Tag Archives: religion

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.

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Does Organizing Religion Defeat The Purpose?

“YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH ORGANIZATION”

Dan Kimball over at Vintage Faith is asking for people’s gut reaction to the phrase “organized religion”.

Dan is writing a book and one of his chapters is about organized religion and why he believes churches need to be organized in a healthy way.  Dan realizes that the phrase “organized religion” conjures up a lot of negative vibes and he wants to take that into account.  Go by and read some of the responses and add your own thoughts…but not before you take a moment to answer my question at the end of this post.

When I hear the phrase “organized religion” I think of things like: the church caring more about numbers than individuals, more about being entertained than following Christ, worship being centered around “the sermon” rather than around God, people who are sure they have it all figured out, people who are mostly concerned with developing and maintaining their organization rather than being mostly concerned about loving and caring for others, people who are against a lot of stuff, people who want justice for their organization and the people within it but aren’t that concerned with justice for those outside of their organization, big buildings, lots of programs….I could go on but you get the picture.

Of course I don’t think that organization itself is bad, but it does seem that we have a tendency to go awry when it comes to organizing the church/religion.  It seems almost impossible for us to stop ourselves from getting so caught up in “being a successful organization” that we can’t be good followers of Christ.

Maybe our critics are saying to us in their best Col. Jessup voice:  YOU CAN’T HANDLE ORGANIZATION!!!!!!!

So my question to you is this:  Does organizing religion defeat the purpose?

Stuff That Caught My Eye…

Five Reasons KINGS could help rebuild NBC’s Empire at TV Addict.com (btw – I really enjoyed the two hour pilot and am looking forward to the next episode)

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Time Magazine created a list of 10 ideas that are impacting the world right now and #3 on their list is New Calvinism.”   It has created at lot of buzz.  Go to beauty and depravity (Eugene Cho’s blog) for a good conversation. 

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 The InternetMonk (Michael Spencer) has an article at The Christian Science Monitor “The Coming Evangelical Collapse”   and it has sparked a lot of online conversation.  The article started as a three-part series of posts on Spencer’s excellent blog (internetmonk)…the entire discussion is well worth reading.

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Belief.net is hosting an online quiz called “Belief-O-Matic“. Answer 20 questions about your views on God, salvation, the afterlife, etc., and they’ll tell you which religions are most congenial to your beliefs.

Dreaming Quantum Dreams

This post is part of the January Interfaith Synchroblog.  The theme is “Religion and Science”.  Links to all contributors are listed at the end of this post.

 
Before I begin I just want to make it clear that anyone out there with the least bit of knowledge about quantum physics could easily prove that I don’t know a thing about it.  Sure I could talk a little bit about entanglement, which is the quantum physics theory that some form of communication, faster than the speed of light, allows particles that have become entangled to know and respond to what the other one does no matter how far apart they are, or I could talk a little bit about the amazing double slit experiment that basically says nothing is real unless it is observed – but like I said, just “a little bit”.  However, in my defense, even Richard Feynman, the American physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” 
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I first became interested in the connection between quantum physics and faith when I read the essay “Physics and Faith: The Luminous Web”  by Barbara Brown Taylor.   She absolutely astounded me with the way she allowed science to enhance her perception of God and his creation. Below are a few paragraphs from the essay that really spoke to me (you can find the whole thing  here):

“When I am dreaming quantum dreams, the picture I see is more like a web of relationships–an infinite web, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. It is made of energy, not thread. As I look, I can see light moving through it like a pulse moving through veins. I know the light is an illusion, since what I am seeing moves faster than light, but what I see out there is no different from what I feel inside. There is a living hum that might be coming from my neurons but might just as well be coming from the furnace of the stars. When I look up at them there is a small commotion in my bones, as the ashes of dead stars that house my marrow rise up like metal filings toward the magnet of their living kin.

Where am I in this picture? All over the place. Up there. Down here. Inside my skin and out. Large compared to a virus and small compared to the sun, with a life that is permeable to them both. Am I alone? How could I ever be alone? I am part of the web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.

Where is God in this picture? All over the place. Up there. Down here. Inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light — not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them, but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.

It is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity — the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. This is the God who is not somewhere (up there, down here) but everywhere”

Like Barbara Brown Taylor, I also dream quantum dreams – dreams of unseen connections and unexplained phenomenon, dreams of a broken world made whole again, dreams of unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation, dreams that allow me to imagine that when science and faith meet, secrets buried in the physical universe will be revealed, secrets that bear witness to the glorious attributes of its creator, secrets that will urge us to seek, to marvel and even to doubt in order that our theology will be edified. 

At times science can be alarming for many of us, stripping away answers without providing new ones…and yet I sense that it may be from these uncertain places that a fresh and more robust gospel will emerge.  A gospel that is not just scientifically sound and spiritually alive, but a gospel for all things – a whole gospel for the whole world – a gospel that dares to imagine a world where God’s dreams come true. 

Here is a list of all the contributors to this synchroblog:

Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be at Notes From Underground

Dreaming Quantum Dreams at Grace Rules

How I Taught Science instead of “Christian” Science at the Evening of Kent

Is Evolution Atheistic? at glocal Christianity

Post-Modernism: A Challenge to Science? at Fr Ted’s Blog

Faith, Reason And Unreason at The Musings of a Confused Man

 

 

What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity

 

This post is part of a synchroblog on “Discussing Maturity In The Light Of Our Faith”

 

 

Before I begin let me say that I have a long, active history with the local organized church.  I have led women’s ministries, worked in the nursery, planned curriculum, served on the hospitality committee, taught bible studies, helped with vacation bible schools, prepared budgets etc. – all as a lay person.

I still go to church (most of the time) and I still volunteer to do “stuff” at church (some of the time).  I am not mad at the church, I haven’t been hurt by the church (at least not much) and I haven’t left the church.  BUT, I am frustrated with the church about a few things. 

One of the things that I am frustrated with the local church about is its lack of knowledge regarding spiritual growth.  So, when I heard there was a synchroblog on discussing maturity in the light of our faith I figured I would take the opportunity to make a few wishes – three to be exact.

Here goes: 

Wish Number One

I wish the church knew that having questions, experiencing doubts and being uncertain about things that the church is teaching does not necessarily equal spiritual immaturity.  No one comes right out and says that you are spiritually immature because you are struggling with things like the concepts of heaven and hell, or substitutionary atonement, or the inerrancy of the bible, or the sovereignty of God etc … but, when they kindly offer to pray that God will make these things clear to you, what they are really saying is: they hope you settle down soon and get back to seeing things the way they do.  When I began to have questions about what I was believing, doubts about certain interpretations of scripture and uncertainty about the life of faith I was living I felt alone and afraid.  There was no safe place at church for me to embrace this experience because the thing everyone wanted me to do was to get back to where I had been before.  Sure they said things about this drawing me closer to God and God using this to reveal more to me, but when I tried to talk to them about thinking that maybe we had some stuff wrong they didn’t want to hear it.  It was so unsettling and frustrating that I might have ended up leaving the church (at least for a while) if I hadn’t had a family to think of AND if I hadn’t stumbled across “The Critical Journey” by Hagberg and Guelich.  I won’t go into a lot of detail here about “The Critical Journey” (for more info there’s a great chart at Carnival In My Head that you can check out or an indepth article at Theocentric) except to say that it helped me discover that what I was experiencing was a natural part of my spiritual growth.  From there, I have searched out and found support through groups, blogs, books and events – none of which are connected to the local church – to help me as I travel through this leg of my faith journey.

I don’t have a succinct solution to the problem but I think it would help if pastors stopped saying everything from the pulpit with so much certainty, if Christians were taught less answers and trained more in the skill of asking good questions, if the local church would be a little more humble about what they know and hold to be true, so that it would not be considered heresy to think or believe differently in their midst and if more people in the church believed that right living is more important than right doctrine. 

Wish Number Two

I wish the church didn’t think that participating in a lot of programs,ministries and or church activities equaled spiritual maturity.  I was amazed last year when the Willow Creek’s study came out.  I wasn’t amazed at what they discovered – I was amazed that before the study they had actually believed that if Christians participated in a certain set of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it would produce disciples of Christ who were maturing spiritually.  They were shocked when they discovered through a multiple year study that their programs weren’t that good at helping their people grow and develop spiritually. 

People like Dallas Willard have been saying this sort of thing for years.  Increased participation in church activities/programs/ministries does not produce disciples, it just produces people who spend more time at church instead of out in their communities where they could really have an impact in bringing God’s will to earth as it is in heaven.  I think churches would serve the mission of God better and promote spiritual growth in followers of Jesus more effectively by teaching, encouraging and inspiring their members to do the work of the church in their daily lives and jobs, in their neighborhoods and communities.  

Don’t get me wrong – I think there is a time and place for certain programs (so please don’t feel you need to defend the program that you are involved with) but I know from experience that a lot of the things that I have been involved in at church aren’t really that beneficial – mostly because I have done it before in a different format.  You know what I am talking about – it’s the same old bible study being taught, the same old class on how to handle my finances, the same old evangelistic course with a new name etc. etc. etc.  Is it wrong to do something for fun or enjoyment – no, it isn’t.  But our churches are depending on these things to be the catalyst of spiritual growth for me and you – and it ain’t working.

Wish Number Three

I wish the church would realize that presenting a watered down version of the gospel encourages christians to embrace spiritual immaturity. In other words, a gospel that revolves around humans gaining access to God’s presence leads to spiritual formation that is “me” oriented. When this individualistic facet of the gospel is taught, as if it is the whole gospel, we end up with a very self centered gospel.  This self centeredness ends up leaving us comfortable in our immature state.  

What christians, and the whole world for that matter, needs is a more robust gospel – like the one that Scot McKnight talks about (check out this article at Out Of Ur). When we begin to look at a larger, more complex, multi-faceted gospel, we begin to see that the good news of Jesus Christ is concerned with more than giving us a free ticket to heaven. We begin to see that the good news is for all of creation, throughout all time, and that as recipients of God’s great gift of grace and freedom, we are called to work with him to love and care for the world we live in now. This call on our lives spurs us on to cooperate with the spirit of God that is at work in us. This meaningful, worthy, mandate that is born of and lives in love, gives us the courage and the desire to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. We desperately need a reason to go through the rigors of maturing and I believe that a larger, more robust gospel gives us that reason.

There, I got that off my chest. I feel better.

Now if I could just remember where I put that magic lamp.

Here is a list of bloggers who are taking part in this month’s synchroblog on the topic “Maturity in the Light of our Faith”:

 

 

Phil Wyman at Square No More with “Is Maturity Really What I Want?
Lainie Petersen at Headspace with “Watching Daddy Die
Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head with “what’s inside the bunny?
John Smulo at JohnSmulo.com
Erin Word at Decompressing Faith with “Long-Wearing Nail Polish and Other Stories
Beth Patterson at The Virtual Teahouse with “the future is ours to see: crumbling like a mountain
Bryan Riley at Charis Shalom with “Still Complaining?
Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church with “Maturity and Education
KW Leslie at The Evening of Kent with “Putting spiritual infants in charge
Bethany Stedman at Coffee Klatch with “Moving Towards True Being: The Long Process of Maturity
Adam Gonnerman at Igneous Quill with “Old Enough to Follow Christ?
Joe Miller at More Than Cake with “Intentional Relationships for Maturity
Jonathan Brink at JonathanBrink.com with “I Won’t Sin
Susan Barnes at A Booklook with “Growing Up
Tracy Simmons at The Best Parts with “Knowing Him Who is From the Beginning
Joseph Speranzella at A Tic in the Mind’s Eye with “Spiritual Maturity And The Examination of Conscience
Sally Coleman at Eternal Echoes with “vulnerable maturity
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules with “What I Wish The Church Knew About Spiritual Maturity
Cobus van Wyngaard at My Contemplations with “post-enlightenment Christians in an unenlightened South Africa
Steve Hayes at Khanya with “Adult Content
Ryan Peter at Ryan Peter Blogs and Stuff with “The Foundation For Ministry and Leading
Kai Schraml at Kaiblogy with “Mature Virtue
Nic Paton at Sound and Silence with “Inclusion and maturity
Lew Ayotte at The Pursuit with “Maturity and Preaching

 

 

I’m Disappointed!

Brian McLaren announces his endorsement of Barack Obama in a new Matthew25Network political ad.
 
 
 
 

 

I’m disappointed!

My disappointment does not come from McLaren’s support of Obama. I didn’t need to see this ad to know he supported Obama. My disappointment comes from me being sick of Christian leaders backing specific candidates and/or parties. My disappointment comes from me being tired of Christian leaders using their influence and position to coerce their “followers” into electing a particular individual. My disappointment comes from me believing that Brian and his circle of friends wouldn’t do this because they didn’t like it when the religious right did it — I assumed that meant that they wouldn’t do it. Apparently, even his friend, Tony Jones, didn’t think Brian would endorse a particular candidate.

I may be wrong but it feels like Brian has abandoned a principle that he believed in so that the person he is going to vote for will win. Even his letter of explanation sounded like he was trying to excuse something he didn’t feel completely comfortable about. And he says he isn’t speaking as a pastor (he is not presently a pastor) but he refers to himself as a pastor in the ad. 

Do I think he has done something “wrong”, “immoral”, “illegal”? No, I don’t. But I believe that his public endorsement in a political ad that takes a shot at the fact that McCain is divorced will do more harm than good and will be more divisive than unifying.

I believe McLaren would have better served his faith and beliefs by talking about the issues that are dear to his heart and encouraging others to have conversations and to think about the issues that are dear to their hearts.

Whether it is Dobson or McLaren, the Christian Coalition or the Matthew25Network, the right or the left, the conservatives or the liberals I don’t like it.

I like what Shane Claiborne said about endorsements:

In post-Religious Right America, we want to learn from the mistakes of the generation before us (so we don’t repeat them) – one of which was telling Christians who to vote for. Rather than spoon-feeding people answers, we hope to stir up the right questions – and trust that the Spirit will lead us as we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” One of the places the religious right went wrong was telling people what to do rather than inviting them to think for themselves, with the help of the Spirit of God (in fact, it even seems a real lack of faith to to coerce or convince people to do exactly what we want them to… as if the Spirit is not at work in them). That’s where Jesus shines – he stirs up questions and tells stories that unveil truth, rather than drafting a careful declaration or endorsement that’s going to solve everything wrong in the world.

Claiborne’s view is reminiscent of Martin Luther King’s perspective. King’s idea was, don’t endorse anyone. He believed that endorsing a candidate just makes it easy for them to count you as a part of their base and then move on and ignore you. Instead, King believed it was better to invite politicians on both sides to endorse your movement and your platform and that they should do that throughout their campaign and their time in office.

I am not angry at Brian McLaren and I am not here to bash him.

I just wanted to say that I am disappointed.

Bill Easum and Tony Jones Participate In A Blogologue About The Emerging Church – The Commenters Are The Icing On The Cake!

 
 

There is a great conversation taking place over at Emergent Village between Bill Easum, Tony Jones and various commenters.

The conversation is centered around questions/issues Bill Easum has raised with emergents.

The posts from Bill Easum, one of the most highly respected Christian futurists in North America, and Tony Jones, national coordinator of Emergent Village, is delicious enough; but the icing on this cake are the commenters and they turn out to be the real treat – or maybe I should say the real “meat” of the discussion.

If you cannot bring yourself to take the time to read all of the comments make sure that you don’t miss those from Tim Thompson of Feral Pastor and Jonathan Brink of Missio Dei.

I love the way Tim engages in the conversation regarding truth, knowledge and certainty. He lovingly and passionately puts to rest the myth that emergents don’t believe in truth. This isn’t the first time that Tim has said something that I wanted to say but didn’t know how.

In addition, I was so pleased to be introduced to Jonathan Brink through this blogologue – his answers to Bill’s questions are well thought out, deep and yet, clear; and his explanation of what emergent means to him is inspirational, informative and motivating. I will definitely visit his blog, Missio Dei, again.

Before I close this post with some excerpts from Tim and Jonathan, I want to say that although Bill Easum asked some of the same old questions regarding emergent he did not respond negatively or argumentatively to the commenters. He seemed to listen sincerely, disagree respectfully and consistently notice points of agreement…winning my respect and attention, and being a good example for Christianity.

Jonathan begins his comment with an explanation of what emergent means to him:

“Bill asked a series of questions for the Emergents. And I thought I would respond to these questions. But before I begin I would like to respond to what I mean by Emergent and what this word means to me. I take it very seriously and have suffered the consequences for the baggage that it holds, most of which I find to be myth. And let me be clear that this is my definition.

Emergent, to me, is a creative attempt to find a wholistic understanding and practice in what it means to follow Jesus into God’s mission. It is an attempt to get at the heart of what it means to be a broken human in a broken world that is dying for restoration.”

Tim responds to Bill’s question: Is the message of the Gospel actual reality and eternally true, or is it nothing more than a construct of our own language within the community of faith at this particular time in history in this particular place with this particular community?

 “The Gospel is an actual reality that is eternally true – and – our ability to understand it and communicate it is always an imperfect, conditioned, contextual approximation. It’s an approximation because both thinking and speaking rely on language, which is a “jar of clay” in which the treasure can actually be found. Put another Pauline way, not only do we see through a glass dimly, but we also think and speak through smeary lenses as well.”

It’s good – go check it out.