From Eternity to Here: An Interview with Frank Viola
I’m pleased to have an interview with Frank Viola today. Frank is an author of a number of books, including Pagan Christianity? (my review here) and Reimagining Church. Frank says that his latest, From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God, is his “flagship book and a primer for all of my previous works.”
I’m posting my interview with Frank today. Tomorrow I’ll have a review.
Your new book, From Eternity to Here, seems to build on your earlier work, God’s Ultimate Passion. How has your thinking changed between the two books?
God’s Ultimate Passion was a self-published experiment; only a small number of copies were printed. It was a rough draft to test the waters and get feedback from readers on the concepts presented. From Eternity to Here is the mature, professionally edited, finalized version put out by David C. Cook (publisher of Brennan Manning, Len Sweet, Francis Chan, etc. They do a great job!).
From Eternity covers many of the things that readers noted were absent from the earlier rough draft, as well as sharpened, clarified, and expanded what existed in the original draft. It’s a far better book, and the reception so far shows that, I think. I owe a debt to all those who read the original rough draft and gave me constructive criticism and feedback. All of their comments were implemented in the new book.
How is this book different from your others, such as Pagan Christianity?
Let me try to do this in chronological order. The Untold Story of the New Testament Church is a socio-historical-chronological narrative of the first-century church. It blends together the story of Acts with the epistles and follows the theme of God’s eternal purpose from Acts to Revelation, focusing on the story of the early church. Pagan Christianity looks at many of the things we do for church today and questions them on the basis of history. It’s a deconstructive work. Yet it was never meant to be a stand-alone book. Its job was very narrow and focused. Namely, to show where our present-day Protestant church practices came from. It then leaves the reader with the question – are these practices a help or a hindrance to God’s perfect will for the Body of Christ?
Pagan Christianity, therefore, was intentionally written as only the first half of a conversation. Reimagining Church is the second and most important half. It’s the constructive piece. Both books can be likened unto a puzzle. Pagan Christianity throws out the possibility that the picture on the box we have been using hasn’t been entirely correct and that’s why the pieces haven’t been fitting together. Reimagining Church presents a fresh vision of the picture on the box that’s rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. And it makes the argument that … just maybe, if we used the picture that Jesus and the apostles appeared to give us, the pieces would begin to fit.
One of the chapters in Reimagining Church is called “Reimagining the Eternal Purpose.” Here’s where From Eternity to Here comes in. It expands that chapter into an entire book. It presents the 50,000 foot view, if you please – the big, sweeping epic of God’s ageless purpose and grand mission. It explores why the church is so terribly important to God and what she looks like in His eyes. It also shows that the church is not something for ourselves; it primarily exists to fulfill something for God, for His desire and for His good pleasure.
So you can think of From Eternity and The Untold Story as giving readers a macro view of the Biblical narrative, and Pagan and Reimagining providing a micro view of some of the ways that it can flesh itself out on the ground.
Interestingly, Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church are books that mainly interest people who are rethinking church practice and forms. But From Eternity to Here and The Untold Story are much more accessible. They are written for all Christians. For this reason, pastors, teachers, and professors from all different denominations are using these two books with those they serve.
Interestingly, I’ve received letters from people saying that they really didn’t appreciate Pagan Christianity until they read From Eternity to Here. It helped give them a completely different context by which to understand it.
I really appreciated the Christ-centered focus in this book. You write, “The chief task of a Christian leader is to present a Christ to God’s people that they have never known, dreamed, or imagined.” How do you suggest that we do that?
Thanks for the kind words. One cannot give to God’s people what they themselves have not experienced. Thus a person cannot present the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that bowls people over by the unveiling of His glory unless they themselves have such a revelation of Christ beating within their own hearts. Put another way: If a person is not intoxicated by the infinite glories and unsearchable riches of Christ themselves, then they cannot expect to get others intoxicated with Him by their preaching.
We declare and present that which we have seen and experienced.
That said, I believe it begins with a hunger and humility. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I thought I knew everything. My knowledge of the Bible exceeded most of those I knew who were quite older than me, including my pastors and leaders. (I say that soberly.) Then I was handed a book written by a Chinese Christian and I was stunned. I felt like a babe. This man had a depth and insight into Christ and into Scripture that I had never seen, heard, or knew was possible. That depth made me hungry. I wanted to know my Lord like this man did. Through reading that book, the Holy Spirit showed me that I didn’t know Jesus Christ that well. Yes, I knew Scripture, church history, and even theology. I was an effective apologist as well. I was busy serving God in all sorts of capacities, yet I knew deep down that I didn’t know HIM well at all.
That realization sent me on a journey. I dropped what I was doing and I ended up looking for people who were older than me who I perceived knew Christ in the depths (in the way this Chinese author did), and I learned from them. Some of them had been disciples of this author in fact (who was no longer alive). My goal was to learn everything they knew about knowing God in Christ experientially.
Around the same time, the Lord was gracious to put others in my life who were part of this same journey. That’s when I touched organic church life and authentic Christian community. We were all pursuing the Lord together and we found Him in ways we never imagined.
Therefore, I would say to all who are reading this, especially those in their 20s. Consider the possibility that you don’t know your Lord as well as you may assume. And if that’s the case, search for those who know Him better than you do and learn all you can from them. Even if that means relocating to where they live so as to spend as much time with them as you can. And find a believing community where the members have no other passion but to know Christ and to make Him known. Move heaven and earth to be a part of such a group if you have to.
From my observations, I think the problem today is two-fold. One, many young people who are jazzed about serving God don’t realize that (in so many cases) they have a very shallow knowledge of the Lord. I’m not speaking of frontal lobe knowledge; I’m speaking of personal experience and encounter. (Christ is still alive and He can be known.) Consequently, what they are ministering to others is not life, but information. And there’s a huge difference between the two.
Interestingly, what often happens is that when these folks get older, they come to the arresting realization that they were serving the god of serving God. Rather than living by Christ Himself. Several times a month, I receive letters from ministers who tell me this very thing. It’s quite amazing. I wish to see that prevented and that many young people don’t waste many years “doing” instead of knowing Him.
Precious is the young man and young woman who refuses to take short cuts, waits on their ministry, and pours all of their youthful energy and enthusiasm not in trying to do something *for* God but in learning how to know Him profoundly with others.
To my mind, all of those who were greatly used by God in the first century took this very path. The Twelve spent time living in community with one another and observing, knowing, communing with Jesus for almost four years.
In turn, people like Barnabas, Agabus, Silas, Stephen learned the depths of Christ from the Twelve in Christian community in Jerusalem for a period of years before they began ministering.
In turn, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) learned the depths of Christ from Barnabas in Christian community in Antioch, Syria for five years before the Holy Spirit sent him out to fulfill His particular ministry.
In turn, Timothy, Titus, Aristarchus, et. al. learned Jesus Christ from Paul and lived in Christianity community respectively in Lystra, Antioch, and Thessalonica before they went out to serve the Lord.
I believe this principle is written in the bloodstream of the universe. Spend time learning Christ in a vibrant community that is centered on Him, learn from those who are older and know Him better than you, then wait on your ministry.
For some people, this kind of preparation means dropping what you are doing right now and searching for these two elements. But this, I believe, is the best way to prepare to minister Christ in the way I have described. Albeit, it requires both hunger and humility at the very least.
What do you hope to accomplish through this book?
My hope is simply that the eternal purpose of God will once again become center stage in the lives of God’s people. And that Christians from all different walks of life will begin to explore it, discover it, and adjust their lives to it so that the Lord Himself will get His dream.
I was a Christian for about 18 years and had been a part of multiple denominations, non-denominations, Bible studies, para-church organizations before I heard anyone talk about God’s eternal purpose. Just recently, I was in a conversation with a Reformed seminary professor and pastor and we were discussing my book. He made the statement to me and others that he had never heard this before. It was a completely new perspective to him. That’s how I felt the first time I heard anyone speak on the eternal purpose. It literally blew my circuitry and gave me a brand new Bible.
In short, I think we are living in a day when the time is ripe for what Paul called “the purpose of the ages” to take center stage again. For the center of that purpose is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as All in All and the expansion of the fellowship of the Trinity on earth – visible, locatable, touchable, and experiential, brought straight from heavenly realms into a person’s living room, even.
Tomorrow: my review
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.
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:
- Out of Ur
- Shapevine – (June newsletter)
- Brian Eberly
- Greg Boyd
- Vision Advance
- David Flowers
- Kingdom Grace
- Captain’s Blog
- Christine Sine
- Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network
- Church Planting Novice
- Staying Focused
- Take Your Vitamin Z
- Jeff Goins
- Bunny Trails
- Matt Cleaver
- Jason T. Berggren
- Simple Church
- Emerging from Montana
- Parable Life
- Oikos Australia
- West Coast Witness
- Keith Giles
- Consuming Worship
- Tasha Via
- Andrew Courtright
- Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer
- Jason Coker
- From Knowledge to Wisdom
- Home Brewed Christianity
- Dandelion Seeds
- David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck”
- Chaordic Journey
- Renee Martin
- Bob Kuhn
- Living with Freaks
- Real Worship
- Fervent Worship
- Julie Ferwerda Blog – www.JulieFerwerda.com / www.OneMillionArrows.com
- What’s With Christina?!
- Irreligious Canuck
- This day on the journey
- Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity
- Spiritual Journey With God
- Dries Conje – http://www.echurch.co.za / http://www.thejesusfeed.com / http://www.bookdisciple.com
- Journey with Others
- On Now to the Third Level
- Christine Moers
- Breaking Point
- Hand to the Plough
- Jon Reid
- D. L. Webster
- Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life