Christ the Warrior Baby: The Violent Warfare of the Incarnation

“The kingdom of God dawns in a peasant Jewish virgin’s uterus,” states Russell Moore. The virgin birth of Christ is a major milestone in the kingdom conflict of redemptive history. It was not a silent night. Instead, according to the apostle John, it was a violent escalation of the warfare between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent (Rev 12:1-6).

As Thomas Torrance explains, “Everything in Christianity centers on the incarnation of the Son of God, an invasion of God among men and women in time.” There are several dimensions of Jesus’ birth narrative that confirm the warfare significance of the incarnation:

First, the genealogies of Christ seem to suggest that Jesus is a second Adam and new David who will reconstitute the kingdom of God and restore shalom to its rule. Luke’s genealogy presents Jesus as a new Adam who comes as the son of God in order to reverse the kingdom collapse that resulted from the sin of the first Adam (Luke 3:23-38). Likewise, Matthew’s genealogy presents Jesus as a warrior king from David’s lineage (Matt 1:6) who is also Immanuel, “God with us” (Matt 1:23).

Thus, the genealogies of Jesus show the convergence of three militant motifs of the Old Testament’s messianic expectation in the incarnation—the messiah as second Adam, new David, and Immanuel who fights for the people of God to establish the kingdom of God.

Second, the birth announcements of the angels confirm Christ as an infant warrior king. For example, Gabriel reveals to Mary that Jesus will be great, will be called Son of the Most High, will receive David’s throne, will reign over Jacob’s house, and will have an everlasting kingdom (Luke 1:32-33). John later explains that the reason for the appearance of Jesus that these angels announced was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).

The angel who announces Jesus’ birth to the shepherds points out both that this child will be a savior and that he is born in the city of David (Luke 2:11). As the angels announce the identity of Jesus, they capture the kingly dimension of his coming.

Third, the response of others to the birth of Christ indicates his royal status. As Mary marvels over the birth of Jesus in the Magnificat, she celebrates how this miraculous birth is the means by which God will bring down thrones (Luke 1:52) and fulfill the Abrahamic promise (Luke 1:55). Before Jesus’ birth, the prophet Zechariah recognizes the coming child king as a descendant in the line of Abraham (Luke 1:73) and David (Luke 1:69) who will defeat the enemies of God by the power of God (Luke 1:71, 74).

After Jesus’ birth, the wise men identify him as the “King of the Jews” to Herod (Matt 2:2), which initiates a title repeatedly used of Christ in both delight and derision. Finally, Herod’s slaughter of the innocents (Matt 2:13-18) echoes the actions of pharaoh (Exod 1:15-17)—and the Pharaoh behind the pharaoh (Rev 12:17)—in seeking to eliminate the threat of the royal seed of the woman.

The genealogies, angelic announcements, and personal responses to the birth of Christ all signal that something significant occurs at the incarnation. It is a seismic step in the kingdom warfare of redemptive history.

As Jonathan Edwards declares:

“But yet this feeble infant, born thus in a stable, and laid in a manger, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion. He came to subdue the mighty powers of darkness, and make a show of them openly, and so to restore peace on earth, and to manifest God’s good-will towards men, and to bring glory to God in the highest, according as the end of his birth was declared by the joyful songs of the glorious hosts of angels appearing to the shepherds at the same time that the infant lay in the manger; whereby his divine dignity was manifested.”

As we gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas with our churches and families, may we remember that the crying infant came as a conquering warrior king.

Elmer Gantry and National Public Radio

Have you ever heard of Elmer Gantry??? Neither had I before I was asked to participate with several other students in an interview with National Public Radio. Elmer Gantry was the lead character in a novel by the same name written by Sinclair Lewis in the 1920’s. As a charlatan revival preacher, Gantry traveled the country peddling the gospel for personal profit rather than eternal rewards. The novel was turned into a film in the 1960’s that garnered several Academy Awards.

So, why did National Public Radio want to speak with students like me about a fictional character like Gantry? They wanted to hear the perspective of people preparing for ministry on someone who was using the pulpit for personal gain. It was an excellent experience.

You can listen to the audio of the interview here, and read the NPR synopsis here.

Does Country Music Cause Suicide?

Does all that crooning about drinking and divorce in country music contribute to the prevalence of suicide in its listeners? That’s the question Steven Stack and Jim Gundlach seek to answer in a recent study entitled The Effect of Country Music on Suicide. The report concludes that country music, indeed, contributes to suicide rates:

Country music is hypothesized to nurture a suicidal mood through its concerns with problems common in the suicidal population, such as marital discord, alcohol abuse, and alienation from work. The results of a multiple regression analysis of 49 metropolitan areas show that the greater the airtime devoted to country music, the greater the white suicide rate. The effect is independent of divorce, southernness, poverty, and gun availability. The existence of a country music subculture is thought to reinforce the link between country music and suicide. Our model explains 51% of the variance in urban white suicide rates.

Music functions as both a window and a mirror. It is a window that provides a glimpse of what is driving the culture. And it is a mirror that reflects the preferences of its listeners. So what does it reveal about us when country music contributes to suicide rates?

Many of the lyrics embedded in country music speak to the trials and tribulations of southern culture. Whether its singing about the loss of momma, the end of a marriage or the sorrow of another night in the local honky tonk, country music is often marked by despair. So, it should come as no surprise that this kind of music sometimes contributes to the greatest example of despair in the world – suicide.

Suicide is the most horrifying form of death there is. Why? Because it is the ultimate act of pride. Though it seems to be an act of humility, suicide is actually the pinnacle of hubris as someone determines that the taking of their life is more important than the abandonment of all those who are connected with them. Moreover, in suicide, they present an anti-gospel by destroying the life that has been created in God’s image.

Whether country music actually causes suicide or whether its lyrics are more volatile than other forms of music are still up for debate. But what is certain is that suicide is evidence of complete despair.

Luke 10:1-24

I recently had the opportunity to preach in my Sunday School class at 9th and O Baptist Church. You can listen to the sermon by following the link below. Here is a write-up about the message by my friend Jed:

If you weren’t able to attend the Dean’s Class this past Sunday, you missed out on a phenomenal message from Phillip Bethancourt. With clarity and conviction, Phillip took his listeners from the pumpkin patches of Huber Farm to the wheat fields of Israel. He preached about praying for laborers, childlike faith, and Satan falling like lightning from heaven. He preached about truths that kings and prophets longed to see and hear. He preached Christ.

Hopefully, as Phillip helps you get in touch with your agrarian roots, you’ll see and savor the Lord of the Harvest. You can listen to the message by following the link below:

Luke 10:1-24 

To listen to audio from other guest preachers in the Dean’s Class, click here.

Joel Osteen on Larry King Live

From the day that I skeptically witnessed the grand opening of Lakewood Church in Houston, I have always had an interest in Joel Osteen. There’s nothing like watching a religious service in the same location that you used to watch NBA basketball. Osteen is in the midst of a media blitz as he seeks to promote his new book Become a Better You.

For all those who are interested, Osteen and his wife Victoria will be interviewed tonight by Larry King on CNN’s Larry King Live at 9 PM ET.

Here are some other links related to Osteen’s new book release that may be of interest:

Is There Such a Thing as Being ‘Too Religious’?

The Washington Post writes:

A Pew poll out today draws a fine line: It is important for presidential aspirants to be seen as religious, but most do not get a big bump from being perceived as “very religious.” The new data also show how little the public knows about the religious and social views of the top presidential contenders as the campaigns kick into high-gear.

Is there such a thing as being ‘too religious’? Apparently, when it comes to politics, there is. This perspective of religion flies in the face of the all or nothing nature of the gospel portrayed in Scripture. What does it profit a man (or woman) if they gain the presidency of the United States yet forfeit their soul?