[forthright] Mall Church/Interpreting Revelation: Knowing the Goal

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthright@...>
Date: Wed, 14 Sep 2005 17:17:27 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

Mall Church by Stan Mitchell
Interpreting Revelation: Knowing the Goal by Barry Newton

COLUMN: Reality Check

Mall Church
by Stan Mitchell

"Therefore come out from them, and be separate,"
says the Lord, "touch no unclean thing, and I will
receive you" (2 Corinthians 6:17).

When the Mall of America opened up in Minneapolis
in 1992, it was the largest fully enclosed retail
and entertainment complex on earth. It had enough
floor space to fill eighty-eight football fields.
It employed twice as many people as the city of
Minneapolis. It anticipated nine times as many
visitors as the population of Minnesota.

But the strangest feature of the Mall of America
was a church that began to meet in the rotunda
between Bloomindales and Sears. "A Sunday
Mallelujah!" exclaimed the Minneapolis Star
Tribune, as six thousand worshiper flocked to the
opening worship service. The association of the
mega mall and this mega church was exactly what
church leaders had in mind. This was a cathedral
of consumption, a media-savvy fellowship that saw
potential adherents as consumers, apt to choose
one mall over the other on the basis of glitz and

Is there something wrong with the location? Not

The problem is not the presence of a church in the
mall, but the presence of the mall in the church.

When Jesus stated that his followers should be "in
the world but not of the world," he expressed this
very dilemma. Geographically, we live in the
world, side by side with colleagues at work and in
a community. Philosophically, we are not of the
world. We are urged to "be separate," to "come out
of the world," to "touch no unclean thing."

How can we do this? The battle begins with our
thinking. The world wishes to sweep us away in its
deluge of chatter. Television, secular
universities, and conversations all express a
worldly point of view. We must counteract this by
searching out God's point of view.

The danger lies in the way churches often confuse
the two. If the church cannot distinguish between
a "thus saith the Lord" and a "gospel" of greed
and materialism, then who will? It begins when our
thinking is "transformed" by the "renewing of our
minds" (Romans 12:1,2). We need to think
"Christianly," biblically. We're always talking
about changing our worship. Perhaps it's time
instead to change the worshipers!

This Sunday, come ready, not to change the church,
but yourself!

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COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

Interpreting Revelation: Knowing the Goal
by Barry Newton

Standing before his class of hungry young minds
eager to analyze, absorb, and critique his
presentation on Revelation, the professor produced
an unusually shaped ink blot. The first thought
for many students was, "What's this?" Their
teacher continued, "five theories exist about what
this ink blot means." He went on to explain each
theory which at least on the surface seemed
reasonable enough.

He finished by asking the students what thoughts
they had about the meaning of the ink blot. Some
said, "Ink blots are a matter of subjective
interpretation. What does this have to do with the
book of Revelation?" Others confessed they felt
bewildered by the variety of interpretations and
despaired at arriving at the correct
understanding. Then there were a few students who
had already begun to cling tenaciously to one or
another perspective.

What does an ink blot have with to do with
interpreting John's revelation? Well, maybe not
much. And that is precisely the point. On the one
hand, both are data and data can be interpreted in
a variety of manners. On the other hand, whereas
ink blots generally are not created to communicate
an intended meaning, biblical books are. If the
reader fails to value the goal of recovering the
meaning which John intended to communicate,
suddenly the book of Revelation (or any biblical
book for that matter) becomes little more than an
ink blot susceptible to anyone's creative spin.

What was the professor's point? Unless students of
God's word pursue the tether found in seeking the
author's intended meaning, they will find
themselves adrift in the subjective sea of human
perspectives. Without the proper goal in
interpretation, human reason is insufficient for
providing a reliable compass or proper
perspective. Without the proper tether, anything
becomes possible.

Naivety would swallow that biblical
interpretations have little to do with someone's
values and goals. In actuality, what people value
determines the message they will accept as their
understanding. Seeking credibility, making money,
predetermined agendas, being validated or
comforted, and understanding what the biblical
author intended are just a few of the motives that
can drive someone's perspective of a biblical
book. Those who value a quick "Cliff Notes" answer
might be annoyed at the prospect of needing to
personally think carefully through the subject.
And so perhaps, they would embrace the first
explanation they hear. Some might even dismiss the
effort to understand with the simple wave of the
back of their hand because, "I can't be bothered
thinking about such subjects." Others who may
believe there is safety in numbers will accept
whatever they perceive to be the common

To place greater value upon something other than
the intended message by one who spoke from God as
he was carried along by the Holy Spirit, will cut
a person adrift into a bewildering sea of creative
speculations. Whether it be Revelation or any
other biblical book, we need to seek those
exegetical keys revealing the author's intended

Part 2 will suggest some keys toward seeking an
author-centered framework by which we can
interpret Revelation.

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