Friday, March 06, 2009

A Bride, A House, & A Body

Have you ever read one of those books that articulated everything you already knew into far better words than you could articulate them? Have you devoured a book because it gave reason and explanation for truths that you merely feel? Have you ever known that this book you are giving your time and thought to, is to become a field guide for the journey you are already on? Have you ever finished a book with the words, "I need to buy a copy of that for everyone I know?"

I have had that happen twice in my life. The first time was several years ago when I read Tom Davis' "Fields of the Fatherless". Then the second was last night as I finished Frank Viola's "From Eternity to Here." This book rocked my world not because it introduced a new idea, but because it quilted together the very truth of God, and his passionate needs, desire, and longing for community with his creation.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section lays out the Biblical narrative in such a way that it emphasizes the church as the bride as an eternal passion of God from before the beginning of time. Perfectly connecting the heroes of the Old Testament, with the wonder and mystery of John's gospel and apocalypse, Viola illustrates that the church as the bride is not a metaphor to help us better understand the authority structure of the Christian home, but instead it is the deep mystery of God hidden in Christ before the foundation of the world.

In the second section, Viola repeats his wonderful ability to beautifully connect the Biblical narrative together to elevate in our minds the importance of God's search for a dwelling place. From the foreign land where he sent Abraham, to the tabernacle of Moses and the tabernacle of David, to Solomon's Temple, through the incarnate life of life Jesus, and ultimately into his church which is the House of God, the Lord's resting place.

Finally in his third section, Viola switches from story teller to scholar to reveal the depth of meaning in the gospels and in the Pauline writings about the church as the body of Christ. This section does not read with the majestic eloquence of the first two, and yet it's content resonates deeper, and more meaningfully than any other in the book. Once again Viola slaughters theologians desire to reduce the the realities of God's Kingdom into a metaphor, this time it is the body of Christ. Viola notes with meticulous detail how the church is the REAL physical incarnation of Christ on earth now. He reinforces our dependence on Christ and gives us truth to use as a weapon against Satan's attack on our worth and righteousness. As Christ is the head and mind of the church, we are it's body, and we are therefore in a mutual need of eachother for the life giving dependence of a physical body. He ties all the thoughts together, to note how if we are the "seed of heaven" then as a new species on earth we live not intertwined into the affairs of the old species, but as colonist of the new Kingdom which is fulfilled at the reconciliation of all things.

This book is Viola's magnus opus! I have read his other three books, and they are each great teaching. However, this work is not a book to be studied, it is a very window into the passionate erotic love of God for his creation, and for his desperate need to extend the community of the triune God among them. I say without reservation, this book will change the way you see God. It will set you free from the limited metaphor of systematic theologies. It will release you from the minimized boxed God of a religionist allegorical reinterpretation of the narrative of God. It will welcome you as participants into God's eternal purpose.

Erasmus famously quipped, "when I have a little extra money I buy books, if there is any left over I buy food." Reading this book is more important than any meal you will eat this week. If you must go hungry, and get a hold of the book. "From Eternity to Here" will feed you from a source that this world knows nothing about.

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