An urban church rejects the idea of charity and finds renewal: ““If we believe that God’s spirit is flowing down on all people, old and young, women and men — and on the poor… why don’t we treat people like that’s true?”Here: Death and resurrection of an urban church.
Greg Boyd: “Some scholars today argue that the stories recorded in the Gospels are actually intentional fabrication. In essence, they argue that Mark took Paul’s theology and robed the story of Jesus in a fictitious historical narrative. The other Gospels followed suit. The argument is clever and removes the difficulty of explaining how a legend of a God-man could arise so quickly among first-century Jews. But there are 7 major problems with this contention….” Here: Are the Gospels Historical Fiction?
Kimberly Winston quotes Lawrence Wright, one of the producers of a new documentary on Scientology: “When people see for themselves the testimony of people who have been through the Scientology experience, they’ll have a better idea of what they might be in for if they decide to join the church….” Here: HBO’s ‘Going Clear’ Questions the Future of Scientology, (more…)
Gay marriage is on its way to being accepted as part of life in the USA. At The Daily Beast Jay Michaelson seems to me to state the situation well: “Same-sex marriage is becoming a national inevitability. A cascade of court opinions, significant public support, not to mention increasingly sympathetic gay couples and increasingly implausible opposition — all these and more point to an emerging national consensus that “gay marriage” is actually a form of “marriage.” It’s not exactly clear when the hump took place — but we definitely seem to be over it.” Here: Were Christians Right About Gay Marriage All Along?
Things are looking different now.
Randy Thomas, formerly a leader in the ex-gay organization Exodus International, writes about his change of heart over the anti-gay-marriage initiatives in which he was once involved. He hasn’t changed his Side B (“tradionalist”) views on marriage or sexual morality, but he looks back on his involvement in attempts to ban gay marriage with embarrassment. He says: “The night that Prop 8 in California and Amendment 2 in Florida (both banning gay marriage) passed I was jubilant. I truly believed what we had done was right and good. In the following days, and for a while afterwards, I repeated the talking points I had willingly adopted. I truly believed what I was saying. What I didn’t make widely known was how heart-broken I was when I saw the gay community in California take to the streets. Their protests that night and in the days afterwards tugged at me. When I saw their grief-stricken faces my heart twisted in my chest. It was the first time in a long time I remember thinking, “did we do something wrong?” I quickly shoved that thought out of my mind as I joined my fellow religious activists celebrating the marriage “wins.” Yet, the gay community with their protesting and sorrow filled faces would come back to haunt me over the years. Eventually the doubt over what we had done would get louder in my mind and change from a question to a conviction; a conviction that indeed we had done something terribly wrong.” Here: Gay Marriage And Public Policy: Personal Reflection, Apology. (more…)
I always have several books going all at the same time. Some I plow through quickly. Some I never finish. Some I lay aside to pick up later.
Tim Otto writes about the significance of the controversy in the Church over same-gender sex: “The conflict around same-sex relationships can either cause further division within the church, or, by faith, we can see the struggle as our teacher. By bringing up questions about family, social relations, church unity, and politics, this debate can help us think well and live more deeply into the dream God has for us and the world. It can help us, as God’s little flock, receive the kingdom that God is offering with so much pleasure. And if that happens, it will mean more gospel, more good news for everyone.” From: Oriented to Faith: Transforming the Conflict over Gay Relationships.
Michael J. Quicke on preaching: “Preaching’s awesome task is about evoking an alternative community that lives for a different agenda — for God, for the wider community, and for the world. Preaching needs to be experienced as prophetic, transformational, incarnational, and diverse. Catalytic, life-changing preaching accomplishes deep outcomes in God’s purposes.” From: 360-Degree Preaching: Hearing, Speaking, and Living the Word.
STUPIDITY VS. EVIL
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgement simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters & Papers from Prison, 43. Quoted by Nijay K. Gupta here: Bonhoeffer on Stupidity.
RACISM AS A SPIRITUAL CRISIS
From a joint statement prompted by the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, by pastors Gabriel Salguero, J. Mark DeYmaz, Le Que Vu-Heidkamp, Jeanette Salguero, Bryan Loritts, David Anderson, and Eugene Cho: “At its core the scourge of racism presents a spiritual crisis with real life and death repercussions. And while government and educational programs, together with the efforts of countless individuals, groups and agencies, have long-sought to eliminate prejudice and the disparaging consequences of systemic racism still deeply embedded within our society, it is long-past time to recognize that systemic racism cannot be overcome apart from the establishment of local churches which intentionally and joyfully reflect the love of God for all people beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide. For not only does God require of governments and institutions the work of justice, we, too, the local church, the bride of Christ, have been ordained by God to this task. With this in mind, the American Church can and must do better in providing spiritual leadership toward a healing response. Indeed, we call immediately for it to do so.” Here: Multi-Ethnic Churches Lament America’s Racial Injustice. (more…)
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You can comment to Derek at YouTube: Gungor: 3 Concerts Cancelled over Unorthodoxy? What! (re)News. You can see more of his videos here: Bible Floss.
MORE ON THIS CONTROVERSY:
From Dave Wainscott (mostly links): Gungorgate: banned for agreeing with C.S. Lewis (and having Rob Bell and Rachel Held Evans help with their CD). And Stephen Mattson reminds us that some of the historic hymn writers were controversial in their day: The Problem With Christian Worship Wars. And, at the BioLogos web site: Faith after Literalism: An Interview with Michael Gungor.
Hollywood publicist Michael Levine comments on the struggles of actor and comedian Robin Williams: “Very few people in this world reach the level of fame Robin Williams did and could understand the type of depression he dealt with…. There tends to be a lack of compassion — ‘So what, you’re famous’ — and it’s hard for people to then empathize. People like Robin often feel like they have to completely isolate themselves from the fishbowl they live in, and are so isolated they are afraid to ask for help.” Found here: Robin Williams worried about faltering career, struggled with survivor’s guilt, sources say.
Also: here is a list of quotes from Robin Williams: The Profound Quotes From Robin Williams That Helped Shape Our Generation. It includes the following: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
Boze Herrington gives us a heart-rending account of his involvement in a prayer group (associated with the International House of Prayer) that evolved into a dangerous cult. The account centers around the death of the cult leader’s wife (Boze’s friend) Bethany. He writes: “But it is clear that when Bethany died, she was part of a community shrouded in fear and hatred, a community where those who spoke out were treated as though they didn’t exist. Their loves, desires, opinions, feelings, and whole personalities were invalidated, all in the name of God.” At The Atlantic here: The Seven Signs You’re in a Cult.
Jonathan Merritt on the public’s response to Christian leaders: “The point is that people don’t like mean people and judgmental people and power-hungry people, regardless of their religion. Most people dislike Christian jerks because they are jerks, not because they are Christian. (According to a 2013 Barna poll, about 51% of self-identified Christians are characterized by having the attitudes and actions that are “Pharisaical” as opposed to “Christlike.”)” Here: What the Pope’s popularity says about American culture. (more…)
Molly Worthen: “There’s a problem with the hyper-individualization of Millennial religion. The advantage of an institution is that it forces you into conversation with people you might not agree with. It forces you to grapple with a tradition that includes hard ideas. It forces you to have, for at least part of your life, a respect for authority that inculcates the sense that you have something to learn, that you’re not reinventing the wheel, but that millennia have come before you. The structure of institutions, for all their evils, facilitates that. And we may be losing that.” Quoted by Conor Friedersdorf here: The Case Against Mix-and-Match Spirituality. (more…)
I want to especially draw attention to Allan R. Bevere’s series on the meaning and significance of the book of Revelation.
To speak of reading Revelation from a Wesleyan perspective is not to suggest that such a reading is unique from other Christian interpretive traditions. It is to affirm that everyone approaches Scripture with assumptions and a interpretive posture.
Allan draws from Joel Green’s book, Reading Scripture as Wesleyans.
Here are the posts in the series:
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #1: Introduction
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #2: Seeing and Responding to the World
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #3: The Worship of God in All of Life
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #4: The Need to Resist Competing Stories
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #5: A Challenge to the Church and a Critique of the World
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #6: The Idolatry of Wealth
- Reading Revelation as Wesleyans #7: Discipleship Is Costly When Resisting the Empire (Final Post)
It is a series well worth reading.
Carl Trueman on Christian liberalism: “That liberalism, political or theological, is not enjoying good health is obvious to even the most causal observer. The rise of religious extremism, particularly that of Islam, has present the Left with a series of choices which have pushed it towards incoherence. Theologically, the picture is little different: liberal Christianity is in decline as it does little more than offer a vaguely religious vocabulary for expressing ideas that are, to be frank, more compelling when stated in secular terms.” Here: Liberalism Reinvented.
Lauren Porter on prayer: “In essence, what I hear [Richard] Foster saying is this: We will never be holy enough to start praying. So, don’t wait till you feel holy to pray. Pray because you need the God who can make you holy. We don’t pray because we feel holy or spiritual. It’s as we pray that we become holy and spiritual.” Here: Just Pray. (more…)
In the second part of his ongoing review of Austin Fischer’s Young, Restless, No Longer Reformed: Black Holes, Love, and a Journey In and Out of Calvinism John Frye tells this story:
Some years ago the senior pastor of a large Assembly of God Church told me this story. He met with the denominational leaders of the Christian Reformed Church to discuss church growth in West Michigan. The Assembly’s pastor thanked the Reformed leaders for filling his church and many other Assemblies churches. The Reformed leaders were a little taken back, asking, “How did we do that?” The pastor said, “By preaching your view of God so faithfully. Thank you. People from your churches flock to ours to escape a wrathful, unpleasable God and they find in our churches a God who so ravishingly loves them that he chases them down with passionate desire.” We can argue Pelagianism, Arminianism, semi-Pelagianism, Open theism, and Calvinism ad infinitum. Yet, people, ordinary people, just want to know “What kind of God is at the center of the universe?” At the center of reality is there a meticulously determined decree or a “Lamb, looking as it if had been slain”?
The post is at Scot McKnight’s Jesus Creed blog here: Young Restless and No Longer Reformed (2) (John Frye). The first part of the review is here: Young, Restless and No Longer Reformed (by John Frye).
Christians are drawn to the homosexuality controversy like moths to a flame.
The latest controversy (of many) is the announcement by World Vision that they would be willing to hire a gay Christian in a same-sex marriage. They weren’t taking a position of the topic of same-sex marriage, they were acknowledging that churches and Christian denominations have differing positions on this subject and they no longer felt that they should bar professing Christians who are in committed same-sex marriage from employment with their organization.
The Internet blew up. (more…)
[Update 4-14-2017: The blog mentioned in this post no longer exists. The links do not work. But, because of continued interest in this post, I am not (for the time being) removing it.]
Let me draw your attention to two particularly excellent — and very personal — posts by William Birch over at his new blog, the further. William Birch has been blogging for a long time about classical Arminian theology. But, at his new blog he is addressing issues related to Christian sexual ethics. And, he has reason to: he is himself a same-gender attracted person. He writes:
Often, Christian sexual ethics is at variance with the given surrounding culture. My goal is to challenge the Church to treat the LGBTQ community with dignity, honor, and respect; yet to do so and not compromise their varied, respective, biblical beliefs.
It is especially difficult to write about these issues in the church. So much of the church is caught up in the American Culture War, that it is often hard to hear what some people are actually saying. (more…)
Over at the Seedbed site, there is a great article by Dr. Fred Sanders, a systematic theologian and author who teaches at Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University entitled John Wesley on Experiencing the Trinity. Sanders writes:
What John Wesley thought about the Trinity was wonderfully predictable. By that I mean that anyone familiar with the way Wesley’s mind worked can readily predict the character of his trinitarianism. Since his overall cast of thought was to be aligned with classic Christian doctrine, centered on the gospel, and intensely interested in spiritual experience and spiritual progress, his trinitarianism likewise exhibits these traits.
Check it out.
Both Allan R. Bevere and Scot McKnight have posted Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail on their blogs. It is always worth re-reading on the day that commemorates the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr. His words were prophetic and speak loudly to the church of today — and its leadership.
In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the Church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the Church; I love her sacred walls. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson, and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the Church was very powerful. It was during that period when the early Christians rejoiced when they were deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the Church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. (more…)