Category Archives: Gospel

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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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?

Good News/Bad News

I saw this on someone’s facebook status update recently:

Open your eyes to all the possibilities around you…. Never give in, trust in God and you will always WIN!!!! the power of ACHIEVING is BELIEVING!!!!!

I restrained from commenting but what I wanted to say is “this is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad theology”!!

If you check out scripture it seems like the most faithful “good guys and gals” had a lot of troubles – some had to constantly flee for their lives, others were beaten, stoned or flogged, many were ridiculed and rejected, some were homeless and poor … these are not experiences that are usually associated with “winners”!

Yeah, yeah, I know, you (or someone) will be tempted to make an excuse and say that being a winner doesn’t necessarily equal a comfortable life … I agree with that statement, BUT we all know that the status update WAS referring to comfort and happiness and prosperity.  Which brings me to my point …

When we send out messages which basically say “if you trust God your troubles will all be resolved to your liking” we are preaching a prosperity gospel and imo that is a false gospel and baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad theology.

I’m not saying that following in the way of Jesus is always painful – there are blessings – but the longer I live and the more I learn I would say “it’s no picnic”.   The kind of individualistic gospel message that so many churches proclaim distorts the message of scripture.  People begin to think that everything that happens is all about themselves when it is obviously about everything but self.  In many ways, it’s a hard pill to swallow, but once you look at the big picture the suffering to be endured is tempered (somewhat) by the purpose and hope that is embedded in the story.

I think a more accurate status update would be something like this:

The good news is that the kingdom of God is at hand.  The bad news is that you probably will have to sacrifice and suffer in order to take hold of it.

Deconstructing The Great Commission – Part Two

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‘To be a witness means to offer your own faith experience and to make your doubts and hopes, failures and successes, loneliness and woundedness, available to others as a context in which they can struggle with their own humanness and quest for meaning.’   –-Henry Nouwen (Spiritual Direction)

I didn’t get a lot of response to my previous post Deconstructing The Great Commission  but here’s some rambling in response to one of the comments:

Ken Bussell pointed out that the verses associated with The Great Commission don’t say anything about “sharing the gospel” – instead the verses speak of making disciples and teaching them to obey Jesus’ commandments.  Thinking about that and taking into account what Jesus said and taught I start to get the sense that The Great Commission is not so much about converting people to a particular belief system but much more about teaching a way of life.  Of course it is easier to tell people what to believe than to show them how to live.  Living life is a lot messier – it often seems to pull the legs out from under absolute statements that belief systems are typically built on.  I notice that people were always trying to pin Jesus down about what they should believe about all sorts of things, but Jesus didn’t seem that concerned with absolute statements that could be spouted off.  In fact, it seemed that he went out of his way to show that life would more often than not turn those statements on their head.  Just when someone thought they were being obedient Jesus would demonstrate that their form of obedience violated the very essence of what he was all about.

I guess at this point I would say that I am getting a picture that living out The Great Commission is much more alive and fluid than traditional teaching conveys. 

Deconstructing The Great Commission

 deconstruct

As many of you know I’ve been doing a lot of deconstructing of Christianity over the last few years – examining what I’ve been taught, what I believed about God, Jesus, and scripture, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. 

Let me tell you…it is a very, very, very long process – especially for someone with no formal theological training.  Not only is it a long process but at times it is a very uncomfortable process – living with the questions, the doubts, the “not knowing” – dealing with people who proclaim you are going to hell, saying you shouldn’t call yourself a Christian and assigning all sorts of negative labels to you.  At times I want to give up, but I don’t – not because I am this great person who is pushing themselves through this process, determined not to give up, committed to persevering (blah blah blah) but more because it is what is happening to me.  I am trying to follow Jesus and as I live my life these “things” keep coming up – it’s sort of like “shit happens”.  So, here I am today with another “thing” that I am trying to understand – and it has to do with “The Great Commission.”

I was taught that every Christian is commanded by Jesus to be a witness for him and that means telling others about the gospel (i.e. how he died on the cross to pay for our sins and how believing in him can save you from going to hell) and that our ultimate goal is to convert as many as possible and win the world for Christ – this was called “The Great Commission.”

When I first began to deconstruct this teaching I focused on “the gospel” – I deconstructed what I had been taught and began to try to understand what scripture had to say about “the gospel” (what was the good news?) – I eventually came to a different understanding from what I had been taught all my life but that is not what I want to talk about today.  Today I want to ask some different questions.  I want to ask:

“Is the Great Commission a promise or a commandment?”  “Was Jesus really speaking to all Christians or just to the apostles?” “What was the goal of the instruction that Jesus gave to the apostles?”  “What about all those things that Jesus said would happen – casting out demons, picking up snakes with their hands, speaking in new tongues, healing the sick?” “Are these passages relevant for me today?”

You see, when I read the first chapter of Acts it sounds to me that the only commandment Jesus gave was the one to wait in Jerusalem until something special happened (the Day of Pentecost).  When I read Acts 1:8 it doesn’t sound like a command as much as a promise.  It sounds like Jesus is explaining what will happen after the Holy Spirit comes upon them.

And when I read Matthew 28:16-20 and Mark 16:15-20 in context it sounds like this is a contextually limited instruction given only to the apostles and that there is a political aspect to the instruction that has to do with the Roman Empire.  I also sense that the purpose was much narrower than what I’ve been taught and that there may have been some  immediate urgency to make something happen before something else happened.

Could Jesus’ instructions to the apostles serve the purpose of creating communities that would “be” the “new creation” among all the nations and these communities would be the witness of Jesus because of the way they functioned?  Was there an urgency to do this before the destruction of Jerusalem – was that the reason for all those special signs?

I sense that there is a past, present and future wrapped up in these passages.  I believe that there is something in these passages that is relevant for me today but that it is different than what I have known up to this point. 

I have more questions and thoughts but I want to stop here for now.

I could use some help thinking these things through and so I am inviting you to come here and have a conversation that I can listen in on.  I am interested in all feedback but please be courteous.  (And not to be rude, but I already know the traditional teaching very well and feel that it is incomplete in some ways and embellished in others – I am looking for some new perspectives and insights that might help me to explore my questions.  Oh – and I am better with “not knowing” than trying to simplistically explain away my questions.) 

Live Generously

Kind

Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: “Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. 

                                                                                              Matthew 10:5 (The Message)

God Is Always Needing To Be Born

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What is the good if Mary gave birth to

the son of God two thousand years ago

if I do not give birth to the son of God

today?

 

We are all meant to be mothers of God

– God is always needing to be born.

                                                     –   Meister Eckhart