Servant vs. Son

Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.  —Hebrews 3:5-6 (ESV)

Yeah, makes perfect sense. Jesus is great than Moses. Tell me something I don’t know.

Being a New Covenant people of God, it’s easily to lose the import of the book of Hebrews. We don’t really struggle with the change over from the Old Covenant to the New. We don’t get how important not only theologically the types and shadows where, but how important they were for the fabric of day-to-day life of the ordinary Israelite.

In Exodus,

  • Moses is as God to Aaron, Aaron is his prophet (Ex. 4:16; 7:1)
  • Moses anoints the priests (Ex. 29:9)
  • God speaks to Moses face to face (Ex. 33:11), he sees God’s glory (even if only his “back” 33:23)
  • Moses sets up the tabernacle (Ex. 40) after being the only one allowed up on the mountain to receive the instructions (Ex. 25—31)

Moses is the greatest human individual in the OT. To call him a servant and saying Jesus is a son is a huge statement.

Moses is the individual through whom God secures the immediate salvation of his people Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. He is the leader of God’s people through the wilderness and the man tasked with bringing them to the Promised Land. Not even David compares with what Moses has accomplished. Moses basically founds Israel as a nation. Further David does not compare with what God did through Moses, Tabernacle, Ten Commandments, and the Pentateuch!

For the writer of Hebrews to say that Moses was a servant in God’s household is true. But what a servant he was. Then to continue on, but Jesus is God’s son is simply revolutionary. There is no comparison between Moses and Jesus, not because Moses is such a paltry character but because Christ is so magnificent.

The Keys of Candor: An Interview

dJF8vG4QWhen your long-time friends finish writing and publish a book, it’s a big deal. I haven’t read the book yet, but it is sitting on my Kindle, in queue. I had a few questions that I wanted to ask them before I read the book, as well as some questions I’m saving for after. After reading this, I encourage you to head on over to Amazon.com to pick up a copy of the book. If you have any questions for the authors, leave a comment!

Casey Eanes and Seth Ervin are the authors of Keys of Candor: The Red Deaths, a fantasy novel and the first book in a proposed set. Let’s get started:

Michael Cochran: How many books will be in this set?

Seth Ervin:  At least three.  There might be more, but we don’t know yet.  So I will definitely confirm a total of three Candor books, the first one being the one that’s out now; The Red Deaths.  We’ve got other projects that we are interested in exploring as well that are outside the Candor Universe.  We are hoping to get the next book in the Candor series, Sea of Souls, out within the 2015 window, but that might be an aggressive outlook.

Casey Eanes: Entering into the project the goal was a trilogy within the Candor universe. However, after writing The Red Deaths, there is a history to Candor and one specific people group that I am curious to learn more about. I really want to know more about how Candor came to be the way it is in today’s universe. We have a lot we want to write and with limited time to do it all we will certainly close out the trilogy with the hopes to come back and visit Candor again, especially if our readers are interested in it too!

MC: What’s with the title? Is the word “Candor” important? As there some keys that allow the person to talk frankly?

SE:  Oh, you’re a little literal aren’t you, Michael? Well to be honest, I like the way it sounds. Candor is the universe and setting in which our story unfolds.  In our book, it truly describes the geography of the land: Candor is a super continent, a huge island of land.  It alone exists in the middle of the Endless Ocean, there is no other continent.  Imagine if Australia were the only landmass on earth, and you’ve got the idea.  That is Candor.  There are kingdoms or ‘Realms’ as we call them that exist on Candor, each trying desperately to set their own agendas.  Conflict, as you can imagine, is frequent and brutal.

Back to the name, though. If you have to name a fictional setting something, it should at least sound nice.  The word “candor” is also associated with truthfulness and honesty.  So “Keys of Truth” is more along the lines of what the title means in spirit, but the word “Candor” sounds so much nicer.  It also serves as a great name of a fantastic universe.

CE: I love this question, very clever. But I will echo Seth’s sentiment that really if you boil it down, we just liked how it sounded.  Believe it or not we had written a large part of the novel not knowing what to call the world in which its characters lived. One day while sharing ideas by phone the name just came out and it stuck. I personally did not want the name of the continent to be one that was overly intricate or strange. I wanted readers to be able to feel like they could identify with the name and therefore in some small way connect with and identify with the new world we created. I feel like the name is one that is quick and easy to read and nice sounding. But alas, we feared if the title was only Keys of Candor, people might believe it was a self-help novel in speaking honestly, so the subtitle was born: The Red Deaths.

MC: What books influenced Keys of Candor? 

SE: For myself, the books that have influenced Candor… I’d say it’s a long list.  The Bible, The Lord of the Rings, and Ender’s Game are just a few that I think influenced our work. I think another inspiration for me are the Grimm Fairy Tales.  I know Casey was inspired to write together after reading The Hunger Games.  There’s a little bit of all of these works sprinkled into The Red Deaths.

CE: Shortly after my son was born, my wife bought me a Nook. I loved it but had no books and wanted to read something. Several people at work had physical copies of the Hunger Games and seemed to enjoy it so I bought the Hunger Games. The story was a nice easy read and a great quick escape. It was just what I needed for late nights when I was up because of a crying newborn. After reading, and enjoying, the series in a few days I decided I wanted to try and create a similar experience for others. I wanted to create a book that provided an escape and a sense of adventure for readers, and I especially wanted to write for my kids. My ultimate desire was to be able to let them read a book I had written to encourage them to take chances and be willing to create too.

Now, as for books that inspired Keys of Candor, there are actually not many; a lot of my inspiration came from movies. The Star Wars Trilogy and Braveheart are movies that influenced me. I also pulled a lot from memoirs, stories and documentaries on World War II. As for actual books, as Seth said the Bible also influenced my writings and some of the creations within Candor, but while writing I tried not to mimic or recreate anything that anyone else had written, I really wanted the story to be as unique as possible.

MC: What are you proud of in this book (besides the fact that you finished it and published it)? In other words, what is something interesting about the world, a character, or a situation (spoiler free) that you really liked and can’t wait to share with people?

SE: I’m really proud of our novel’s scope. Epic fantasy is not for the light of heart.  You have to build a convincing and interesting world, and then populate it with a good story.  Our story is actually three stories in one!  We follow three main characters whose fates intertwine.  It was a lot to take on in a debut novel, but I think we did a pretty good job. I’m also very proud of our characters because I think they are all memorable and unique.  One of the characters is the main villain/antagonist, and I think it’s always interesting to have their experience showcased for the reader to encounter.  Their decisions to be “evil” are never made in a vacuum.

CE: I am going to have to echo what Seth said. The scope of the story and the amount of characters makes me very proud. When we first started on the series we focused on one character, Kull Shepherd. After seven chapters of nothing we scrapped that story and started fresh. Kull survived but we added two more “main” characters and of course their acquaintances. In the end we had this twisting and turning story that somehow fit together. There were times that I honestly felt like we were in over our heads, but sticking to the story paid off and in the end I was amazed at how some characters wrote themselves into the pages.

MC: Both are you are Christians; how has that worldview influenced the fictional world of Candor? Personally as an aspiring writer, allowing my worldview influence my work is hard to accomplish without the result coming off sounding cheesy and contrived.

SE:  Well I will be the first to say that Casey and I never set out to build an allegorical tale about the Gospel. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a story like that, because I love allegorical Christian stories (Narnia / Pilgrim’s Progress). It was important to me that our story to be accessible to everyone, not just Christians.  There are definitely ideas within Candor that are Biblical ideas, but they might be changed, subverted in ways that you might not expect. In Candor there is a religion that exists and it has a very important role in not only the society of Candor but also its history.  The idea of religion and history is one that is explored a lot through the different interactions with specific characters. The idea that religion might not be just a mythical ideological tenant, but also a historical fact.  I think this relates back to Christianity as we believe Jesus was a real person, and his actions in our world has very real ramifications for our lives.

CE: This question really resonates with me. I can recount several times that Seth and I were speaking and one of us would quote Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” As Seth said the book is not a Christian story, it never invokes the name of Jesus and there are even polytheistic beliefs within. So some may say, how can this be glorifying to God? I think the effort is allegorical to a degree. There are also themes that run throughout the series and will become even more prevalent as the story unfolds that relate directly to my views as a Christian. I wanted to create a story that not only had a hero, or what some may call a Jesus figure, but I wanted to display evil and I wanted the evil to be very real and very relate able. As Seth said, we wanted all people to feel welcome to approach the story. The world of Candor is one also that can be related to our world where religion too many of the characters is old and outdated, an antiquated system for the weak minded, they believe it does not relate to them, but the story may just reveal otherwise. The last point I will make is that I aspire to be an author that is accessible to readers so if someone reads my story and enjoys it I hope they reach out to me and connect even if in some small way. That way I can hopefully also carry on conversations outside of Candor that expound upon the truths and themes that I hold onto as a Christian.

MC: Why should we read the book? And give us a summary of it.

SE: Well, I guess you should read it if you enjoy any epic fantasy with compelling characters. This is a fast moving book, with lots of twists and turns, but plenty of mystery as well.  I think readers can enjoy getting a taste of what Candor has to offer, because though you may not see at the onset, the world has a lot of depth.  I think anyone who enjoys being immersed in unique worlds both unlike and like their own will enjoy our title. I’m going to let Casey do a summary! Sorry Casey.

CE: I will humor Seth with a summary. The Keys of Candor revolves around three characters living in the war torn continent of Candor. The world was once a very theocratic society during its darkest days; many believed gods lived among men. However, times have changed. Humanity has survived and fairy tales or religion have become rumors or shadows of the past. But not all have abandoned the ancient faiths. What the world of Candor knows now is survival. The five Realms of Candor have erupted into a new war that threatens to push humanity to extinction. Kull Shepherd, Willyn Kara and Seam Panderean do not know of one another but they are all tied together and are headed for an inevitable collision. The choices the three make will either save or destroy Candor, and one individual, the Keeper of the Keys, can either free or bind an ancient evil that is lurking in the shadows, waiting to benefit from the distraction of war.

Many thanks to Casey and Seth for letting me interview them. Go pick up their book either in physical or digital form at Amazon.com and leave an honest review; it is amazing how important this is to lesser known artists.

If you want to keep up with the world of Candor you can:

adWebsite: http://keysofcandor.com
Twitter: @keysofcandor
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/keysofcandor

Peter Jackson is in talks with the two to direct a four-part epic movie with loads of additional scenes never before read in the book. Stay tuned for a review and maybe some additional questions.

Pilgrim’s Progress and Modern Evangelicalism

An allegory published in 1678 is a much better gospel tract than most produced today. Evangelicalism has a bad tendency to reduce the gospel to its bare minimum. While sometimes we have to condense information, I think going back to the well worn path trod by Christian as he journeys towards the Celestial City offers a better picture of salvation than do the Four Spiritual Laws of Billy Graham or Campus Crusade.

In modern evangelicalism there is an over emphasis on a decision – a single point in one’s life whereby someone becomes a Christian, usually from praying a prayer. But in the story of Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress, when does Pilgrim become a Christian? Is it at the moment of the Cross, at the place of Deliverance where his burden falls off? Or is it in the City of Destruction when he is told to run to the Small Gate by Evangelist? Or is it upon his entrance into the Celestial City that he is most assuredly a Christian? Or does it matter, so long as he is on the King’s Highway enroute to the Celestial City?

Becoming a Christian isn’t simply about a one-time decision; it’s about a life. It isn’t about a prayer but about clinging to Christ now and forevermore. Being a Christian is a journey, not a point in time. Yes we were all Graceless at one point, but Christian is called Christian in the City of Destruction when he becomes aware of his sins. Who cares how many decisions or gospel presentations we do, if all those who hear and pray never end up in the Celestial City?

In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian spends more time disuading people from the path because they aren’t true pilgrims than he does recruiting other pilgrims. Many on the path to the Celestial City won’t make it there; they fill up churches because people are happier with numbers than with pilgrims. Jesus said many are called, but few our chosen (Matt. 22:14). The way to destruction is wide and easy, but the path to salvation is narrow and hard (Matt. 7:13-14). Our concern should be faithfulness: quality not quantity.

There is more, but it might be time to familarize yourself again with the Pilgrim’s Progress or encounter it for the first time, if you haven’t before. Desiring God has a nice free edition. And you can get a good recording of it through Audible (which you can get for $2.99 if you “purchase” the free edition from Amazon). Lastly GCP has a course for little kids that we are using presently at our church.

Decent Links (1/8/2015)

I tend to be on the look out for articles and information about Christ’s Descent into Hades (as my blog posts may show). I doubt anyone else really is that interested in it, but who knows, someone may like to read these.

It seems the guys over at Reformation21 have been posted a lot about the Descent where most of my links come from.

Gerhardus Vos on the Descent, curtouesy of Nick Batzig (I haven’t read through all or any of this but being that it’s Vos, it’s worth bookmarking). (HT Reformation21).

A Plea by Mark Jones to keep the Descent in the Creed. Though I don’t agree with the reasoning (my thesis argues for a different understanding and keeping the line) I do agree with the sentiment of keeping it!

Eric Hutchinson’s Should We Ascent to the Descent, [Must Read] is a great little piece that condenses much of my thesis into a very readable article, while providing some interesting points of reference that I hadn’t know of before. This is the one I’d read if you are interested. I especially appreciate how Hutchen’s says that the Descent clause is found in both Arian and Orthodox alike, this was not something the two sides battled on (as I note in my thesis they battle on Christ’s ontology – who He is, not what he does).

H. B. Swete’s book The Apostles’ Creed in Primitive Christian has a chapter on the Descent that is proving to be very informative, from the 1900s. Being that the Descent may date back to the 2nd century, we aren’t finding that many new information on it!

Eusebius’s Church History, Book 1, Chapter 13 (in Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Father’s 2, volume 1). What is of note, is that Eusebius apparently found some epistle in Edessa that breezes right through the Descent into Hell. As the editors note, this is likely to be a true statement (though the epistle is not part of inspired Scripture). There is no mention of this being a novel idea (the Descent) and likely shows that this concept predates Eusebius (~260 – 340 AD).

Phillip Micknon vs. Frances Bacon

What’s the point of having a website with a nominal audience if you can’t harness that power to answer all important, life-consuming questions?

I think Filet Mignon is far better than bacon. Bacon tastes like salt (albeit tasty fried salt) but Filet Mignon (well prepared) is amazing. My wife disagrees with me and believes bacon is more important. I disagree and put it to a vote.

 

OK, fine, if you want something regarding Spain, how about Kosher jamón or Halal jamón (Muslim approved jamón).  Jamón (with that nice accent) is the cured ham hocks found all over Spain. They really are quite tasty.

The Wayback Machine

Article the First. Mr. Peabody and Sherman was quite entertaining. I don’t know the last time I saw my son (5) laugh so much during a movie. That alone was worth it. It was strange noting the dramatic action was all about adoption and the state trying to take away Sherman from Mr. Peabody, who was a dog.

Article the Second. In college I once told a telemarketer (or as I termed them, prank calls who called you), that in order for me to get a credit card I needed to have the dog sign for it, since he was my legal guardian. This was after my parents had died and the trust dictated that the dog was in fact the one who needed to “sign” for anything like a credit card. This went on for a while. Hopefully she had a good day and realized it was a joke.

Article the Third. This brings me to the final point, one thing to remember is that nothing on the internet is every truly gone. Proof of this is the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. I found my old college blog on it, where nearly 10 years ago I waxed eloquently on things like the birth of Facebook, World of Warcraft, and failed to use proper capitalization and punctuation.

I give you Blueturismo.com (circa 2005, but it goes back older than that)

If you can’t laugh at yourself this life will be very boring.

Are the Old Testament Saints in Heaven … (Part 3)

Please review both of them first (in order mind you). First off, I write this at the behest of a friend, whose encouragement for these little articles makes me know at least one person is reading them.

What’s the New Testament say?

One argument that I hear is that Sheol in the OT means grave, because, look at its usage in context. That’s all fine and good, though I don’t think it accounts for the richness of the Hebrew language. But I think it begins to fall apart when one takes into account the New Testament usage of the word Hades.

When the OT was translated in the lingua franca of the day Greek, they made some curious editorial choices. One of those was to translate the word Sheol as Hades. Now if you know your Greek mythology (you can consult Disney’s Hercules if you need a quick refresher), you’ll notice that Hades has a lot of cultural baggage associated with it. It is the god of the underworld and the underworld (both named Hades). In Greek mythology it was the place that disembodied souls went. As an aside Greek has a word for grave tophos, which means the place where you put dead bodied.

It would be like today, translating a word we think means “grave” as “hell.” You’d probably be inclined to say – why don’t we use “grave” instead, since people often associate hell was some incorporeal afterlife motif. I’d agree with you. So when the Greek OT uses Hades for nearly all usages of the Hebrew that makes you wonder.

Well how does the NT use the word Hades? In nearly all cases it doesn’t seem to be “grave.” Matt 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Rev. 1:18; 6:8; 20:13–14; and one use of Tartarus in 2 Pet. 2:4 (compare Jude 6). Also there is something “under the earth” (Rev. 5:3, 13; Phil 2:10).

So let’s walk through some of these:

Tartarus is not synonymous with Hades but it’s pretty close (and the ESV actually used the word “hell” when translating it in 2 Pet. 2:4). But the rich man ends up in Hades after he dies in a parable of Jesus (Luke 16). Hades has gates (Matt. 16:18); a key (Rev. 1:18; cf., Rev. 20:1 a key to the bottomless pit), houses the dead (Rev. 20:13-14), and even a personified rider who rides with death (Rev. 6:8).

Heaven is juxtaposed with Hades (Matt. 16:18; Luke 10:15; see also the Apostles’ Creed) and Jesus is “there” in Hades (Acts 2:27, 31) or rather, was there, but unlike David (Ps. 16) is now in heaven (Acts 1; cf., Rom. 10:6-8).

Evil angels are tossed into this bottomless pit called Tartarus (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6) and something exists “under the earth” to both bow down at the name of Jesus and not be found to be able to open the scroll of the book of life (Phil. 2:10 and Rev. 5:3, 13; respectively).

Conclusion

So the NT, when read in light of the Pseudepigrapha and the OT, seems to say that Hades is a real place. Hades looks to be very similar to Sheol and people exist there in some form. If the NT has any bearing on the OT, I don’t think it’s acceptable to read every instance of Sheol as grave, but rather a place disembodied souls went to. Now that brings to it a much bigger question – what happened to the OT saints after Jesus came…?

Update: By the way, you should see Hell, Hades, Gehenna and the Realm of the Dead (Acts 2:27) by Bill Mounce which goes into some difference between the Gehenna and Hades. He confirms most of what I think I’ve said above.

[Link] The Missionary Life

The Missionary Life: No Shortcuts, post by Evan Burns at the Gospel Coalition is a short little read but it’s a good one. He lists out two main things he would tell any missionary candidate entering the field.

1. Theological Education
I don’t think he necessarily means a formal education, he is speaking against a theological minimalism. I often hear that churches have to work together much more on the field than they do in the States. I can’t speak to that, but there is a way in which that is good – when we align and focus on the majors. But when churches add secondary or even tertiary doctrine up to first level doctrine, this is where I think the line has to be drawn. I think Evan agrees with that assessment. We need to know what Christianity is, what a church is, what theology is, if we can effectively be of any use.

2. Learning to Suffer
I haven’t been a missionary yet. I’d have to have someone else comment on this, but I think this applies to any Christian service, stateside or abroad. There is suffering involved with Christian ministry. But nonetheless it is wise words to remember that this isn’t a chance just to live abroad but service to Christ and the expansion of his Kingdom, which comes at a cost.

I also wanted to shamelessly steal his quote that he shares from Eckhard Schnabel’s Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods 

Missionaries, evangelists, and teachers who have understood both the scandal of the cross and the irreplaceable and foundational significance of the news of Jesus the crucified and risen Messiah and Savior will not rely on strategies, models, methods, or techniques. They rely on the presence of God when they proclaim Jesus Christ, and on the effective power of the Holy Spirit. This dependence on God rather than on methods liberates them from following every new fad, from using only one particular method, from using always the same techniques, and from copying methods and techniques from others whose ministry is deemed successful.