Tony Jones: 2016 Faith & Life speaker

News | October 24, 2016

Each fall, the St. Paul congregation hosts the community-wide Faith & Life Series. The church brings persons of national stature to the Quad Cities – sparking new ideas about what it means to live faithfully.

The 2016 Faith & Life Series speaker is author and theologian Tony Jones. The events are free and open to the public. Three of his books are available in the Book Corner. He will visit St. Paul on Sunday, Nov. 13. Ton holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College, an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. tj-with-hat

At 10:45 a.m., he will present Did God Kill Jesus?

Most Christians affirm the statement, “Jesus died for my sins,” but they struggle to explain how, exactly, this works. By what cosmic mechanism did the death of one man, 2,000 years ago, wipe out all the sins of all time. And, when we did a little deeper, we find that the answer to this question reveals what we think about the very nature of God. Finding love in the death of Jesus is the ultimate test of our Christian faith.

At 4 p.m., he will lecture on Jesus’ Crucifixion – the Ultimate Political Act.

We’ve just come through the most contentious, strange, and perplexing election season in memory. We witnessed lies, scapegoating, and acts of political sabotage. And it left many of us feeling wounded, misunderstood, and frustrated by the politics of our country. The death of Jesus on the cross, 2,000 years ago, has a very powerful message for us in this time. Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate political act because it reset the relationship between God and humankind and because it exemplified a new way-of-life, one rooted in sacrificial love. With the presidential election behind us, there’s no better time to look closely at the event on which all history pivots, the execution of Jesus of Nazareth.

Tell us the story of how you become a theologian? What sparked your imagination for your vocation?
I first articulated my call to ministry when I was in seventh grade. It was the Saturday before Youth Sunday, and I’d been chosen to give the offertory prayer. The junior high pastor took me out to breakfast at McDonald’s to help me write the prayer, and in course of the conversation he asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I blurted out, “A youth pastor!” And honestly, it had never occurred to me before that.
A couple years later, sitting in confirmation class, the senior minister asked who was planning to go to seminary. I raised my hand, expecting to be one of several. But I was the only one, and he was looking at me with a smile. Through the years, he often reminded me of that, and many in that congregation affirmed me over the years.
As I progressed through college and seminary, I was drawn not only to church ministry, but also to the intellectual side of the Christian faith. So I have always attempted to marry those two, both when I was a pastor and now that I’m on the academic and publishing side of the church. I truly love the challenges that our current rational, scientific age poses to Christianity.

How did Did God Kill Jesus? come to be?
I was experiencing a growing discomfort among many people with the crucifixion. It’s the violence. We are really acutely sensitive to violence, especially in Western society. And the crucifixion of Jesus is unavoidably violent — it’s bloody and grotesque.
So I think this growing sensitivity to violence has raised questions about the death of Jesus: Was this the only way for God to save us? Why did it have to be so violent? What does this tell us about the nature of God? And, ultimately, did God kill Jesus?
I wanted to investigate these questions for myself as much as for my readers. The crucifixion is the central event of Christianity, the pivot on which all of Christian theology turns. If I couldn’t develop satisfying answers to these questions, then I didn’t see how I could remain Christian. The book is my attempt to answer these questions for myself and others.

Let’s turn some questions related to the book. If Jesus were executed today, what do you imagine the circumstances would be?
Recently, a national survey showed that for the first time, a majority of Americans are opposed to the death penalty. If there were polls in the first century, I imagine that it’d be less than five percent opposed. Executions – public executions! – were very much part of the fabric of life in the ancient world. In Rome, you couldn’t avoid it, since the roads in and out of the city were littered with crosses. Times have changed so much that I don’t think it would have been a state-sanctioned execution.
Instead, Jesus’ death today would be a lynching. Black theologians like James Cone have forcefully pointed out the similarities between the lynching of African slaves and, more recently, African Americans and the crucifixion of Jesus – in both, innocent persons are scapegoated and violently murdered. I’m convinced that if Jesus were executed today, it would not be lethal injection but lynching.

What do you think the resurrection means for the crucifixion? What is their relationship?
I consider the crucifixion and resurrection one event. They are inextricably linked – we can’t have one without the other. For without the resurrection, Jesus’ death is just another in a long line of victims who have been murdered by mob hysteria and the complicity of the state. But with the resurrection, Jesus’ death is a victory over these very forces, the down payment, as Paul says, on the resurrection of us all.

How have you experienced God’s presence lately?
Every Sunday night at 9 p.m., my wife and I gather our children and the five of us pray together and sit in silence. With three very active teenagers, our house is not often quiet, and the five of us are rarely all together. So we’ve made a concerted effort in these years to make that time special each week. Being quiet in the presence of the four people I love most in the world is one place that I’ve definitely experienced God’s presence lately.

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Daniel 12:1-3

The Time of the End

1“Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.2“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.3“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16

1Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.

2I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;

I have no good besides You.”

3As for the saints who are in the earth,

They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.

4The sorrows of those who have bartered for another god will be multiplied;

I shall not pour out their drink offerings of blood,

Nor will I take their names upon my lips.

5The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;

You support my lot.

6The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

7I will bless the LORD who has counseled me;

Indeed, my mind instructs me in the night.

8I have set the LORD continually before me;

Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

9Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices;

My flesh also will dwell securely.

10For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

11You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Hebrews 10:11-25

11Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;12but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD,13waiting from that time onward UNTIL HISENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET.14For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.15And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying,

16“THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM

AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD:

I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART,

AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,”

He then says,

17“AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS

I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”

18Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin.

A New and Living Way

19Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,20by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,21and since we have a great priest over the house of God,22let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;24and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,25not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

Christ or Judgment

Mark 13:1-8

Things to Come

1As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples *said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

3As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately,4“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?”5And Jesus began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.6“Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.7“When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end.8“For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

Daniel 7:9-14

9“I kept looking

Until thrones were set up,

And the Ancient of Days took His seat;

His vesture was like white snow

And the hair of His head like pure wool.

His throne was ablaze with flames,

Its wheels were a burning fire.

10“A river of fire was flowing

And coming out from before Him;

Thousands upon thousands were attending Him,

And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him;

The court sat,

And the books were opened.

11“Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.12“As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.

The Son of Man Presented

13“I kept looking in the night visions,

And behold, with the clouds of heaven

One like a Son of Man was coming,

And He came up to the Ancient of Days

And was presented before Him.

14“And to Him was given dominion,

Glory and a kingdom,

That all the peoples, nations and men of every language

Might serve Him.

His dominion is an everlasting dominion

Which will not pass away;

And His kingdom is one

Which will not be destroyed.

The Vision Interpreted

Psalm 93

1The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty;

The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength;

Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved.

2Your throne is established from of old;

You are from everlasting.

3The floods have lifted up, O LORD,

The floods have lifted up their voice,

The floods lift up their pounding waves.

4More than the sounds of many waters,

Than the mighty breakers of the sea,

The LORD on high is mighty.

5Your testimonies are fully confirmed;

Holiness befits Your house,

O LORD, forevermore.

Revelation 1:-4-8

John 18:33-37

33Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”35Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”37Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”