Woody Allen & Billy Graham...

Did you know about this? Seriously. Did you? If you did, why didn't you tell me?!

This is brilliant, I love both these men...

You know, there aren't very many conservative Christian pundits who communicate with the grace and kindness that Billy Graham seems to have managed throughout his ministry. And he's even got a sense of humor about it. Here's more..

We need to rediscover the beauty of kindness in disagreement and friendship in the midst of polarized views. We need to remember that even the important questions are fun.

Does Death & Resurrection Matter?

I've been enjoying a men's study group at my church for a few weeks now.

Last night we were talking about defining our personal relationship to God. "How do you even talk about something like that?" Especially without using the tired formulas of youth groups and televangelists.

As we chatted, one of the guys (also a seminary student) asked: "Does it really matter if Jesus died and resurrected and ascended? Do we need that? Couldn't Jesus just have survived, gotten off the cross, recovered and died of old age? Would that change anything?"

I've talked about my personal feelings about this. I choose to believe it's true because I don't feel a need to deconstruct Jesus. Marcus Borg believes in Jesus' death on the cross, but not a physical resurrection. Some folks thing Jesus snuck away to India.

What do you think? If Jesus didn't die on the cross and resurrect, are you off to the golf course - finished with the faith? Or do you find away to reframe Jesus, out of a total commitment to the intimate personality of the God you have encountered?

Just a little hypothetical food for thought.

My Atheist Friend...

Not everyone's beligerent - not everyone wears their faith or their opinion like trendy rubber cause bracelets.

I was talking to an old friend today. We're not especially close right now, but work in the same community and talk from time to time. He mentioned that he's been reading my blog.

"Uh oh," I said.

He said it was one of the only blogs he really reads, and is really enjoying it.

"Thanks," I said. "I'm honored you're reading it!"

"I'm enjoying it, even though I don't agree with most of what you say," he clarified.

"Oh," I paused. "So... are you a pretty conservative Christian?" I asked. It occured to me that we had not talked much about faith. But I wouldn't have pegged him for an evangelical.

"No, I'm an atheist," he said.

"Oh!" I had no idea. The two of us talked a little - briefly - about growing up in a Christian household and finding frustration with absolutism. He mentioned a few of the things I've written about. He liked that I picked George Fox because of its open approach to Scripture (no inerrancy required) and that I don't feel the need to affirm Jesus through the condemnation of other worldviews and spiritual approaches.

Blogging is a funny thing - especially when you're shamelessly self-promoting like me(see: Facebook). You never know who's actually reading. One of these days it just might bite me. I do have a somewhat "respectable" day job. Gotta fight to compartmentalize...

Still, I always jump at the chance to talk about evolving faith in an evolving world.

"I love you more than..."

I had the priviledge of talking with my friend Jim Carlson on the phone today. He offered some great words of wisdom that occured to him while arguing with his teenage son:

"I love you more than I love this argument."

Can I say that to you? To my friends, family and even my enemies? I love you more than I love this argument.

If you read this blog in horror, can you still say, "I love you more than I love this argument?"

Maybe "love" out of e-dialogue is a little idealistic or a little naive. But we need to be willing.

I love you more than I love the argument.
I love you more than I love being right.
I love you more than I love proving your wrong.
I love people more than I love ideas.

Good food for thought. Thanks Jim,

Getting "Hazed" by Tradition & History...

My friend and classmate Bo Sanders from www.EveryDayTheology.net asked a question I've asked myself, before:

"What if I want out of the whole Aristotelian, materialistic - dualism reading of the Bible - whether Catholic, Reformed or Protestant Evangelical. What if I just want to read the pre-modern book in a post-modern approach?"

And in asking this, I've been called "naive." Of course, I'll admit to a little naivete, but I prefer to call it optimism or idealism or hope.

I think history is unavoidable (along with tradition) but they are not gods to be worshipped or laws to be heeded or empires to be feared. They're breadcrumbs left behind, pointing "where from."

Christians, and particularly academics (of whom I'm generally still in awe) tend to make history a fraternal hazing ritual: we're not allowed to vocalize an opinion until we've been slapped and spanked by history, tradition, doctrine and theology. I don't necessarily resent that, but I guess I've decided to insert my vulgar voice into the fray, mid-hazing. I haven't even been blindfolded yet.

Not sure it's ever truly possible to read the Bible without the accoutrements of history, tradition and culture. Unless one is born in a vacuum, we see everything through the windows of our experience - even those outside of Christendom and the West.

Deconstructing Christianity, Not Jesus.

Jen and I were having another conversation about deconstructionism this morning. We both agreed it's a tendency for both of us - trying to "dig" to whatever truth or foundation is in us and/or in God.

Woody Allen is my favorite deconstructionist. Not only in Deconstructing Harry, but in all of his films, he seems to be frantically scrambling to understand, justify, hide, proclaim, deconstruct, rebuild, reject and cling to all of the little oddities, obsessions, fears, peculiarities and perversions that make him, himself.

But for most of us, there's some point where we stop: some place we're not willing to pass through. Almost everyone has "non-negotiables," topics or principles they refuse to to question or reconsider. I know I do - it's Jesus. For me, the personhood (and Godhood) of Jesus Christ is where I stop questioning. I used to think it was because of fear. "If I begin questioning Jesus, everything unravels!" Maybe I was just another blind follower, refusing to ask the "tough" questions.

  • I'm willing to question the validity or authenticity of some of the Scriptures. I'm willing to view them through a lens of human construct - even as I believe they are divinely inspired. People are errant.
  • I'm willing to question "truth," recognizing that humans are limited and unable to grasp the infinite or eternal.
  • I'm willing to question the institutional church - and reject it if necessary - because I know that the Body of Christ will not be confined to buildings or creeds, and cannot be "defeated" or ultimately subverted.
  • I'm even willing to discard the Christian religion if someone can show me a better, more meaningful, more constructive, more powerful way of following and living in Christ.

But I've personally learned that I must refuse to question Jesus, not primarily because I'm afraid, but because I know Jesus. I have a relationship with Jesus (I know, a little christianesey...). Because of the concreteness of that relationship (at least in my perception and experience) I have absolutely no reason to question who Jesus is. Moreover, it would be an offense to Jesus if I were to question or doubt him, because my questions would come from an inauthentic place: I don't wonder who he is. Of course, I do wonder about him - what he was like on earth? what does he think about particular issues? how or why does he love me? etc...

But to question the truth of Jesus' being would be like me questioning the authenticity or faithfulness of my wife and her love for me. I don't, for a moment, think I know all there is to know about Jen. There are many secret places - corners of her past I'll never know. Wounds and scars she's afraid to reveal. There are parts of me I can't reveal - or won't reveal - or don't know how... A lifetime on earth is not long enough to know one-another as we are known by God. But I do know that she loves me - and I know that who she is with me is real. Call me "blind," but that's the necessary vulnerability love requires. We always trust, always hope, always persevere...

I've used this picture before: if I learned one day that Jen's real name was different, or that she had not revealed something about her past, I don't believe I would feel the need to question her love for me. Or the truth of her nature, as I have observed it for more than 10 years, now.

If I learned that Jesus' real name is "Steve" and that he was Arabic instead of Jewish - it doesn't change who he is in my life - who he has been for as long as I can remember. I can't betray such intimacy with questions for the sake of questions. Someone might call that intellectually dishonest. I call it being a faithful friend.

And so my deconstruction takes place up to and around the point where Jesus Christ stands. I could take it or leave it. I believe the Bible is true (not perfect, not inerrant, but true) and that the God I worship is indeed the God revealed through the life of Jesus Christ. I believe that God is the same God worshipped by the ancient Jews - though God's PR guy then was just as bad as God's PR guy now. Pretty lousy.

But if you haven't actually met Jesus - if you've only heard and read about Jesus - or observed the loudmouths, assholes and talking heads who claim to know him (self-included) then I can understand the need to deconstruct Jesus. Why wouldn't you question someone you don't know? That's intellectual honesty.

There needs to be enough room in the Christian faith - and in interfaith dialogue - for those who rightfully need to question, as well as those who honestly do not. There must be grace and space for both.

Recalibrating Concepts of Church @ GFU

I've been asked to attend and blog about an upcoming event at George Fox University, hosted through the seminary. It's called Recalibrating Concepts of Church.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
2 - 6 p.m. at Bauman Auditorium, GFU – Newberg Campus

Featuring authors:
Len Sweet, MaryKate Morse, Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch and Dan Kimball, with Lance Ford as moderator. Some heavy-hitters, for sure.

Guests will discuss their books and engage in vigorous conversation with each other and the audience.

  • Len: So Beautiful: Divine Design for Life in the Church (due out in March)
  • Frank: Reimagining Church
  • Alan: Reactivating the Missional Church
  • Dan: They Like Jesus But Not The Church
  • MaryKate: Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence
You can register online here. Would love to see an EmergingChristian.com blog-turnout - track me down if you come! I'll be the nerd with the laptop.

I'll be blogging throughout the day, at the event, as well as the following few days - wrapping up and reviewing what was discussed.

Blessings, and let me know if you have questions,

ChristianityToday.com on Emergent...

A recent article at www.ChristianityToday.com discusses some of the growing pains/birthing pains/death pangs (you can pick your lens) occuring within Emergent (www.EmergentVillage.com).

I see the changes taking place as positive rather than negative.

Brandon O'Brien writes:

As one-time leaders of the emergent movement have recently distanced themselves from the term, the network itself dropped its organizational leader. The decision of Emergent Village's board of directors to eliminate its national coordinator position marked the latest sign that the movement is either decentralizing or disintegrating.

Board members said they eliminated Tony Jones's position October 31 in order to reclaim the Village's founding purpose as an "egalitarian social-networking organization." "We are gifting the power of Emergent back to the people at the grassroots level of the conversation," said Jones.

The decision leaves the future structure of emergent leadership unclear. "We know how to run traditional organizations," said Brian McLaren, a board member and one of the group's most prominent pastors. "We don't know how to run networks. [But we know] there's a place for leadership in networks." McLaren says there have been ongoing questions about the label itself. "For many people, the name emergent has allowed them to remain in the evangelical world," he said. For others outside the conversation, he admitted, the name has become an epithet for theological heresy or cultural trendiness.
... several thinkers once associated with emergent, including pastor Dan Kimball and professor Scot McKnight, have formed a new network provisionally called Origins, dedicated to "friends, pioneers, innovators, and catalysts who want to dream and work for the gospel together rather than alone."
... Jones hopes decentralizing American emergent networks will give participants worldwide, who lack access to book publishing and other resources enjoyed by their American counterparts, more freedom to express themselves. "Any time you can dethrone an overeducated, loud, brash, white man," he said, "people just feel more openness for their own voice to be heard."

Click here to read more.

I am glad Jones stepped down. I suppose singular leadership was a 'necessary evil' as Emergent ventured from nascent stages to toddlerhood. But ultimately, as Jones rightly acknowledges, Emergent needed to be egalitarian to be true to its own DNA.

I'm not surprised to see Dan Kimball distance himself from the conversation. My critique of Kimball's approach all along has been "muted, hipster conservatism." By no means so brash, fundamentalist or hateful as Driscoll's Mars Hill Seattle, but truly conservative nonetheless. And ultimately - I think - conservative to the point of being uncomfortable with certain conversations - and perhaps - affiliations.

I haven't read enough about Kimball and McKnight's Origins to comment - and I generally genuinely appreciate McKnight's contributions.

It is too bad that the "shakedown" removes those heterogeneous voices that can be so helpful in growing and stretching dialogues and relationships.

Barack Obama: Man Enough To Tongue-Tie...

I've got to say, of all the emotional and inspiring moments in today's inauguration, it was the particularly "challenging" segment of President Obama's tongue-tied oath that most touched and captivated me today.

Maybe it was Chief Justice Robert's mispoken lead (apparently, his wording was off), but maybe it was actually nerves.
Maybe one of the most intelligent, capable, confident, and well-spoken individuals in the free world got nervous...
I'd like to think so. I'd like to think that Barack Obama is the kind of man who still feels the enormity of his circumstances - who is still transparent and "real" enough to misspeak before hundreds of millions on television and radio across the world.
I am simultaneously in awe of Obama's cool and crisp presentation, and jaded/cynical over too much polish. But in the previous administration, we had neither presentation nor transparency. So there is something refreshing in rediscovering what these two virtues look like, impressively and meaningfully paired.
Plenty of folks have already said it: America has a lot of work to do - likely, a lot of tough times ahead. But I feel proud and hopeful and excited. There's a man in front of us I want to follow.

"Light of the Past" & Post-Postmodernism...

A concise article at Wikipedia on "Post-Postmodernism" reads:

Since the late 1990s there has been a widespread feeling both in popular culture and in academia that postmodernism "has gone out of fashion." However, there have been few formal attempts to define and name the epoch succeeding postmodernism, and none of the proposed designations has yet become part of mainstream usage.

Funny how predictably we in Christianity follow the trend of being "late to the party." For the last 5-10 years hipster Christians (ahem, like me I guess) have been popping the pomo-pill like nobody had heard of it before.

I'm reminded of McLaren's Church on the Other Side instructing: "Looking ahead - further ahead!" We so rarely really look further ahead. We look ahead to what the world was looking "ahead" at yesterday. And we call that the "future."

Light travels around 186 thousand miles each second, and our sight is merely interpretation of that visible light bouncing off the world around us. Fast as it may be, light doesn’t reach us instantaneously.

However subtly, everything we see has already happened.
We live our lives viewing the past. In the same way, we hear the past too. And the farther we look toward the horizon and beyond into space, the further back in time we’re perceiving.

Only by touching, feeling and tasting do we experience immediacy of the present. We touch Now, even if we see Then. Proximity matters – it’s a first step.

Only the Light of Christ shows us the future. And that light manifests by touching the world. Being in the world. We don't see the future from inside our cloistered communities; we see the past.

As Christians we are taught to be in the light (“as he is in the light”) and we automatically visualize luminosity. Children of Constantine, we worship light imagery: suns, stars, glowing halos, bright white flowing robes, pale white saints visibly gleaming in the dark.

By giving ourselves over to light of the past, rather than Light of the World, we’ve sold out to the Has Been.

Alan Hirsch on Fundamentalism...

I found a great blog post from writer/thinker and emerging leader Alan Hirsch of http://www.theforgottenways.org/ dealing with his take on fundamentalism...

...I believe fundamentalism does NOT reflect the ethos or the pathos of the biblical idea of faith. It cannot hold paradoxical truth in tension, has a profound tendency towards violence, demonstrates an un-Christlike lack of grace/mercy, is deeply moralistic, and is normally quite nationalistic. The Bible on the other hand, deals well with paradoxical tensions and nuances that the fundie can neither see, nor tolerate, largely because of its childish, black and white, view of reality. And also because it is highly selective in its appropriation of aspects of the Scripture–curiously similar to its mortal opponent, theological liberalism!! Both sides ’see’ what they want to see, and each has enough truth to make it palatable, but both are in fact heresies. Having said that, I believe that liberalism is the more insidious of the two, because it is far more subtle.

Besides, in fundamentalism it seems that there is not a lot of fun and a whole lot of mental. In other words, it is toxic faith and creates profound unhappiness.

Click here to

Virginity going for over $3.7M!

Wow. Part of me is horrified, and part of me thinks... why didn't I think of this?!

No, mostly just sad.

According to CNN Prime Time News, a college student is auctioning off her virginity to pay for school...

Click here to see the video (it's CNN, not too risque).

Teenage Jesus: in India?

I won't endorse something I haven't actually watched, but I've seen bits and pieces online of a film called Jesus in India, which I find absolutely intriguing.

My wife, Jen, caught part of the film on the Sundance Channel and mentioned it to me.

Part of the film's website synopsis reads:

It begins with a former Fundamentalist from Texas, ousted from his provincial church for asking too many questions. “If God wanted you to know about that, it would have been in the Bible,” he is told, “—so stick to worrying about your own salvation.” But that’s not good enough for Edward T. Martin, and thus begins a seeker’s quest across 4000 miles of India in search of answers about where Jesus was during the “Hidden Years” from ages 12 to 30. The New Testament is silent on those years, however in India there is an ancient tradition that young Jesus joined a caravan and took the Silk Road to the East, where He lived with both Hindus and Buddhists before returning to begin His ministry.
There are quite a few books on Amazon.com discussing Jesus' possible adolescence in India. But all I have read about it, to this point, has been in very brief Biblical history references to Jesus' - and the Johanine writer's - likely interaction with Hindus and/or Buddhists on the Silk Road. One possible explanation (with geographic support) for the "eastern" quality of Christ's words and John's Christology.

I'm going to order the DVD online and try to learn a little more.

Also, a few books I'd like to flip through...

Farmers Brave Extreme Cold to Save Cows...

So I never said I thought the whole industry was bad. Another reminder of the high value many (or most) farmers place on their livestock.

Farmers Prepare Animals, Workers For Frigid Temperatures
Livestock farmers will be challenged this week by the frigid conditions not only to keep themselves and their workers safe, but also their animals, WISC-TV reported.
Farmer Pat O'Brien said that there are three kinds of workers people will find doing their job no matter the weather.

"You got snow plow drivers, you got postmen and farmers, of course," he said.

Even a head cold isn't stopping the Fitchburg dairy farmer from battling the incoming frigid temperatures. He said of particular concern is his animals.

"We have a lot of animals that are outside that are exposed to the weather and it can be very dangerous," he said.

Click here to read more.

"RIP Emerging Church"?

One of the notable (prominent) articles about the death of the EC is at the Out of Ur blog through www.ChristianityToday.com.

Last summer, this brief piece was published:

“The emerging church will disappear.” That is what my informant told me as we shared drinks at our clandestine watering hole. I felt like Luca Brasi being handed a dead fish wrapped in newspaper. The hit had been ordered… the emerging church’s fate had been sealed. In my informant’s mind, the death of the emerging church was a settled matter. I double-checked my surroundings for listening ears before whispering, “How can you be so sure?” The informant (who worked for a publisher) leaned forward and said their marketing plans included dropping the “Emerging Church” brand within two years.

That was two years ago.

Now comes word from recognized leaders and voices within the emerging church movement that the term has become so polluted that it is being dropped.
The emerging church is dead—at least in nomenclature, if not in spirit. Both Jones and Kimball are dropping the term while trying to remain faithful to the original intention of the movement. And they represent many other church leaders and bloggers who are moving toward a post-emerging church reality.

As the emerging church rides off into the sunset, where does that leave things? Well, news has been leaking about a new network being formed by Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and Scot McKnight among others. I understand further meetings will be happening this week to help solidify the group. The still unnamed network has agreed to start with the inclusive but orthodox theological foundation of the Lausanne Covenant, and they intend to emphasize mission and evangelism. They appear to have learned from the emerging church’s mistake—define purpose and doctrine early so your identity doesn’t get hijacked. If they do their work carefully,
perhaps the new network can avoid getting "wacked" in every sense of the word.

Click here to read more.

Is "Emergent" [Emerging] Already Passé?

I've been reading more and more, all over the blogosphere, about the "death of Emergent." And of course, with it, all of the myriad references to "emerging" faith, church, and spirituality.

I'm exhausted tonight - calling it an early night. But I'll be returning to this question, probably continually, for some time.

My intial thought is: EVERYTHING that manages to become trendy enough to capture public attention, garner "movement" status... or for that matter, become a religion, is probably stale-upon-delivery. As I've said or suggested many times, Christianity itself is more than a little ripe.


Postmodernism = tired.
Emergent = kitschy.
Emerging = overly broad and overused.

But what about "saved?"

"Born again?"


Words are so bound to the context in which they are written. As with pop culture, Westerners in particular seem unshakeably committed to beating dead horses. Like boy bands and reality TV. Perhaps, at least until the birthing context passes, and we're able to reapproach those words or ideas from an outside vantage.

I agree. This whole "emerging thing" is pretty damn trendy and not a little tired. For some folks. And for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, it's still brand new. It's still a freeing idea - a fresh wind. "Possibility." It's just like the cliches we roll our eyes at in North America, that are still igniting new passion in India and China and Indonesia in fresh and redemptive ways.

I'll dig up some of the quotes from various blogs and speak directly to them. You probably won't find me disagreeing with them. A part of me is even tempted to rename this blog. But I don't think I will - because then I'm just trying to catch hold of whatever the next trend is. And I don't think "emerging" has to be confined to a particular trend. I think "emerging" will continue to be adaptively relevant (albeit, broadly), even after Emergent is retired like the Jesus People of the 70s.

I could be wrong. We'll see.

I'll be in touch...

Dysfunction: Exception or the Norm?

My friend Sue said...

As someone who grew up in Iowa and whose uncles and cousins "factory farmed," I'm a little cynical about the cruelty to animals folks. It's a little like the media portraying Christians. The media, of course, finds and amplifies the worst of the worst pastors and congregations, and completely ignores the vast majority of pastors who are giving of themselves daily to the "health" of their "flocks." The TRUTH is, it is much more profitable to raise animals that are healthy than to treat them with cruelty. And there are many farmers who continually learn how to better care for their herds. In fact, the Christian college (in Iowa) that I graduated from studies methods of farming that align with a "Christian world and life view." So you can see a news report about emaciated horses and believe "all horse-owners are abusers" or you can believe that, while many, if not most, people who make their living from raising animals do all they can to give them the best care they can, there are some folks out there that are just plain jerks...

Sue, I'm really glad for your post! It's good to hear from an "insider" that things aren't as bad - overall - as some of the propoganda I read, suggests. I was especially interested to hear about your college teaching farming practices that "align with a Christian world and life view." Very cool.

I also realize that it is very easy for me - with little direct perspective on the industry - to "judge" from the outside. One of the reasons I got a few angry comments on my last few posts about vegetarianism. And I can validate that frustration - there are plenty of talking heads - far too many in the blogosphere - so the "glut of opinions" builds to a ridiculous mass. I am no-doubt part of that problem.

But where you and I probably differ on Christendom is where I might still argue on inhumane farming. I don't think the bad Christian culture on TV is the exception. And I mean no offense. But I have probably visited or attended 30-40 churches in the last ten years, and find the same systemic and cultural unhealthiness in most of them. That does not mean their pastors are not wholeheartedly trying to do good and speak truth, and it doesn't mean their congregations aren't working hard to be the body of Christ. But intentions and reality are separate. I believe there is deep and far-reaching disease within Christianity. Sometimes harsh chemical infusions can kill the cancer. And sometimes the patient dies. Post-Christendom in the West seems to be the hospice of Christianity. In the US, we just won't read the doctor's prognosis.

I realize that sounds very judgmental - but it's this specific topic that drives most of my thinking, prayer, study, and motivates my personal ministry. And the mirror is held in front of me regularly. I'm a part of the problem as much as I see it outside myself.

What gives me hope is faith that God has something better in store on the other side. The other side of this mess. This dysfunction. These good intentions. I confess I don't know what that "better" is. And I could be wrong. But I'm betting on God's redemption, so I'm not afraid of the consequences as long as the fruits of the Spirit remain intact.

Yes, that means longsuffering, gentleness, self-control... I have a lot of personal work to do.

Coming back to the issue of humane treatment of animals: I have no "beef" with farms that are humane. If they are the majority - as you say - then that's a wonderful relief. But there is little debate over where the meat from most fast-food restaurants comes to us from, or how it is raised. If fast food made up only 10% of the American diet (I'm sure it's much more - anyone know?) then that's still plenty of reason to speak against it.

And at the same time, we speak prophetically against human rights violations, poverty, disease, inequality, pollution - all of the things we are convicted of through the Holy Spirit and personal conscience.

Ultimately, this is nothing more or less than an issue of conscience for me. As I have said before, I may end up eating meat from verifiably humane sources. I'm just not there yet - taking my own journey, one step at a time (and not demanding anyone else follow suit). In the same way, I do continue to attend and serve in an organized, denominational church. That, I may not always continue to do.

Thanks again Sue, I appreciate you and miss you in classes!

Cruelty Free...

I'd better be careful here. The last time I posted on vegetarianism and humane treatment of animals, it really pissed some readers off. Nothing makes a Christian angry like talking about homos... unless you're talking about being kind to pigs and chickens.

But I've been reading a blog I found recently and am really enjoying it.


The brief blog bio reads:

"My name is Emily. This blog chronicles my spending a year (and counting!) of buying 100% cruelty-free products. I also write about boycotting factory farming, my life in the San Francisco bay area, and my dog, who I cook food for."

She's got a funny style, even while dealing with relatively volatile (and often emotional) material. In one post she writes, “If you’re a humane omnivore, I think you’re a lovely, caring person who is taking a stand against the animal abuse that goes on at battery farms.”

I think it's important to affirm those people, outside one's own immediate "circle" who are moving toward a middle - perhaps toward ethics or conviction or belief or whatever it is. Like Israelis and Palestinians who seek common ground, or open-minded "spiritual seekers" who dig hearing about Jesus and Buddha and Oprah Winfrey. Emily does that.

Good stuff.

"Not a Mystery" - Ok With Absolutes...

RickNiekLikeBikes said:

I'm not much older than you but I don't find any problem with absolutes. Questions and mysteries do not mean that answers aren't staring you in the face. They're simply answers one doesn't like. For instance, to know that I am going to Heaven is an absolute and doesn't put God in a box. To those who do not believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead or that he is the only way truth and life, one does know that Heaven doesn't wait for them. This is not a mystery. We've become so in love with the mystery that we've forgotten to be comfortable with the truth.

Rick, thanks for the input - I appreciate your comments and friendly pushback. I'll offer some counterpush, in a spirit of friendship.

You pointed out something that I probably do too readily: lump cultural worldviews into generational blocks. You're right, even though we're both Gen-X'ers, there are plenty of divergent lenses through which our generation(s) see the world, life, and God.

It's tough - I don't think I'm uncomfortable with absolutes so much as I'm uncomfortable assuming I fully understand or recognize those absolutes. I do believe in absolute truth (and I believe Jesus Christ is absolute truth, the logos of God) but I don't believe I can accurately comprehend that truth, this side of the grave. Yes, I believe I can understand enough, but for me, that's not enough to impose such understanding over and above the understanding of others. The Holy Spirit convicts in Spirit and in truth, and I'm tired of trying to run off ahead of the Holy Spirit - inserting my voice where it isn't needed or asked for.

Rick you said, "To those who do not believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead or that he is the only way truth and life, one does know that Heaven doesn't wait for them. This is not a mystery." I disagree. I wrote in that post you commented on, "On Liberalism":

As for salvation, I have not rejected Jesus’ words in John: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (14:6) But I like C.S. Lewis’ inference from Mere Christianity: “the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”

And a lot of Christians, particularly from the Mainline Protestant denominations, affirm the reality of ambiguity. And it's not just Mainliners or traditional "liberals." A lot of Evangelicals are realizing the lines formerly drawn in the sand don't really make sense or even fully jibe with Scripture, in an increasingly globalized planet - a "flat earth."

Amos 9:7 reads:

"Are not you Israelites the same to me as the Cushites?" declares the LORD. "Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir?"

God wasn't sending ancient Israelites out to convert local tribes to Judaism. Instead, God was actively invested in the lives of all nations, even before the coming of Christ.

For me, it's important that I do not make assumptions about what God's plans are for other folks. The results of this are often devastating to respectful, loving relationships between Christians and non-Christians. Does that mean I shouldn't care about the salvation or spiritual health of my non-Christian neighbors? Not at all. In my post on "Liberal Salvation" I wrote:

If we can begin to repaint the narrative of salvation through Jesus Christ in terms of responding to hope for personal completion rather than guilt over personal badness, perhaps the message can get through. It's not a new message, it's a very very old one: I need help getting through this life. I'm not powerful enough to save myself. I am messy, limited, and I am scared. In Jesus' name, may we all be saved from the dispair pumping thickly through this afflicted ecosystem.

This is because I think that the language surrounding "salvation" in evangelistic circles has become unhelpful and unnecessarily offensive. I acknowledge that at some level, the Gospel will always be offensive to some, because it demands change, transformation, and humble surrender. These are counterintuitive to the pride and hubris of humankind. But folks don't need to be made to feel like dirt to begin understanding a personal need for salvation. We need only begin with the humility to be open - to give up the fight for self-determination.

Thoughts? I know you and I will probably not see eye-to-eye Rick, but I enjoy the dialogue. What do you do, personally, with those outside of Christianity? Both with those faithful adherents of other religions, and those who have simply never heard the Gospel? I'll say up front that I don't believe other religions are inherently salvific (as in, "being a good '-------' gets you to heaven...") but I don't think there is anything in the Christian religion that is inherently salvific, either. It is gracious intervention by Godself that redeems us from the oblivion of self-service, fear, dysfunction, sin, hopelessness, apathy, and ultimately, mortality.

If I thought Scripture clearly taught "HELL" as the outcome for anyone who has not personally, willfully accepted Jesus Christ, I would sheepishly admit it. But I don't believe those lines are real.

It's The End of The World (Hello 1987)!

This evening I found a large, full colored flier in our apartment mailbox:

in a World of Terror and Financial Fears

Inside were a bunch of "lecture" descriptions that will soon be offered at a local church here. A large collage photo on top features distraught people holding their heads in desperation, flashing lightening, an unemployment listing, and Barack Obama, glaring over the presidential seal. Apocalyptic!

It's amazing to me that the language and illustrations of these types of retro-pop-prophesy haven't changed since my post-Jesus People childhood in the 1980s:

And forgive me, but I don't trust prophets who didn't get this divine, relevant message from 15 years ago: SHOW MUSTACHES THE DOOR in 1994!

No disrespect intended, but the look of this guy makes me long for the timeless style and class of Benny Hinn:

The website and pamphlet read:
"Today, powerful forces are at work in our world causing fear and destruction. How could a God of love allow the evil of September 11 to take place? What does the future hold for this planet of ours in which terrorism has disturbed our sense of security? You want want to miss this exciting, penetrating view of the future as presented in the fascinating prophesies of Revelation. Plan now to hear this insightful presentation."

Wow, you can make a living at this stuff? I need to switch careers. There was a time when they use to stone people for false prophesies. Now they just update the book title and re-release:

In 1987, Edgar Whisenant published, "88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988." Thousands of copies were mailed free of charge to churches. When Jesus didn't show, he followed this with a book, "Why Christ Must Return in 1989." Maybe 3rd time's a charm?

The real tragedy of all these hyped end-times prognostications is that the so-called prophets end up damning genuine "good fruits" as signs of something sinister. RaptureReady.com lists "the Peace Process" as one of many signs of the emergence of the Antichrist.

Maybe instead of spending so much time worrying about when Christ is going to show, we should spend some time cleaning up our mess. It could be a long time coming, and there's a lot of work to do.

And a lot of mustaches to shave.

Here's a link to a piece I wrote on escatology a couple of years ago:

I'm Still Sick, Be Back Soon...

My apologies for the down time between posts. I've been fighting some kind of a bug and it got the better of me over the weekend. Still trying to recover. I'll be back to posting regularly, soon.

Meanwhile, I've had a chance to:

  • Watch 6 Woody Allen films I hadn't seen (love that creepy little miscreant)
  • Play more Nintendo than is reasonable for an adult man
  • Eat the best Thai Green Curry I've ever had
  • Read more of Pete Rollin's The Fidelity of Betrayal (which I mean to comment on soon - very good)
  • Enjoy the mind-numbing effects of too much Nyquil

Talk to you soon!

The River Empires...

Some friends of mine are in a band called Falling Up. I'm generally not a fan of hipster Christian rock, but these guys are seriously good.

Anyway, Jessy and Josh - lead vocals and drummer from Falling - are putting together a killer little project called The River Empires. Sort of an ethereal, melancholy, neo-folk group. They sound a little bit like Fleet Foxes, but a cleaner, lonelier sound - and I prefer Jessy's vocals.

Click here and listen to "The Lull of Celeste" - a deeply haunting song. Do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing.

Another piece they've YouTubed here...

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