Sunday, April 21, 2013
Six days ago two explosions at the Boston Marathon injured scores of people, and killed three, including a young child. During the course of the week, two men who were suspected to have caused the explosions were hunted down by law enforcement. In the end, an MIT police officer was killed, one of the two suspects was killed, and the second suspect -- a 19-year-old young man -- was taken into custody, alive but with serious injuries. As an emergent faith Christian I knew how critical it was to exercise emotional restraint and not react with harsh opinion about the week's events. And I did so, voicing no open opinion on the matter. I knew the suspects were perceived as enemies, with people everywhere demanding they receive the harshest punishments for their alleged crimes. I understand the outrage. But I also know we must not be consumed by our outrage. And so over the past few days I have pondered deeply about how, as a man of emergent faith, I ought to respond to what happened. I knew it must not be a response merely to this single act of violence, but to the condition of corrupted humanity that inspires all violence. And as I pondered, I reflected upon some wise words from Thich Nhat Hanh, which I offer below for your own reflection:Read more »
Labels: today's lblc
Saturday, April 13, 2013
For those who are familiar with traditional western church services -- such as you might experience at a Roman Catholic church, an Episcopal/Anglican church, or a Lutheran church, to name just a few examples -- you'll know that the format of these services is referred to as "liturgical."
The liturgy (a word rooted in a Greek term meaning "service of the people") is often associated with ritual. In Christian liturgical traditions, the ritual is like the performance of several acts of a drama. Essentially, the liturgy includes prayers, hymns, greetings, Bible readings, a homily (sermon), and then a solemn narration and memorial reenactment of the Last Supper story punctuated with the breaking of bread, and then the serving of bread and wine to those gathered in attendance. An ordained priest or pastor typically officiates at every liturgy.
To many Christians, the stories told in the liturgy and taught by their churches -- stories which are drawn from the Bible -- are true stories. In other words, they believe the Gospel stories are accurate testimony to actual history (i.e., material events that occurred in real time). There are other Christians, however, who see the Gospel stories as sacred fables inspired by historical figures and events, the complete and accurate knowledge of which has been long lost. I am among the latter.
Yet I revere traditional liturgy, though I am an emergent faith Christian who opposes Traditionalism. I absolutely treasure the Gospel stories, though I do not accept them as true history (and I outright reject Paul's writings). And I am always deeply moved when I partake of the bread and wine during communion.
But how can I revere traditional liturgy, treasure the Gospels, and participate in the communal breaking of bread and partaking of wine if I do not believe the events in the Gospels (upon which the liturgy is structured) really happened?Read more »
Monday, April 08, 2013
I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want. (Amos 5:21-24, The Message)
So. Tony Jones recently participated at Subverting The Norm 2, a conference discussing postmodern theology. In writing about it on his blog at Patheos yesterday, he posed this question of the conference: "Can postmodern theology live in our churches?"
And so in the comments section of his post I answered as follows:Read more »
Tuesday, April 02, 2013
Needless to say, Traditionalists don't like pushback. That was clear enough back in January when I wrote I Am Gay: An Open Letter To My Friend And My Church. After I wrote that, my friend Brandon (who was the subject of that January post) was thoroughly angry, even insisting that I take it down. Why? In a nutshell: it hurt his image. There's no way around that fact (which, sadly, he hasn't quite yet grasped). There's nothing that'll piss off a proud, young, new pastor (with Assemblies of God ordination, no less) than to openly turn his pretty self-image upside down.
But his image -- his vanity -- was never a concern of mine. Truth was my concern. Human equality was my concern. Holiness was my concern.
Anyway, two things happened recently. First, Brandon and his wife Connie were on a radio program on Good Friday where they, at one point, discussed their beliefs about homosexuality. Second, Brandon wrote a post on his blog yesterday on gay marriage. Let me discuss the radio interview first, how I responded to it, and the way Brandon reacted to my response.Read more »
Sunday, March 31, 2013
On this Easter Sunday, let us take notice that the most consistent common thread in Matthew, Mark, and Luke regarding the accounts of Jesus' body missing from the tomb is that the stories all tell about a rumor that Jesus was resurrected. No one witnessed the resurrection. Yet when it comes to accounts of the supposedly risen Jesus appearing to the disciples, none of the stories are consistent. Following is the story of the resurrection rumor compiled from a composite of accounts taken directly from Matthew, Mark, and Luke:Read more »
Monday, March 25, 2013
We've all heard it from Christian traditionalists before: in order to receive the benefits of Jesus' sacrifice (i.e, everlasting life), you must believe. You cannot have everlasting life without believing. This is at least implied in John 3:16 and other passages in the Christian scriptures. As is stated in the statement of faith on the Southern Baptist Convention's website, "Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour [.] . . . There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord." (emphasis mine) Most evangelical churches in America affirm this formula.
But something has always bothered me about this. You see, from God's perspective (at least according to traditional Christian theology), we human beings continue to exist in a state of "sin" from birth, and therefore we are imperfect, perishable. Absolutely nothing about us is perfect or imperishable. This includes our bodies (which die), and the body of course includes our brains and its chemistry, which therefore includes our minds, our thoughts, our reasoning, etc. As such, our "belief" is also imperfect.
Since, due to our nature of "sin," we innately possess diminished capacity, then how can the God of traditional Christianity, if he is truly righteous, insist that salvation (as established by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus) be contingent upon a human being's imperfect belief? How can our imperfect belief -- which is a function of our imperfect, "sinful" minds -- merit perfect salvation?Read more »
Saturday, March 23, 2013
On the ancient Hebrew calendar, Jesus was executed on Nisan 15 (i.e., the fifteenth day of the Hebrew month called Nisan). It was the day following the Passover meal on Nisan 14, which always falls on a full moon. In modern Judaism, the ancient calendar is still used for the observance of Passover. And this year, Passover -- Nisan 14 -- occurs this coming Tuesday, March 26. That means yesterday on the Hebrew calendar was Nisan 11. But in Christian observance, Nisan 11 is commemorated this coming Tuesday. Let me explain why this is important.
For starters, tomorrow is Palm Sunday, which celebrates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem during the final week of his life. It is also the start of Holy Week (or Passion Week) in western Christianity, which observes the final activities and preaching of Jesus up to and including his trial, torture, and execution. As such, the events of Nisan 11 would fall observantly on this upcoming Holy Tuesday.
But why is Nisan 11 -- Holy Tuesday -- so important? Because among the many things Jesus said and did (see Matthew 21:23–24:51, Mark 11:20–13:37, Luke 20:1–21:36, and John 12:20–38), the most important of them was his institution of the Holy Law of Love:Read more »
Monday, March 18, 2013
During my time off over the past two weeks I spent a number of my evenings relaxing and reading. One of the books I got into, and which I already had in my personal library, is titled If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person. I read it nine years ago, and I count it as one of the books (among only a handful in total) that had a pivotal impact upon my thinking in the earliest days of my faith evolution.
As I am now getting back to completing the Emergent Jesus Way (EJW) series on this blog -- Part 5 on loving God "with all our strength" will be posted some time this week -- several paragraphs in If Grace Is True reminded me of something I wrote in the latest EJW post titled The Emergent Jesus Way (Part 4): With All Our Mind. In that post I wrote, "To love God with all our mind requires the embrace of Reason. This means that our faith is more than just 'believing' old mythologies without critical evaluation."
Here are the paragraphs from If Grace Is True (found in Chapter 3: The Character of God) that beautifully illustrate the importance of critically evaluating Scripture as a guide for faith:Read more »