Posts Tagged 'Theology'

Shane Claiborne @TheOOZEtv

Here’s our very first OOZEtv piece, a ThinkFWD interview between Spencer Burke and Shane Claiborne on Circus Theology. Enjoy!

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

The Future of This Blog: Where ‘Confessions’ Are Going

VulnerabilityHappy Monday! Thus begins my more intensive season of blogging on the fourfold themes of True Confessions, Whole-Health Journey, Book Revue & Freebies, and The Future. Today I want to preview a little bit of where Confessions will be going.

Childhood.

Yep, I plan to begin at the beginning, from my days as a precocious homeschooled geek; my formative years of Baptist and Pentecostal spiritual upbringing and my wonderful-yet-madcap family life. And the beginning of my love affair with comic books.

Teen Years

My transition from being homeschooled to public high school, and my transition from the Assemblies of God to PCA Presbyterianism was a time of identity-searching, metamorphosis, insecurity, childhood bad habits blossoming, my love of polemics, church power plays, and the beginnings of my self-identified sense of being a compiler, peace-maker, and spiritual synthesizer. Oh yes – and the first time my being ‘in love’ isn’t unrequited.

College Years

My immersion into small-town private liberal arts college with all its peculiarities; the discovery, in the same year, of both ‘house church’ and the Internet’s vast potential; the first rays of individuation; college romance (or the lack thereof); and the full genesis of my pathologies.

Early Adulthood

Bookstore retail! Epistemological doubt! Panic attacks! Marriage and madness! And the continuing development of my own, personal Jesus.

Approaching 30

Married with child, quixotic businessman, beautiful and failed attempts at community life, and my continuing descent into insanity. (Sense a theme here..?)

So in general, I plan to sketch my life – at times overviewing, at other times detailing (with Actual Written Artifacts from these different eras), my days – looking at some broad themes of humor, spiritual exuberance, and love; as well as the shadow-side of specific (and at first relatively minor) phobias mutating into full-blown anxiety issues, along with how I’ve dealt with them (or not). Laying myself out there like this – and how my spirituality, theology, and community praxis have transmorgified throughout this process – who no doubt open me up to a lot of criticism from drive-by third-party observers, heresy-hunters, and armchair psychologists. I am prepared for this. On the other hand, I am even more prepared for (and wide open to) the experiences and ideas of the vast majority of my readers, who have proven to be nothing less than kind, generous and surprisingly insightful over the years.

The journey will begin tomorrow, with a very contemporary conversation among three very different friends.

Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ – Truth In Labeling

https://i1.wp.com/www.jorieken.nl/Marypages/JesusPrayer.jpgSo my friend Frank Viola writes this blog post titled ‘My Problem With Mental Filters,’ and before you know it I’ve written nearly a 1,000-word response before I find out the comments are closed. Alas. Fortunately (thanks to Firefox) my comment was not lost in comment-abyss, so now it’s transmorgifyin’ before thine very eyes into its very own blog-post-a-looza!

You should probably read Frank’s original post first. The upshot: “Mental Filters. They are frustrating. We all have them. Yet we’re unconscious of them.  It makes communication between Christians about spiritual things almost impossible.” Then Frank goes into how little folks understand him when he describes the kinds of ‘organic church’ gatherings that he helps cultivate & experience. So here’s my reply…

Quite true – we all have filters, and they can either help or hinder communication. In fact, I think a wise man once wrote an article called ‘Rethinking Our Theological Conversation Styles.’

That said, did Paul (a comment-er, not the Apostle raised up in some kinda seance or something – what, you think Frank has illicit consultation with dead?? Are you crazy??) really miss the point when he suggests that you, too, have filters? Sure, he pastors what looks like a big church & you’re advocating something quite different which you feel is better…but isn’t that the (your) point? Surely you’re not claiming to have ‘un-filtered’ yourself. Though I suppose you might be claiming, by grace & revelation, to be able to at least temporarily transcend human filtration when lifted into the glorious atmosphere of heaven-come-to-earth that is an organic church gathering.

If so, I’m with Joshua Tucker – please, blog (or podcast) what ‘sharing Christ’ might mean devoid of cliches. Now I know you blogging isn’t going to compare to a live, collective experience of the depths and riches of Christ coming out of many people’s mouths – you’re just the blog-meister here and that’s going to be inherently limited. But it might create, as you say, the hunger to move forward into a real, live experience. Otherwise these allusions without example are just gonna get caught in our filters!

This probably wont’ surprise you, but I take slight issue with something you framed at the beginning of this post. You said that when you tell someone about “the glorious, every member, open participatory, Christ-centered meeting that is under the headship of Jesus by the Holy Spirit,” that people think you’re talking about “…a Quaker meeting…a Plymouth Brethren styled gathering…[or]…old-school charismatic “body ministry” meetings in a home…But none of those kinds of meetings are anything like what I’m speaking about. None can compare…”

Do you think that anything like might be hyperbole? I’ve participated in some of these off-this-planet gatherings you speak of, and I’d say they’re something like the best of Quaker or charismatic body ministry meetings (I’ve been in both of these too) – though I’d probably agree with you that they’re nothing like, say, a megachurch service. 🙂 But let’s give credit where credit is due: Don’t you think that Quakers, or the Brethren, or any number of other such reforming/purifying groups had ideals – and even experiences – like what you’re describing, at the very least in their early days? I don’t think you intend it, but what you’re saying could sound like “Never since the first century has such tangible Christ-centered glory be seen, but now we’re recovering it in our day…” https://i2.wp.com/www.temple.edu/history/UZ/urwin/images/QuakerMeeting_002.jpg

I think the attempt has been made before. And sometimes, successfully.

With that said (sheesh, I didn’t mean to write a feature-length response to your blog! Just goes to show how provocative you are, Frankie), I’m wondering if the “All riches of Christ, all the time” paradigm is sustainable. I don’t wonder this because it seems theoretically unsustainable, but because it’s been un-sustainable in my church’s direct experience. As you know, I was part of a fellowship for many years that had precisely this goal – “all Jesus, all the time.” If you dared bring up theological questions, your aunt Matilda, personal experiences with God, and the like, you were seen as interrupting the very rich flow of the infinite treasures of the Father’s eternal purpose revealed in the Son before time & space.

With a teeny bit of hindsight, I can see two main difficulties with such an approach:

1.) I don’t think we can run with all pistons firing, all the time. Our ‘car’ will flood. Even Paul’s magnificent letters come down to earth and address real people with real problems and a diversity of experiences. Now I totally agree with you, so much of the Church today focuses exclusively on the pieces of the New Testament that focus on behavior and ignore the evocative poetry of a cosmos existing by, through, and within God’s loving embrace via Christ – it’s a real shame. But the minority movements that attempt to correct this by completely inverting the focus do a disservice to the Body. Because…

2.) Not only is it impossible to always be in ‘self-less proclamation mode’ about the glories of Christ, it isn’t actually Christ-like. That is to say, it isn’t particularly loving to encourage members to squelch their spiritual questions or practical needs, nor does it do justice to Christ’s Incarnation, Emmanuel: God. With us. Perhaps Christianity today on a whole is narcissistically focused on the “With us” part of the equation, turning the Gospel into self-help. But attempting to focus on “God” to the exclusion of “With us” does violence to the revelation Jesus brings – that God’s Kingdom has come very, very near, and no detail of our lives is left out.

Please don’t misunderstand me, dear readers-other-than-Frank: Frank has something on his heart that really is substantially different than what many of you have experienced. By all means, you should get a copy of From Eternity to Here in a couple of weeks – it unveils a panoramic portrait of this uber-rich big-picture heartbeat of God that animates Frank’s life & vocation. I’ve spent the last decade of my life pursuing a collective pursuit of God with friends of God meeting in living rooms across the country, because we’ve been captured by just this vision. And it’s real – it’s not a sham. But! Precisely because of my similar passion, I want truth-in-labeling. I’m wary of this vision being over-sold and under-delivered. The next expression of church I end up in will probably be a good deal more…modest, and will emphasize her continuities with the rest of the beautiful, messed-up Christian family more than her discontinuities.

Okay, I’ve said enough here. Overcoming filters, experiencing more of our birthright in Christ – great conversation-starter, Frank!

Searching for a Better God?

Frankly, I am. But how to get there? It was probably in reading Brennan Manning that I first puhttps://i1.wp.com/www.splinteredlightbooks.com/slb/images/items/120x1000/7827.JPGt words to the need to ‘heal my image of God’ – to renew my inner (and social) imaging of God from sub-divine images of domination and spite and terror that had unwittingly accumulated around it throughout my life and upbringing. Everything from the churches we attend to the TV preachers we watch to the ways we read the Bible can warp our view of the God whom the author of 1 John exclaims “is love.” Healing this image has for me involved loving fellowships, grace in strangers’ presence, more attentive reading of Scripture, and time spent in the fire and darkness of contemplative silence.

With that said, voices like Peter Rollins remind us that graven ideologies are just as insidious (and idolatrous) as graven images when allowed to harden into certitude; talk about God can only be provisional at best, seeing as God is inscrutable, ineffable, and dwelling in a light unapproachable to our consciousness. Even the revelation of God in Jesus obscures as much as it discloses. This critique against holding too-tightly to one’s view of God holds equally to calloused, fearful legalists as it does blissed-out grace heads. As Walter Brueggemann says, “God is irascible.”

It is with both of these powerful perspectives that Wade Bradshaw’s important new book Searching for a Better God argues. It’s brand new from the always-eclectic Authentic Media.

For previous generations, the key question among spiritual quest-ians was ‘Does God exist?’ Christianity’s apologia, sermons, and defenses were geared to this one question. For the current generation, however, the question is shifting: It’s not always so much ‘Does God exist,’ but ‘Why does God matter’? And, ‘What kind of God is God?’ For a generation aware of human trafficking and AIDS ravaging Africa and Tsunamis that kill thousands at random, the question of God’s goodness, or God’s morality takes center stage. Is God good or is God cruel?

There are, of course, many ways of approaching this question. In Searching For A Better God, Bradshaw argues that the God we think we know is a mistaken caricature and his nature is misunderstood. So far, so good eh? Manning, Marcus Borg and Paul Young would agree. But Bradshaw takes God’s questioners to the task in a somewhat different way. He feels that God’s interlocutors have concluded that they are actually morally superior to God and that God is less than adequate.  Even some in the church, Bradshaw charges, have begun to suspect this same thing.

Bradshaw, who is Reformed in spiritual orientation, does not equivocate: “This growing suspicion that God exists but is not worthy of our affection or devotion is subtly robbing the world of its one true hope.  God cannot be a source of hope, not because He isn’t real, but because He would not be good to know and to live with forever.  This is what I call the New Story.”

Bradshaw depicts this New Story in three questions:

  • Is God Angry?
  • Is God Distant?
  • Is God a Bully?

Shockingly, for Bradshaw the answer to all three may indeed be yes, but this very divine passion serves us well.  Bradshaw highlights a need for revelation rather than reimagination.

In the author’s estimation, the Church Universal today is responding to culture’s three questions in one of three ways. One group doesn’t want to listen to the suspicions of the New Story at all, thereby refusing to pay them any attention. (The fundamentalists and conservative Evangelicals – and presumably some in his own Reformed camp – would fit here) The second group, persuaded by the New Story, sees the need to modify the old teachings and bring them into line with what is considered obviously moral today.  (I think he’d put emerging and progressive Christians in this camp) But, there is a third path that Bradshaw claims is the Christian way because it follows God’s example…the culturally-savvy Calvinista that produces such incognito delights as Paste Magazine and Asthmatic Kitty records, for instance. Not to mention more-overt ordinary joes like Why We’re Not Emergent authors Ted Kluck and Kevin DeYoung, the latter of whom emailed me the other day and is the first ever person to ask for his church (University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan) to be removed from zoecarnate.com’s church directory! Oh, the unrepentant emergent sinners that must have been darkening their door! But I digress…

“The third path,” to return to the matter immediately at hand, “listens to the morality of the day and questions its common sense. Our task is to answer the many suspicions of the New Story and to find out where the suspicions and questions are coming from.  This hard way is the Christian path to wisdom and hope.”

[An aside: Its interesting just how many different people can utilize the idea of the third way.]

I think most of my blog readers will find Searching for a Better God a challenging read, particularly if you’re not a conservative Calvinist. But don’t let this keep you from opening the book. You should know that Bradshaw’s brand of Reformed faith comes out in the tradition of L’Abri, the 1960s family of Christian communes set up by winsome evangelical intellectual and cultural critic Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer’s analyses of culture-at-large make me break out in hives, but I can’t fault time for not going out into culture, asking questions, and posing questions in return from a stance of (presumed) Christian orthodoxy. While I may not agree with his cultural theology, I can’t fault the overall L’Abri process. Bradshaw is a worthy standard-bearer to this approach, and deserves to be listened to.

Related:

Capturing the Low Ground by Wade Bradshaw

Not Your Father’s L’Abri in Christianity Today

Pheonix Rising review

Apologizing for God – a review at Sensual Jesus

Agapetheism by Kevin Beck

L’Abri compatriot Udo Middelmann‘s The Innocence of God.  A similarly-provocative L’Abri-related tome from Authentic, attempting to balance Calvinism and Open Theism with regards to God’s character and activity in the world. I helped edit this one; it was quite the experience.

Heresy Hunters: I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends

You know you’re doing something worthwhile when all the right people are denouncing you.

A couple of weeks ago Herescope denounced Jay Gary, Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren and myself, who will be hanging out at the World Future Society‘s annual conference in D.C. We’ll be talking about “The Future of the Religious Right” and of global Christian faith in general, but the Heroscope team sees our work as promoting “new theologies and practices,” and “disparaging…of biblical prophecy.” Somehow, they suspect that all this winds up “creating an evolutionary convergence” where we all sing Kumbaya and venerate Gaia and Easter bunnies. As if that’s a bad thing!

Moving along: I’ve already told you the kind of flack The Shack has been getting recently with the heresy-hunter websites. Well, as Steve Knight reports at Emergent Village, now our ‘ol pal Mark Driscoll is in on the action too (you can watch his eight-minute YouTube rant on the E.V. link). Apparently he’s mighty uncomfortable with the sacred feminine, anthropomorphic depictions of God, and the idea of the Trinity (and thus, human relatedness) as mutually submissive rather than chain-of-command hierarchical. Sigh. Co-publisher Wayne Jacobsen blogs his response to the question “Is The Shack Heresy?”

Of course Frank Viola has had his share of critique concerning Pagan Christianity–not all from shrill heresy hunters, but certainly enough of it. Well, Tim Dale over at Karis Productions produced this pretty funny spoof response:

I have two observations about all the shelling and attack from this past month: Most of the people above are friends of mine, and for the most part, we can all laugh this off (in the cases of Frank and Team Shack, they can laugh all the way to the bank, as these books have really struck a chord with most readers and have become best-sellers)–even if we don’t know whether to laugh or cry sometimes. Others, though, are not so fortunate–heresy-hunters can cost people their livelihoods.

I don’t have the privilege of knowing Peter Enns, but his story has been all over the blogosphere recently. As Christianity Today reports, Enns has been suspended from his teaching post at Westminster Theological Seminary for writing his 2005 book Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament, which takes a hard look at the messy, complex, and human aspects of Scripture from an evangelically-informed text criticism point of view. The Board of Trustees said:

“That for the good of the Seminary (Faculty Manual II.4.C.4) Professor Peter Enns be suspended at the close of this school year, that is May 23, 2008 (Constitution Article III, Section 15), and that the Institutional Personnel Committee (IPC) recommend the appropriate process for the Board to consider whether Professor Enns should be terminated from his employment at the Seminary. Further that the IPC present their recommendations to the Board at its meeting in May 2008.”

I understand that confessionally Christian schools are not as enamored with “freedom of thought at any cost” like their liberal arts counterparts; I get that evangelical higher learning institutions are trying to maintain a precarious balance between intellectual integrity and nurturing creedal faith commitments. All the same, Enns is not Bishop Spong or something–he’s asking questions about Holy Writ that the rest of the Church (and world at large) have been asking since the 19th century. Like it or not, those who read and love the Bible are going to begin pondering its more troubling aspects with greater honesty and ideological flexibility.

Heresy-hunting is far from the world’s worst problem. (Next time, I’m going to blog about sex trafficking. Please try to refrain from throwing yourself off a building.) Nonetheless, it is a downer. As I mused last year, sometimes I wonder why I even bother participating in this kind of ‘dialogue’–it all seems so insular. Sometimes I just want to throw my blog into the ocean (so to speak) and becoming a wandering hermit…with my wife and child, of course. But for now, I suppose I’ll leave everyone with an easily-rebuttable maxim: If you don’t have something kind to blog, don’t blog anything at all.

Related:

Mike Todd’s The Shack Film casting call

John MacArthur launches Nothing Must Change tour

Heretic Hunter video

Brad Cummings and Wayne J have something constructive to say about all of this in their Doctrine Police podcast at The God Journey

Opti-Mystic Friend of Jesus?

In the past couple of years I’ve been referring to myself in a cheeky-but-earnest way as an “opti-mystic friend of Jesus.” It’s my Religious Views affiliation on my Facebook and the tagline on this here blog. Every now and then I get people who ask me just what on earth this means (and they’re always Calvinists who ask, God love ’em). Sometimes the question is loaded with hostility, other times curiosity. Either way, here’s my response:

It’s a Christian…maybe. Or maybe that monicker has worn too deeply into our mental categories so that it’s shorthand for something meaningless to faithful and infidel alike.

So etymologically:

opti-mystic
The first being optimistic as opposed to pessimistic; to me the glass of God’s grace is overflowing. Rooted in resurrection and fulfilled eschatological hope.

mystic being (for my purposes) one who lives by the life of Another; animated by Holy Spirit and a God who is within, around, and permeating all existence.

friend listener, loyal, confidant. Willing to throw ones lot in with. Not a servant, but not someone who disregards service either.

of Jesus What is there to say about this man, this anointed one? Palestinian revolutionary peasant. Harbinger of God’s Renewed Order. Emmanuel–God with us, the government resting upon his shoulders. State-sponsored torture victim. Second person of the Trinity. Nonviolent victor over the Powers that Be. Bearer of Father’s true disposition for humanity and the cosmos.

You dig?

We’re Looking for a Few Good Bloggers!

The Ooze, the Web’s most prolific ‘emerging church & friends’ website, is looking for 50 participants in a unique partnership with quality publishers. You will be mailed books for blog review – no more than two per month – free of charge. These are books on culture, theology, church history, justice, faith & science, global issues, spirituality, novels–you name it. The Ooze pre-screens each title brought up for our consideration to ensure you that it is a book of singular distinction.

Interested? Well, if you’re an off-the-beaten-path, thoughtful blogger (you don’t have to identify yourself with ‘emerging church’ conversation per se, though it’s certainly fine if you do) who enjoys blogging about the above-mentioned topics, and you have a Technorati authority of 40 or higher, you’re an ideal candidate. Just send me your name, blog URL, authority ranking, and snail-mail address to zoecarnate [at] theooze.com. (Please do not leave this info in the Comments section of this post.) Then I’ll send you a more detailed email as to what this entails and we can go from there. Feel free to post this invitation on your own blog as well. Thanks for your interest!

Mike Morrell

PS: This TheOoze blogger partnership is primarily intended for bloggers in the US and Canada–alas. But if you’re elsewhere and you have a readership that will make me just pass out upon witnessing it, let me know and we will consider you…just ask Andrew Jones.


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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