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
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Emerging Conversations with Searching Christians

Emerging Conversations

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
May 31, 2012

This is how I assess interviews (whether they’re for a job or for some media outlet or for a book proposal or, well, basically anything): if in the course of the interview I find myself talking passionately about the things I care most about, it was a good interview.

And, if this happens, it’s usually because the person or people I’m speaking with are a natural “fit” with my work.

Though it wasn’t an interview, my conversation with the Charlotte Emerging Church Discussion Group was one of those moments. We had great conversation because there was a common well of experience. And this is what I’ve found, often, when I’ve been in emerging church conversations:
Often, the thing that holds us together is that we have all experienced that traditional church, traditional structure, traditional authority, do not work. We have all experienced that these traditions are upheld by traditional ways of handling the Bible and of handling people. And most of us are somewhere on the spectrum of putting things back together.
That spectrum is quite broad: from “I guess I still want to believe in some sort of God” to “I’m at a different kind of church now, and following Jesus, but at every step of the way trying to figure out how to put the pieces back in place.”

For those folks, the claim I’ve been developing over the past couple years resonated deeply:
As a people whose story is largely understood by reading a Book, how we read that book, how we understand our identity, and how we believe we are supposed to act are inseparable.
In other words, identity, hermeneutics, and ethics will be mutually reinforcing.

Here are a few highlights from the conversation that I continue to mull:

Embracing the Bible as narrative makes the Bible a much less controllable entity. People tell, read, and embrace stories differently from one another. And, the stories we have in the Bible are not all told the same way. Matthew had something to say, and he changed [the book of] Mark to make his point.

I’m not a fan of hierarchy, but I do believe that leadership is important. Something I’ve mulled quite a bit is what the impact of the biblical call to cruciformity means for church leadership. I don’t think that you can institutionalize cruciformity. But anyone in a position of leadership should see such self-giving service as their primary vocation.

I don’t have a great answer to the question of sexuality in the Kingdom of God. Steve Knight probed this question a bit in our conversation. The easy answer is that Jesus indicates in Mark 12 that in the coming Kingdom humans will be asexual (neither marrying nor given in marriage).

But what would it mean to claim this while we also say, “The Kingdom has come near?” What would it mean to make such a confession when we are, generally speaking, called to take hold of our eschatological future and bring it to bear on the present?

Great questions.

Finally, I was reminded how much of my theologizing happens from the luxurious place of privilege. It’s a luxury to talk about “surprise” in the Bible–a luxury that the African American church doesn’t have, because life may hold a grim “surprise” any time you walk out the door. The church has become a counter-cultural place by becoming a place of certainty. Upsetting that applecart has significant consequences that it might not have in a white church.

Even the issues we care about highlight our privilege. Why does the Twitter feed and Facebook timeline overflow with cries about the injustice and/or necessity of forbidding same-sex marriage, while it is entirely silent about the African American high school graduation rate that sits below 50%?
It’s a perpetual challenge for even the postmodern church to embrace multiple perspectives that transcend our own ethnic, racial, and class distinctions.

Finally, it was pointed out that normal church people are not only capable of having robust theological conversations, but that the church’s attempt to “protect” people from difficult questions has, itself, led to theological anemia and dying congregations.

That’s, perhaps, the shared perspective that lay behind everything and enabled the fruitful dialogue:
Implicit in the critiques of where many had come from was simply this: stop trying to handle your congregations with kid gloves; stop trying to hide difficult issues; you are killing us with your “kindness.”

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