THEOLOGY T H E C O R A M D E O J O U R N A L O F T H E O LO GY
PROTOS A Life of Theology: The Coram Deo Journal of Theology is a collection of articles, essays, reviews, and reflections on the presence of God in all areas of life. In this inaugural Life of Theology issue, faculty and students present a variety of theological reflections covering a wide range of subjects, including film, language, literature, and biblical interpretation.
Life of Theology is the result of a long-felt desire to highlight theological reflections already being made in a variety of contexts across our schools as well as a desire to provide an opportunity for fresh reflections from our students, faculty, and alumni.
Faculty, students, and alumni of Coram Deo Academy will tell you that theological reflection happens in every single class, activity, setting, and grade level across our district. While some of our classes are explicitly labeled Bible, Theology, or Apologetics, many of the most meaningful discussions of a life lived coram deo take place in classes labeled Math, Science, Athletics, Fine Arts, History, Foreign Language and Literature. It is these conversations that we wish to highlight here. Many of our faculty, students, and alumni are actively thinking, praying, and working through the difficult task of exploring the ways in which our faith affects all areas of our lives, hobbies, teaching, and learning. May this be a place of highlighting just a few of these reflection in hopes that the body of Christ may â€œconsider how we can spur one another on toward love and good deedsâ€?. Jon Jordan History, Apologetics, Greek Faculty Epiphany 2013 For questions about the Journal or for more information on how to submit an article, email Mr. Jon Jordan: email@example.com Coram Deo Academy educates youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum. The goal of CDA is to train ethical servant leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God. For more information about Coram Deo Academy, visit: http://coramdeoacademy.org
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO HOMER The big division of humanity is into the majority, who believe in some kind of God or gods, and the minority who do not. On this point, Christianity lines up with the majority—lines up with the ancient Greeks and Romans against the modern Western European materialist. Mythological literature stands as a corrective to our own secular age. – C.S. Lewis
For nearly three thousand years Homer’s epic tale, The Odyssey, has inspired and delighted readers. Beyond the obvious appeal of sea adventures, monsters, and man-to-man combat against overwhelming odds, the story touches deep themes that transcend cultural differences and appeal to the common chords of humanity’s “collective unconscious.” Although written before the time of Christ, some of these themes parallel the truths and the longing for redemption portrayed in scripture. These themes include the quest for one’s true home, the coming of age of Telemachus, and the return of the rightful king. Books, magazines and whole industries are built around man’s desire to create the perfect home. The loss of one’s “true” home and the longing to regain it is also a Biblical theme. According to scripture, Adam and Eve were exiled from their perfect home, the Gar-
den of Eden. Ever since, Christians have been pilgrims on a quest for their true home. In The Odyssey, Odysseus longs to return to his home in Ithaca after ten years at Troy away from his wife and son. His quest home is a ten years series of adventures: He faces physical obstacles to returning home—giant cannibals, a brutal Cyclops, and a six-headed monster. He faces spiritual temptation in the lotus plants and the song of the sirens. And perhaps most significantly, he is offered eternal youth and eternal life to remain on an island as the lover of the goddess Calypso. The name Calypso means “hidden,” and the true glory and heroic stature of Odysseus is hidden as long as he remains on her island. Odysseus chooses to leave the island on a hastily constructed raft and venture across the sea to continue his quest for his rightful home and his true family. In each of his twelve adventures, there is a temptation for Odysseus to do something forbidden; on each occasion Odysseus passes the test by displaying a virtue. Interestingly, this theme is also a major element of the Roman epic, The Aeneid, as the hero loses his home in Troy and must seek a new home. He faces many adventures and dangers, including the desire to settle in Carthage with Dido, but finally achieves his destined quest, the founding of a new city. This universal story is a truth reflected in scripture: Christians are on a life-long quest for their true, heavenly home, but face obstacles and dangers that may prevent them from reaching it. Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress is another timeless treatment of this theme. A second universal theme reflected in The Odyssey is the coming of age, or discipleship, of Telemachus. The son of Odysseus, Telemachus must prove himself a worthy heir to his heroic father. The tension of his situation is highlighted by the sub-plot involving King Agamemnon’s brutal murder at the hand of his wife Klytemnestra and her lover Aegithus. At the beginning of The Odyssey, the son of Agamemenon, Orestes, has returned and avenged the death of his father, proving himself a true and worthy son. Meanwhile, Telemachus faces the potential “ravishing” of his home and his mother and must prove himself capable of protecting them. With the help of Athena, he begins to stand up to the suitors and travels to find information about his father. He proves himself worthy in both spiritual and physical strength. His spiritual test echoes the teaching of Christ in Matthew 25:40: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The lowly beggar whom Telemachus protects and befriends at the swineherd’s hut turns out to be his own father in disguise. His hospitality contrasts with the evil suitors’ jeers and abuse. He passes his physical test by nearly stringing the great bow of Odysseus, a task at which all the suitors fail. He also stands courageously by his father during the carnage at the Great Hall, fighting valiantly and receiving a slight wound—the baptism of his first battle as a man and a warrior. The final book of The Odyssey highlights Telemachus’ successful discipleship and portrays one of our main goals at Coram Deo Academy: multi-generational faithfulness. We desire to see children stand with their parents and their grandparents in remediating the ef4
fects of the fall in our culture and in bringing Christ to a broken world. In Book 24, Odysseus goes to find his father, Laertes, who has retreated impotently to a garden hermitage. Encouraged by the strength of his son, Laertes joins Odysseus and Telemachus in their final battle. They must stand, vastly outnumbered, against the fathers of the slain suitors. Odysseus attempts to hearten Telemachus: “Telemachus, you are going into battle against pikemen where the hearts of men are tried. I count on you to bring no shame upon your forefathers. In fighting power we have excelled this lot in every generation.” Telemachus replies, “If you are curious, Father, watch and see the stuff that’s in me. No more talk of shame.” And the old grandfather, Laertes cries aloud: “Ah, what a day for me, dear gods! To see my son and grandson vie in courage!” With that, Laertes himself hurls his spear through the throat of the most evil suitor’s father, ending the bloodshed and the battle. His strength is renewed by his faithful son and grandson. So may it be in our families. Finally, The Odyssey portrays the archetypal pattern of the return of the rightful king. This also is a theme found in scripture: A corrupt and leaderless world longs for the return of the true king, Christ, who will judge the wicked, rescue his bride, and restore a world broken by sin. The appeal of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is based on striking this common chord. The world of Middle Earth, nearly overcome by the evil of Sauron, is restored at the return of the rightful king who defeats the forces of Mordor and ushers in a new golden age. In The Odyssey, the rightful king of Ithaca, Odysseus, must return to save his wife, Penelope, and restore his household. He returns disguised as a lowly beggar, but finally reveals himself and destroys the suitors, purging his house of evil. Christ also came “disguised” as a lowly servant, but will return as king to destroy evil and rescue his “bride.” The Odyssey successfully appeals to readers as both a superficial story of love and adventure and as a tale which touches on the deepest longings, hopes, and fears of the human soul. This profoundly moving poem stirs the hearts of readers across all times and across all cultures. Leland Ryken writes, “A story begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” The Odyssey is a reflection of the one true story that we spend our lives learning and will one day know in its fullness.
Wendy Powell, Faculty Mrs. Powell teaches English, Literature and Theology at the Flower Mound campus.
REVIEW: THE SOCIAL NETWORK Theological insight is something that is hard to find in modern-day movies. Itâ€™s even rarer to find insight in movies that are as manipulative as The Social Network. In The Social Network, director David Fincher provides ample insight into not only the cut-throat process of producing the Facebook IPO, but as well the potential redundancy of instant celebrity and the gray areas of intellectual property and trademark in a digital world. Yet Fincher also manages to present a compelling character drama. A film about the creation of Facebook didnâ€™t have to focus on the creating, mending, and obliteration of relationships, but thankfully The Social Network did. The Social Network revolves around the betrayal, distrust, and deceit that went into the creation of the largest social networking site, Facebook. It focuses on the falling out of the relationship between Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg and Co-Founder Eduardo Savrin as their relationships self destructs due to selfish behavior. Much of the movie follows the legal disposition involving these two co-founders, as well another lawsuit involving two Harvard brothers who claimed to have given Zuckerberg the idea for Facebook. Throughout the film there are several parallels to the biblical themes of creation and fall. The film opens in a state of what biblical terms would be called shalom. Mark is in a seemingly good relationship, he is successfully pursuing a college degree, and 6
he has a wonderful gift of seeing the great potential of technology. Of course here in The Social Network we see a version of shalom that is a corrupt distortion of the reality God had in mind. In our Scriptures, shalom is what the first days spent in the garden of Eden were like. In this stage of shalom, all things were right through God. As it went in the biblical story, we soon find that this shalom is relatively short-lived. In the film we see a lightning quick exchange between Mark and his bewildered girlfriend Erica. She is immediately put off by his smart-aleck personality. She tells him that dating him “is like dating a Stair Master.” It is this broken, heartless feeling Mark now feels within him that sparks the bitter actions that result in more broken relationships for the founders of Facebook. It is here, right at the start of the film, that shalom is broken. From the very first scene we know that we are in for a tragic character study. Mark quickly returns to his dorm where he blogs about his woes with Erica. Out of his anger and spite, an idea for a website originates. In this moment we see the beginnings of a downward spiral. What follows can best be described in biblical terms as the effects of the fall. Selfishness, pride, and greed begin to take over the lives of Mark and his friends. No spoilers here, but the ending of the movie isn’t exactly happy. Unlike the end of our lives, when our world were shalom will be restored by God, these broken hearts and wounded souls are still broken and wounded at the end of the film. The Social Network is a sterling exploration of high tension conflict and the transforming of our culture as technology further integrates itself in our lives. Stylistically, Fincher really nailed it with this one: the humor, sophisticated rawness, and brilliant characters are inspiring. It is one of the best movie in recent years, and easily one of the most well written. Every line of dialogue is sharp and polished. Beyond these cinematic elements we see a quite honest and biblical look at the fallen human condition.
Tyler Rugh, Freshman Tyler is in the 9th grade at the Flower Mound campus. His interest in film has inspired him to take CDA’s first ever Faith and Film class next year with Mr. Guthrie.
JOHN 1:16 - GRACE FOR GRACE? The following is the introduction to a paper that addresses an interesting interpretive dilemma found in the Gospel of John 1:16. As with many interpretive issues, this verse has a storied and diverse history of interpretation. The paper explores this rich history and proposes an interpretation that informs the reader of the depth found in the Greek text. A link to the full paper is provided at the end of the introduction.
The Gospel of John, standing as a unique witness among the canonical gospels, surely deserves the attention it has received throughout the history of biblical interpretation. Given its distinct nature when compared to the Synoptics, it is no wonder that critical and conservative scholars alike share a deep fascination with the Fourth Gospel. In the opening line of his two volume commentary, William Hendriksen deems the Fourth Gospel “the most amazing book that was ever written.” Some of Christianity’s most beloved verses (1:14; 3:16; 14:16) are found in this Gospel. Many who are new to the Christian faith are advised to begin their journey through the Scriptures with the Gospel of John. Of the canonical texts, the Gospel of John is perhaps among the most recognizable. It would appear, however, that the popularity of and familiarity with this Gospel does not remove a deep sense of mystery and wonder surrounding its intended meaning. As can often be the case among reviewers of a noteworthy film, painting, poem, or musical number, those commentators that are most familiar with the Fourth Gospel are often at odds when answering basic questions surrounding the proper interpretation of the text. It is one such disagreement that we wish to specifically address here. In the brief introduction to the Gospel (1:1-18), the author uses χάρις (grace) four times. In contrast, the word is not used at all throughout the rest of the Gospel,
and is only seen three other times in the entire collection of Johannine literature (2 Jn 3; Rev 1:4; 22:21). This typically Pauline word poses more than a few challenges to interpreters of the Gospel of John. This paper wishes to specifically address one such challenge: the phrase χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος in John 1:16. A majority of the popular English translation released in the past three decades favor an interpretation along the lines of “grace upon grace”, giving the reader that task of interpreting not only the nature of each χάρις, but also how they relate to one another. Do we receive the same type of χάρις as we previously had, just to a greater degree? Is there a substantial difference between the χάρις already held and the χάρις that is now received? With its 2011 edition, the New International Version revised its previous interpretation to read “grace in place of grace already given”, effectively narrowing the possible meanings for the reader. Even this interpretation—though it begins answering some of the lingering questions—leaves room for a wide range of meanings. After a brief overview of the history of interpretation and the addressing of appropriate exegetical questions, it will be argued that χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος read as “fresh grace in place of the former grace” is both faithful to the context of 1:16 and fits within the wider theology of the Fourth Gospel.
Jon Jordan, Faculty Mr. Jordan teaches History, Apologetics and Greek at the Flower Mound campus. The full paper is available on Mr. Jordan’s Academia page: http://www.academia.edu/2402209
GREEK IN ACTION: WHAT KIND OF LOVE?
From past personal experience, we can account that knowledge of the ancient Greek language is beneficial when trying to understand passages in the New Testament. There are many instances in the New Testament where the author used certain words whose meanings are lost in translation from Greek to English. For example, the English word love can typically conveys a wide variety of meanings. In the ancient Greek language, however, there are several different words for our one English word, love. In Greek, different words for love are used in order to express different types of love. For example, you would love your friend in a way that is different from the way you would love your spouse or even the way you would love the Lord. In his teachings about love—specifically in 1 Corinthians 13—Paul uses the Greek word αγάπη, which primarily carries the meaning of “love for another”. This is actually the only Greek word for love used to describe the love that God and Christ exhibit. With this knowledge, we can better understand the true meaning of this passage. Learning the ancient Greek language adds a new dimension to understanding our Scriptures.
Billie Niznik and Colette Harris, Freshmen Billie and Colette are Freshmen at the Flower Mound campus. In addition to participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities, they have both taken Logic School Greek, are currently enrolled in HS Greek I, and plan to continue on to HS Greek II next school year.
RISEN A Life of Theology: The Coram Deo Journal of Theology is a collection of articles, essays, reviews, and reflections on the presence of God in all areas of life. In this issue, Coram Deo faculty and students discuss the theme of resurrection in the Christian life and in the wider world. For questions about the Journal or for more information on how to submit an article, email Mr. Jon Jordan: firstname.lastname@example.org Coram Deo Academy educates youth in a historic Christian worldview through a vigorous classical curriculum. The goal of CDA is to train ethical servant leaders and wise thinkers who will shape culture for the glory of God. For more information about Coram Deo Academy, visit: http://coramdeoacademy.org
“Our task in the present is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first resurrection and a foretaste of the second.” N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope
Following the crucifixion of Jesus—a Roman form of execution taken as a sign by most people that his messianic movement had failed—his followers were faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, they believed that God was indeed going to act in and through Jesus to bring about His kingdom on earth. They had seen the miracles, they did not turn away from the difficult teaching, and they were told that this new movement would not fail (Matt 16:18). On the other hand, they had been promised abundant and eternal life by the very man whose death they had just witnessed. As they huddled together for a long Saturday there was room for many emotions: doubt, fear, anger; but there was no room for hope. A crucified messiah, after all, is a failed messiah. But then early the next morning, some of the women among them began their journey down to Jesus’ tomb in order to adorn the grave-site with a collection of spices. To their surprise, the tomb was empty. Once the disciples recovered from the shock, spent forty days with the risen Jesus, and were given the Holy Spirit, things began to change. The cowardly disciples who on Friday were ready to deny their association with Jesus were now boldly facing imprisonment and death for proclaiming his Resurrection. The great ethnic divide between Jew and Gentile was dissolved. The news of Jesus’ resurrection was spreading—and communities based on this news were growing—across the Roman empire and beyond. Within the first few centuries of the Christian church, there were enough Christians in the Roman empire to warrant Constantine’s issuing of the famous Edict of Milan. Throughout its history, the Christian church has celebrated the season of Easter to remind the community of the significance of the Resurrection of Jesus. Not just one day; not just one service—but an entire season. The resurrection certainly deserves this special treatment. This issue is our attempt to scratch the surface of reflecting on the reality, beauty, and significance of the resurrection in our lives during this Easter season. Jon Jordan History, Apologetics, Greek Faculty Eastertide 2013 xii
THE GOAL OF HUMAN LIFE
As I sat in church this past Easter Sunday, listening to the sermon, the pastor referenced 1 Corinthians 15—certainly a classic passage to pay homage to in a paschal homily. I must confess there are moments in my post-seminary life when, either in my reading or hearing, I lazily allow my mind to gloss over texts of scripture with which I am “familiar.” Thankfully, something disallowed that phenomenon this time. The nineteenth verse of chapter fifteen was brought to the attention of the congregation. It reads, “For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.” (NET). As I have already confessed there are times when I gloss over the meaning of a verse when I think I know what it is saying, and this verse was no exception until yesterday. I had always read this verse as a reference to the truth of the gospel and its relative import; meaning it would say something to the effect of “If the gospel isn’t true, then we Christians are to be pitied” (DRSV: Drew Revised Standard Version). Certainly the statement above, albeit uninspired, is wholly true, however, it never serves us well to put words in Paul’s mouth (or any other biblical author for that matter), and yesterday morning I discovered the fruits of avoiding that exact pitfall.
Resurrection weighs on Paul’s mind in verse nineteen. One has only to read the contextual verses to understand that resurrection is the theme of the entire chapter. Paul spends the majority of the time setting up what is known as a typological structure, a sort of “this is that” metaphor where Christ and Adam are at once juxtaposed and identified in a way that forces the reader to acknowledge the magnitude of Christ and His effects on humanity. While the consequences of Adam burden humanity with the substantial and insurmountable guilt of sin, the effect of Christ is placed in stark relief against such a deep darkness. The payout of such a burden is found in the second part of chapter fifteen, of which verse nineteen is a central verse. Resurrection is the promise of Christ, not just His resurrection, which Paul calls the first fruits (v. 23a), but resurrection for all (v. 23b). Now, back to Sunday morning. I sat for a moment, dumfounded, as I read and reread the passage, my eyes and my brain playing a bit of a tug-of-war. Paul was saying, “if the resurrection is not true, then Christians are to be most pitied (DRRSV: Drew Re-Revised Standard Version). This may seem like a minor difference, but it is about as big as it can be. As already stated, I thought what Paul was talking about was the truth of the gospel; “if it isn’t true then we are to be pitied,” and again this is a truism but one far too broad and bald for the beautifully complex simplicity of Paul’s thought. Paul is saying specifically that without the resurrection Christianity becomes pitiable waste, something that no longer warrants the attention of the human subject. At this point the reader may say to himself/herself, “Duh!!” or any manner of exasperated colloquialism, however, as I put my finger to the pulse of the body of Christ I fear we all too often fall prey to assuming we understand what we fail to see. I replaced the resurrection with the content that I took to be the gospel (i.e. The Roman Road, the gospel presentation I memorized for my Costa Rica mission trip, etc), and missed the simplicity of Paul’s statement, namely, that the resurrection sits at the center of the hope of the gospel. How often do we miss the resurrection when we try to elucidate the essence of the Christian faith? Generations of dualism, where the soul is believed to be merely putting up with the body until it can escape, have influenced us to the point where the physical and bodily
resurrection of every believer has slipped from center to periphery as we discuss the nature of the gospel. The resurrection does not belong on the periphery. The resurrection must be that which enlivens all of Christian doctrine. If it is untrue Christianity does not simply move from glorious to respectable, it slides precipitously to the bottom, to that which must be pitied. Karl Barth put it more simply and precisely than I ever could (and English was his third language) when he said, â€œThe goal of human life is not death but resurrection.â€? Amen Mr. Barth, amen.
Drew Armstrong, Faculty Mr. Armstrong teaches various History and English courses as well as the 10th grade Theology class at our Collin County campus. He holds a Master of Theology degree from Dallas Seminary.
DAY ONE: A POEM
Day one, Dawn approaching. Faithful women, Frightened.
Seeking dead, Surprised by life. Walking home, Wonder. Racing Peter, Racing mind. Doubt lingers, Denials fresh. Empty tomb. Breaking bread, Burning hearts. Touch and see, Take and eat. Ascended King, Announcing kingdom. Fulfillment already, Fulfilled not yet. Day one, Dawn approaching. It is finished, It is not complete. //JON JORDAN//
Luke 24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suf-
fer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God. Luke 24, ESV
FIRSTBORN OF THE DEAD Revelation 1:4-8 Message to the Seven Churches John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood — and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father — to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, HE is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,��� says the Lord God, “ who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” My aunt died three weeks ago. Around the time of her death, I was reflecting on the words that the Apostle John penned towards the end of the first century. Writing to a group of persecuted believers in Asia, John writes the following description of Jesus: "and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5). Jesus, the faithful One, whose word is true and who has ultimate authority over the sovereigns and powers, is peculiarly described as "the firstborn of the dead."
what happens after death is that which can define our existence. Is there something after death? Does man have an eternal soul? If so, in our span of 70-80 years, what happens to us in eternity could be the single most important thing about us. Death, then, can define the significance of our lives. My aunt was a wellto-d0 person with wealth and power, but at her death none of those things seemed important. I believe for all these reasons, Revelation 1:5 has held great relevance for me over these weeks. The terms firstborn in the New and Old Testament can literally mean "first-born," but also can refer to a position of prominence. In the Old Testament, the younger brother Jacob steals
Death is an enigma: it is often the greatest concern, but we talk about it little while we are living. Death's importance is undeniable, however, because arguably 19
the birthright of his elder twin Esau. Although he was not genetically "firstborn," he would go and take the role of pre-eminence among the brothers. Similarly, though Jesus was not "created" His role of pre-eminence over creation would make Him the "firstborn over creation" (Col 1:15 NET Bible). But to what does firstborn of the dead refer?
have perishable bodies replaced with imperishable at the final resurrection: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 1 Cor 15:55 Death strikes us all regardless of social standing, achievements, and accolades. It strikes my family and yours. If Jesus is the only One who has triumphed over the grave and also along with directs us in how we should live, His directives consequently overshadow any pressures for "worldly success" at any cost.
Revelation is most likely written to a persecuted church, under the Roman Emperor Domitian. The words of the book are designed to comfort God's people and assure them that God indeed was sovereign and had a plan that would go beyond the suffering. As the introduction to the book, then, “the words the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth" would have great relevance to the audience. Despite the suffering, Jesus' word is faithful and will come to pass. God is ultimately bigger than the rulers of the world. And His resurrection from the dead gives Him the "firstborn" status, or the preeminence, over the dead. Jesus has conquered death! We will face death one day, but do not have to fear about that or the worst life can bring us: Jesus has conquered death! We just celebrated Easter, the triumph of Christ's rising to defeat death. Paul speaks of the implications of the resurrection in the future, when all of us who have trusted Christ will ourselves
As we reflect on death and the the One who is the firstborn of the dead, the great irony is that especially in this, we can have greater focus in the way we live. Oh that our lives would echo the Apostle Paul's sentiments: 2 Corinthians 5:8-9 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Toby Oaks, Faculty Mr. Oaks is the Upper School director for the Collin County campus. He graduated from Dallas Seminary with a Master of Theology degree and also teaches 10th grade Theology.
RESURRECTION IN GARDEN STATE
I once heard while listening to an NPR broadcast an interesting description of what it means to be a Christian. It stated that “Being a Christian is finding truth regardless where it may be.” Whether it’s in a painting, a song lyric, or a film, God’s truth is there to be found (Romans 1). While there is clearly more to Christianity than simply finding truth, I believe there is something to this idea. I found a lot of truth in the film Garden State. I also found it to be a wonderful movie. The film revolves around Andrew Largeman (Braff). He’s a troubled, clinically depressed, heavily medicated, and mildly successful Hollywood actor. Upon returning to his small hometown for his mother’s funeral he reconnects with an old friend (Sarsgard) and falls for a young woman, Sam (Portman), all while learning life lessons. The film is funny, heartbreaking, subtle, and tenderly loving. The performance by Zach Braff is as astonishing as his directing. His journey and evolution as a man is wonderful to see. When we first see him, he hallucinates of being on a crashing plane, surrounded by people panicking. He sits there, numb. He’s basically catatonic the whole first half of the movie. Unaware of others, even himself. But something changes. This is a film about resurrection. A film about Andrew’s resurrection. 21
Biblically speaking, I believe Christ’s resurrection is so significant because of the person who was resurrected. The same goes for Garden State. Now, in the context of the film I use resurrection not in its technical sense, but to signifying an awakening. An awakening from a lifeless depression. While the resurrection of Jesus—as well as our future hope in a bodily resurrection—is one of change from physical death to life, the resurrection themes in Garden State are perhaps better thought of as the hints of resurrection we see in our own lives today. One scene in particular highlights the type of death often experienced in our lives. The scene opens with Andrew talking with Sam about his mother’s funeral. We see a portrait of Andrew’s loneliness and get a glimpse into the fickle devastation of his psyche. I found immense truth in this scene. I found truth in the way Andrew resembles someone who has not yet found joy in Christ. Someone isolated from others. Throughout the film Andrew is changed—in some sense—from death to life. The performances are all top notch, and the movie’s pace and tone are consistent and lively. It’s written wonderfully; we are given such a close personal connection to these characters. The movie is funny and real. The soundtrack one of the best from recent memory. This is one of the few indie movies that will be looked back on from 50 years from now and be talked about. It’s a melancholy slice of seriocomic life. While it is not a complete picture of the true meaning of the resurrection for a Christian, it most certainly contains pointers towards the ultimate truth of the resurrection. It is a film about resurrection and its vital place in everyone’s life.
Tyler Rugh, Freshman Tyler is in the 9th grade at the Flower Mound campus. His interest in film has inspired him to take CDA’s first ever Faith and Film class next year with Mr. Guthrie.
Coram deo latin in the presence of God
Related Glossary Terms Drag related terms here
Issue 1 - From the Editor