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

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jean Vanier - The Passage of Prayer (Intro by Pete Rollins)




Stop Teaching the Ethics of Jesus!

by Peter Rollins
posted 26/6/12

There is a strong tendency within the church for people to extract and teach the ethical framework found in the Gospels. For instance, people might set up a community in which they attempt to live out principles such as giving to someone in need, turning the other cheek and living simply.

There are however a number of interrelated problems with this approach. Firstly it tends to generate guilt. In other words, the more that we hold up certain principles the worse we will feel when we fall short of them.

This leads to the second problem, namely repression. In order to deal with the guilt we will be more likely to avoid a direct confrontation with our failings. In this way we will tend to intellectually disavow what we are doing. One of my favourite parables is the one in which a king returns to his home one day to find a beggar at his gates. Upon seeing this man in rags the king ran into the palace and summoned one of his servants saying, “There is a beggar outside; throw him out immediately. Do you not know that I am too kind and compassionate a man to look upon such suffering?”

It is this logic that we see played out in our own lives on a daily basis. “Do not show me the suffering that takes place in the dairy industry, for I love animals so much that I cannot bear to see such pain” or “Do not tell me where this shirt was made because I love children too much to hear of their horrific abuse in sweat shops.” Here our “beliefs” are nothing more than a form of Unbelief—they are the story we tell ourselves about ourselves in order to avoid the truth. It is unbelief, because it is fully affirmed as what we believe while being that which covers over what we actually do believe (This subject of Unbelief is something I explore in my forthcoming book The Idolatry of God).

Finally this leads to the symptom. In other words we are able to continue to do the action that we expressly attack because we are not directly confronted with it. Hence we see that some of the organisations that consciously uphold the most righteous ethical frameworks have some of the most destructive unethical underbelly (the Catholic Church’s dark underbelly of sexual abuse being just one example).

This was the insight of Paul regarding the Law. The more we say that we should be moral and avoid immorality the more our desire for what we disavow grows. The louder the “no” the greater the temptation to transgress the “no.” The result is guilt, a guilt that is managed through repression, a repression that results in pushing our destructive actions into the unconscious to be manifested in our clandestine actions (i.e. in symptoms).

So what is the alternative to attempting to hold ethical principles? The answer is creating a space of grace in which we are invited to bring our darkness to the surface, to speak of it in an environment in which we will not be condemned or made to feel guilty, a community that will let us speak our anxieties and darkness without asking us to change. In short, a place where we can confront our humanity rather than running from it.

The trick is to create an atmosphere of love, grace and acceptance where people are not told what to do. Where people learn that heresy which claims that, while not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible. In other words, while there are destructive things we do, they can be brought to the light without fear of condemnation. In such an environment ethical acts will emanate from the body just as heat emanates from light. One will not have to be taught that they should look after their neighbour as if it were something that we need to be told, they will simply be more inclined to do so.

The desire to have ethical rules to follow tends to lead to the action they forbid. This causes the spiral into guilt, repression and disavowed symptoms. In contrast laying such ethical propositions to one side and learning to accept both ourselves and the other in grace opens up the path to what we have set aside.



The Passage of Prayer
Jean Vanier



The Passage Of Prayer from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.


*Jean Vanier, CC GOQ (born September 10, 1928) is a Canadian Catholic philosopher,
humanitarian and the founder of L'Arche, an international federation of group homes
for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Vanier






What is Heaven? The Kingdom of God Come NOW to Earth...

Let's give Jeff Cook 3 "atta-boys" on his remarkable perception of tying in what we know about the Kingdom of God with that of our future expectation of God's renewal of all things to Himself. When writers, pastors and preachers come along and actually "get it" and then tell us how they "get it" it makes for easy work for those theologians amongst us that have time-and-again beat the pulpit (or lectern) patiently describing to students and practitioners of God's Word how, and in every way, Jesus has renewed all things on Earth here amongst us.

The Christian expectation is not to die and to run from this wicked world of sin and decay. But to fly into the arms of the Spirit and claim resurrection and renewal to this wicked world around us! To stay put and demand that God resurrect and make new their life spiritually... their family spiritually... their friendships spiritually... their hopes and dreams spiritually... their present ministries and avocations spiritually.... That in every way, and in every possible realization, that God be found within this world of ours using us, and in concerted effort with His people the Church, remaking this world into one filled with hope and love and peace and goodwill and reconciliation and heaven-sent destiny!

Consequently, AMEN my brother! Preach it! Live it! Tell it! Demand it! Use it! Want it! Declare it! Expect it! Shout it! Show it! Make it!! (Yes, I said make it!). For we, as Jesus born, Spirit indwelt, disciples of God are the tools of God by His Spirit that He will use to hammer and chisel, break down, and rebuild, smooth and transform, this wicked world of sin into the new creation that He envisions, wants, wills and demands. Be the tool. Be the sword. Be the plow and shield for the Kingdom of God, now! Be all that you can be in the Spirit of God until He comes and redeems this world from sin and death. Amen.

R.E. Slater
June 26, 2012


Reimagining Heaven

By Jeff Cook
February 3, 2011


If heaven is more than harps, and halos ... what is it?

Often when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is escape. According to Medieval art and modern cartoons, “heaven” is about leaving. Heaven is about getting as far away from what we and others have broken as possible. Perhaps we think this world is too base, painful and irreparably shattered to fix, so our only hope is to leave. As such, “salvation” isn’t about a new life, a transformed character or a brilliant new experience of God. Salvation is about departure. Salvation is about “going to heaven,” being rescued from this dysfunctional world and entering a new home that is trash bag-free.

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to suffer anymore, or wanting to be with God (which are some of the things that come to my mind when thinking of heaven). But when Jesus taught about heaven, He never spoke of it as a distant land of clouds, bath robes and harp music waiting for the souls of the dead (which sounds a bit more like hell to me). Instead, Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of heaven.” It is arguably His favorite topic. Jesus refers to this kingdom more than 100 times—more than He speaks of love, peace and money combined. Apparently, the “kingdom” aspect of heaven was vital to Jesus and His teachings.

But notice—kingdoms are power structures. They are an area of authority. As such, when He spoke of heaven, Jesus was emphasizing heaven’s present power and work. When Jesus told stories that began with similes (such as, the kingdom of heaven is like a man sowing seed in a barren field), He was showing His culture what it looked like when heaven was in control. This was what Jesus wanted His followers to know about heaven. For Jesus, heaven was primarily about God’s will being done on earth. We don’t need to leave earth, because heaven is coming here. Because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” it makes sense that the Son’s highest concern would be repairing the world His Father loves—saturating it with the life of heaven (John 3:16, NIV).

Now and Not Yet

Jesus and the rest of the New Testament writers consistently speak in a way that suggests both that heaven—the sphere of God’s reign, presence and repairing poweris already here in a new way and that it is not yet fully here in another.

When the early Christians expressed their hope in God’s future, they pointed at the resurrection, but there was something else that was more tangible, specific and informative about God’s plans for each of them. They spoke of experiencing God’s Spirit within them and within one another. The Spirit that had once hovered over chaos and helped make the world, the Spirit they saw in Jesus—that same Spirit was now in them. It was tangible, and they felt it transforming them inside and making them more like Jesus.

Jesus believed the Spirit’s renewal—of both human beings and God’s world—had begun. The Spirit’s work is how new creation happens. Notice, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a tiny mustard seed sprouting and eventually growing into an enormous tree filling all the sky. He compared the kingdom of heaven to yeast that slowly worked into a large lump of dough. Both parables imply that the kingdom of heaven will not be instantaneous. Jesus thought heaven had just now begun to grow here, had just now begun to reclaim all the places that had been neglected.

As such, we should think of heaven and the age to come chasing us, meeting us, enlivening us and beginning to grow right here in our midst. It’s as though the renewal of all things has begun, and you and I are being transformed now into what we will always be.

The Sight of Heaven

If we are willing, we can choose to see heaven. We can see it in the lives of those around us who are transformed not by lucky flukes, but the Spirit of God. We can see it in the life and resurrection of Jesus, and in ourselves. We can choose to see places in our own story not as an accident, but as a real encounter with the God who is making everything new. It is a mistake to think of heaven as ever distant, inexperienced, always a step beyond our lives now. The Bible is filled with stories not of people being hurried out of here, but of God descending and drawing the world to Himself.

In the early days of creation, God descended into the Garden of Eden. During the exodus, God descended in a guiding pillar of cloud and fire. During the Jewish exile, God descended into a Babylonian fire to be with three would-be martyrs. In the Gospels, God descended in the incarnation of Jesus. At the origin of the Christian community, God descended like tongues of fire, which communicate to every nation a new reality. When Paul pictured the end of the age, he wrote again of God descending: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command … and the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The final chapters of the Bible end with a grand culmination where heaven and earth are fully wed and God makes His home with us here. What results when our lives are united to that reality—to the reign of God and the work of His Son—is new creation. As God Himself says to close the Bible:

“‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning
or crying or pain, for the old order of things [the present age] has passed away.’
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”
- Revelation 21:3-5
 
Do we choose to see our world this way? Do we choose to see heaven slowly engulfing everything and waiting for its full revelation in our midst? Our hope then is that we will continue to be transformed, that “he who began a good work in you [now] will carry it on to completion [then]” (Philippians 1:6). You and I have not yet arrived. We are not yet perfect. We are always in transit. Our lives are a work of tension—the tension between a work “begun” and a work “complete.” But for those who experience God’s Spirit, the future is clear. We are being made more and more like Jesus who has given us His Spirit.
 
As such, when we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are loved, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life—the life of God’s future connected to Him and to one another.

Of course, Jesus is central to all this. He is not simply the one announcing a new kingdom. He is the king—the Christ—and in the pantheon of potential deities, Jesus alone is doing the work of restoration. He alone has a history of making everything new. In Jesus alone do we get the sense that repair may actually become a reality. We see the defeat of evil in the events of Good Friday and Easter, for the cross and resurrection are the sign to all that there is a new king, for death could not overcome the life rising up in God’s Son.

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado, and is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan 2008) and the upcoming Everything New (2011). This article is excerpted from one that originally appeared in RELEVANT. To get more articles like this, you can subscribe by clicking here.




Piper's "90 Minutes in Heaven?" or Wiese's "23 Minutes in Hell?" True or Not?

 
 


What do you think about all these afterlife memoirs?

by Rachel Held Evans
June 21, 2012

Dan and I have a running joke that if A Year of Biblical Womanhood flops, I can always revert to Plan B: “fall” off the treadmill, claim to go to Purgatory for the duration of my blackout, and then write a guaranteed bestseller entitled 7 Minutes in Purgatory. (Cause no one has done Purgatory yet, right?)

It’s a joke of course, but beneath it is a twinge of concern regarding the increasing popularity of books in which authors claim to have died, gone to heaven or hell, and returned to tell us about it.

Tim Challies wrote a rather scathing assessment of the phenomenon earlier this week in a post entitled “Heaven Tourism":

“Don Piper spent ninety minutes there and sold four million copies of his account. Colton Burpo doesn’t know how long he was there, but his travel diary has surpassed 6 million copies sold, with a kids’ edition accounting for another half million.

Bill Wiese obviously booked his trip on the wrong web site and found himself in hell, which did, well, hellish things to his sales figures. Still, 23 Minutes in Hell sold better than if he had described a journey to, say, Detroit, and he even saw his book hit the bestseller lists for a few weeks.

There have been others as well, and together they have established afterlife travel journals as a whole new genre in Christian publishing—a genre that is selling like hotcakes, or Amish fiction, for that...”

“...I do not believe that Don Piper or Colton Burpo or Mary Neal or Bill Wiese visited the afterlife. They can tell me all the stories they want, and then can tell those stories in a sincere tone, but I do not believe them (even when they send me very angry and condescending emails that accuse me of character assassination). I am not necessarily saying that these people are liars—just that I am under no obligation to believe another person’s experience."

I confess that I too am skeptical.

I wouldn’t go so far as to categorically reject each of these experiences as false, but like Tim, I don’t feel obligated to believe every word of them either.

And I can’t help but wonder what the success of these books says about how many Christians view their faith—namely, that being a Christian is about securing that ticket to heaven and fire insurance from hell, that the gift of salvation is something that kicks in after death with little relevance to day-to-day life. How easy it is to forget that the Kingdom of Heaven is for real...and it is here, among us, now! [sic, see Jeff Cooks last article on Heaven. - res]

Or perhaps the popularity of afterlife memoirs has more to do with that deep longing within each one of us to know for sure that death is not the end, that we will see our loved ones again. I feel this ache profoundly each time I think about my grandparents, and especially my beloved Uncle Gary.

One of the biggest questions I’ve had to confront in my years of wrestling with doubts about my faith is what it means to live without the absolute, unfailing certainty that I will go to heaven when I die. Working through that question has been both terrifying and challenging.

What do you think?

Are you skeptical about afterlife memoirs?

Do you ever doubt the existence of an afterlife?



*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *


Heavenly Tourism

by Tim Challies
June 18, 2012
Travelling to heaven and back is where it’s at today. Don Piper spent ninety minutes there and sold four million copies of his account. Colton Burpo doesn’t know how long he was there, but his travel diary has surpassed 6 million copies sold, with a kids’ edition accounting for another half million. Bill Wiese obviously booked his trip on the wrong web site and found himself in hell, which did, well, hellish things to his sales figures. Still, 23 Minutes in Hell sold better than if he had described a journey to, say, Detroit, and he even saw his book hit the bestseller lists for a few weeks. There have been others as well, and together they have established afterlife travel journals as a whole new genre in Christian publishing—a genre that is selling like hotcakes, or Amish fiction, for that.

I’ll grant that the cost of this type of journey is rather steep (you’ve got to die, though only for just a few minutes), but it’s a sound investment when you factor in the sales figures. I can think of quite a few authors who would trade a few minutes of life for 50+ weeks on the bestseller lists and a few appearances on TBN.

The most recent heaven tourist is Mary C. Neal. Much like Todd Burpo, who is responsible for taking his son’s adventures to print, Neal only decided to write about her experiences many years after the fact, after all those other “I went to heaven” books began to sell in the hundreds of thousands. But that’s definitely just coincidence. She initially self-published her book To Heaven and Back, but once it started generating buzz (i.e. selling lots and lots of copies), Waterbrook Multnomah stooped down and scraped it off the bottom of a shoe somewhere, and promptly re-issued it. With the extra marketing nudge, it has now made its debut on the New York Times list of bestsellers. I gave it a skim—I just couldn’t bear to read it all the way—and found that it is much the same as the others. In fact, it may be worse than the others in that it contains even less Christian theology, less gospel and far more New Age, sub-Christian nonsense. That a publisher of Christian books would even consider taking this to print is appalling.

I am not going to review To Heaven and Back. It’s pure junk, fiction in the guise of biography, paganism in the guise of Christianity. But I do want to address a question that often arises around this book and others in the genre: How do I respond to them? How do I respond to those who say they have been to heaven? When a Christian, or a person who claims to be a Christian, tells me that he has been to heaven, am I obliged to believe him or at least to give him the benefit of the doubt?

No, I am under no such obligation. I do not believe that Don Piper or Colton Burpo or Mary Neal or Bill Wiese visited the afterlife. They can tell me all the stories they want, and then can tell those stories in a sincere tone, but I do not believe them (even when they send me very angry and condescending emails that accuse me of character assassination). I am not necessarily saying that these people are liars—just that I am under no obligation to believe another person’s experience. Here’s why:

In the first place, we have no reason to believe or expect that God will work in this way—that he will call one of us to the afterlife and then send us back to our old bodies. The Bible says that it is for man to die once and then to experience the resurrection. There are many experiences we can have in a near-death state I am sure—dream-like experiences that may even seem real—but the Bible gives us no reason to believe that a person will truly die, truly experience the afterlife, and then return. Those who have a biblical understanding of life and death and heaven and hell will know that for a person to die and visit heaven, to experience sinlessness and the presence of Jesus Christ—for that person it would be the very height of cruelty to then demand that they return to earth. None of these books are at all consistent with a robust theology of heaven and hell, of the work of Jesus Christ, of the existence of indwelling sin. On the surface they may seem compelling, but in reality they raise far more questions than the few they may appear to answer.

In the second place, the very idea of God calling a person to heaven and back and then having that person share his experience in order to bolster our faith is the exact opposite of what the Lord desires for us. We have no reason to look to another person’s experience of heaven in order to prove that heaven is real or hell is real. The Bible promises blessings on those who do not see and yet believe. Our hope is not to be in the story of a minister or toddler or doctor or anyone else who insists they have been to heaven; our hope is to be in Jesus Christ as God has graciously revealed him to us in the Bible. Faith is believing that what God says in his Word is true and without error. You dishonor God if you choose to believe what the Bible says only when you receive some kind of outside verification. You dishonor God if you need this kind of outside verification.

A question remains: How do I respond to a Christian who has read these books and who finds great joy or comfort in them? You point that person to what is true. You will need to be careful with tone and timing, but ultimately, it will be a blessing for any Christian to direct his faith to the worthy object of faith. Faith will be strengthened by reading the Bible and believing it. Faith will be weakened by reading the Bible and believing it only after reading 90 Minutes in Heaven. You can serve any Christian by directing him to the Bible and helping him to see that we are called to believe God on the basis of what he says in his Word, not on the basis of another person’s experience. 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is For Real and all the rest are not books that beautify the doctrine of heaven, but books that attack the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible insists that it is enough, that it is sufficient, that we have no need for further special revelation from God; these books insist that it is not.



* * * * * * * * * * * *


Reimagining Heaven
                     
By Jeff Cook
February 3, 2011
 
If heaven is more than harps, and halos ... what is it?
 
Often when we think of heaven, what comes to mind is escape. According to Medieval art and modern cartoons, “heaven” is about leaving. Heaven is about getting as far away from what we and others have broken as possible. Perhaps we think this world is too base, painful and irreparably shattered to fix, so our only hope is to leave. As such, “salvation” isn’t about a new life, a transformed character or a brilliant new experience of God. Salvation is about departure. Salvation is about “going to heaven,” being rescued from this dysfunctional world and entering a new home that is trash bag-free.
 
There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to suffer anymore, or wanting to be with God (which are some of the things that come to my mind when thinking of heaven). But when Jesus taught about heaven, He never spoke of it as a distant land of clouds, bath robes and harp music waiting for the souls of the dead (which sounds a bit more like hell to me). Instead, Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of heaven.” It is arguably His favorite topic. Jesus refers to this kingdom more than 100 times—more than He speaks of love, peace and money combined. Apparently, the “kingdom” aspect of heaven was vital to Jesus and His teachings.
 
But notice—kingdoms are power structures. They are an area of authority. As such, when He spoke of heaven, Jesus was emphasizing heaven’s present power and work. When Jesus told stories that began with similes (such as, the kingdom of heaven is like a man sowing seed in a barren field), He was showing His culture what it looked like when heaven was in control. This was what Jesus wanted His followers to know about heaven. For Jesus, heaven was primarily about God’s will being done on earth. We don’t need to leave earth, because heaven is coming here. Because “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,” it makes sense that the Son’s highest concern would be repairing the world His Father loves—saturating it with the life of heaven (John 3:16, NIV).
 
Now and Not Yet
 
Jesus and the rest of the New Testament writers consistently speak in a way that suggests both that heaven—the sphere of God’s reign, presence and repairing poweris already here in a new way and that it is not yet fully here in another.
 
When the early Christians expressed their hope in God’s future, they pointed at the resurrection, but there was something else that was more tangible, specific and informative about God’s plans for each of them. They spoke of experiencing God’s Spirit within them and within one another. The Spirit that had once hovered over chaos and helped make the world, the Spirit they saw in Jesus—that same Spirit was now in them. It was tangible, and they felt it transforming them inside and making them more like Jesus.
 
Jesus believed the Spirit’s renewal—of both human beings and God’s world—had begun. The Spirit’s work is how new creation happens. Notice, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a tiny mustard seed sprouting and eventually growing into an enormous tree filling all the sky. He compared the kingdom of heaven to yeast that slowly worked into a large lump of dough. Both parables imply that the kingdom of heaven will not be instantaneous. Jesus thought heaven had just now begun to grow here, had just now begun to reclaim all the places that had been neglected.
 
As such, we should think of heaven and the age to come chasing us, meeting us, enlivening us and beginning to grow right here in our midst. It’s as though the renewal of all things has begun, and you and I are being transformed now into what we will always be.
 
The Sight of Heaven
 
If we are willing, we can choose to see heaven. We can see it in the lives of those around us who are transformed not by lucky flukes, but the Spirit of God. We can see it in the life and resurrection of Jesus, and in ourselves. We can choose to see places in our own story not as an accident, but as a real encounter with the God who is making everything new. It is a mistake to think of heaven as ever distant, unexperienced, always a step beyond our lives now. The Bible is filled with stories not of people being hurried out of here, but of God descending and drawing the world to Himself.
 
In the early days of creation, God descended into the Garden of Eden. During the exodus, God descended in a guiding pillar of cloud and fire. During the Jewish exile, God descended into a Babylonian fire to be with three would-be martyrs. In the Gospels, God descended in the incarnation of Jesus. At the origin of the Christian community, God descended like tongues of fire, which communicate to every nation a new reality. When Paul pictured the end of the age, he wrote again of God descending: “The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command … and the dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:16). The final chapters of the Bible end with a grand culmination where heaven and earth are fully wed and God makes His home with us here. What results when our lives are united to that reality—to the reign of God and the work of His Son—is new creation. As God Himself says to close the Bible:
 
“‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.
They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning
or crying or pain, for the old order of things [the present age] has passed away.’
He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’”
 
- Revelation 21:3-5
 
Do we choose to see our world this way? Do we choose to see heaven slowly engulfing everything and waiting for its full revelation in our midst? Our hope then is that we will continue to be transformed, that “he who began a good work in you [now] will carry it on to completion [then]” (Philippians 1:6). You and I have not yet arrived. We are not yet perfect. We are always in transit. Our lives are a work of tension—the tension between a work “begun” and a work “complete.” But for those who experience God’s Spirit, the future is clear. We are being made more and more like Jesus who has given us His Spirit.

As such, when we choose mercy over indifference, when we choose action over apathy, when we choose self-restraint and chastity over a life given over to our many reckless desires, we choose to live now in the kingdom of heaven. When we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, house the homeless and die to ourselves for the sake of another, we enjoy the life of the age to come. When we hear the voice of God telling us we are loved, that our many sins are forgiven, we experience now what we will experience forever. When we eat together, laugh together, sing together, serve together, take communion, love our enemies and cancel debts, we choose to live the best kind of life—the life of God’s future connected to Him and to one another.

Of course, Jesus is central to all this. He is not simply the one announcing a new kingdom. He is the king—the Christ—and in the pantheon of potential deities, Jesus alone is doing the work of restoration. He alone has a history of making everything new. In Jesus alone do we get the sense that repair may actually become a reality. We see the defeat of evil in the events of Good Friday and Easter, for the cross and resurrection are the sign to all that there is a new king, for death could not overcome the life rising up in God’s Son.


Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado, and is the author of Seven: The Deadly Sins and the Beatitudes (Zondervan 2008) and the upcoming Everything New (2011). This article is excerpted from one that originally appeared in RELEVANT. To get more articles like this, you can subscribe by clicking here.



Update: The Ongoing Discussions re "Creatio Ex Nihilo" between Process Theologians


By way of helps I've included Tripp's links to his discussions with Tony Jones to help the reader work through their escalating discussions without getting lost in all the cross-links! These can be found further below.

Also, this discussion is a continuation of an earlier discussion found here - Creatio ex Nihilo: Arguments For and Against (Part2).

R.E. Slater
June 26, 2012



As Preface read this first to aide in a biblically orientated ANE version of ex nihilo creation -
Genesis 1 and a Babylonian Creation Story
http://biologos.org/blog/genesis-1-and-a-babylonian-creation-story
Peter Enns
May 18, 2010


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A Bonus Track About ‘Nothing’
http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/05/29/a-bonus-track-about-nothing/

by Tripp Fuller
May 29, 2012
Comment

The Creatio Ex Nihilio debate has been moving across the inter-webs. It started with Tony Jones quote bombing me with Moltmann, I responded, Tony retorted, then we posted the Debate about ‘nothing,’ the TNT episode about ‘nothing,’ and Tony’s most recent post where he declares his love for Philip Clayton.

This is the B side of the Creation Ex Nihilo debate we released earlier this week featuring Monica A. Coleman, Catherine Keller, Philip Clayton, Michael Lodahl, Richard Rice, and Marit Trelstad.

What you are about to hear is the Question and Response time from last years American Academy of Religion (AAR) roundtable hosted by the Open & Relational group headed by podcast favorite Tomas Jay Oord (who will be the first voice that you hear).

A host of folks from around the world are going to come to the microphone and voice their questions and concerns – then the panelist will respond in the second half of the hour. It is a lively exchange and admittedly, this is not for the faint at heart. This is top-shelf philosophical/theological dialogue.

You will hear references to Hegel, Heideggar, and Whitehead.

There are questions from Europe, Asia and Latin America.

You will hear question from Professors, Students and Pastors.

Concerns will range from issues of power to ethic implications … and the Dao.

And that is just in the questions!

Then the panelist get up and respond to the audience! At this point it what we call a donnybrook – a free for all – an old fashioned theo-philosophical throw-down!



A Post for Tripp Fuller
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2012/05/19/a-post-for-tripp-fuller/

by Tony Jones
May 19, 2012
Comments

“In a modern theology of nature, it is neither wise nor appropriate to reduce the fact of the divine creation to the process of God’s separating activity; for to do so calls in question the theological character of ‘theology of nature’ itself. But if we call in question the ‘theology’ in the theology of nature, the natural character of nature is threatened too. A danger of this kind is inherent in the process thinking of A.N. Whitehead, and in the process theology which was built upon his ideas.

If the idea of creatio ex nihilo is excluded, or reduced to the formation of a net-yet-actualized primordial matter ‘no-thing,’ then the world process must be just as eternal and without any beginning like God himself. But if it is eternal and without any beginning like God himself, the process must itself be one of God’s natures. And in this case we have to talk about ‘the divinization of the world.’ God and nature are fused into a unified world process, so that the theology of nature becomes a divinization of nature: God is turned into the comprehensive ordering factor in the flux of happening.

-Jürgen Moltmann
God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God, p. 78



Creation Out of Nothing is Overrated (For Tony Jones)
http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/05/21/creation-out-of-nothing-is-overrated-for-tony-jones/

by Tripp Fuller
May 21, 2012
Comments

Tony Jones quote bombed Moltmann at me about Process theology’s doctrine of Creation. To point out (1) how Moltmann misunderstands Whitehead or (2)  give a detailed explanation of a Process theology of nature could be a boring blog…so I figured I would just respond by (3) telling you all exactly how overrated Creation out of Nothing is as a doctrine. Questioning the doctrine may be taboo in theology nerd circles but I think it’s time to let that taboo die. Why?

1. Creation Out of Nothing isn’t Biblical, as in it isn’t in the Bible. If you read through the Bible you will not find the affirmation that God created the world out of nothing. It’s just not in there. In fact, even Biblical scholars who in the end want to affirm the doctrine for theological reasons will not point to the idea being present in the Bible. Just re-read Genesis 1 and ask yourself ‘where did the darkness and waters come from?’ They weren’t created but were there when God began to create.

2. Creation Out of Nothing isn’t a part of the Biblical Imagination. Not only is the doctrine absent in scripture but in the quite robust doctrine of Creation in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures you don’t even see an interest in the question itself. There is plenty of interest in the goodness of Creation, God’s on-going relationship with Creation, Creation’s role in God’s on-going mission, the Cosmic Christ’s relationship to Creation, Creation’s groaning and it’s worship of God but not an affirmation that it came from nothing. It seems odd to me to insist on a doctrinal nuance that isn’t in scripture or even asked. Sure you can hold it but if no author of scripture thought about asking, relax with the dogmatism.

3. Early Church Fathers didn’t sweat Creation out of ‘something.’ Both the Hellenistic tradition via Platonism and Judaism assumed that God created out of some unoriginate matter. Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, and Clement of Alexandria all explicitly affirm the doctrine. In one of his apologies to Greek philosophers Justin martyr insists that Plato stole the idea from Genesis! If Creation out of Nothing was necessary to preserve Monotheism or the Biblical doctrine of Creation then someone needs to call Justin.

4. Creation out of Nothing was a Theological Over Reaction to Gnostic Dualism. Creation out of Nothing developed as a response to Marcion’s insistence that the material world and its Creator were evil. Clearly insisting that everything came from a Good God eliminates Marcion’s dualism but it isn’t necessary to go that far. Both Plato and Genesis have no problem envisioning pre-existent matter as lacking qualities that God’s creativity comes to give shape. This idea wasn’t seen as a threat to God’s goodness at all. In fact one wonders that if the insistence of Creation out of Nothing doesn’t itself bring more problems than it solves – namely the problem of evil. If God’s creative activity isn’t a relational one all the way down then is God not in some way the author of evil?

Since the middle of the second century those theologians who came to be seen in retrospect as ‘orthodox’ unquestionably adhered to Creation out of Nothing as if it were a necessary doctrine from scripture and for the Christian faith. There are of course a bunch of theological ways around the problems created by the doctrine, like Augustine’s insistence that evil doesn’t actually exist or that 2 Maccabees 7:28 is the (inter-testimental) affirmation of the doctrine. My concern is that fear of Marcion has led the church to overrate the importance of the doctrine and continuing to do so isn’t necessary…or Biblical!

If anyone is interested in pursuing the Biblical doctrine of Creation check out Jon Levenson’s Creation and the Persistence of Evil. For the early church development of the doctrine see Gerhard May’s Creatio ex Nihilo: The Doctrine of ‘Creation out of Nothing’ in Early Christian Thought. May actually affirms the doctrine but affirms the development I sketched briefly above. A brief summary of the theological side of the argument can be found by David Ray Griffin’s article “Creation out of Nothing, Creation out of Chaos, and the Problem of Evil” in Encountering Evil. All good Homebrewed Deacons will be familiar with John Caputo’s The Weakness of God and Catherine Keller’s The Face of the Deep.



Debating Creatio Ex Nihilo

by Tony Jones
May 22, 2012
Comments

In response to my quote bomb, Tripp has bombed me back with a very good post debating the merits of the traditional doctrine of creatio ex nihilo — that is, the belief that God created the cosmos out of no pre-existent material. That God created everything that is out of nothing but Godself.

I agree that there are some problems with creatio ex nihilo, and I’ll be exploring them with my DMin cohort next month (as we canoe in the BWCAW – jealous?). For now, I encourage you to read Tripp’s post, and let me know if you agree with him that creatio ex nihilo is problematic.
Creation Out of Nothing isn’t Biblical, as in it isn’t in the Bible. If you read through the Bible you will not find the affirmation that God created the world out of nothing. It’s just not in there. In fact, even Biblical scholars who in the end want to affirm the doctrine for theological reasons will not point to the idea being present in the Bible. Just re-read Genesis 1 and ask yourself ‘where did the darkness and waters come from?’ They weren’t created but were there when God began to create.


The Creatio Ex Nihilio Debate!
http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/05/25/the-creatio-ex-nihilio-debate/

by Tripp Fuller
May 25, 2012
Comments


Get ready for a theological treasure chest! Here you get not one or even two theologians but SIX theologians ready to throw down theologically over Creation Out of Nothing. The audio was harvested from the Open and Relational Theologies group at the American Academy of Religion of which I am a very proud member! This episode will include the panelists arguments for or against Creatio Ex Nihilio and later this weekend we will post the Question & Response portion of the session.

The initial panel includes:

In the past week Tony Jones picked a little fight over Creation Out of Nothing by quote bombing me with Moltmann, I responded and Tony retorted. Now I figured it would be a good to share this episode we’ve been sitting on. I do hope you enjoy it and if you are an AAR attendee come on out for one of the Open & Relational theology sessions this year in Chicago.



Homebrewed Christianity


A Whole Podcast about Nothing
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2012/05/29/a-whole-podcast-about-nothing/

by Tony Jones
May 29, 2012
Comments

Tripp has done me a great favor by posting a new HBC podcast from AAR last year — a debate in the Open and Relational Theologies Group about the doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. It follows up on our debate of last week.

I tend to think that Phil Clayton’s opening remarks are spot on: this is really about the very nature of God — but if it can be proved that creatio ex nihilo is really responsible of monarchial monotheism, misogyny, and governmental hierarchies, then I’ll abandon it.





"Everything New," by Jeff Cook






Everything New by Jeff Cook









Everything New - One Philosopher's Search for a God Worth Believing In [Kindle Edition]

Book Description
June 15, 2012

FROM THE PREFACE

A lot of good people, people I think heroic and virtuous, do not believe in my God. They are my friends, my students, my colleagues. One of the latter said he thought you had to be crazy, literally nuts, to believe in a God--which doesn't make my chances at tenure look very promising.

He may be right. I teach philosophy at a state university exploring the works of writers like Russell, Hume and Nietzsche. Such thinkers continue to give me all kinds of reasons to bail God-belief (in fact by now I can argue against God's existence better than anyone else I know), but I don't find such arguments satisfying.

Strong? Sure.

Emotionally compelling? Absolutely.

I gave up God-belief during my graduate studies when I realized the religious views I had defended since high school were insufficient. But recently that changed.

When I get serious about what is real and what the best possible life looks like, I choose to believe-- even after a church I worked for fell apart, even after my son was born with autism, despite the arguments and the long season in which I felt confident a God was not there. I now choose to believe not only in a God, but in a very specific God.

This is what that path has looked like.


Editorial Reviews

"Prepare to see God in new ways."

- SHANE HIPPS. Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church, www.shanehipps.com


"Jeff Cook offers an honest voice in the midst of too many saying the same thing with subtle, monotonous, meaningless differences ... There's more in this little book than its length indicates. Digest this book."

- SCOT McKNIGHT. Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies at North Park University.


"A creatively written and historically grounded portrait ... Everything New presents Jesus in beautiful and compelling ways."

- PRESTON SPRINKLE.
 New York Times Best Selling Author, www.prestonsprinkle.com 


About the Author

Jeff Cook teaches philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. He pastors Atlas Church in Greeley, Colorado. He creates music-driven preaching events with Tim Coons. He posts incendiary thoughts at www.relevantmagazine.com. And he is overseeing a set of animation projects with the incomparable Shane White. You can see his work at: www.everythingnew.org


Product Details

Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Blue Door Publishing (June 15, 2012)





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debrafileta's pictureBy Debra K Fileta
June 24, 2012

Debra K. Fileta is a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in Relationship and Marital issues. She, her husband and two children live in Hershey, PA. She is currently writing her first book on dating and finding true love. Visit her blog at: http://debslessonslearned.blogspot.com/ or follow her on Twitter @DebFileta