Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Revolution: The Story of the Early Church 30-47 AD - by Gene Edwards

I'm still not sure what I think about this book.
It came recommended by some of the 3DM leaders.  It's a narrative account of the beginning of Christianity - up to the sending of Barnabas and Paul - which Gene Edwards reckons to be 17 years in time.
And that is one of my biggest questions with the book.  How does he get his figures?  He estimates huge time lapses in the book of Acts, much longer than any estimates I've read anywhere else.  Yet, he gives no supporting evidence - arrgg.
On the positive side, Edwards hammers home several points worth emphasizing.
Leadership and spiritual depth take time to develop.  In the modern western world, we tend to hurry our leaders along and expect instant results.  It seems that the ancient Hebrew-Christians were much more content to allow a significant incubation period.  This has the ring of authentic health and wholeness.
"Church-life" is critical to healthy Christianity, but please, please do not confuse this with 21st century churches.  The "church-life" of the early Church was a deep, raw, generous, honest, Spirit-filled community of believers who spoke the truth in love and shared freely with all who had need.  It is the absolute best of all the various forms of community we have experienced.  According to Edwards, without this authentic "church-life" almost nothing of value can happen in Christianity - especially not the formation of genuinely called and equipped leaders.
The leadership of the Spirit is far more important than the best leadership of humans.  The Church started and grew in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.  If humans planned it, the process would have been far more logical and far less successful.
Another, radically challenging bit was an insight right in the first chapter that Jesus was probably resurrected at the same time as the priest celebrated the "first fruits" ceremony in the Jerusalem temple.  If this is true, that is a profound insight, especially since Jesus is called "the first fruits from the dead" ( 1 Corinthians 15:20).

On the downside, Edwards tends to overstate his case (true to form for all radical reformers).  In the midst of his semi-fictional narrative of the early church, he makes radical statements about the 21st century church.  We have NO true apostles.  We have NO true "church-life" happening anywhere.  Etc, etc.
Edwards piques my interest.  I'm not sure I buy everything he's saying, but he's challenging my ideas of the timeframes and procedures of the early church.  I'd like to know his sources, and I need to spend more time thinking on his ideas.  But I'm interested, and I guess that counts as a success for him at this point.

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