R.I.P.: Gayle Krause

Gayle KrauseIt has been over a month since my uncle, Gayle Krause, passed away in El Dorado, Kansas. He was 86 years old. Because of distance, I did not grow up with him in my life very much. I wish I had. He located in El Dorado in 1966 to teach math at Butler County College, eventually becoming the head of the department. The day after he retired in 1991, he filed papers to become a Trustee of the college, a post he served for 12 years. He was also a faithful member of the First Christian Church in El Dorado, serving as an elder, teacher, and chair of the church board.

His wife, my Aunt Kaye, told me often that she and Gayle were proud to use the Standard Lesson Quarterly for their Sunday School class, and always noted when the lesson for the week had been written by me. Here is a note she wrote to me after his passing:

Gayle was always proud of you and your achievements. Pastor Stan said in a comment during his service that he gave so much to our church, and when he was the elder for the Sunday, Gayle would receive compliments from Stan [for his communion meditation]. Gayle would reply, “That was from some of my nephew’s writings. He’s a preacher, you know!” He thoroughly enjoyed when you did the commentary for the SS material. He’d always say to me, “This is Mark’s writing, and I don’t even have to look and see.”

It may seem that Gayle worked in a hidden corner of the world, a small town in Kansas. But he made an impact there. He touched lives of his family members, his church friends, and his classroom students. He was a man of generosity, graciousness, great intelligence (duh, math professor), and integrity. He reminds me of the phrase from Hebrews:

[those] of whom the world was not worthy …

Yet he did not feel that way. He did not look upon his community with disdain, but plunged right in and got his hands dirty every day. He matched his years of frustration with the Trustees of his college with a willingness to serve as a Trustee the day he was eligible.

One of the most interesting sides of Uncle Gayle was his patriotism. His two older brothers were both in the Army during WWII, but he was too young to serve until the very end. He tried to enlist but was rejected for his age. He tried again the next year, and was accepted. He was training to be a Navy pilot for the Pacific theater when the war ended. His hometown newspaper in Belleville, KS did an amazing article at the time to celebrate that all three Krause brothers were serving their country at the same time.

3 Krauses in WWIISo Rest In Peace Uncle Gayle. You are missed in this world, and we long to see you in the next.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College


Is Christ in Us or Are We in Christ?

In ChristAs Christians, does Christ live in us, or do we live in Christ? Several months ago, I did a post on Jesus into the Heart. It has been a relatively popular post, receiving over 500 hits. I am currently teaching an online course on the book of Ephesians, and was struck again by the Pauline phrase, “in Christ.” This is a key phrase for Ephesians, and some think it is the key phrase for Paul’s theology as a whole (more important than “justification by faith”). When reading Ephesians, one is struck by this immediately. The phrase “in Christ” or “in him [Christ]” occurs eleven times in the first fourteen verses alone. Here is a sample:

  • Paul commends the readers for being “faithful in Christ.
  • The Father has “blessed us in Christ.”
  • We have redemption in him.”
  • In him” we were marked with the seal of Holy Spirit

This idea, that we are “in Christ” in various ways, is found over 150 times in Paul’s letters. Overall, it has a spacial sense: this is where we dwell. We live “in Christ.” This is metaphorical to a degree, but not simply conceptual or idealistic. We find our identity “in Christ” as Christian believers. Our spiritual address is “in Christ.” We are at home when we are “in Christ.”

This has other implications for Paul. If we are “in Christ,” we are part of Christ’s body, the church, of which he is the head. To be “in Christ” is not an exclusive relationship, but a corporate identity, to be part of the chosen people of God. As Paul says in Ephesians 1:4, God “chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

So our desire to understand Jesus as dwelling in our hearts has some biblical basis (maybe four references), but the reality that we dwell in Christ is overwhelming. As Klyne Snodgrass has written, if Jesus in our hearts was all there was to it, it would make Jesus about one inch tall. If we dwell in Christ, Jesus is big enough to include the billions of Christian who have believed since the foundation of the world. That’s the Christ I want most.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Giant Theology: Love Must Reign

Love, not hate, must come to birth;
Christ, not Cain, must rule the earth.

 Edwin Markham (modified by MK)

NOH8I don’t remember where I found this little poem and I have no idea who Ed Markham was (is?). But what a great thought! What if our world were controlled by something other than selfishness, hatred, and violence? This is the promise of a truly Christian world. Christians do not want to conquer the world. They just want to live in a world where Christ reigns in the hearts of every citizen.

I am teaching a class on the Letters of John right now, and we have been looking at the often-overlooked books of 2 John and 3 John. A great passage comes in 2 John 5 & 6:

5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.

The unswerving love of fellow believers is what Francis Schaeffer so aptly called the “Mark of the Christian.”  As Schaeffer says, it is “the mark that Jesus gives to label a Christian not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns.”[1]  And this “mark” has continually renewed the church when it has been rediscovered.  The Jesus People and youth of the 1960s loved to sing, “and they’ll know we are Christians by our love” and they infused life and love into the church. In today’s post-denominational era, churches that don’t just talk about love but actually demonstrate it are attractive to outsiders, far more than flashy preachers or fancy buildings.

The blogosphere is not renown as a loving place. It is full of acidic vitriol, words written that would never be spoken face to face. Even Christian bloggers are guilty of disrespect and hateful words. As the letters of John teach us, Christian love is not the same as blanket toleration or approval of heretics and false teachers.  But, as Schaeffer reminds us, “we must both distinguish true Christians from all pretenders and be sure that we leave no true Christians outside of our consideration. . . . We must include everyone who stands in the historic-biblical faith whether or not he is a member of our own party or our own group.”  After all, our example in this is Jesus, whose love crosses every ethnic, racial, economic, cultural, and language barrier ever seen by humans as a justification for separation.  As some of our denominational and sectarian walls begin to come down, perhaps we could reverse the motto of the bodyguard who was told to “shoot first, ask questions later.”  We should “love first, ask questions later.” May the love of Christ reign in our hearts today. That, my friends, is Giant Theology.
Here is a fuller quote of Edwin Markey:
They will gather as friends and say,
"Come, let us try the Master's way.
Ages we tried the way of swords.
And earth is weary of hostile hordes.
Comrades, read out his words again:
They are the only hope for men!
Love and not hate must come to birth:
Christ and not Cain must rule the earth."
Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

[1] Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1970).

The Legacy of Racial Hatred

segregationIn the 15th and 16th centuries, Europeans made two discoveries that shaped the history of our continent.  First, they discovered the southern half of Africa, populated by black people who were defenseless against European methods of warfare, and could be easily subdued.  Second, they found the so-called “New World,” a rich land that was sparsely populated in many areas, and ripe for exploitation and colonization.  This, combined with advances in wooden ships, resulted in the idea that Africa was a type of field where slaves could be harvested and shipped to work in America.

The result was that some Europeans began to brutally enslave the black Africans and transport them to North America.  The first and last to engage in this were the Portuguese, but almost every European nation participated.  Black people were brought to the English colony of Jamestown first in 1619 as indentured servants.  Within a few decades slavery became institutionalized.  Slavery in America accelerated and expanded under the reign of the English King George III.  After the American War of Independence, a compromise item in the U.S. Constitution allowed the African slave trade to continue another twenty years (strange for a document considered to be “inspired” by some).  With the loss of their American colonies, the British also lost commercial interest in slavery.  It was soon outlawed in Great Britain through the advocacy of such outstanding Christians as William Wilberforce.  In 19th Century America, slavery became confined to the Southern states.  On the eve of the Civil War, the U.S. census counted nearly 4,000,000 slaves in this country.

The American institution of slavery was unprecedented in world history, because of its racial basis.  Virtually all black people in the U.S. were slaves.  And all slaves in the U.S. were black.  Not since the enslaved Hebrews of the book of Exodus had there been a nation of slaves, a race enslaved for hundreds of years within a larger nation.

Even though Abraham Lincoln gave legal freedom to the black slaves of America, and the Civil War was fought over this issue, the legacy of slavery was not so easily overcome.  The history of black slavery became the justification of some whites for assumptions of racial superiority. Stereotypes of black people were widely assumed in this country, stereotypes of laziness, dishonesty, and inferior intelligence; stereotypes that were used to perpetuate racial oppression.

The systematic segregation reached its depth of shame in the 1950s.  Segregation in the South extended to such basic things as public buses.  In the first four rows, signs were clearly posted saying “whites only.”  If these rows were full, black people were required to give up their seats and move further back in the bus.  Standard procedure required black people to pay their fares and then walk outside to board the bus by the rear door.

Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his life to Jesus at age 5 in his daddy’s church.  Although his childhood was somewhat sheltered, he experienced the bigotry of Atlanta at an early age.  He later recalled an incident from his childhood that made a particularly strong impression upon him.  As a youngster he was returning home on the bus after winning a school speech contest.  The happy young boy, dressed in his Sunday best and feeling on top of the world, was crushed when he was called to yield his bus seat to a white man.  As he moved to the back, the white conductor railed at him, calling him a black s.o.b.  King’s parents taught him that as a Christian he must love white people.  His response at that time:  “How can I love a race of people who hate me?

In 1964 King became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.  Four years later, on April 5, 1968, he was shot to death by avowed racist, James Earl Ray, in Memphis.  As is true of us all, Martin Luther King, Jr. was an imperfect vessel, but he was used of God in a powerful way. He speaks to the Christian community today, saying that race hatred may have no part among the people of God.

On September 5, 1963, King spoke in Birmingham, Alabama for a funeral for some little girls.  These children were killed while attending Sunday School in their church by a racially motivated bombing.  This is part of what he said:

At times, life is hard, as hard as crucible steel.  It has its bleak and painful moments.  Like the ever-flowing waters of a river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.  Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of the summers and the piercing chill of its winters.  But through it all, God walks with us.  Never forget that God is able to lift you from the fatigue and despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

Our society is permeated by sin, and so we are not surprised when race hatred raises its ugly head, even in the church.  But this is no excuse to accept it and not work for a better world.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Theological Mistakes: The Customer Is Always Right

angry-woman-2I recently witnessed a very ugly scene in which an irate woman customer publicly humiliated and berated a store employee for a comment she perceived as “rude.” I don’t know what the comment was (and it may have indeed been very rude), but the loud spectacle and angry tirade were unsettling and made me view the complaining woman as a fool. Personal Confession: I speak as one who has done similar things, but this does not make her or me less of a fool. Thousands of years ago, the author of Ecclesiastes observed:

Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit,
    for anger resides in the lap of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7:9)

The angry woman repeatedly reminded the employee that “as a consumer I have choices” along with angry variations of “the customer is always right.” Funny, these commonplace business sayings don’t seem as reasonable when someone is screaming them.

I have long wondered about the wisdom of “the customer is always right.” If this means, “In general we will serve our customers well, even when they may not deserve it,” I can buy in to the idea. But as any sort of an absolute statement, this is ludicrous. Ethical standards for employees must rise above the whims of customers, especially irrational or rogue customers.

Here is my question for today: has this idea become a centerpiece of how we do church? If so, it would seem to be a theological principle, because it mandates how we take care of God’s church, the body of Christ. When we overly-impose marketing principles on the church, we may end up with a model that sees the paid church staff as store employees and church members and visitors as customers. Since the customer is always right, ministers should seek to please. Isn’t this the formula for a happy growing church?

I am all in favor of happy, growing churches, but there must be a higher standard for what we do than what people like. For example, should we preach about biblical standards of morality? Some people might not like this, so best avoid these topics. Should we teach principles of stewardship, that what we do with our money is important to our relationship with God and our spiritual health? No, we don’t want to do this because it reinforces the stereotype that the church just wants our money. Should we be so brave as to tell folks that God is in control of everything (including their lives), not them? Why, no, that might make people feel like the church wanted to exercise control over them!

Of course I am being ridiculous here. If we are to be biblical churches and preach biblical sermons, we need to preach the full message of God’s word, not pablum designed to offend no one. We must be in the business of letting Scripture and Spirit transform people’s lives, not letting current cultural norms and trends dictate our message. The customer is always right? No, not in the church. God is always right, and he is neither our customer nor our employee. He is the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe, the Wisest of All Kings, and the Great Judge of all things. Listen to him.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Grant Us Wisdom

God bless AmericaTumultuous times. We are living in tumultuous times. We are entangled in foreign situations that put the lives of our youth at risk. We read with shock and horror the news of violence and killing in our towns and cities. Jobs are still scarce, and our political leaders are still gridlocked. Popular culture seems intent on attacking biblical values and morality.

Yet there are wonderful things going on, too. The internet has given us access to a new world of information, social connections, and entertainment. We drive cars that are safer, more fuel efficient, and last much longer. (I recently rented a car that had bun warmers even in the back seats and headlights that dimmed automatically when they sense oncoming cars.) In my field, the wonders of Bible software and digital publishing have given me new tools I use daily and now take for granted. Medical advances have given hope in situations that were hopeless even a few years ago. The human genome project and its developments have given us the promise of fixing our bodies using genetic therapy. (Bad heart? Maybe we can use your DNA to grow a new one and replace your old one.)

Sometimes I long for the simpler, more innocent times of my childhood. But most of the time, I have no desire to go back in time. To paraphrase Dickens, this is the best of time and the worst of times.

I think that every stage of human history and progress has had this feeling. In 1930, as the Great Depression began to unleash its wrath on America, Henry Emerson Fosdick wrote a hymn that spoke to his day, and echoed this “best of times, worst of times” challenge. I have always loved this hymn and have used it as a public prayer on many occasions. Each stanza is powerful, but this one seems to fit today:

Lo! the hosts of evil ’round us,
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways.
From the fears that long have bound us,
Free our hearts to faith and praise.
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,
For the living of these days,
For the living of these days.

In these tumultuous times, may we have the wisdom and courage for the living of these days.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Theological Mistakes: Avoiding the Human Jesus

In the early church, the first great theological threat came from what we now call “Gnosticism” (a later version of which is called “Manichaeism,” one of the religious stages that Augustine navigated before becoming a Christian). Gnosticism is difficult to pin down to a list of theological issues, because it had many facets, so let me explain it in three stages:

  1. Gnosticism starts with hard-nosed dualism, a separation of the physical and the non-physical world. In religious terms, this is a division between the physical world and the spiritual world. A version of this can be found in the idealism of Plato (one author characterized Gnosticism as “Platonism gone wild”), but from a theological perspective, this means that the physical world is inferior and sinful while the spiritual world is superior and true. The spiritual world is the realm of God (or the gods depending on your religious perspective).
  2. Because of this dualism, we must assume that human bodies are evil and sinful. This makes the Doctrine of the Incarnation, God becoming human in Jesus, preposterous. The Gnostics did not have problems with the divinity of Jesus, they denied his humanity.
  3. If Jesus were not truly human, then he was unable to do that most human of all things: die. Simply put, the non-human Jesus of the Gnostics could not have died on the cross, and therefore the idea of a perfect eternal sacrifice for human sins is not possible. For this reason, Gnosticism understood salvation as possible by the gaining of spiritual knowledge, esoteric secrets that would enable a person to transcend human frailty and be united with God. This is where the term “Gnostic” comes from, the Greek word gnosis means “knowledge.”

Itrinity.sunday.icon.mary.with.baby.jesusn the church today, Jesus is often treated as a non-human being. Many people think  that his episode of temptations by Satan were something of a charade, that he could not have sinned. Artists often portray him as serene and other-worldly, lacking human emotions and concerns. Hollywood film productions featuring Jesus certainly did this for many years. In the epic Ben Hur (1959), the face of Jesus is never even shown, giving no opportunity to display his humanity. The last great film of this type was King of Kings (1961), which portrayed Jesus as immune to any sort of emotion. This is sometimes seen in Christmas art, where the Babe of Bethlehem is pictured as a fully cognizant adult in miniature. This is also why the suggestion that he might have been married is distasteful for many Christians, because that just makes him too human. (I am not suggesting Jesus was married, there is no evidence for this, but the possibility does not upset me theologically.)

How doe we overcome this Gnostic tendency in the church today, the avoidance of the humanity of Jesus? This is no easy task, and we need to be deliberate and careful. An overemphasis upon the divinity of Christ leads to a denial of his humanity. An overemphasis upon the humanity of Christ leads to a denial of his divinity. Consider this:

  • The Gnostics saw Jesus as 100% divine and 0% human = heresy
  • A later group, the Arians, saw Jesus as 100% created being and 0% eternal divinity = heresy
  • Many have proposed a solution that sees Jesus as 50% human and 50% divine, or some variation of this = heresy also.
  • The Orthodox solution is that Jesus is 100% human and 100% divine.

This does not make logical sense, but logic should never be the master or judge of theology and doctrine. There are paradoxes in theology that are beyond our comprehension. Our inability to grasp them fully does not make them untrue. This is where Christian faith is a matter of faith.

I am beginning a class on the letters of John, and John is certainly fighting some type of early Gnosticism within his churches. He makes a big deal about touching the human Jesus, an impossibility for a purely spiritual being. In our current struggle to convince unbelievers of Christ’s divinity, may we never forget his humanity.

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College