by Brian K. Blount
Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Ky. 135 pages
No one takes the resurrection more seriously than Brian Blount. Without flinching, he drills deep into the vision of Saint Paul and John of Patmos alongside Mark to reveal the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection as the core conviction animating everything else. This short book is a demonstration of the radical implications of the resurrection for Christian faith and especially for those called to preach.
By his own admission, Blount takes several risks in this argument originally presented at the prestigious 2011 Lyman Beecher lectures at Yale Divinity School. The first and most pervasive is his analysis of contemporary culture using the zombie cult as a lens for his assertion of God’s ultimate purpose of invading the world of the living dead. Once one takes on this pervasive apocalyptic view of reality as Blount does, it is possible to see it everywhere in the New Testament. Similar to the Magic Eye books, once you see it you can’t miss it, even if others are clueless to your vision. It’s a stunning risk and Blount is a scholar (and preacher) skilled enough make it work. He brings his readers into the vision of a world filled with the living dead in need of the invasive power of God’s new life in Jesus Christ.
The risk, of course, is that his readers will dismiss his dependence upon the zombie cult for his wider argument for God’s invasive purpose. Who can take seriously the current fascination with zombies? Once you’ve read Blount’s analysis paired with his hermeneutic of resurrection, you will. He brings his considerable exegetic skills to the apocalyptic book of Revelation and the Pauline resurrection texts. “If resurrection has not occurred, then we of all people are most to be pitied,” says Paul. Blount believes him and counters with this implication: resurrection has occurred and we, of all people, the living dead, have been chosen to live (and proclaim) it with conviction.
The apocalyptic world of Revelation is the symbolic world of contemporary culture where the dead are oppressed by powers of this present age. Blount asserts God is at war with the powers of this age and “Resurrection is a weapon.” In fact, it is the weapon of choice that God used to invade this world. That raises another risk. The cross of Jesus is placed within the larger more important purpose: God, which is the invasion of this world with the life of Jesus. “The cross does not stand by itself,” Blount argues, “it must be approached through the contextual lens of resurrection.” Even more sharp: “God’s invasion could occur, and in fact, does occur, in Mark without a cross moment.” The cross is a cipher for a way of life — discipleship — that invades this dead world with life of the new way of God.
What is the point for preachers? “Apocalyptic preaching is the courage to let go of the past and present, as important as they are, and ground our world in the future, as Jesus did in his Markan ministry.” This is a brilliantly executed argument that includes three sermons demonstrating Blount’s vision of God’s invasion now.
ROY W. HOWARD is the pastor of Saint Mark Presbyterian Church in North Bethesda, Maryland, and the Outlook book editor.