Archive for the 'Humor' Category

Jesus Freak vs. Jesus Freak

So Sara Miles‘ second ‘faith-y’ book, Jesus Freak, hits the shelves (and digital devices) soon…she and the folks at Jossey-Bass have released a video of Sara sharing some of her passion behind the book:

When watching this on YouTube, a second video is displayed – from the uber-popular 1990s evangelical rap group (yes its true) dc Talk. (The d.d.? Stands for ‘Decent Christian’ if ya didn’t know) This is from their multiplatinum-selling 1995 album by the same name:

So in light of these videos, which ‘Jesus Freak’ would win in a fair (and nonviolent of course) fight? Sara Miles or dc Talk? Look for my review of Jesus Freak (the book, not the album) coming soon.

BONUS trivia: An etymology of the term ‘Jesus freak.’

Why We Need Government-Run Universal Socialized Health Insurance

The best under-five-minute argument for ‘socialized medicine’ I’ve yet encountered.

Urban Justice & Youth Ministry: Alexie Torres Fleming

Get the HD quality video & show notes here.

PS: Do you Twitter? Let’s follow each other! I’m @zoecarnate has launched


More to come at

Weird Oscars Dream last night we had a fun low-key Oscars party – thanks to Hugh, Renee, and everyone who came out! We were happy that Slumdog Millionaire just about swept the Oscars – it’s a great film about inner-city India, despair & hope if you haven’t seen it. (For a much more erudite take, listen to Jet Loe & Gareth Higgins’ The Film Talk podcast – their show in general is really a must-listen if you haven’t heard yet) I don’t pay any attention to when most films are released (for some reason, I can tell you about a ton of 1999 releases, but that’s about it) and know next-to-nothing about how the Oscars process works, so can somebody tell me if City of God would’ve been eligible this year? Ah yes, that’d be 2002. I’m disappointed it wasn’t in the running – (was it in 2002?) it’s Slumdog-esque, but decidely more depressing (though still hopeful at the end). I’ve probably answered my own question as to why it didn’t place.

Anyway, for some reason, I had the strangest dream last night following the Oscars. My wife Jasmin & I were actually there, as well as our little girl Jubilee. was a minister there too, from my past – though instead of having wiry white hair, he’d died it jet black and hat it nearly shaved. His mustache was dark too – made him look decades younger. After the awards were over, Jasmin & I got separated – I was in the car waiting for Jasmin, then I realized she wasn’t coming so I parked it and looked around. Adjacent to where the awards were was this huge coliseum-like structure, made of clay or grey concrete or something. I went inside looking for Jasmin, and it was some kind of coercive cult disguised as a radical labor movement. Most of the crowd – and there were tens of thousands – were working class people, blue-collar on “up.” From the center of the coliseum the speaker was talking about workers’ rights and organized labor and dignity, but there were blue-uniformed policemen at all the doors, preventing people from leaving. But then it got more bizarre; there were lots of kids in the crowd too, and they were encouraging the kids to make ‘scary’ sounds; I think training them for whatever they might be doing once let out of the structure. While most of the people there were ‘ordinary’ workers, there were Hollywood types in the crowd too (just being the Oscars and all). Jack Black was there, sitting in one of these stone-hewn rows, with lots of kids surrounding him – he seemed to be leading some of the scary-sound-making. still couldn’t find Jasmin, but I had Jubilee with me; I wanted to find an escape route, and I’d also left some stuff at the Oscars nearby apparently. so I went up to an exit and asked to leave. “Why should we let you leave?” the security officer asked. “Because I left some stuff out there…look, I’ll back: You see this baby? Her mom’s still in here. You don’t think I’d leave & try to raise her by myself, do you?” This seemed thoroughly convincing to the officer, and he let me go. When I got outside, Brittian Bullock was also there – he had apparently witnessed the bizarre goings-on inside and got out too. We were trying to figure out how to leave the whole complex – and grab my things – when Hugh Grant joined us. He seemed to be in the same boat as we were, disheveled and frazzled by the indoctrination/brainwashing going on inside. He urged us to go back in so we could find Jasmin. Once we got back inside, the ringleader – I think his name was Richard (Gere perhaps? Or Simmons?) – was recounting how this group got its start a decade ago as a role-playing game that went awry; what began with a board and dice and some nerds never actually ended, and it grew into this. Then Richard said that the founding member was Hugh Grant. We looked at him, stunned. He gave a guilty shrug – “I’m afraid it’s true, boys.”

And then I woke up.

Dear Facebook: Please Lift 5,000 Friend Limit (A Modest Proposal)

Well it happened today: A. Jason Jones added me, and became Facebook friend number 4800. I have 200 friends to go before Facebook caps me out. In case you didn’t know, Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit. Their reasoning is that, unlike Myspace, they want to limit your contacts to actual friends, and curtail commercial abuses and that sort of thing. I get that. And yet, it feels a bit paternalistic that they get to decide who consenting adults add or accept as ‘friends.’ It’s true, I accept & request people on the basis of shared affinity – people interested in comic books, futures studies, house church & emerging church, fellow authors, et cetera, et cetera…not just my high school & college buddies, co-workers, and flesh-and-blood friends. But so what? I enjoy my e-quaintences, and to some degree they must enjoy me too, or else I’d be pruned from their lists by now. Sometimes I meet a Facebook acquaintances who’s in town over coffee, and we become friends of the more flesh-and-blood sort. Sometimes powerful business partnerships result, or new activist initiatives. Or conferences or meetups or…

Continue reading ‘Dear Facebook: Please Lift 5,000 Friend Limit (A Modest Proposal)’

Machine-Text Epistles

Like many others in our narcissistic and tech-savvy generation, I have a coupla Google Alerts out, for my name and ‘zoecarnate.’ Lately I’ve been getting mentioned & confused alot (spelling-wise if in no other way) with CIA Intelligence Director Mike Morell (whom I congratulated for his promotion here). the other day I was alerted to one of these content-void search-engine referrer-created non-blogs, a translated machine-text generated ‘article’ that quoted ‘me.’ The fascinating thing is some fragments of it sound like something I would have said, indeed something I think I did say concerning a House 2 House house church conference a few years ago. But whatever I might have said seems to have been translated into Italian (?) and then back to English again. The results are quite nonsensical and at times hilarious, so much so that I wish to memorialize it here long after this ‘Italian-Blogs’ is scrubbed clean off the blogosphere. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you for your reading enjoyment, a robot-composed machine-text epistle…


There’s gonna be. .. an Expansion?

In Sept of ‘68, a Beatles released a aria entitled “Revolution. ” A prototypal poetise goes aforementioned this:

“You underline you misery a branch
Great, you bear
You each misery to change a universe.
You determine me which it’s phylogenesis
Great, you bear
You each misery to change a world
Though when you debate many end
Do not you bear which you crapper work out me find
Do not you bear it’s gonna be each right”

As a aria implies, aforementioned a remodeling of a home, infrequently a disdainful artefact anything crapper explain to a incoming shitting is for end of a comparison burden to start.
sufferer Barna (Barna Research Organisation) is a creditable writer, orator, scientist as great as sociologist. He has a baby assembly find which you frequency suggest. It’s patrician “REVOLUTION. ” It’s many a underway land of a Church as great as is unexploded with eye-opening, rattling sobering census data many what’s business scold low a noses, blissful as great as bad.

In my automobile, as you ofttimes shitting hundreds of miles official in my occupy as a Workplace Chaplain, you strike been notice to Mr. Barna’s CD transcription of himself datum excerpts from his book. you detect I’ve listened during tiny twenty times, belike some-more. you detect a assembly was misnamed. It should not strike been “Revolution. ” Instead, you detect a impending examine should strike been “EVOLUTION. ” you aforementioned a dictionary clarification of a word which reads: “. .. a stroke of cgange in a unfailing citation. ” To whatever Christians, to disgust conflicting a determined, grave make up of tralatitious investiture smacks of a rebel suggestion. Christians – generally investiture consolidate – notwithstanding their retain margin differences from examine to examine – do not revalue which. Upon a combined palm, whatever Christians, a tiny arrange of organization aforementioned myself, strike undisguised a distraction of tipping unnameable cow( it’s where we’ll confront a prizewinning cuts of beef radically).

Why do you inspire a examine “EVOLUTION” to “Revolution”? Since a Church IS in a land of expansion, now undergoing whatever of a many hammy changes it’s ever undergone in a 2, 000 assemblage story, each crossways narrow-minded lines. It’s dynamical as great as a citation, during tiny from Heaven’s viewpoint, is certain. Savior wants His Church behind. It appears God is radically tasteful Her retrograde to conservativist number each over a universe. Read what Scripture says many a incipient Church. No buildings, no investiture staff, no profitable priesthood or flat laity. Take a look:

Romans 16:5( “Likewise apply a investiture which is in their house”)

1 Corinthians 16:19 (“The churches in a domain of assembly lamp you greetings. city as great as Priscilla apply you tenderly in a Lord, as great as so does a investiture which meets during their residence. “)

Colossians 4:15 (“Give my greetings to a brothers during Laodicea, as great as to Nympha as great as a investiture in her residence. “)

Philemon poetise 2, ( “. .. to Archippus a male shirker as great as to a investiture which meets in your home. “).

Based upon a official procedure of made during home surveys conducted by his association, a Barna Research Organisation, during a e.g. twenty-five years, Barna undisguised which emotional with congregational churches, changes in lifestyles, as great as cgange a wish to explain fireman to God, strike caused whatever organization to letter baby make up of creation in propinquity with God as great as combined God-seeking people.

In 2000, many of a nation’s fashioned churchlike land took fix up during or accomplished supposed churches. Barna’s examine reveals which. Currently, a land is shitting to various forms of corner churchlike joining. Different, approbation, though by no effectuation have been they brand new. Barna hospital which, in a indication week, 9% of each renter adults suggest in a stress church. An cgange larger balance – 22% – engages in unnameable encounters which determine fix up in a wake up( e. g., with groups of organization vegetable patch they have been during their fix up of stroke or fool around, or in combined indication official contexts). During a Workplace Scripture Studies you lead, whatever attendees confess which they have been not, or crapper not, benefaction an orderly, tralatitious church, possibly since of e.g. constraints, schedules or rescued fake or pull to cgange or grappling rejecting. Even a cyberspace serves as a drift for usual investiture use for some-more than number ordinal of each adults, ordinarily in bike with combined forms of churchlike arrange use. you crapper denote to which as great. People have been flocking to a intrigue for answers as great as you Christians had meliorate be there when they spin knocking. A cults certain are!

Jon Zens, focus of a quarterly announcement, “Searching Together, ” as great as an exponent of Brand new Testament investiture account creation lived-out currently, has celebrated a ontogeny moody of organization from institutionalised churches crossways America. He explains. “After eld of damage in a institutionalised church, they produce to confront Brand new Testament realities. People detect their Bibles as great as spin to sense a Brobdingnagian chasm in in between a Brand new Testament as great as a tralatitious investiture as great as ofttimes they produce after a institutionalised investiture disregards their pleas for shift. “

A Brand new Testament writers referred to a PEOPLE of God as God’s ancient times( 1 Corinthians 3:9, assembly 2:19-22), God’s platform for sacrifices( 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), God’s stress( 1 Timothy 3:15, ethnos 3:6, 10:21, 1 saint 2:17), God’s bag( Ephesians 2:19, assembly 6:10) as great as Christ’s consolidate( Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, assembly 3:6, 5:23, thirty). Though many Christians – cgange ministers – would underline ‘Amen” to which, many a title is often lowercase some-more than solid mouth use.

Did Christians in a Brand new Testament GO to church? No, for a prototypal trio centuries of her life, a intellection never entered their minds. They WERE a Church! They apprehended which they WERE God’s home fix up – everyplace they went. They were His temple! As histrion Snyder writes in “The Problem of Wineskins Currently, ” “A investiture ancient times cannot scold be “the Lord’s house” since, in a baby compact, this examine is apart for a Church as people. So, if investiture buildings strike a little fact, it crapper disdainful be practical; disdainful a fix up to foregather as great as circularize upon approach functions, as required. ”
A Book of assembly is STILL creation created, my friends.

What you in a West typically explain to as “The Church” is tasteful a receptive to advice upon a organization you franchise to apart these organizations. Zens pronounced, “Divorce, self-murder, uneasy relapse, burnout, etc. strike in between priesthood. A naught berth in a Southern Baptistic Convention is low eighteen months. A high-pressure list call strategy strike proven to arrangement “converts” which frequency final. Even with each a falsifiable drift which whatever things have been berserk in a tralatitious indication, a actualised supply is ‘what does a Brand new Testament learn? ‘ If a little assistance contradicts or stifles a Brand new Testament settlement, it should be jettisoned for those reasons alone. A incipient investiture had no priesthood as great as no unnameable buildings, as great as in this affectionateness was in essence various from each combined religions, together with Judaism. A proliferation of pricey investiture buildings constitutes a simple team-work of what Christ witting to set up. Thus, believers convention in bland settings[ in] homes, rented store-fronts, extraneous as great as apartments evidently provides a prizewinning sourroundings for a 58 “one anothers”[ in a Bible] to be fleshed out. “

In his essay entitled “Four Tragic Shifts in a Visible Church, 180-400 A. D., ” Zens writes. ” you detect a approach theological urn of a Brand new Testament in this affectionateness is which low a Brand new Compact there have been no sanctified places. Contemporary investiture has scarcely no confinement of this useful indicate. Taking a opiate from a Old Compact, organization have been palliate allege to detect which a investiture ancient times is ‘the stress of God. ‘ Believers have been released to foregather a little fix up in which they crapper inspire, hope for as great as confront a goals systematic prior to them by Christ. A worry currently is which whatever investiture structures conjunction inspire nor perform Christ’s desires for His physique. Homes have been a viewless fix up for believers to confront, as great as a incipient investiture flourished almost in to a prototypal as great as ordinal centuries though office building a little temple-like edifices. Though a supply is palliate not in what brand of fix up believers accumulate, though what coming their sworn account unitedly takes as they grappling with a whatever duties as great as privileges glass find of a ecclesiastics of each believers. “

Christian Smith, combination in a assembly “Voices In A Wilderness, ” adds, “God intends investiture to be a settle of believers in which each part of contributes their first present, bent, or believe to a total, so which, accomplished a during large standing as great as bid of all, a needs of a settle have been met. In combined difference, what you ought to peril in a churches is ‘the method of a people, ‘ not ‘the method of a veteran. ‘ A persona of a priesthood is radically a formation as great as professionalization of a gifts of a full consolidate in to number chairman. A worry is which, except of what a theologies determine us many a watch of priesthood, a actualised crux of a priesthood confirmation is to achieve a consolidate of Christ sore. This happens not since priesthood explain it( they ordinarily explain a conflicting) though since a neutral inlet of a confirmation needs turns a mass in to flat receivers. “

Simply put, a Physique of Christ is a knowledge mammal, NOT an classification.

Passive laity? Pew potatoes? Their creation is borne find in many passages as assembly 12:4-8, 1 Corinthians twelve, as great as in 1 Corinthians 14:26, a latter stating: “What afterwards shall you contend, brothers? When you spin together, everybody has a strain, or a word of direction, a explanation, a ness or an understand. All of these staleness be accomplished for a refreshing of a church. “

Ministry in a Brand new Testament investiture was not centralised upon number particular, though participating each part of of a “ekklesia”( that’s you as great as me, “the patrician find ones”) as a organic “priest”( 1 saint 2: 5, 9) low a headship of Christ as great as destined by a Holy Suggestion bid his/her birthright for a usual refreshing of a physique.

The Brand new Testament refers to no unnameable hierarchy, though calls each Believers ’saints. ‘ Conjunction does it mind a first ecclesiastics in secernment from a people, as mediating in in between God as great as a laity. Clearly, there is disdainful number high-Priest, Savior Christ, as great as a Brand new Testament understandably designates a device for holding pages ram ecclesiastics, as almost as device for holding pages a crown of believers( 1 saint 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6).

So, what have been you afeard of? Many Christians suggest some-more find of tension as great as a stress of faithfulness to use than a loyalty to Biblical reality as they poo-poo a little many notions as creation scarcely heretical. Throughout Church story, any one who bucked a organization has been severely persecuted, ostracized, excommunicated, executed or shunned in number cgange or an additional. A Savior Transformation of a Brand new 60s – incipient 70s comes to nous as number many past punctuation where God was attempting to pollute a conservativist over approval. A little some-more past “moves” concede a Toronto Blessing as great as capital as great as stream City Revivals. A criticisms of these events have been armed forces for they have been many. From a Great Awakenings mud currently, aforementioned a round of clay creation embattled for feast by a Master Potter, America’s “legacy churches” strike ever been battered, spread out, kneaded as great as spun regularly as God challenged her to explain upon elect with what He’s you do.

There has NEVER been a revisit suggest of God as a cereal grows up scold along with a tares. When residence painter overturned his handgun in to a lizard, a Afrasian magicians were brisk to of doubtful authenticity God’s spectacle. Though hour of us have been patrician to hasten find a Flesh-O-Meter as great as watch what was of God as great as what was quite of a strength or of a demon. If you do which, you staleness plead which intonation upon ourselves in revisit to decider when it is which you, as well, strength be priesthood, singing, bringing or tithing utterly from a erotic viewpoint. A disdainful supposed of Truth? A Doctrine of Savior Christ, His teachings as great as nothing some-more or reduction.

Anything combined is certain to decay any way.

So, when did a e.g. Church pierce to cgange in to what you peril currently in a Hesperian universe? It happened in 312 AD when a sovereign capital was dubbed Pontifex Maximus, nous of each things devout, together with conviction as great as investiture concurrently. When he prefabricated institutionalised investiture a land thought in Rome, he renovate heathen temples in to investiture “churches” as great as utilized land resources to reason a priesthood creation method combined comparison “job” to which whatever would make an bid. In this ambiance, warning reared a unusual nous in a presumably investiture sourroundings as rich organization would daub to explain “junior” a fascinating fix up in a investiture universe.

Howard Snyder, in his assembly “Radical Renewal: A Problem of Wineskins Currently, ” writes, “A Biblical thought of a investiture procedure achieve it nation which a investiture is approach to a Gospel, for it is a consolidate of Christ. .. During a aforementioned time, it procedure be nation which humanoid institutions as great as structures have been not themselves a church; they have been not sacred. These have been account when Christians staleness be nation many what a investiture is as great as what it is not. Just as whatever unnatural Christs procedure spin in a depot days, so whatever of doubtful authenticity as great as traitor “churches” procedure make a difference a unnameable landscape. A investiture staleness be rebuilt, both as persons as great as as a investiture village, for a hair of harm as great as a lure of a antichrist. This effectuation a claim for devout distinctness as great as reliable settle – for both habit of thought as great as habit of village. Under a risk of harm, account in settle becomes both some-more strenuous as great as some-more necessary. Thus a priorities of structures which have been stretchable, mobile, rare, as great as not building-centered. “

What you have been so sworn to here in a Western Church is disdainful not operative. Which should be a prototypal idea. Any one crapper underline a contribution per a church: Many new conversions have been tasteful fix up in third-world nations. A churches nearby during a weigh of 3, 800 annually. Eighty proportionality of what you explain to as “church growth” is lowercase some-more than “transfer growth” as organization produce number methodicalness for combined aforementioned you cgange semipolitical parties, sports teams as great as spouses. 53, 000 Christians have been transport find weekly, whatever claiming they had to produce a tralatitious investiture in revisit to confront God.

Is this “house Church” epitome confront a breakthrough? No, it’s been around a daylong time. A useful bag investiture shitting began in state in 1968. For decades, bag meetings strike been a statistic in China, renter USA as great as combined places. If harm erupted in America, a stress investiture assistance could passed be rattling usual, as churches which sequence Brobdingnagian weekly value to carry out could tighten probably overnight. It procedure determine a damaging business to animate a investiture to what is necessary in a Kingdom. A Church flourishes low harm. When which happens, a coming of believers’ lives unitedly procedure cgange fast. Zens writes, “As daylong as a wealthiness continues, a bland pierce to investiture procedure sojourn. Though either something is eld or eld is wanting a emanate.
A stress staleness be, ‘how procedure you examine Christ in each areas of a lives? Have been you attainment to conform a Brand new Testament or not? One hermit in a entertainment has pronounced, ‘our artefact of you do investiture is not renouned. It requires hornlike stroke as great as joining. ‘ A bag investiture transformation, of march, is not monolithic, ” Zens spinous out. “. .. no shitting procedure spin daylong if it does not structure upon moving Savior Christ as great as obeying His Word. “

Mike Morrell, zoecarnate. com, writes, “What we’re witnessing is nothing defective than a communicate of a 1st Century investiture in a 21st century context. We’re rediscovering a specific egghead of Savior as great as His early apprentices new currently. ” Although it goes by whatever defamation ( e. g. stress church, contingent church, unstoppered church, nonsynthetic church, etc .), it is disdainful a arrange of organization bid unitedly with Christ as their core, as great as a Scripture as a contingent management. These groups crapper foregather anywhere–homes, workplaces, splash shops, anywhere which organization march gather!

“Where number or trio have been strong in My name, there you am, in a interior of them, ” Savior pronounced.

I bear number thing, God’s palliate has a organization for great, Savior is noble as great as, confront as a Beatles “Revolution” songs says “. .. it’s gonna be each right. “

A servant of God
t. e. a. m. ministries
A Method of Discipleship & Encouragement
to a Physique of Christ crossways Universe Earth
P. O. Box 633
Stephenville, Texas 76401
Your Town For Jesus!

Philemon 2. .. as great as to a investiture which meets in your house:
book 4. .. as great as a investiture in her residence.
assembly sixteen. .. additionally a investiture which meets during their residence.


Michael’s choice is to change Discipleship as great as Encouragement to a Physique of Christ. Since 1999, he has programme over sextet principal inspirational articles as great as a dozen booklets upon subjects which procedure gratification a intellection Christian, each fashioned to validate a stroke of unnameable function in God’s people.

He is a begetter of t. e. a. m. ministries( team1min@aol. com). An Writer, Pastoral Counselor as great as Teacher, his eMail broadcasts, important as “Your Town for Jesus” have been feat jillions around a globe WEEKLY. Write team1min@aol. com if you’d aforementioned to SUBSCRIBE.

A licensed/ordained apportion, a Certified Workplace Chaplain, as great as a Veteran Part of of NIBIC, he has ministered in Methodist, Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist, Disciples of Christ, College as great as Cowboy churches. He is additionally a Orator upon a investiture Orator Network as great as haw be acquirable to intercommunicate to your investiture or investiture organisation.

This Just Seems Wrong…

An email I was sent today:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: <>
Date: Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 7:21 AM
Subject: You have received an invitation to join


You have been invited to by ******* to join is an exclusive community of affluent people dedicated to making life better for both themselves and others.

As a member of you will have the ability to find and interact with other affluent people from around the world, evaluate and contribute to your favorite charities, and gain access to exclusive lifestyle guides to luxury living, travel and the latest trends. Within this elite community you will be provided with access to a dedicated Affluence Concierge, receive priority access to the world’s most exclusive premieres, nightclubs, parties, hotels, events and much more.

To accept the invitation to our exclusive network, please follow the link below.

Best Regards,

This message was sent by Affluence Corporation, 334 East Lake Road Suite 258 Palm Harbor, FL 34685. Please email to be removed from future mailings.

I see that they mean well (on some level), but it unsettles me in the same way as that Secret Millionaire reality show coming from the UK to the US via Fox. You tell me: Can we move beyond the mental models of patronage and recipients, charity and charitized?

Of course, maybe I’m bristling at the concept since I’m plainly not in the intended social networking demagraphic. : )

Nonetheless, if you’re reading this blog, chances are you have more than you think. Hopefully we’ll continue to find ways to put our heads and hearts together to make something of our collective situation.

Make Affluence History

NT Wright & Cookie Monster Square Off on Colbert

So here’s the NT Wright clip from the Colbert report for some reason, Comedy Central and/or WordPress won’t let me embed the clip; it’s not as easy as YouTube, folks; any techies out there wanna give me the cut-and-paste-secret, leave me a comment.

…I’d recommend watching the whole episode here – it’s best to take Wright in context, as he shares this episode with none other than Cookie Monster. Colbert is funny as always, though you can tell he appreciates Wright, he’s a bit ‘softball’ – the good Bishop Tom, for his part, is affable and even occasionally funny, but its easy to see the inherent limitations of satirical TV as a medium for discussing ‘serious’ theology. Nonetheless an intriguing entree into a vital area of Christian spirituality – what is the nature of resurrection? Of New Heavens and Earth? Parousia and eschatology? While I differ with Wright in some key areas, I credit him more than anyone else living for bringing this conversation to the forefront of popular consciousness today. One could hardly hope for a better conversation partner. You go, NT!

Crowder & Morrell Final: Sweet Mystical Communion

GodkaSo this is John Crowder and I’s final dialogue, for now at least. It’s here where we talk something near and dear to our hearts. It’s precisely here where I fear we’re going to alienate many of you dear readers. Why? Because if there’s one thing that most middle-of-the-road Christian moderates distrust more than ‘extreme’ charismatic experiences, it’s mysticism – Christian or otherwise. The word ‘mystic’ is heavily freighted for many people, synonymous with ‘heretical,’ ‘apostate,’ ‘unbiblical,’ etc.. To add insult to injury, John & I don’t spend even a second justifying our use of the term, or indeed explaining any of the terms, dates, movements, and spiritualities we discuss – it’s a kind of conversational machine-gun fire. This isn’t intentional; it’s simply an exchange where we hit the ground running, sharing the mystical lingua franca between us. I apologize in advance for this – ’cause there simply wouldn’t be space in this post if we backed up and defined everything…it’s a blog entry, not a dissertation! For this reason, I’ve tried to link to anything that might be unfamiliar territory – thank God for Wikipedia!

Mike: Thanks so much for your time here this past week, John. You’ve given me and my blog-readers much to digest. My final questions have to do with developmental-transformational growth in God – what Protestants typically call sanctification, what Catholic mystics call union with God, and what East Orthodox call theosis or divinization. Wesleyan and holiness preachers – who laid the seed-bed for Pentecostal theology and praxis – advocated what they called a ‘second work’ of ‘entire sanctification,’ known variously in those days as ‘Spirit baptism’ or ‘fire baptism.’ The charismatic and ‘third wave’ movements, as best as I can tell, hold onto a ‘Spirit baptism’ point but stress the continuing in-filling of Holy Spirit, moving from ‘glory to glory’ as it were in increasing supernatural experiences. I guess my first question for you here on this, our final post (for now!), is where do you see this present move of the Spirit you’re involved in going? Where is it heading?

John: I see full-blown transformation of every human paradigm of reality itself. A generation completely raptured in the overwhelming love of God. I don’t care about pioneering new theology, cultural movements or witty new ways of delivering the gospel. I want to love and to experience the love of God more. I think this is the corporate goal of the Holy Spirit. This is true mysticism.

Mike: The great mystical/contemplative writers of ages past talked in great detail about manifestations of the Spirit (they usually called them ‘consolations’), but they had a complex relationship with them: The mystics usually discouraged dwelling too much on the consolations, or trying to keep them coming. To give you a contemporary example, Contemplative Outreach cofounder Thomas Keating says:

“At this crucial period in one’s spiritual development, it is important to realize the sharp distinction between charismatic gifts such as tongues, prophecy, healing, etc., and the Seven Gifts of the Spirit. According to Paul, the charismatic gifts (with the exception of tongues) are designed for the building up of the local community. They do not necessarily indicate that those who possess them are either holy or becoming holy through their exercise. If one is attached to them, they are an obstacle to genuine spiritual growth. For those who have received one or more of these gifts, this is clearly part of God’s plan for their sanctification and a cause for gratitude. But they must learn to exercise these gifts with detachment and not take pride in themselves because they happen to be the recipients of a special grace. Generally God provides sufficient external trials to take care of this human tendency. Prophets, healers, and administrators can greatly benefit from opposition, because it tends to free them from the fascination of their gifts and to keep them humble.

Paul himself emphasizes the distinction between charismatic gifts that are given to build up the body of Christ and the substantial gift of divine love. According to him, one possessing the charismatic gifts is still nothing unless one also possesses divine love (see I Cor. 13:1-3). Hence, the basic thrust of charismatic prayer and the exercise of the charismatic gifts should be ordered to the growth of faith, hope, and charity. To remain faithful to the clear invitation to divine union extended by God through the grace of baptism of the Spirit, one must not be diverted by secondary manifestations of spiritual development. Moreover, there is need for discernment with even the most genuine charismatic gifts. It is the duty of the community…to discern these gifts and to determine whether they spring from grace or from the natural energies of the unconscious. Those who possess them should willingly submit to this discernment for the good of the community Otherwise, the exercise of the gifts may be destructive of the common good rather than a means of building up the body of Christ.

Along with the charismatic gifts, which may be given to anyone without a corresponding level of personal spiritual development, so-called “mystical” phenomena, such as clairvoyance, locutions, visions, levitation, trance states, and many others, may accompany spiritual development as one accesses the divine emerging from the ontological unconscious. These also are of little significance compared to the graces of interior transformation set in motion by the Seven Gifts of the Spirit. The unusual and sometimes showy character of “mystical” phenomena makes them a hazard for immature mystics. It is difficult for even advanced persons to avoid taking a certain self-satisfaction in them.

The Charismatic Renewal needs spiritual guides who are thoroughly qualified through knowledge and personal experience of contemplative prayer to distinguish what is essential from what is accidental in the spiritual path. They should be able to recognize when someone is being called by God to interior silence and solitude and when someone is being called out of solitude into some particular ministry or service. People must be encouraged to follow the attraction to interior silence in prayer even if this means not attending prayer meetings for a time. This is especially necessary if, because of the duties of one’s state in life, one cannot attend prayer meetings and still have time to practice contemplative prayer. Periods of silence in the liturgy and during prayer meetings are essential for groups whose members are growing in prayer. To allow one another space in which to develop the contemplative dimension of the gospel is an integral part of commitment to a Christian community.” [Full piece here.]

It’s clear from your book The New Mystics that you value the Christian mystics. What do you make of their contemplative caution of the charisms?

John: We must remember also in scripture that Paul tells us to “lust” after the gifts. How can we do this, unless certain gifts and manifestations should be considered “extensions” of Christ in some way, rather than competitors for His affections? We think of these things in too linear a fashion, through a veil of modernistic hierarchy and competition. We’ve all heard this type of wet blanket statement: seek God’s face & not His hand. It’s been used to keep us from chasing miracles, manifestations, etc. The phrase sounds noble and holy, but it is very unscriptural. We need ALL of God: hands, feet, fingernails and even His serotonin gland. Otherwise we’re screwed. I love my wife’s face, but I’m also very thankful that she has hands as well. They are quite helpful. We’ve been told not to seek manifestations, but the apostles did so in Acts 4 (“Lord, stretch forth your hand to heal the sick and work wonders,” etc.). Cessationists tell us not to seek after signs and miracles, but the apostles did so, for a greater end, that God would be glorified.

Mike: So is there any line to be drawn between seeking the things of God and simply seeking God?

John: Is there some sort of subjective rubber ruler here? Or is it possible that we are splitting hairs that weren’t meant to be split? Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God’s Glory. 1 John 4:9 says, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” If Jesus is a “manifestation” of God’s love, a “consolation” if you will, could one make the argument that all Christians are called to worship a manifestation of the unseen God, which happens to be God Himself?

The perceived need to clinically separate God from the experience itself is a two-dimensional, linear way of thinking. Since biblical times, trances have been marked by visions and spiritual encounters, as well as frenzied physical manifestations and miracles. The lines between everyday lifestyle and divine encounter are going to be blurred in these days. Manifestations, ecstasies, consolations – these are not just a form of prayer, but a comprehensive way of living. Dwelling in unbroken pleasure. Letting our days become a fragrant song where Heaven and Earth continually collide. We will not be counting beans and trying to figure out if we are enjoying the worship service too much. We will be overwhelmed. We must worship God to excess in body, soul and spirit. With ALL of our mind, heart, soul and strength.

Mike: I agree with you in principle, but…those YouTube videos of you and your friends still seem pretty weird!

PhysMysJohn: While ecstatic experience is biblically orthodox, it is far from tame or ordinary in its practical application. Ecstatics have always produced the most bizarre physical manifestations: falling over, fainting, shaking, trembling, uncontrollable laughter, running, shouting and convulsing. Not to mention the signs, wonders and miraculous phenomena. Such strange outward behavior has marked the lives of many great saints and prophets, past and present. And these wild ecstatic contortions have been evident in every great revival – at the birth of every mainstream denominational movement in church history. The inward working of God’s goodness tends to produce an uncontrollable wildfire when He takes the helm of clinical, religious sobriety – when He turns our water into wine.

Mike: I’ll drink to that!

John: God’s sheer goodness is so great that it is uncontainable. Maybe the “self control” God desires is for us to control the old dead, dry, boring, sober self – so that we can demonstrate His true happiness. This goes far deeper than a surface manifestation of laughter, shaking or bodily demonstration.

Mike: Do you think some of the worshippers at your meetings are faking it?

John: Are some manifestations feigned? Of course. In churches that are experiencing renewal, I often see people “fake” their joy in order to look spiritual – as if their laughter is a supernatural manifestation when it is not. This usually comes out of insecurity, as people seek to find their identity behind a particular manifestation. Of course, there is no need to over-analyze every laugh, twitch, crunch or yelp. We need to keep it real, but who am I to intervene into their communion with the Lord? Besides, I see people faking smiles and laughter in many mainline churches as well.

Mike: Ouch! But what about the peer pressure to conform to what your neighbors are doing – y’know, to look more spiritual?

John: There is no need to recreate a past experience, fake a manifestation or feign your happiness. But I don’t think this is a grievous sin that is going to ruin us all. Ultimately, God wants to give true joy that is thorough and lasting. Manifestations are valid, and I am a proponent for daily encounter. But truly encountering God should cause you to be changed. Don’t tell me you’ve seen an angel, but you still look like hell! When God really shows up, you are not just twitching to look spiritual in front of your friends. You are undone. One cannot stir up the soul with emotion, in order to gain a spiritual experience. But the crazy thing about the gospel is this: you are already having a spiritual experience! Whether you feel it or not, you are already united with Christ and seated with Him in heavenly places. As these spiritual realities impact your soul, there is no limit to the excess of emotions that are ignited.

Mike: So much of what you’re saying here an “old mystic” or contemplative could agree to. The main difference, I think, is that they’d say some of the most flamboyant emotional displays would last a season ‘till they were purged, leaving a more whole and balanced person in their aftermath. But you seem to see this as an ongoing, normative stage of theosis.

John: Physical manifestations of ecstasy have been termed “fits”, “enthusiasms”, “the jerks”, “convulsions” and many other names in various revivals. But the similar thread of losing control to the Spirit of God has always been present.

It is humorous to consider the writings of great 18th and 19th century revivalists and missionaries of the past, when they spoke of gathering together to be “refreshed” in the Holy Spirit. Ever wonder what that looked like? We’ve stereotyped so many of our forerunners as stiff-necked, starch-collared holy rollers. But many of them were complete Holy Ghost drunks. Ecstatic trances and manifestations of spiritual intoxication did not end with the days of Samuel, David and Elijah.

Mike: Humor some of my more skeptical readers. When has this happened with the safe reivivals? Y’know, the ones far enough away from us in the present that they’re okay to talk about, even among cessationist types?

John: The First Great Awakening is a classic example. In Jonathan Edwards’ meetings, people swooned and fell over and entered trances under the weighty hand of God.

Mike: Fire-baptized Calvinists? Get out of town!

John: Describing the revival of 1740-1742, Edwards notes, “It was a very frequent thing to see a house full of outcries, faintings, convulsions, and such like, both with distress, and also with admiration and joy.” Remember, this guy is the founder of Princeton University. And the early Methodist meetings were deemed to be “more like a drunken rabble than the worshipers of God.”

Mike: Well then, it must have been that pernicious Arminian Methodist influence. : )

John: One of Edwards’ present-day disciples, John Piper, is known for his theology of Christian Hedonism. He purports that our enjoyment of God is the very essence of true worship. Are we to draw a line between our enjoyment of God and God Himself?

Mike: I can hear my Calvinist friends’ jaws hitting the floor that you’re invoking Edwards and even Piper in service of your genre of divine enjoyment. If you’re game, I will personally accompany you to Bethlehem Baptist in Minneapolis to interrupt one of Mr. Piper’s sermons with blowback from a Holy Spirit Spliff. We’ll pray and see what happens to the Christian Hedonist himself. PiperCrazy

John: Consider this view: rather than pitting the manifestation against God (i.e. worship God vs. worship the experience), we must see the experiences as means of worshipping God, to which there is no limit. For in the experience, I am partaking in the pleasure of God – the very thing I was created for – to be interdependent upon Him, enjoying Him forever.

I will make another analogy: as a married man, I am not continually comparing the love I have for my wife to the love I have for God. My wife will never be an idol who threatens to steal my devotion to the Lord. This is because I understand that in loving my wife, this is somehow a mystical extension of my love for Christ. By caring for her, I am worshiping Him. In the same way, when I give a cold cup of water to the poorest of poor, I am also doing this to Christ. I am not worshiping the beggar, but I am worshiping Christ through the beggar. It is foolish to draw lines of competition between God and experience that were never intended to be dissected in such fashion.

Let me also say that manifestations can be quite “extreme” if not outright fanatical, yet still be divine in origin. The radical nature of the manifestation is not in itself a determining factor of its source. I have considered myself nearly on the brink of insanity at times when God swept over me for hours of uncontrollable drunken behavior, yet the corresponding fruit was altogether tremendous, miraculous and life changing. I am always filled with joy and expectancy in these encounters.

Mike: I am all for diversity in the ways we love, enjoy, and worship God. Like I said when we were discussing charis-missional last post, I think that one of the ways we can love God is by loving others. I have no problem adding ecstatic worship and divine manifestations to the mix. But back to the mystics: They argue for a kind of divine detachment, from both people and manifestations. They encourage Christians to hold people, manifestations and all things subordinate to the indwelling Trinity and our deepening communion with God. People never go away, of course – but manifestations are seen as a transitory stage leading to greater (even if more subtle) intimacy with God.

John: Is it possible that this type of activity (manifestations/consolations) is a valid form of dwelling on the Trinity? That in allowing God to sing through us – body, soul and spirit – in all this craziness, we are somehow practicing His presence? Forget the loud and crazy orthopraxy for a moment, in all its various forms – is God’s tangible presence apparent in the midst of it all, and if so, how would you know? Do some propose to conjecture, who have never actually tasted? I believe that the more we taste and practice His presence, the more we individuate from the consensus orthodoxy of society, and grow into what Kierkegaard called the true “religious” sphere of life (religious meaning truly “spiritual”). We stop swimming with the pack, and we start to make waves.

Mike: God’s tangible presence, tasting God for oneself, individuating from consensus orthodoxy to actualized religious life…I like it! I’ll buy it. But I have to keep going back to these pesky mystics, whom we both love. They usually warn folks not to get ‘stuck’ at the level of manifestation but press on to the level of fully recognized Union.

John: But did they always practice what they preached? Teresa of Avila was continuously in ecstasies with documented eye-witness accounts of her levitating in mid-ecstasy, along with her own numerous admissions of this stuff (read her Life ch. 18 and onward). She sure impacted mystical theology, and didn’t seem to ever tone it down. Joseph of Cupertino was whacked all the time, and often struck mute. Catherine of Sienna and Catherine Emmerich literally spent years of their life in ecstatic states, with wild manifestations happening continually. Your readers wouldn’t believe some of the supernatural things that happened to them. This happened not because they focused on manifestations, but because they contemplated Christ.

Teresa, a doctor of the church, also acknowledged that all the levels of manifestation overlapped (recollection, union, ecstasy, prayer of quiet, etc.), but she also stated that full-blown ecstasy, the highest level of mystical prayer, is actually where all these manifestations were \the craziest (ligature, inability to move, drunken stupor, levitations, etc.) She said that this was a level wherein the will almost ceased to function entirely because of the heavy pleasure of her inward raptures. I freely surrender my free will to the pleasures of Christ!

Others like John of the Cross and some of the darker mystics were absolutely depressed, so you have to take what they say about this with a big fat grain of salt. Anything that smacked of enjoyment was on the naughty list for them. You may note that we have coined a term “the new mystics” because we can now filter their theology through 500 years of rich, post-reformation grace theology. I am not into the morbid self-mortifications and false humility that many of the older mystics espoused, because it simply contradicts the finished works of the gospel of Jesus Christ – the good news that only God can save us, and that He did so with one fantastic checkmate of love on the cross. If you want a dark night of the soul for the romance of it, then go for it. You’re not going to earn any extra points with God. Depression is not a fruit of the Spirit, but joy is. I choose the free gift of grace.

Mike: I think the ‘dark night’ might be a bit more complex than that. Since neither of us are even close to 40, I’ll refrain from commenting for at least a decade. But I agree that the Reformation had valuable contributions to Christian spirituality. Grace informs mysticism by making it less a striving to attain union with God, and more a letting go to consciously awaken to the union that was always there.

John: Yes, the mystics all had their seven-step programs of spiritual advancement. Call me a Calvinist [There he goes again! – ed.] (you’ll only find a few charismatic ones), but I’m of the opinion that there is a one-step program called conversion. I believe that grace has to be drunk straight. No additives. What if God wanted to blow the whole “stages” and “levels” and “Christian growth curve” theology right out of the water, and somehow made us all pure and holy and perfect and obtaining all of Heaven’s goodies through one simple event: the spilling of Christ’s blood? What if just maybe, this whole religious mortification issue was put to death in one fell swoop, when we died together with Christ (Rom. 6, Gal. 2:20)? That would mean the craziest non-stop Holy Ghost party has just begun, and we’re all invited!

Many theologies have been built around an idea that manifestations are the lowest rung on the spirituality ladder. I just don’t see any scriptural support for it. Why would God take me from a fun experience to a boring one? I think this Christian journey is about getting progressively better, “from Glory to Glory.” You can try to mortify the soul, but it will never happen. Your best bet is to plug the soul’s desire for pleasure into socket it was created for. The only answer to counteract the pleasures of sin is not to kill yourself. The answer is to find a greater pleasure. He never gives us a lesser covenant in place of a better one. This is the whole “Galatian bewitchment” that Paul addressed. We think that after God gives us a treat, it is then up to us to suffer, work and earn our way through the rest of life. God would not grace us with consolations, just to bait us into a morbid, suffering-centered religion.

Mike: I think one of the blog commentors the other day said, helpfully, that boredom isn’t the ultimately enemy. And I’d beg to differ that silence and stillness is boring and a step down – it can be of course, but it all depends on one’s consent to God’s loving presence with you in the moment. I sit still, I center, I speak quietly in tongues – it’s kind of nice actually. But I digress…

Thank you again for all the time and energy you put into this dialogue. Hopefully we can do it again sometime. Since you’re like the only charismatic-oriented Christians I’m aware of who have a clue as to the mystics and their teachings, I guess I’m asking you what I’d like to ask the charismatic/prophetic movement on the whole: Do you see a day where the average ‘Spirit-filled Christian’ becomes a full contemplative in the classic sense? If not, what do you see?

John: Will everybody get this? I don’t know. This is Christianity 101. It’s just the gospel. The good news that God cracked open Heaven’s wine barrel for us. But for some reason, not everybody is thirsty. They just want to sit around, debate about the menu and scoff at the drunk guy in the corner.

Peace – Oinga Oinga Oinga!

John Crowder

And there you have it, folks. Your thoughts?

Note: If you’re just tuning in, this post is part of a series exploring new-pneumatology and emerging expressions of church. Here are the rest:

(Holy) Ghosts of Revivals Past

Charismatic Chaos or (Holy) Spirited Deconstruction?

What Is the Future of the Prophetic?

Guest Blog – John Crowder Speaks!

Crowder & Morrell Dialogue: What About the Fam? (Or, ‘Sex-Crazed Charismatics?’)

Crowder & Morrell: Kids & Cocaine Jesus?

Crowder & Morrell: Charismissional – What About The Poor?

Check Out This Free Book Club

Abolish Slavery – Join the Movement Today!

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