Category Archives: emergent

Three Things Tuesday: LOST, The God Imagination and God Is Not Male

First Thing:

(the promotional photo of the Lost poster belongs to ABC/Touchstone TV)

Being a big, huge, humongous, gigantic, colossal, enormous, monumental, epic fan of the tv show LOST, I have to mention that the final episode of the series aired this week.  I personally thought the finale was fantastic, but some long- time fans don’t feel the same way.  Some feel there were too many questions left unanswered – others feel the finale revealed that they had been duped for six years because they were under the impression that the show was about the mystery of the island and the finale was all about the characters, their lifes and their relationships with each other.

Now don’t get me wrong – I loved all of the mysterious stuff, all the theories and how when one question was answered I was left with 6 new ones … but I’ve known all along that this was a character driven show and that in the end it would be about the characters.  IMO enough questions were answered and the ones that have not been answered are a gift – in that we can still have many great and passionate conversations about our theories.

In the end LOST was about people, their struggles, their flaws, their fears, their guilt, their failures, their hopes, their successes, their dreams, their progress, their relationships, their redemption and the part that community or the lack of community plays in the life of people.

I feel that the writers, the actors and the producers have been true to that idea from the beginning to the end of this series and I think they created one heck of a backdrop that kept me coming back week after week as they told the story of some very dark, personal journeys.

I will definitely miss the show and all the community that was created around the show.  Thanks for the good times, the good lessons and the good memories.

Second Thing:

Jonathan Brink has just announced that his book “Discovering The God Imagination, Reframing Suffering, Justice, and Reconciliation in the Gospel Story is now available for pre-order.  The book offers a new conversation about how we understand the gospel, the problem that God is solving and how we can participate in the solution to the problem.  I’m really looking forward to reading this book and have already placed my order.  Go here today and pre-order one for yourself.  (I also recommend that you take a look at Jonathan’s blog which always has interesting content)

Third Thing:

Tony Jones is currently exploring an apophatic approach to God.  His first apophatic statement is:  “God Is Not Male”.

I have no idea how many statements Tony will share with us but several interesting things came out of this one post. One thing that I found interesting was that people were showing up to argue against the statement – I don’t really know what to say about that because even in my most conservative “the bible says it and so it is true” days I never thought the Bible said anything at all about God having a particular gender or even that God was both female and male.  I have always understood scripture to indicate that God was beyond gender.

Another interesting thing that developed out of my interaction with the statement “God Is Not Male” was that I was reminded that I naturally and unconsciously put God in a box all the time and that I must be very intentional to struggle against limiting God to my own imagination in hopes that I will recognize any divine revelation if God sees fit to lay one on me.

What do you think about the statement “God Is Not Male”?  What apophatic statement would you make about God?

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Survivor, TransFORM and How You Treat People, Matters.

I was in Washington D.C. to attend TransFORM: East Coast Gathering a couple of weeks ago. I have put off writing about it because it was so wonderful that I know my words will not be able to adequately convey my experience … but it was too important not to write about … so, here is the first attempt:

I’m a big Survivor fan and just finished watching the 20th season, “Heroes vs Villians”.  If you are familiar with the show, you know that Russell played two seasons back to back, got to the end in both seasons, but didn’t receive even one vote by any jury member in either of the seasons.  Some believe that Russell should have won Survivor as he played a physically and mentally strong game.  He tends to be able to control who gets voted off, is a convincing liar and a great schemer.  He’s okay when it comes to challenges and has won several immunity challenges, sometimes when it was critical.  But, (that probably should be “BUT”) he treats people poorly and it is difficult to win Survivor when you treat people poorly, since the people you are treating poorly are also the people that get to vote for the winner.  In other words, “how you treat people, matters”.

This got me to thinking about my experience at TransFORM.

Now, to give you a little context, I was a newcomer among the people at TransFORM.  I’ve been in the conversation for less than five years and I pretty much just listened for the first 3 years … so, I was a little worried about how I would fit in at the gathering.  I knew several people online, but had only met one person face to face before. I’m also older than most, not in full-time ministry AND I don’t even have a MAC or an IPhone … I even had the audacity to show up with my HP laptop and my Verizon Blackberry Tour:>)  But, (that probably should be “BUT”) they embraced me anyway, generously included me and made me feel significant, valuable, loved, and even liked.  Was it because of my great personality and wry wit?  My good looks?  Did my charisma blind them so that they couldn’t see past the dazzling light that surrounds me everywhere I go?  No, it wasn’t about any of those things (if you can believe it!!) … it wasn’t really about “me” – it was about them.  It was about this group of people putting a high value relationships with others.  It was about relationships with others being more important to them than anything else.  It was about them believing even if they were the most cool, the most right, the best speaker, the best writer, the best looking, the most fun, the most knowledgeable, the best or most anything, it wouldn’t amount to anything if they weren’t treating others well.  It was about them believing they can’t be winners unless they are loving others.  It was about this group of people believing “how you treat people, matters” – not just intellectually but experientially, not just in theory but in reality.  This is their central message, their main thing.

And that is why ever since I came back home from Washington D.C. I have yearned to be back in the presence of this group of people.  They are good at real community, they are good at loving, they are good at relationships.  They are transparent and vulnerable but not sappy – okay, occasionally they are sappy, but it’s a good kind of sappy:>)  IMO they are courageous when it comes to offering grace and embracing humility.

In the days to come I plan to write about my impressions of some of the TransFORM sessions, but first I just had to say a little something about what I thought was the most important thing about TransFORM  …  which was that I spent a few days with a group of people who were having some significant success at living in the way of Jesus and it was compelling and attractive and inspirational and motivating and comforting and transformational.

It touched me and changed me.

How you treat people, matters!

Whose Soul Will Be Condemned To Torment?

There has been a lively discussion going on over at Scot McKnight’s blog, Jesus Creed, about Brian McLaren’s view of the Soul-Sort Narrative in his new book, A New Kind Of Christianity.  Unfortunately, some of the theological talk went over my head but the last comment (at least it was the last one as of today) shared one of those real life illustrations that leaves a lot of the theological banter sounding cold and shallow.  Comment #107 by Lindsey, asked the question:  “Whose soul will be condemned to torment?”   Here’s part of what Lindsey had to say:

I attended a funeral of a man that I worked with. He was in his mid-forties and died of a rare form of cancer. He and his family were devoutly Jewish. The service was moving, spiritual, and had the raw feeling of the God of Abraham in Holy Spirit in the room. This man, Brooke, was an ophthalmologist, and had left his successful and lucrative practice to teach high school science to inner city kids. I taught with him. The kids were heartbreaking, helpless, and hopeless, and he built them up in every way. As he went through painful treatment, he refused to quit teaching, and taught up until a week before he died. The synagogue at his funeral was filled with his students: poor kids, minority kids, kids that had never set foot in a house of worship before. Through Brooke, these kids, and all who worked with him, saw God. Brooke, though he didn’t know it, was a true servant of Christ. Meanwhile, my very Christian neighbors across the street sport a confederate flag bumper sticker right next to their cross. Through this simple gesture, they have turned away many people in my neighborhood from even being willing to hear the name of Jesus. These people, have condemned countless people to eternity without Christ through their ignorance and selfishness.
So tell me, who’s soul will be condemned to torment?

In many ways this question is not relavant for me these days as I don’t embrace the theology that revolves around “who is going to heaven? who is going to hell?” but I believe the story that Lindsey surrounds the question with is important as it demonstrates the problem with the type of theology that I grew up with.

What do you think?

A Chastened Epistemology

This post is part of a Synchroblog coordinated by Julie Clawson to address the question “What is Emerging In The Church?”

I grew up with phrases like “Absolute Truth”  “Christian Worldview” and “if God said it, I believe it, and that settles it”. What wasn’t considered in my circle was that any understanding of truth outside of our own might have some value or that there really was no such thing as a “Christian Worldview” or that our interpretation of scripture might be flawed. The refusal to consider any of these things became like a thick slab of concrete between “us” and “them” (i.e. anyone who believed differently than we did and put a voice to those beliefs).

A few years ago some real life stuff happened and I began to reexamine my beliefs.  Around the same time, I was introduced to the emerging conversation.  It was such a relief to interact with people that didn’t write me off as spiritually immature if I didn’t believe exactly as they did.  It was so refreshing to hear people say they realized they might be wrong about what they believed.  And contrary to what I had been taught, I discovered that the lack of certainty did not diminish their devotion to being followers of Jesus Christ.  They didn’t have all the answers, in fact; they had more questions than answers, but they were more like Christ than many of the “Absolute Truth” Christians that I had hung out with for so many years.  Don’t get me wrong – these uncertain people had beliefs and convictions, but they didn’t hold on to them as tightly; and they had knowledge but it was a less than certain knowledge.  They called it having a “chastened epistemology.”

It made sense to me.  How could we believe that we had it all figured out? That would be like putting ourselves on the same level as God, himself.  And in recent years Christians had gotten it wrong about other stuff … such as slavery and interracial marriage.  Just because there “is” truth doesn’t mean that we fully grasp it or understand it.

As I began to embrace this new kind of thinking – this new way of being a follower of Jesus Christ – some much needed humility was born in me and out of that a space was created that has allowed me to connect and interact with God and others in a deeper more meaningful way.  I’ve been told that I seem more kind, gentle and compassionate.  I am more at peace and at last my faith is more like a bridge than a barrier.

I admit, it is a struggle living within the tension of believing something and holding that belief loose enough so that God can take it away from you without you feeling like you just got pushed off the edge of a cliff.  I have to consciously strive on a daily basis to remain humble about what I know and believe – and sometimes I fail.  But, it is possible and I believe that it is worth it.

After all …

How can God speak into our lives if we aren’t humble enough to listen and hear?  How will we know if we are mistaken about something if we hold on to our beliefs with unswerving certainty.  Can we be transformed without being humble?

IMHO a chastened epistemology is one of the most valuable characteristics that is emerging in the church today.  I believe humility = teachability.  More than anything else a “chastened epistemology” draws me to the emerging church/conversation.

Check out some of the other synchroblog posts:

Pam Hogeweide compares the emerging church movement to a game of ping pong.

Sarah-Ji comments that the emerging questions people are asking are far bigger than any defined movement.

Sharon Brown writes about using labels as an excuse.

Peter Walker reflects on how the emerging church conversation helped him recognize his power and privlege as a white male.

Dave Huth posts a on new ways to talk about religion.

Kathy Escobar finds hope in seeing a spirit of love in action emerging in the church.

Nadia Bolz-Weber reflects on the the beautiful things she sees emerging in her church community.

Chad Holtz writes on our Our Emerging Jewishness.

MojoJules describes her organic entry into the emerging church and reflects on moving forward with a new public face.

Dave Brown comments on the emerging church and swarm theory.

Danielle Shoyer reflects on the big tent of the emerging church.

Brian Merrit offers his pros and cons of the emerging church.

Julie Clawson is grateful for emerging globalized Christianity.

Liz Dyer believes a chastened epistemology is a valuable characteristic emerging out of the church today.

Sa Say adds her voice to the conversation in The Prick of Doubt.

Three Things Tuesday

(1)  This is hilarious no matter what you believe.

(2)   “the Bible explains the mystery of Christ’s work in a whole ‘kaleidoscope’ of models, metaphors, theories or stories of salvation, each reflecting a different aspect of this very deep and far reaching problem of ‘sin’ in us and in this world” – Steve Burnhope.

For those of us who have struggled with reconciling the theory of penal substitution with a God of love the idea that there is more than one legitimate atonement theory is a sigh of relief.

Check out this article:

Steve Burnhope: “Culture, Worldview and the Cross: Penal Substitutionary Atonement and 21st Century Mission”

(3)  I thought this was an interesting graph showing the National Debt as a percent of GDP.   Not only does it give a better perspective of our national debt than just throwing a dollar figure out there but I thought it was surprising to find out that the National Debt as a percent of GDP has increased mostly under the Republican Party during the last 60 years.

Three Things Tuesday

Brian McLaren has a new book out….A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith and it is creating quite a buzz around the blogosphere.

In this book, Brian examines ten questions facing today’s church.  The questions are:

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

From where I sit these are great questions and from what I have read so far I like Brian’s book.  That doesn’t mean that I necessarily agree with everything he says but I like it. What I like most about Brian’s books is they typically lead me to think seriously about what I believe, why I believe it, how my beliefs lines up with scripture and the teachings of Jesus, how what I believe about one thing conflicts with other beliefs I have, and most importantly, it leads me to examine how my beliefs are being lived out in my own life.

Like I said, this book, which was just released about a week ago, is already getting a lot of attention.  Below are some links you may want to follow:

Check out Brian’s New Channel on THEOOZE.TV where each week will feature a 5 minute episode where Brian will focus on one of the 10 questions posed in his book. The resource can be used by individuals or study/reading groups as a promotion or thought-provoking primer for the next week’s study. Or, it can be a great lead-off for for group discussion of the book, chapter-by-chapter. There’s even a chance for your study group to win a live Skype with Brian.

A couple of good posts by Mike Morrell at Zoecarnate here and here.

And another good post by Chris Marshall at Ordinary Community here.

And finally a response from Brian McLaren to some criticism here.  I am always amazed at how gracious, kind, humble and generous McLaren is.

It’s been a week since Google rolled out Google Buzz, a new service for sharing status updates, links and media with your friends.   It seems to be a combination of facebook and twitter, and Google seems to be tweaking it on a daily basis right now.  It certainly seems to be taking off at full speed but it’s hard to see it replacing either Facebook or Twitter.  What do you think about it?

Kathy Escobar, the author of the blog “the carnival in my head” has a post up titled “why i’m a postevangelical missional emerging ancient-future social-justice progressive conservative 12-stepping bible-enjoying christian-mutt” The post reminds us that although labels serve a purpose they are usually inadequate when it comes to describing individuals because we are too complex for a couple of words to define what we are all about.  It’s a timely post with the online bickering that has been going on among some in the emergent conversation that are grappling with how to love one another in spite of their passionate disagreements.  Relationships between people and groups can get pretty messy at times – hopefully this is just one of those rough patches that will eventually lead to many, or at least some, growing in love and humility.

Three Things Tuesday

Here are three things that I wanted to share with you this week:

Homebrewed Christianity is running a new series by a fellow named Michael Camp.  The series is called “I Survived The Christian Right” The first post of the series is about legalism and the second is about Bible abuse.  I could relate to a lot of what he had to say and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Cindy McCain, the wife of former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, has posed to demonstrate her support of marriage equality.  (If you aren’t familiar with the NOH8 campaign you can check them out here.)

Cindy joins her daughter, Meghan, in posing for the NOH8 campaign.

Cindy’s husband, John, is still against legalizing same sex marriage (and against doing away with DADT).

I don’t know if it makes a difference but I am glad that there are some Republicans finally “coming out” with their support of marriage equality.

Stay on the lookout for a new podcast that will be up and running in the near future:

HCX – HardCore Xianity.  A podcast for the outcast & apostate. An outcast is someone who has been rejected by society or a social group. An apostate is a person who renounces a religious or political belief or principle.

The HCX team is made up of Adele Sakler,  Drew Tatusko,  Meridith White-Zeager and Ryan Kemp-Pappan

You can follow them on twitter @hcxianity and on facebook.