Frank Viola writes with a passion for the Church. His recent book From Eternity to Here is no exception. In it you’ll find a mix of provocative ideas, biblical reflections, and a sincere voice. Some of Frank’s work doesn’t stand up to academic exegesis and theology, a strength and a weakness. He’s willing to be simple about church. I recently asked him a few questions about From Eternity to Here as a part of a blog circuit. Here they are. I think you will find his answers interesting:
1. In chapters three and four you repeatedly talk about the Church as God’s “frustrated passion”, “desperate love”, “most captivating thing”, “hidden masterpiece”, etc. Does your description of the Church border on idolatry of church? Isn’t God most captivated with Himself?
One of the most frequent comments by readers is how the book extols, magnifies, and exalts the Lord Jesus Christ beyond telling. Equally so, it presents how the New Testament portrays the ekklesia of God. According to the New Testaments, she is God’s masterpiece, the Bride of Christ, bone of His bone, flesh of His flesh, the mystery that has been hidden in God before time, and the Lord’s very inheritance. These are all Paul’s words in Ephesians. My book explores those texts.
Consider this: If someone talked about the wonders and beauty of a man’s wife and explained how the man cherished her and was out of his head in love with her, I don’t think anyone would misconstrue that to mean that the man was somehow being slighted. Quite the contrary, it would bless his heart, for she is his passion.
It is the same way with Christ and the church. Thus, a person cannot properly love Jesus Christ and ignore or neglect His much-loved Bride, which is at the center of His purpose. Instead, they will eventually see her in the same way that He sees her and treasure her just as He does. To love Christ is to love what He loves, hence the reason why a revelation of Jesus Christ will always lead to loving His people and His church. Paul connects faith in Christ with love for the saints consistently in his epistles.
While the church doesn’t replace Christ, and Christ is certainly distinct from the church, He is not separate from her. She’s the bottom half of our Lord – His body. She’s His very Bride, the most beautiful girl in the world.
You can’t cherish the Lord and not cherish His church. This is the teaching of Ephesians.
Seeing this has an incredibly liberating effect on Christians. When they see themselves, their brothers and sisters, and the church as God sees her, it changes everything. The church, according to the New Testament, isn’t a technique, a form, a structure, an organization, a denomination, a service, or any of the things we think of when we hear the word “church.” She the community that God has had in mind from before time. The very expansion of the Godhead from eternity to eternity. The effects of receiving a revelation of the eternal purpose are amazing. Discipleship, mission, church practice, spiritual formation and devotion all take on a new meaning and experience as a result.
2. In your final chapter you advocate a “deep ecclesiology” centered on Jesus. Some would say this isn’t deep at all, that a “Jesus band aid” doesn’t make much difference. How do you recommend deep ecclesiology address the deep issues of sin and brokenness in the church?
Jesus Christ is not a band-aid. He’s the Sum of all spiritual things. And everything in this universe is moving toward Him being All and All. He is the issue, period. For a person to separate the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the visible image of the invisible God – full of grace and truth – from the healing of deep sin and brokenness is to betray the fact that such a person doesn’t quite know who this glorious Person is.
Such a view of Jesus reflects an anemic, flannel board version of the Lord over against knowing Him as the FULLNESS of the Godhead bodily. For this reason, Paul’s passion was “to know Him” … to know this incredible Christ in a living way. Jesus Himself said eternal life is knowing God the Father and Himself, for He is LIFE and REALITY.
Jesus Christ is God’s answer to all human needs, and more.
Every time I’ve seen the fullness of Christ revealed, displayed, magnified and ministered, people’s lives have been changed drastically.
“The look that melted Peter, the face that Stephen saw, the heart that wept with Mary, can alone from idols draw.”
Jesus is no band-aid.
He’s the heartthrob of God the Father and the center of His eternal plan.
3. How do you define the Gospel?
I don’t define it. The Gospel is a Person. It is Christ. The early apostles preached a Person, not a theory, a theology, or a plan. As John said, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us … that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.”
Preaching the gospel is to preach Christ. To give Christ. To reveal Christ. To declare Christ. Always has been; always will be.
4. What are your “marks of the church”? What is the bare minimum for the church to be the church?
I describe those specifically in my book REIMAGINING CHURCH. In short, it’s the same marks that we find in the fellowship of the Godhead. When a group of people have met the Lord Jesus Christ experientially and are learning to live by His indwelling life together, then you have the ekklesia expressed and experienced visibly.
OTHER BLOGS PARTICIPATING IN THE “FROM ETERNITY TO HERE” BLOG CIRCUIT
Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Eternity-Here-Rediscovering-Ageless-Purpose/dp/1434768708/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233609867&sr=1-4
For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org
Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A: