According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, 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
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Youth Ministry Reframed

 
Scot McKnight
May 30, 2011
 
My travels around the USA give me opportunity to talk to lots of youth pastors, and something is changing. What is changing is that the same-old isn’t working as well, and youth pastors know they are the threshold of news ways for new days. What is perhaps most exciting to me is a desire for a more theological and biblical approach as these youth pastors are turning away from programs that are neither adaptable nor theological enough.
 
One of the youth pastors creating a new paradigm is Chris Folmsbee, and his new book is an exceptional example of what is happening: Story, Signs, and Sacred Rhythms: A Narrative Approach to Youth Ministry.
 
What are the major themes shaping youth ministry theology today? What are you seeing? Are you seeing any narrative approaches to youth ministry? Any missional approaches?

Before I go any farther, an observation: an increasing number of youth pastors see that instead of saving kids from secular culture or instead of protecting Christian children from the world, there is a desire to prepare them to think critically and to engage holistically in the culture. In other words, to use the words of Gabe Lyons, many youth pastors are intent on preparing young adults to be restorers.

Chris begins his book by sketching youth pastor/youth ministry discontents, including a need for a fresh approach, no more “plug and play,” no more isolated deconstruction, a desire to help students learn through discovery, a recognition of unique context (instead of one size fits all), a yearning for a solid model that has flexibility, and a desire to have a wiki-approach — to find the gems in each set of proposals to fashion their own.

What you will find in Chris Folmsbee’s book is no program; nor is it a set of what-tos or how-tos. Instead this is a narrative approach to the Bible’s Story, a story that shapes both identity and practices. In other words, this book is a Story-ified approach to reading the Bible for youth pastors so they can adapt and adopt this approach in their local context.

The book moves through five layers: revelation in Story, foundation in theology, implication in identity and calling, integration into a way of life, and application into behaviors and expressions. I told Chris this once over lunch: if youth pastors are thinking like him, we are in great shape. Doing biblical theology through the lens of Story and letting that story shape our Identity so that our behaviors are transformed … just love it. The book is theologically alert and filled with graphics and ideas that will give every youth pastor plenty of suggestions … suggestions that can be adaptable to local contexts.

Yes, Chris and I, along with Syler Thomas, co-wrote The Jesus Creed for Students: Loving God, Loving Others.


Being Human 5

http://www.patheos.com/community/jesuscreed/2011/05/31/being-human-5-rjs/
 
by RJS
posted May 31, 2011

Chapter 3 of Joel Green’s book Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible deals with the topic of sin and freedom. I am going to devote a few posts to this topic because it is one that troubles me far more than the debates over heaven and hell. What is the nature of sin? How can we view ourselves as, in any sense, free to act? Dr.Green outlines a common view, perhaps predominate view, especially within Christian circles:
“For many, a distinguishing characteristic of humanity is the capacity to decide. Earthworms, goldfish, and jaguars do not leaf through a register of options before acting; they simply do what they are genetically programmed and hardwired to do. They act on instinct. They are possessed by “animal desires.” Humans, on the other hand, possess the capacity to step back from the precipice of innate desires or inborn patterns of behavior in order to elect for or against them, so that even when a human action follows the path of instinct this is nonetheless the product of a decidedly human reasonableness. Those who prove incapable of controlling there animal desires are beastly, brutish, somehow subhuman, irrational.” ( p. 75)
There are aspects of this sketch though, that are seriously flawed. It is not that the sketch is completely wrong, but that human control of behavior is far more subtle and complex.

Is the moral compass and the ability to evaluate and control behavior a distinguishing characteristic of humanity?

Is this capacity something attributed to the human soul?

Dr. Green starts this chapter with the sketch of a case study of a man who was convicted of child molestation (p. 73-74). The antisocial behavior started suddenly without any indication that it would, he was an upstanding married school teacher. He began to collect child pornography and made subtle advances toward his step daughter. He solicited a prostitute and could not keep himself from making advances after he was convicted toward the staff at a facility where he was being evaluated for treatment vs. Imprisonment.

As he was to appear for sentencing he complained of headaches and suicidal thoughts. He was taken to a hospital and evaluated by MRI. an egg-sized tumor was found and removed. After recovery his behavior and uncontrollable urges went away. Within a year headaches resumed and an urge for pornography resurfaced. An MRI revealed tumor regrowth and surgery to remove the tumor again returned to him the ability to control his ” animal desires.”

The issue in this case was not so much the “natural” desires themselves but the ability to exercise impulse control. The man still had a moral compass and he knew that what he was doing was wrong. When the tumor was present he could not control those urges.

There is an inseparable connection between what we think, feel, and do and the bodies within which or as which we exist. We all know this on one level. No matter how much my friend and I loved baseball as 12-year old kids, checked out books on pitching and catching and practiced in the basement and outdoors, we would never play at a high level. As girls it would never happen, and even the boys from our gene pool wouldn’t make it. Some things are “gifts.” But we don’t expect this to be the case with moral decision making.

I will go into this topic more deeply in future posts. Dr. Green looks at both science and scripture for an understanding of the nature of human freedom. Philosophy has to play a role here as well alongside science and theology. Scot’s posts on the book by Keith Ward More Than Matter?: Is There More to Life Than Molecules? are a welcome complement to the discussion in Green’s book.

Today I would like to stop here and put up a question for consideration.

First, does this example change anything in your view of human nature and the nature of the soul?

Second, how should an appreciation for the embodiedness of human behavior change our approach to Christian faith, life, and gathering as the church?

The second question will come up in later posts as well as we continue through this series. The fully embodied nature of human persons, whether this includes a soul in a wholistic dualism or some form of Christian monism, is an important concept as we consider the Christian life and the role that the gathering, the church, plays in the Christian life.

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net
If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.


NT Wright on "Scripture and God's Authority"


by Scot McKnight
posted June 1, 2011

The biggest problem many of us have with how we frame the “doctrine” of Scripture is that it isn’t adequate to how Scripture arose as our Sacred Text or how it operates either in the church or with us as Bible readers. Here’s the traditional model: it’s a top-down deposit or transmission of information. In other words, Scripture is framed as revelation.

I, too, would place Scripture within a framework of revelation, but that’s not enough, nor is it the primary framing. [Handmade chart with Penultimate app on the iPad.]

What is your model? What model is most “biblical” for you? And, what do you think of Tom Wright’s take on Sabbath as an illustration of how his model of Bible reading works?

Scripture flows out of the Trinitarian inter-communicative Logos and it is connected to the Holy Spirit and it is a “product” as well of the church. The revelation model has a top-down model that moves from God to revelation intent to inspiration and author/text and inerrancy and authority and reading. It’s all framed as a top-down revelation. It’s inadequate because God chose to manifest truth and grace and redemption through history, at specific moments and over time and through authors and through a community, and that history is nearly eliminated in the revelation model. The model needs supplementation to frame a view of Scripture that is organic to how Scripture came into existence. This top-down model is too much golden tablets dropping from the sky.

But Scripture at the organic level emerges from authors who are part of God’s People (Israel, Church), and the books in Scripture arise out of particular circumstances and are written by authors with intent and agenda, and the individual authors interact with one another (Micah, Isaiah, Matthew, Romans, Hebrews, Revelation) and carry the Story forward so that the last version of the Story can reframe the former versions. And then there is the ongoing life of the church — and tradition. Many of us think the revelation model tells us very important things, but it is inadequate.

That is why so many of us value the voice of Tom Wright in this discussion. His newest book, Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today, is both a revision and an expansion of his former book The Last Word.

This book of Tom’s both revises and expands and, in particular, adds chapters that are test cases for how his theory of Scripture works out. He examines two topics, Sabbath and Monogamy. Today I will look at his Sabbath chapter, but first a brief on the big ideas of the book.

The expression “authority of Scripture” is shorthand for “the authority of the triune God, exercised somehow through Scripture” (21). There is something important here, for Wright acknowledges that authority is God’s — and derivatively of Scripture. Any time someone equates the two, there opens the possibility for idolatry to occur. Furthermore, Wright is keen on showing that this authority of God is God’s authority in working out the Kingdom mission for his people and creation. Scripture, then, is a sub-branch of mission, the Spirit, eschatology, and the Church itself (29). Again, very important.

When Wright comes to sum up his entire argument, on pp. 115-116, he says this: The authority of Scripture is “a picture of God’s sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus himself, and now to be implemented through the Spirit-led life of the church precisely as the scripture-reading community.” Thus, the “authority of Scripture” is put into action in the Church’s missional operations. Scripture, he says, is more than a record of revelation and was never simply about imparting information — it is God’s word to redeem [and involve!- res] his people as God works out his plan for the entire created order. And you may know how the Bible teaches what Tom calls a 5-Act play: creation, fall, Israel, Jesus, Church. We are in the 5th Act now.

Now to Sabbath. Tom provides an exceptional illustration of how both to read Sabbath (i) in its OT setting, (ii) what Jesus and Paul “did” to that teaching, (iii) how the Jubilee principle extends the Sabbath principle, and (iv) how Jesus is the transition to a new kind of time — death and resurrection and new creation, and thus how the Sabbath principle finds fulfillment in Jesus himself, and then he probes (v) how to live that Sabbath principle out in our world. Here are some highlights:

1. In the OT Sabbath was a strong commandment, it was the day YHWH took up abode in the temple of creation (here he chimes in with John Walton) and asked image-bearers to enjoy that same rest.

2. Sabbath shows that history is going somewhere, it is a temporal sign that creation is headed toward that final rest, and it is sacred time.

3. Sabbath has to be connected to Jubilee, and therefore to justice and compassion for the poor, and that means Sabbath and Jubilee point us toward the restoration of creation.

4. Jesus thought the entire Sabbath principle pointed toward himself. Time was fulfilled in him; a new kind of time begins with him. Paul does not seem to care about Sabbath, and he observes its absence in Romans 13:9; Col 2:14-16; Rom 14:5-6. I have to be brief: it’s about time’s fulfillment. Sacred time finds its way to Jesus Christ and new creation.

5. To continue celebrating sabbaths is to focus on the signposts when we have already arrived. Thus, “Come to me and I will give you rest.” You don’t need the alarm clock when the sun is flooding the room with its light. [Sabbath has occurred. Restoration has come. - res]

6. The early Christians didn’t transfer Sabbath to Sunday. [Nor do we - res].

7. We don’t need to back up into a Sabbatarianism. [sic, Christians do not need to become Seventh Day Adventists; nor Judaise or prosyletize their Christian faith backwards into the restrictive/antequated OT regimes and lifestyle observances; etc. - res].

8. We “celebrate” instead of “rest” — a kind of celebration rest. We reserve this day for new creation life. Music, the meal, family, service, peace, justice, love — these are the notes of Sunday for those who see the fulfillment of Sabbath in Jesus.

We live in a perpetual sabbath.



Forgiveness

From Donald Miller’s blog:
June 1, 2011

Why should we forgive? Well, there are many reasons, but I’m only going to focus on a few.

• The first is because, believe it or not, forgiveness is a pleasurable experience. No kidding, it feels much better than anger or hate. God has designed forgiveness as a powerful blessing for those who have been hurt. The experience of truly forgiving somebody can make you more happy than if you’d never been hurt in the first place.

• The second reason for you to forgive is that it removes you from being entangled in the rather dark thing that hurt you in the first place. If it was a bad business deal, then you get to be free of it and maintain your integrity. If it was a family member talking behind your back, you get to remove yourself completely from all the complications of gossip. Forgiveness sets you free from being bogged down in knee-deep mud. Forgiveness gives you a taste of what it feels like to be God, and it’s a terrific feeling. God forgave us because it gave Him pleasure to do so. He was happy to do so. Love forgives, and so does God, and so can you.

• The third reason to forgive is that you open yourself up to amazing possibilities for a happy life. When you don’t forgive, you draw the curtains in your soul and your life gets dark. When you forgive you let the light in again, and you go on about your life in peace. And don’t you want some peace? Isn’t it time for some peace?

• The greatest thing about forgiveness is it will allow you to love again. It will allow you to love and be loved. And believe me, it’s worth it. Forgiveness is tough, for sure, but love is infinitely more valuable than the pain of forgiveness costs. No matter what you have to go through to forgive, you’re getting a steal of a deal to be able to love and be loved again. Pay the price and I promise you’ll be happy you did.