007 at 4:31 am

I really like this emphasis of participating in the work of God in Jesus- in word and deed. We need to be grounded and living from that, and together. And a good leader is one who helps us all follow along in that- I think of pastoral leadership here.
Christ leading us now- so important. There’s just no way we really “get it” and can do it ourselves, but only together in Christ.
Looks like another good book to read.

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Jim Martin

posted November 27, 2007 at 8:38 am

I think Purves is correct in regard to the thesis of the book. As I read this book, I reflected some on my own pastoral training (both formal and informal). I think that far too often, the social sciences were used as the basis for pastoral ministry (producing sort of a Christian “people-helper”). Upon reflection, years later, I think that christology should have been the basis and then the social sciences could contribute in whatever way might be appropriate and biblical.
Someone might respond to this by saying, “Well of course, Christ is the foundation of our pastoral training/education. However, Purves is talking about much more than a foundation. He is talking about a different way to think about and do ministry.

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posted November 27, 2007 at 9:17 am

simply profound…..the simple usually is.

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posted November 27, 2007 at 10:37 am

I agree with #3. You took the words right out of my mouth brother.

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Andy Cornett

posted November 27, 2007 at 11:14 am

Scot, Thanks for reviewing this book. It is now on my Christmas list and I hope I can read it soon. I find myself saying “yes, yes!” to the things Purves is writing – especially about the moments of crucifixion/dying to self and ministry after several years into it. That is something I have been struggling with recently: just how much of myself is wrapped up in what I am doing, and how to learn to participate more in what Christ has done/is doing (which is why I loved the final section of your Jesus Creed book).
Jim in #2: I agree. My first introduction to this way of thinking (the vicarious humanity and ministry of Jesus) was in James Torrance’s book “Worship, Communion, and the Triune God of Grace” … and it rocked me. But ever since then I have really struggled with the question: how to be formed in a this totally different way of thinking and doing? How do I/we learn to live this out? Looking for models of ministry is so ingrained in me that I find it hard in this case: how do we become shaped to see this way and act accordingly?
grace and peace – Andy

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posted November 27, 2007 at 11:44 am

sounds like another good book to read … I am having trouble keeping up with your reading list. Where do you find the time?

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Dana Ames

posted November 27, 2007 at 2:21 pm

The analogy is very timely wrt yesterday’s letter… The notion his read of Calvinism proposes is what I believe. It made me catch my breath that such is how he sees Calvinism, for that is not how I experience “calvinism”. I’m sure my theological ignorance makes things more difficult for me.
What I see is that we affirm so strongly that Jesus does all those important things for us – and neglect to do much of anything outwardly at all. I think noticing this dichotomy is at least partially what is driving the discussion about and turn toward “orthopraxy”. I don’t think “doing the work” is wrong or bad; the only question is why one is doing the work.

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posted November 27, 2007 at 2:37 pm

Just received Purves’ book: much better than the title suggests! It reminds me of James Torrance’s “Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace”: which is now out of print. But, Purves’ retraces in ministry much of where Torrance did in worship. I highly recommend reading it as an important compliment to Purves!

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Tom Grosh

posted November 27, 2007 at 11:18 pm

Purves states things simply and profoundly, but they can’t be lived in/out except through the Son who is necessary for our righteousness, sanctification, and holiness. I affirm the strong recommendation of James Torrance?s ?Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace” (Note: He studied under James Torrence’s brother Thomas at U. of Edinburgh, Scotland). I used some of material from this book in my recent ‘Practicing a Christ Centered Christmas’ to describe the Trinity. In addition Purves’ ‘Union in Christ: A Declaration for the Church’ (co-authored with Mark Achtemeier) is quite helpful.
As part of a ‘Spiritual Formation Class’ at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Purves gave a lecture on Pastoral Theology. His broad brushstroke of Reformed Piety had 5 points:
1. Justification
2. Trinitarian, recommending Torrance
3. Christocentric in prayer, recommending Knox
4. Eucharistic, recommending Knox
5. Piety’s not about me and Jesus: We’re entering into the reality of being fully in Christ, in order to more fully participate in the mission of God through the Spirit. Mission and piety are united.
As we enter Advent, may we truly celebrate and humble ourselves before the Father who came through Jesus by the power of the Spirit in the act of incarnation, revelation, healing, and atonement. May we in the flesh of the humanity hear the Word of God thru Christ who walks with the people of God in flesh and participate in the work to which we are called as we journey toward the heavenly realms.

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