According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, April 25, 2011

We are happy when we are growing

http://rachelheldevans.com/

by Rachel Held Evans
April 25, 2011


Today’s post serves as a final entry in the Common English Bible’s Lenten Blog Tour. If you have a few moments, check out the rest of entries. 

    Happy are people who are downcast, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

    Happy are people who grieve, because they will be made glad.

    Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.

    Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because
    they will be fed until they are full.

    Happy are people who show mercy, because they will receive mercy.

    Happy are people who have pure hearts, because they will see God.

    Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children.

    Happy are people whose lives are harassed because they are righteous
    because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

    -  Matthew 5:3-10, Common English Bible

*****

I’ve always been a bit unnerved by Bible translations that render the operative word of the incomparable Beatitudes “happy” instead of “blessed.”

“Blessed” is the word we use around our Christian friends when talking about food, shelter, and responsibilities. “Happy” is the word we use when ’30 Rock’ is all-new or when the Krispyy Kreme "HOT" light glows or when our contentment comes without any guilt or pressure to spiritulaize it.

Happy just sounds less holy.

And besides, how can one be downcast and happy at the same time? Is the happiness that Jesus speaks about in the Beatitudes reserved only for some future state, unattainable in this lifetime?

Poet W.B. Yeats wrote that “happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.”

Indeed, studies indicate that the happiest people are not those who have achieved all their goals, but rather those who are making progress toward their goals. It is in the striving that we encounter the kind of happiness that is best described as joy.

I don’t know about you, but I often suffer from what Tal Ben-Shahar called the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when I reach a certain destination, then I will be happy.

  • “If I can just get that raise…”
  • “If I can just finish school…”
  • “If I can just find the right man…”
  • “If I can just publish a book…”
  • “If I can just write a bestseller…”
Then, I’ll be happy.

I do this all the time when it comes to my doubts. I figure I’ll be happy once I stop having them, once my Christian faith makes perfect sense in both my heart and my head, once I no longer struggle with all these relentless questions.

Perhaps you feel the same way at the end of your Lenten journey. Perhaps you expected to be “finished” by Easter, all the lessons you hoped to learn in your 40-day fast permanently etched into your character.

Too often we ask ourselves, “Have we arrived?” when the better question is, “Have we grown?”

Growing isn’t easy. It often comes with grief, humility, costly mercy and an insatiable hunger for more. But Christ promises us that the story ends well—that we will be made glad, that we will see God, that we will be fed until we are full.

I guess we just have to believe him when he says that we can be happy in the meantime.

David Fitch: The End of Evangelicalism? 1

April 25, 2011

Many today are predicting the (even imminent) collapse of evangelicalism. Others, like Brad Wright, show that evangelicalism is flourshing, while others, like Chris Smith, show that while it may be flourishing it is not what it used to be. At work here are two questions that I want to deal with before we go another step:

What is evangelicalism? I have been, am and will stand by David Bebbington and Mark Noll. Evangelicalism is a movement in the Protestant church shaped by differing but clear emphasis on four beliefs: the centrality of the Bible, the centrality of the atoning death of Christ, the centrality of the need for personal conversion, and the centrality of an active mission to convert others and to do good works in society.

Who decides who is evangelical? No one, really. Others, mostly. There is no one who decides who gets to carry the evangelical card but there is a a general conviction on the part of others who is “in” and who is “out.” I have an opinion, and you may have an opinion, and the one with the louder voice or the bigger voice might be the most compelling but … let this be said: God does not equate “Church” with “evangelical.” But because it is a movement, and for some the movement is so important that it is nearly the same as the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, it matters deeply to some.

So to you: What is an evangelical?

But what does matter is that evangelicalism is a longstanding movement, it seems to unite millions of Christians in the world, and it is contested.

David Fitch, in his new book, The End of Evangelicalism? Discerning a New Faithfulness for Mission: Towards an Evangelical Political Theology (Theopolitical Visions), thinks evangelicalism’s influence is more or less over, that it needs to reexamine itself, and that it needs to rediscover what it could be in our world. This book by David Fitch could be one of the most significant studies of evangelicalism in the current academic climate. In some ways, he is doing deconstruction from the inside out.

To begin with, David Fitch believes evangelicalism’s social, cultural and political influence have waned to the point of being a minimal cultural presence.

The theory he will explore in this book is that belief plus practice (of that belief) shapes a community’s disposition in the world, and that means he can infer back from the lack of influence and viability of evangelicalism that it’s beliefs (or its practices of those beliefs) are no longer viable.

So David Fitch is seriously questing for what can be called an evangelical political theology, but he isn’t talking about political parties — instead, he’s talking about how to be a body, a present body, a body of influence for the gospel, in our world.

He believes evangelicalism has become an empty politic, and here’s why: the four (he blends two and three above) beliefs of evangelicalism were fashioned to be a “politic” in modernity and modernity is corroding and eroding and fading. He thinks those four beliefs, framed as they are, are to our culture what “Caffeine-Free Diet Coke” is to a drink: “a drink that does not fulfill any of the concrete needs of a drink” (xxi). So, let me state how David frames the three (blended four) beliefs:

1. Inerrant Bible.
2. Decision for Christ.
3. Christian Nation.


These are “ideological banners” but really are a “semblance of something which once meant something real” (xxii).

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Recent Comments
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1.       When evangelicalism began calling for defining and affirming propositional statements about “truth” and ceased being a vibrant contrast culture in terms of *way of life,* it became another entity tolerated by a pluralistic culture. The powers that be don’t mind what propositions evangelicals fuss about among themselves, but when evangelicals live in a way that threatens (not violently) the way life is supposed to be in “the American dream” society, let’s say, then evangelicalism has once again become salt and light. Evangelicalism is now degenerating into the 21st century Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Zealots and lots and lots of Essenes hunkering down in their cultural Qumrans ’til Jesus comes back.

2.      Best line – God does not equate “church” with “evangelical”.  Nor does God equate “Christian” with “evangelical.”

3.      It seems to me that there is one more characteristic of the old evangelicalism and that is “generous orthodoxy”. Thus evangelicalism was not limited to Arminian or Calvinistic or other particular disputable understandings of scripture. Evangelicalism was not separatistic as I see many are who now call themselves evangelicals. Fundamentalism was a descriptive term rather than a movement unlike the old evangelicalism which was a movement. It is time for evangelicals in the old sense to move on and find a new descriptive term for themselves and leave the term evangelicalism to the fundamentalists.

4.      Gingoro #3 brings up some good points. I think it is interesting that the picture used is Falwell (who I don’t necessarily think of when I think of an evangelical), instead of someone like Billy Graham (“old evangelicalism”).

5.      Evangelicals make up roughly 1/4 to 1/3 of Americans, helped elect G. Bush, overwhelmingly supported McCain, and identify as Republican at around 70%. That’s probably why the media is focused on evangelicals. Evangelical’s influence on electoral politics still appears strong. Keep in mind that it’s older adults who vote and Americans are living longer than they used to.

6.      I know in this age of the internet it is tempting to think that the American church boils down to the voices we hear the most on the internet, but that is not the case. By far the largest group within evangelicalism is traditional arminians. The only large evangelical group that people can even pretend is reformed is the Southern Baptist Church and survey after survey shows that less than 1/3 of the SBC, the largest evangelical denomination, is reformed. They might not make a lot of noise in online discussions, but all those “evangelical voters” that put George W. Bush into office, they are almost all traditional, southern, arminian evangelicals. So we need to do away with the notion that the “future of evangelicalism” is going to be defined solely by what some minor groups (neo-reformed and emergent) choose to do in the next decade.

7.      You nailed it. I’m persuaded that many people equate “what I am hearing” with “what is.” Seven yrs ago the NeoReformed voice was quiet in the internet/blog world, and some of its leaders were against the focus on blogs. Then about 3-4 yrs ago they began to be a presence and now they may well be the majority of voices in the blog/internet world. But blog/internet world is a slice of the pie, and not all that big or representative. And I wish some sociologist would compare blog reality with “real” reality and tell us about it.

I would agree that the biggest chunk of evangelicalism is probably southern, though there are many in the north tool; they are softly “Cal-minian”  (a mix of Calvinistic + Armenian doctrine) in thinking that salvation is assured but strong on free will and very avoidant of classic themes like election and divine sovereignty (except in praying to God to make a different); and they are both politically and theologically conservative.

8.     I’m a bit split in what I think of this. To begin with, I don’t really believe in predictions of catastrophic failures of social entities. So, decline of Evangelicalism? Probably. End of Evangelicalism? Probably not for a very long time. But also, I grew up SBC and my family is staunchly rooted in the SBC but I know longer identify with that group. I see in my own family evidence that the SBC is becoming more and more disconnected with the world around it. And this, to me, marks the decline. People like me are leaving the Evangelical banner and fewer and fewer are going back to it because it doesn’t seem to match reality.

9.      re: What is an Evangelical, I still like John Stackhouse’s definition on the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s website – his definition is a superset of Bebbington’s (and Marsden’s). question: Does Fitch look at evangelicalism globally? My impression is that it is exploding outside of North America (growth & influence) eg. China house church movement, Evangelical Anglican’s in Africa, Pentecostalism in Latin America. Comments so far seem to be focused on the US Evangelical church. Anyways, looking forward to this series.

10.  Does anyone have any number on the number of emergent churches or persons who identify as emergent in the U.S.?

11.  I don’t have numbers. Two observations: Gibbs and Bolger did a study of major churches, and Tony Jones’s dissertation did some sociological analysis. Tony might have numbers. But my second observation is this: it’s a movement and a trend, and some good ideas about how big it is can be gleaned from readership of books (which always represents a percentage of the movement) and sales of books. But I won’t guess on numbers.

12.   Evangelism needs to change if it’s to flourish. The old hokey, twangy ways no longer go in this society. We need to be more dignified and dare I say, more educated in our approach. Also, we need to separate politics from evangelism. American Christianity took a huge hit in credibility when people like Falwell, Robertson, etc. allied themselved with politicians. We also need to embrace the changing (improving)role of women in society. We won’t get very far if we say, “Follow Jesus, but you women are easily deceived and can’t do this and can’t do that,” and so on.



continue to -
 
 
 


 

Kevin Corcoran's Critique of Derrida and Caputo


The Kingdom of God: Ever Coming Never Arriving?

by Kevin Corcoran
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tony J got me thinking. He got me thinking about God's kingdom, and the way in which Derrida and Caputo represent it as a perpetual deferral. Tony finds the D&C conception alluring and attractive. I suspect many in the emerging movement do. I myself don't find it appealing. I want to know what others think. And I want to wonder aloud about whether it might not actually be something else that Tony, et. al. find appealing in the D&C model, something that they misidentify as the doctrine of eternal deferral.

I make no pretense at all to being a Derrida scholar. So, I am open to correction in what I'm about to say, and I would invite others more knowledgeable than I to weigh in here and to offer correction where correction is needed. Let me lay out what I understand to be the gist of the D&C model of the impossibility and undeconstructibility of the kingdom, and say why, as a Christian, I think we ought to reject it.

As I understand it, the kingdom of God or Justice or The Wholly Other or Messiah is never fully present on the D&C model but always a reality yet to come, always a reality beyond, a future, a hope, an aspiration. Indeed, God is not even to be thought of as a being, an individual, but rather as an uncontainable, unconditional, undeconstructible Event that is, as some who talk about such things put it, "astir" or "harbored" in the name of "God".

Why is the kingdom eternally deferred? Because words and worldly structures are finite, contingent, particular, limited, deconstructible and thus inhospitable abodes for the Wholly Other and the un-deconstructible. At best what we are ever presented with are "traces" of the Event that is God, and these traces call us beyond and invite us into a transformed way of being in the world.

As I said, I'm certainly open to correction here as I am admittedly outside my own areas of professional expertise. But, to the extent that I've got Derrida/Caputo right, I'm inclined to think that this discarnational model of the kingdom is utterly foreign to the incarnational kingdom of Christian faith. Whereas the D&C "gospel" regards the contingent, particular and deconstructible with suspicion and as inhospitable to the Wholly Other/Messiah/Kingdom or Justice, the God of Christian faith dwells within, inhabits, incarnates himself precisely in the particular, deconstructible and contingent. And far from "traces" of God within the particular, deconstructible and contingent the gospel suggests a fullness of presence.

Moreover, while the idea of a transformative event lies at the very heart of the gospel, the Trinitarian God of Christian theism is not himself an Event, but a God-in-three-persons. Events don't have intentions, aims, loves, etc. I can't enter into a reciprocated relationship of love with an event.

What, then, might Tony and others find so appealing in the D&C idea of eternal deferral? I'd like to think that it's not so much the eternal deferral and impossibility of the kingdom that they find so attractive, as that hardly strikes me as good news. That's about as "good" as the news delivered up in Waiting for Godot. At least in the case of the latter the two main characters believe Godot is coming, though he never arrives. Not so in the D&C story where God's coming is impossible.

Perhaps what TJ and others find appealing is the perpetual deferral of understanding, the realization that no matter what we come to understand of God and of his justice it is inexhaustible; there is always more. I wonder if it's not the idea that we ought never to be satisfied or settled with a particular theology or political arrangement, for example, but always questing, always reaching and searching.

In a way, insofar as the emerging movement can be viewed as a development within evangelical protestantism, it is easier for me to see how some of Derrida's ideas are consonant with emergent sensibilities than it is for me to understand how Caputo, a Catholic, would be attracted to such discarnate, disembodied, otherworldly notions. Catholicism's emphasis on the Eucharist, a place where Christ is really present (one almost wants to say re-incarnated) would seem to more easily prevent one from flights of disembodiment than the thin "commemorative" understanding of the Eucharist in low-church protestant denominations and non-denominations.

In any case, what do you think? Have I misrepresented the D&C model? If not, do you find the notion of an eternal deferral of the kingdom appealing?


Please note Kevin's web blog which may help frame the D&C discussion above a little more fully - http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=1054707203818412735&postID=1824111830709677492