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

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Emergent and Evangelical Churches See Themselves in a World of Servitude and Politics

To Kyle's article below I can only applaud his wisdom and humble understanding of what the church of God truly is. Well done!

R.E. Slater
July 9, 2011
* * * * * * * * * *

No Power? No Problem: Reflections on Evangelicals and Influence
http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/No-Power-No-Problem-Kyle-Roberts-06-29-2011?offset=0&max=1

by Kyle Roberts
posted June 28, 2011

Is evangelicalism losing influence in the United States? Yes, answer a majority of Global North evangelical leaders surveyed at the recent Lausanne conference on evangelism.

The suggestion is not a shocking one to anyone familiar with the ebb and flow of the movement in its contemporary forms. But the gloomy outlook of evangelical leaders provokes a good bit of reflection (in particular when you compare the pessimism of Northern hemisphere evangelicals to the optimism of their Southern hemisphere counterparts).

A majority of global North evangelicals (54%) believe that in five years the situation for evangelicals will be either worse than now (33%) or about the same as now (21%). By comparison, 71 percent of leaders in the Global South believe the state of evangelicalism will improve. Yet the finding that most fascinates me relates to perceptions of evangelicalism's influence. In the North, only 31 percent of leaders expect to see evangelical influence grow, compared to 66 percent who expect evangelical influence to diminish. In the South, 58 percent expect an increase while 39 percent expect a decrease in influence.

What shall we say to this?

As Samuel Johnson noted, "When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully." A perception of impending doom or coming decline forces those invested in that declining movement to gather their thoughts, re-focus their vision, and change course as necessary.

When the picture is accepted for what it is, rather than explained away as a series of anomalies or misinterpretations of data, then people can begin to shape creative solutions and re-imagine their future.

The question cannot simply be: How can evangelicalism recover its social influence? For one thing, the definition of the term evangelical is no longer stable. What counts as evangelical, on what basis, and who decides? The increasing ethnic diversity of American evangelicalism is complicating the picture. New studies show increasing diversity in how evangelicals, particularly younger ones, approach social issues, with homosexual marriage being the obvious current example. With such diversity underlying the movement, how can its social influence be measured?

But a deeper question remains. Could a decline of evangelical influence be a good thing for the gospel?

What is the task of the followers of Jesus? What is our vocation? Jesus said it is to be "the salt of the earth," the "light of the world," and a "city on a hill" (Mt. 5:13-14). Evangelicals have often brought to these images the assumption that saltiness and brightness = power as a voting block and a lobbying force. But those assumptions misconstrue the nature of the ecclesia, the gathering of disciples that seeks to follow Christ in the world and that understands its calling to suffering on behalf of and for the church (Col. 1:24) for the sake of the world (Mt. 28).

We too often measure the role and influence of the church with the barometers of the modern corporation or political program, barometers that are foreign to Jesus and the gospels. We too often gauge "success" by the extent to which our collective voice reinforces a particular, homogenous vision of life and minimizes our discomfort with difference and otherness. Evangelicals have too often seen ourselves as purveyors of a product or an ideology. Perhaps the better way to conceive of the church's identity and mission is as a diaspora: a scattered faithful remnant who seek to be servants of the gospel through the loving, gracious, non-coercive acts of witness. We are called to live out the implications of the gospel with humility and hospitality, pointing to the source of hope in Jesus.

Perhaps the evangelical church in the United States should embrace a decline of social influence in order to be God's elect who suffer in and for a broken world. When the church as an institution is perceived as powerful, it is often prone to triumphalism, exclusion, and self-preservation. As Karl Barth reminded us, the vocation of Christians and of the church is simply to serve the world by witnessing to the gospel. Since Pentecost, there has always been a historical church (in whatever form) to serve in this way. God uses the Church (including evangelical churches), but he doesn't require it. As Barth put it, "God does not belong to the Church" (The Epistle to the Romans [Oxford 1933, trans. Hoskyns], p. 339).

In the midst of this mainly gloomy picture of the Church lies a hopeful point: it is precisely because of its guilt, its transience, its negative instrumentality that the church plays a central role in God's economy of revelation, salvation, and reconciliation in the world. The way forward is to give obedient witness to the paradoxical reality of God's grace as manifest in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

It is not for us in the North to surmise what Christians in the Global South should make of the optimism of their leaders toward the future of their evangelical movements and their influence in society. But here in the United States, perhaps we should embrace the apparent impending decline in social influence as an opportunity to follow Jesus to the margins of society. Furthermore, perhaps we should embrace an increasing diversity within evangelicalism itself as a fruitful development toward serving a complex, variegated world.

North America sits at the center of a shift from modernism to postmodernism to whatever comes after that (if that hasn't already come). Ours is a world shot through with plurality and difference, fragmentation and fissure, indeterminacy and openness. How can we speak the gospel into a world bereft of unity, stability, meaning, and hope? Only through the posture of witness and "faithful presence," a presence that is self-consciously fragile enough to engage the world without breaking it further. We are pots of clay. We are witnesses to the Gospel of grace. That's all.

The Church is vastly bigger than evangelicalism. And the kingdom of God is bigger than the Church. This means that any decline in evangelicalism's power and influence does not signal the end of God's work. But it may be that through recognition of our declining influence and by the practice of witness we can find God at work in us and through us in greater ways than we could have imagined.

Kyle RobertsKyle Roberts is Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology and Lead Faculty of Christian Thought, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN). He researches and writes on issues related to the intersection of theology, philosophy, and culture. Follow Kyle Roberts' reflections on faith and culture at his blog or via Twitter.

Roberts' column, "Theological Provocations," is published every second Tuesday on the Evangelical portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.



A Leap of Truth, Part 1: Evolutionary Creation


June 29, 2011

I will be adding articles pertaining to both theistic evolution and creationism within the science sections of this emergent blog beginning with Biologos' Leap of Faith series. For myself, I am not concerned with having an immediate answer within this arena. I believe God created the world but the how, the processes he used, the when, and the time it took, seem to have blurred in the face of the more advance theories of evolution, the latest cosmological and geological discoveries pertaining to these theories, and the quantum projections occurring in math and physics at the center of all of this. At this point, I prefer the idea of Creationism but am willing to examine the arguments for Theistic Evolution as counterpoint without the need to crucify or bury either one.


How these issues pertain to emergent Christianity comes in several ways. Postmodern Christians seem more willing to consider the latest discoveries and theories of science without becoming alarmist; they are more willing to rethink and adapt traditional biblical theories to those discoveries - especially as pertaining to the ancient biblical creation story's understanding's both then, in the ancient mind, and now, in the (post)modern mindset; emergent Christians seem to be characterized with a patient study and examination of seminal biblical issues through the careful re-framing of relevant questions (as well as answers) in light of newer discoveries; and they seem to have the quiet assurance that through all of this God is God, and man is but a finite being, as he attempts to look back in time to the birth of both his and the world's origins as he posits viable corollaries and theories of God's creation.


In contrast, my experience with evangelical Christians show an immediate need for Creation-based answers (whether real or forced); seem more skeptical with science's advance discoveries and resultant theoretical suppositions as pertaining to biblical creation; are more easily alarmed by non-traditional interpretations to the biblical record; refuse to acknowledge or incorporate advancements in forensic language development, psychological/sociological anthropological studies, and philosophical issues (sic, currently post-continentalism for one) as pertaining to man-centered spiritual issues; they prefer to cling to traditional religious arguments and interpretations; and refuse to be satisfied with framing open-ended questions that give no conclusions to the Genesis record.


Hence, it is my purpose here to proceed without regard to evangelic fears and beliefs knowing that our faith is still as real, as vibrant, as necessary, regardless of either traditional religious skepticism or the agnostic/atheistic response of non-Christians. For our Creator God is (I am who I am), as is his active relationship with his creation, and is supportable regardless of religious or irreligious groups and spokespersons denying either contrarywise or otherwise.


- skinhead

**********

June 29, 2011

Hello everyone,

My name is Ryan Pettey, and I am a documentary filmmaker who has been amazingly blessed to work on a feature-length documentary over the last year and a half called A Leap of Truth.

With A Leap of Truth, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today. We wanted the film to address the topic hermeneutically, historically, and socially in order to gain a better perspective on the issues, and, hopefully, address some of the fears (justified or otherwise) concerning what science is telling us about our physical origins.

Personally, this project has been a spiritual shot in the arm and has whole-heartedly reignited my walk with God. I have been truly humbled by my opportunity to speak with so many incredible theologians, scientists, biblical scholars, and authors. As a result of this project, the book of Genesis has become more alive and more dynamic than I had ever allowed it to be. It is my hope that this film will both challenge and inspire people of faith, no matter where they are on their journey, to revere the complexity of God both through his word and his creation.

Through the BioLogos Forum, I will be posting a few short, topic driven clips from the film in the coming weeks as conversation starters

This first clip titled “Evolutionary Creationism” poses these particularly important questions to the Evangelical Christian community:
  1. John Polkinghorne says, “The doctrine of creation is not about how things began, it’s about why things exist.” What does this mean?
  2. Is it reasonable that God’s method of creation would be an unfolding process such as evolution? In other words, does an evolutionary process uphold God’s character as revealed in the scriptures? If so, how?
Thanks for watching!
Ryan Pettey
Director
 A Leap of Truth

A Leap of Truth - Evolutionary Creation

http://biologos.org/blog/a-leap-of-truth

Click link above to view video


“Evolutionary Creation” Transcript


Dr. John Polkinghorne: “The doctrine of creation isn’t about how things began, it’s about why things exist, what holds the world in being. The Christian belief is that it is the will of God that holds the world in being.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “No matter how you think the creation began and the process of the emergence of life occurred, if you are a Christian, you believe that God is mightily hands on.”

Dr. Alister McGrath

Dr. Jeff Schloss

Reverend Dr. Lincoln Harvey

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “Well, why does God use history to achieve his purposes? Why not just have created everything right to begin with? And then, if it were made wrong at a point in time by Adam and Eve falling, why not just have Christ die right there in the Garden and have salvation? Why wait thousands of years for the revelation of Christ? And we don’t get to have the answer to that.”

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “That shows us that God is patient and subtle, that God is prepared to create through process, unfolding process, rather than through just divine magic decree.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “If you believe that every kind of living organism was supernaturally created by God, then, in one sense, every organism is unique, and the cheetah is the fastest organism, and the redwood tree is the largest organism, and they are all specially and supernaturally and distinctly created by God; they are all unique. If you believe in common descent and believe in evolutionary theory, then there is a sense in which no organisms are unique to the extent that they can be explained by the common mechanism of mutation and selection. When we look at human beings, human beings do things that, as of yet, are actually not adequately explainable by the common mechanism of genetic mutation and natural selection.”

Reverend Dr. Michael Lloyd: “What Mother Teresa did on the streets of Calcutta is not evolutionary useful. It is taking limited resources and giving them to people who are dying. That is not, from a survival point of view, useful. And yet, most of us think, that it’s a rather good thing.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “This is not a God-of-the-Gaps argument attempting to prove that there is a miracle or supernatural causes at work—that actually might be the case. But it might also be the case that there are natural causes at work, designed by God, not operating in other organisms, unique to human beings. Right now, evolutionary theory actually gives content to and illuminates the reality of human uniqueness. E.O. Wilson says that this capacity that humans have for unusual degrees of cooperative sacrifice is the culminating mystery of all biology.”

Dr. Richard Colling: “So when we talk about evolution, it is really not a matter of death and destruction imposed upon humanity and all forms of life. Evolution, from a geneticist standpoint, is really a game about probability and potential and hope and possibilities—the same thing that the New Testament says that Christians should be all about.”

Dr. Kerry Fulcher: “In Colossians, it tells us that in him all things hold together. I think God’s creation is continuing to unfold. As it continues to unfold and as we have new species that are being generated, that is not in absence of God’s creative power. Creation is not this one time deal in the past, but God is intricately involved now.”

Dr. Jeff Schloss: “There is a fabulous and profound thematic continuity to the history of life: for example, the transition from primitive prokaryotic cells to eukaryotic cells, the transition from single cells to multi-cells, the transition from asexual, basically clonally individually reproducing organisms, to sexually reproducing organisms that have to do it together, the transition from individual to social organisms. Well, there is really no other way to put this, it is progressive. It is exactly what we would expect if a God, who we already believe on the basis of the sacred history of redemption described in scripture, is also involved in incrementally achieving his purposes over the entire course of history.”

Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne: “And when you come to think about it…if the nature of God is love, as Christians believe, then I think that is the way you would expect the God of love to create, not through just brute power, but by the unfolding of fruitful potentiality.”

Dr. Darrel Falk: “If people think because of scientific evidence, ‘my Christian faith doesn’t stake up anymore’—that day needs to end. All of the richness in life that I know is because of my relationship with God, and so I don’t want people to miss out on that. I don’t want people abandoning the faith because they find out that evolution is really real. It is God’s truth. So here we have this segment, this all-important segment of God’s people, who are out of touch with God’s reality. I mean, it is God’s universe! This natural world is God’s creation—and so the people, who especially need to be in touch with God’s reality, are off in a corner.”

True Religion or True Faith?

True Religion      


by J.R. Daniel Kirk
posted July 8, 2011


For a chapter whose overall title is “The Revelation of God as the Abolition of Religion,” there sure is a lot Karl Barth managed to sneak in that sounds rather in favor of [the] said institution. For example: [there is] a whole subsection entitled, “True Religion” (§17.3).

Barth takes the human dimension of our religious expression quite seriously. For [to live in] this [present] world as it is - to take the human dimension seriously - is to take the sinful human dimension seriously. And so, for religion in general, as for persons in particular, the only way to stand approved before God is to be justified, forgiven, and so-wrapped-up-into-a-process-of-putting-on-display-the-story-of-Christ in sanctification.

Christian religion becomes true, not simply because it “is,” but because God adopts it and sanctifies it and speaks-to-it-and-through-it; thus, the Christian religion is a recepient of God’s grace. When KB was talking about religion as unbelief, Christianity was not excluded, in principle, from that word of judgment. “Christian religion is true only as we listen to the divine revelation” (326).

Barth suggests that in striving to hold up Christian religion itself as the source of our confidence, we lose out on the very confidence we seek to take hold of. In a manner analogous to the weakness of looking to ourselves as proof positive of God at work in the world, taking hold of Christian religion will prove vacuous. Instead of taking hold of the religion, we [are to] take hold of the revelation of God in Christ - this turning from religion to the thing revealed is the way in which to hold to a proper confidence that the religion itself is faithfully participating in the work of God.

In this section, Barth gives a magnificent account of the history of Christianity as it has positioned itself over against other religions. To claim it is better on the same basis by which all religions are judged is to sell the farm. Apologetics of superiority belie the Christian confession that “grace is the truth of Christianity” (333); i.e., the self-giving grace of God in Christ.

In the end, the reality of simil justus et peccator applies to the church as well: not as a cop-out and a means to escape the pursuit of holiness, but as a confession that the church as such will never show by its history that it is, as a religious institution, superior to the world around it. The church is continually judged by its willingness to accept that its whole existence is a continuing work of grace. In light of this revelation it is judged for its failure and called afresh to live in a manner pleasing to God.