“There must be some way out of here,” said the joker to the thief. “There’s too much confusion I can’t get no relief . . ..” Learning to read the Bible as a child and a young adolescent meant always looking up and hoping to get out of here. This world that is.
Mention the word in Christian conversation and one might think of Peter denying Jesus. The outright denial of knowing Jesus ranks among the obvious betrayals. Are there more subtle and more substantive ways we betray Jesus?
Today on the podcast I interview Jeffrey C. Pugh. Jeffrey is professor of religious studies at Elon University in North Carolina. His books include Religionless Christianity: Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Troubled Times, and he has been involved in dialogues around interfaith work and religion and science. (from the back cover of his latest book, The End Times: Theology After You Have Been Left Behind.)
One of the memorable lines from our conversation is that, “the Rapture is a betrayal of the Incarnation.” Though you will want to listen for it, Pugh considers it more than irony that in the mid-1800’s this novel idea gained traction until such a time it was taken up into certain modes of thinking. Put another way, this particular view often associated with eschatology became its own hermeneutic, or way of reading the Bible.
Jeffrey does not write about what he does not know. His early influences came from Hal Lindey’s, The Late Great Planet Earth. Listen in to find out how it is that Pugh suggests the rapture is a betrayal.
Imperial vs. Prophetic
The Revised Common Lectionary alternate text for this coming Sunday is in 2 Timothy. The Holman Christian Standard Bible, or for we Southern Baptists the Hard Core Southern Baptist Bible, translates the last line of 2 Timothy 4:3, “… because they have an itch to hear something new.” Novelty. Learning the history behind the lens I was given to read the Bible I am left thinking some were itching for something new.
Maybe we do need something new that is not new. Think of it like the line in 1 John that describes a new commandment but it is really an old commandment. When we think of the greatest commandment some often connect that with Jesus. But, it is clearly the admonition in the Hebrew Scriptures. So, it is new to those who have not been paying attention. It is old as it relates to the vision of God for human beings. It is new but not new.
What if we recaptured reading Scripture in the prophetic tradition over against a reading steep in am imperial tradition? Put another way, an Imperial reading interprets the Text from the position of power – think Christendom. Reading the Text prophetically is listening to/from the margins – think widow, orphan, stranger/immigrant/refugee.
Consider the way Willard read the Sermon on the Mount in The Divine Conspiracy. Rather than spiritualize the Beatitudes, Willard contends that Jesus was calling to those on the margins, those whose cries have gone up from their disadvantaged position, and inviting them, even them, into the Kingdom of God. This is an illustration of the prophetic over against the imperial.
You will pick this up from our conversation and you will get more of this if you pick up the book.
Consider Those Left Behind
The real challenge lies in including those normally left behind. Pugh suggests eschatology offers a telos while apocalyptic offers us imagination. Read Revelation again. This time read it from the standpoint of the role of economics. Consider it a reading from another direction.
Practically, the intersection of life/faith/theology/pastoring, we need to chart a course listening to the voices muffled by the machine of power/the powerful.
Jesus did . . . and does.
Other books by Jeffrey C. Pugh …
Books recommended in the podcast . . .