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
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

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Suggested Summer Reads by Roger Olson

Some Good Summer Reading (Recommended New or Forthcoming Theology Books)
 
by Roger Olson
June 22, 2013

Summer is a time when I try to catch up on reading. During the academic year books tend to pile up on a table in my home study. Eventually, usually during the summer, I get around to reading some. I’m often reading (or listening to) several books at the same time (don’t take that too literally!). I’m usually writing one book while finishing the “details” of a previous one (e.g., creating its index) and planning the next one. So I’ll start with what I’m working on (books-wise) and then mention some good books I’ve recently read or am reading right now.
 
My magnum opus will probably be the forthcoming The Journey of Modern Theology: From Reconstruction to Deconstruction scheduled to be published by InterVarsity Press later this year. My teaching assistant Jared Patterson and I are working on the index now. The manuscript is 900 pages; the book itself will probably come in a little over 700 pages. It’s up at Amazon without the cover (as of the other day when I checked). I’m not sure why the cover doesn’t show yet. The cover will feature Friedrich Schleiermacher and Karl Barth—“bookends” of modern theology (in terms of approaches to modernity). Journey is a comprehensive revision and expansion of 20th Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age written with Stan Grenz and published by IVP in 1992. It’s really a completely new book that incorporates some material from that earlier one. The theme of Journey is theological responses to modernity (including postmodern theologies). It includes new chapters on: Kierkegaard, Thomas Reid, Coleridge, Bushnell, Hodge, Dorner, Catholic Modernism (Tyrrell, Loisy), Troeltsch, and many more including the final two chapters on Hauerwas (postliberalism) and John Caputo (deconstructionism).
 
Right now I’m writing a book with my friend Christian Collins Winn entitled Reclaiming Pietism. That will be published by Eerdmans sometime in 2014. My next project is a book on contemporary versions of ancient heresies for Abingdon. That’s slated for 2015.
 
I’m also working on a couple of articles and talks—for churches and professional society meetings.
 
So, here are some excellent books you should read. Some are already published; a couple are forthcoming—watch for them (I’ve read them in pre-publication forms):


Scot McKnight, A Long Faithfulness: The Case for Christian Perseverance (Patheos Press available in Kindle edition only). It’s an extremely concise but thorough biblical and theological examination of the doctrine of “eternal security of the believer” or “perseverance of the saints” aimed at defeating deterministic theologies of salvation. You can see my endorsement at the Amazon page for the book. I think this little book (only 64 pages!) presents one of the strongest challenges to the doctrine of “inamissable grace” (its technical name) ever. Scot’s thesis is that IF the Bible contradicts that doctrine and actually teaches amissable grace (the real possibility of apostasy), then deterministic salvation (monergism) is false. The book is irenic toward those with whom Scot disagrees; it is not overly polemical, but it is pointed.


David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw, Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier (Jossey-Bass). The authors are pastors and seminary professors; the book is aimed at the broader evangelical (and post-evangelical) community about being missional in a post-Christendom culture. The book resonates with the recent “Missio Alliance” gathering (at which I spoke) in Arlington, Virginia. Clearly these authors are not satisfied with the two main options in contemporary evangelical and post-evangelical church life: “Neo-Reformed” (e.g., The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel) and “Emerging” (or “Emergent”) as that is represented by Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, et al. They think both of those have much to offer that is valuable, but ultimately they see them as either too defensive and authoritarian or as too enamored with conversation that ultimately goes nowhere. They talk about developing “welcoming and mutually transforming” communities of faith and offer both general and specific paths toward them. People who consider themselves broadly evangelical but not satisfied with either Neo-Reformed or Emergent/Emerging types of contemporary church life may find this book helpful and rewarding. Underlying it and in its background is a generally Anabaptist approach to Christianity, but one that is sensitive and relevant to contemporary (postmodern) culture.*
 
[* I have listed a rejoinder here - Are You Missional or Are You Emergent? Is There a Difference? by R.E. Slater]


Peter C. Blum, For a Church to Come: Experiments in Postmodern Theory and Anabaptist Thought (Herald Press). This is a series of previously published essays in which the author experiments with comparing John Howard Yoder and key postmodern thinkers such as Foucault, Derrida and Levinas with an eye toward community Christianity. The author opposes “top-down,” authoritarian, foundationalist modes of Christian theology and church life and favors an Anabaptist model informed by such postmodern ideas as openness to “the Other.” I’ve only read the first half and found it familiar territory, but that’s because I’ve read quite a bit of literature like this in recent years and have already noticed the points of compatibility between certain themes of postmodern philosophy and Yoder’s approach to Anabaptist theology and ecclesiology.


Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton University Press). Heavy sledding but definitely worth the work. Here Wolterstorff argues against that basic human rights are inherent in persons and not dependent on communities and their orders. I was not familiar with this debate before diving into this book and am still struggling with understanding why anyone, especially a Christian, would think that basic human rights are granted by communities and their orders rather than inherent. So far I’m finding that I have agreed with Wolterstorff’s position for a very long time without knowing it was controversial. He is definitely giving me a lot of philosophical, biblical and theological reasons to continue believing what I have believed.


Gregory Boyd, Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty (Baker, forthcoming). Without doubt (pun intended) this is one of the best books on this subject. (Others include the classics The Myth of Certainty by Daniel Taylor and The Christian Agnostic by Leslie Weatherhead.) In this book Boyd reveals much about himself, his personal and spiritual biography, as well as his mature theology. The thesis is that absolute certainty is humanly impossible—even in spiritual matters—and that we Christians need to learn to live with doubt and even embrace it. One of Greg’s main themes throughout his ministry and writing is “Be real!” He believes too much of contemporary evangelical (and, again, I use the term very broadly) religion revels in a kind of unreality—expecting Christians to rise above mere humanity into perfection. One myth attached to that is that “real Christians” rise above doubt about God, the Bible, etc., and achieve absolute certainty. Greg thinks that sets Christians up for disillusionment when they realize that isn’t happening for them or anyone they know. Greg’s alternative is faith, what Lesslie Newbigin (in Proper Confidence) calls “proper confidence.”


Alan P. F. Sell, Confessing the Faith Yesterday and Today: Essays Reformed, Dissenting, and Catholic (Pickwick). I’ve been asked to review this for Evangelical Quarterly—a British theological journal—so I won’t say much about the book here. Let me just say that Sell is one of my favorite Reformed theologians even though most neo-Reformed (fundamentalist and hard core confessionalist) types in the U.S. would probably consider him not truly Reformed. But, then, he might return the favor. Sell used to be theological secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (now called the World Communion of Reformed Churches)—an ecumenical group of over one hundred Reformed denominations worldwide. (By the way, the Remonstrant Brotherhood of the Netherlands, the direct descendent denomination of the original Remonstrants, is a charter member of the WCRC!) Sell wrote two little books many years ago that had a great impact on me: The Great Debate: Calvinism, Arminianism, and Salvation (Baker) and Theology in Turmoil: The Roots, Course and Significance of the Conservative-Liberal Debate in Modern Theology (Baker). Both are excellent books. But my favorite Sell books (which I reviewed for Christianity Today) are his three under the over arching title Doctrine and Devotion (unfortunately they are now out of print and hard to find). Sell is a British Congregationalist, a “Dissenter,” and one of his main theological heroes is P. T. Forsyth, also one of mine. Forsyth was a progressive evangelical of a century ago—someone who managed to avoid the pitfalls of both fundamentalism and liberalism.


* * * * * * * * * * *


More Recommendations by Roger re "The History of Philosophical Thought" within the cultural milieus of Christianity

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 1: From the Ancient World to the Age of Enlightenment
by Colin Brown
IVP Academic, 2010

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 2: Faith and Reason in the 19th Century
by Steve Wilkens & Alan G. Padgett
IVP Academic, 2010

Christianity and Western Thought, Volume 3: Journey to Postmodernity in the Twentieth Century
by Steve Wilkens & Alan G. Padgett
IVP Academic, 2009


       
 
 
 
 

Stories of the "Not Yet Healed"

 
 
Testimonies of the Not-Yet Healed
 
By John Espy
June 24, 2013
 
It's time for churches to tell the other side of the story.
 
There is one story Christians are hungry to hear. It is not precisely the Gospel story, which we think we know; it is the good news made personal, made real in our bodies and before our eyes. It is the story that concludes, “... and then someone prayed, and I was instantly and completely healed.”
 
In many churches, this is the only personal story that we hear. That is, if someone other than a pastor or worship leader is allowed to speak in church, it is to tell a version of this story. Accounts of physical and emotional healing have become our only public testimonies.
 
These stories should be told, repeatedly. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation will commend Your works to another; they will tell of Your mighty acts.” In the New Testament, healing miracles bear witness concerning Jesus (John 10:25, 38) and sometimes draw entire communities to listen to the Gospel (Acts 3:1-11; 9:32-35, 40-42).
 
 
Every believer lives a story charged with suspense.
 
Yet today we face two difficulties. First, because all our testimonies are alike, they don’t grip us. When there is only one story, there is really no story at all—no suspense, no valuing of developments along the way. The congregation isn’t excited; the community isn’t transformed. And soon the voices fall silent. We listen only to the newest story or the person raised from death trumps the one who had a limb restored. This woman was healed of cancer, but that was 30 years ago, and now she has a heart condition.
 
Which brings us to the second problem: Some of us have quite different testimonies. We have not been instantly and completely healed—at least, not yet. Some of us are very sick indeed, requiring much help and patience from others. Yet we still have testimonies. We strive, like Habakkuk (3:17-18), to rejoice in God even in a time of barrenness. We seek to serve, like Paul, despite “a bodily ailment” (Galatians 4:13), or, like Timothy, despite “frequent illnesses” (1 Timothy 5:23). In various ways, we confess, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50) and “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees” (119:71).
 
We have testimonies, but no one wants to hear them. That is a great pity, for Christians are urged to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). Most testimonies of healing don’t rouse me to stand in the noble, active waiting of hope or to walk in costly deeds of love. That is not their function. Rather, the story of a brother or sister who was instantly and completely healed awakens my faith in a good and steadfastly loving God, who still delivers.
 
Hope and love require a different sort of testimony. They require accounts of missionaries and persecuted Christians, or people—like Joni Eareckson Tada, Dave Roever, and others in our own congregations—who are living models of patient endurance. The gap between these groups is not as wide as we may imagine. The churches of Paul’s day sent many emissaries, but when he says to “honor such men” (Philippians 2:29), his immediate reference is to Epaphroditus, who risked his life by falling sick. We tend to miss this, perhaps because we would rather celebrate power than emulate long suffering.
 
Of course, not every story of sickness is a Christian testimony. Samuel Johnson, who knew both physical maladies and depression, observed, “It is so very difficult for a sick man not to be a scoundrel.” Pain makes us self-centered, grumbling, and manipulative. And yet, in the midst of trials, some believers eventually find strength to rejoice (James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6), grace to give (2 Corinthians 8:2) and comfort to share (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
 
We need heroes. There is much that is heroic in the lives of people who have been healed, in their preceding days or years of pain and doubt, but we rarely hear of this, because of the one story that emphasizes faith and power. We forget the power of God also supplies hope to the one who walks in darkness and love to the one who gives from scarcity. Ultimately there is only one Hero, but how many are His stories!
 
In the midst of trials, some believers eventually find strength to rejoice, grace to give and comfort to share.
 
In her book Affliction, Edith Schaeffer suggests Heaven’s Museum contains two complementary exhibits. Each presents every torment that Satan can devise, every trial that the Accuser calls too big for God. One gallery showcases instances of God delivering from each circumstance; the other, believers who overcame because they continued to love and trust God even though He didn’t deliver them. Without taking this literally, can’t we acknowledge that every believer lives a story charged with suspense? Where are those testimonies?
 
My brother once attended a church with a TV ministry. Each week, the camera swept over the congregation on its way to the platform. Often it captured a man with quadriplegia, sitting in a wheelchair. One day the elders approached this man and said, in effect, “We are delighted that you come here, but this church believes in healing. Our viewers deserve to see only people who are whole and happy. Please, would you sit on the sidelines, in the shadows, just until you are healed.”
 
Today many of our churches believe that to be a Christian, to have any testimony at all, requires that one be whole and happy. We have no Pauls with thorns in the flesh, no Timothys with frequent ailments, no terminally ill Elishas—or, if we do, we accuse them of lacking the faith to be healed, instantly and completely. We fail to perceive that, if we live long enough, this theology will banish every one of us to the shadows. We have no place for broken vessels, with Jesus’ life and power revealed through cracks and amid putrescence. We will honor Epaphroditus only when he becomes camera-ready, or for an hour when he dies.
 
I crave stories of healing as much as anyone. One day I hope to tell such a tale. But, God knows, I also need to be prodded and encouraged by those who haven’t yet received the things promised, but still live by faith because they consider God “reliable and trustworthy and true to His word” (Heb. 11:11, Amplified). They too have a story to tell.
 
 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bluetree - Select Songs and Videos with Links



 
 
 
Bluetree "Under My Feet" (official music video)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bluetree - You Are My Rock (official music video)
 
 
 
 
Bluetree "Jesus Healer" (official music video)
 
 
 
 
Bluetree - God Of This City (album version)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bluetree - Life's Noise
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Buddy Greene, "Mary, Did You Know?" with Lyrics





Mary, Did You Know? - Buddy Greene



Lyrics
Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered
will soon deliver you.

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man
Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?
Did you know
that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby
You've kissed the face of God.

Mary, did you know?Mary, did you know?

Bridge:
The blind will see
The deaf will hear
The dead will live again
The lame will leap
The dumb will speak
The praises of The Lamb

Mary, did you know
that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding
is the Great I Am






Jesus of Nazareth - Mary Did You Know





Friday, June 21, 2013

Are You Missional or Are You Emergent? Is There a Difference?

 
"... Certainly the love of God has made fools of us all."
- R.E. Slater                                            
Voices of Dissent - Unfolding God's Love Within the Heart and Conscience of Humanity                            
 
 
During the past 2 years I have found myself working at defining just what Emergent, Postmodern Christianity might be - as versus what many people think that it is, including Emergency's own circle of "inner disciples." My interest was to define Reformed Christianity and its Classic Theology into more sustainable forms of biblical witness - one that would bring the best of biblical thinking and missional practice into focus. Initially (as can be read in my first six months of blogging) I was interesting in determining what Emergent (or, Emerging) Christianity was not, when played against louder evangelical  voices offering their own cross-flicted opinions as to what transformational Christianity for the 21st Century should be. But immediately after this time I become convicted to speak of a Christianity on a more positive, broader plane of endeavor that could embrace all kinds of people and Christian faiths.... To find a Jesus that reached out to everyone, and not just a select few who happened to hold the "right" views of the Bible.

I also became quite concerned as to how to discern the Scriptures in a very high sense while allowing other human academic disciplines to come alongside to help in understanding God's Word in approaches that might lean towards an "anthropological hermeneutic." As such, I was not put off by trying to "contain" the free speech and insight of "unsanctified others" (per the many alarmed denunciations of my evangelical movement) - even if those voices, in some cases, arose from within anti-God, or atheistic contexts. I realized very early that part of this reconstructive effort would necessarily involve de/constructing "official" Christian-understanding and dogmatic platforms across a wide variety of church doctrines and dogmas. The other effort would be fraught in re/constructing (the preferred theo/sophical term is "reinterpreting" per Paul Ricoeur, the noted French Theologian and Philosopher) the Bible's revelatory structure of multi-vocality as seen within its many ancient narrative stories recounted by both pagan and believer; its lost linguistical backgrounds contained within very ancient socio-personal contexts that we think we understand but probably don't based upon the many varied opinions by scholar and exegete; and, the Bible's overwhelming variety of interpretive hermeneutics as evidenced by personal, societal, and religious restatements recited across its well-leafed pages. Especially as it was relevant within our own contemporary, post-modern, post-secular epoch underscored by a rapidly spreading, social media technology, being flung across a wide variety of formerly culturally-contained, pluralistic, multi-ethnic global societies seeking communication with with one another (whether fairly, or equitably, is another question left for another time). Throughout most of this transitionary period I had this strong sense of the Spirit of God pushing me forward into new, unfamiliar, expansive theological landscapes, while at the same time helping me to resist spinning backwards into the safer, traditional, paradigms of propositional Christianity bounded off by offsetting Christian sentiment and-or willful prejudicial platforms.

Nor did I wish to recreate a Christian faith or theology that was exclusivistic, legalistic, or active in some new form of separatistic conservatism. No. It had to be incarnational (Jesus for today), missional (God's Kingdom for today), expressive (relevant in word and deed), and universal in message and medium. Meaning that no one should be excluded from God's good news in Christ. That no one should be excluded from God's redeeming love. That no one should be left standing out on the byways of the Church of God. That the love of God demanded valuing one another in such a way that it created charitable communities of generous fellowship and goodwill. These latter expressions of worth and value are especially of high interest when working towards expressing an expansive, contemporary Gospel... Especially when viewing Playstation and X-box games filled with blood, killing, and uplifting self against the world. Or in the daily portrayal of our world at war with itself, as it consistently refuses peace and goodwill while always in pursuit of nationalistic agendas, unjust sociological promotions, or the ecological rape and pillage of the Earth. Contrary to man's agendas and interests is God's agendas and interests that promotes charity, worthvalue, and community. This, to me, was the good news of the Gospel worth proclaiming against man's own agendas of monopolistic greed ushered under the thin veneers of adjudicating democracies or totalitarian regimes.

So then, words like post-positional, post-attractional, post-universal, post-Christiandom would not be words that would put me so easily off - or at a disadvantage - but would cause me to "double-down" in locating discussions and fellowships that could intelligently discern what was meant by these terms. Especially when flung cryptically through the ether from the more traditional pulpits I was familiar with that fled to the refuges of past, out-moded Christian doctrines under new words like neo-Calvinism, neo-Reformed, Radical Orthodoxy (which is distinctly different from Radical Theology, which is a postmodern, emergent term, describing the general future direction of Christian theology), or even various shades of "progressivism." If Christianity was to flourish, and become a message embraced by all people everywhere, than Jesus must be its center; our faith be returned to a child-like state freed of adult fears and socio-political boundaries; and, God's divine love and atoning redemption needed to be better understood.

Hence, to claim a "prodigal Christianity" as David Fitch has, as a re-incarnated form of a more "progressive" contemporary Christianity (ala Anabaptism), wasn't the direction I really was looking for when learning of the term "missional" being bantered about by many well-read evangelics across the worlds of evangelicalism by banner, headline, or punchline. Nor did I suspect that it had become God's newest form of ministry to the world at large. Though it may be more antiseptically palatable to traditional congregations unwilling to de/construct their personal beliefs, and religious platforms, it doesn't really challenge the traditional church to change its old ways and views... only to cling to them all the tighter while pretending itself to be epistemological "progressive" and contemporarily "relevant" in its global witness. Overall, I like the emphasis Anabaptism places upon ministry, witness, worship, and prayer, but I also fear that it would not allow its congregants great enough latitude to grow beyond the boundaries of traditional Christianity while mis-believing themselves to be "progressive" in tone and temperament. Certainly it seems like a "big" move forward, or as a way out of the "evangelical-box" that has been created in the name of Jesus, but it still brings a lot of traditional, classical baggage with it requiring "reformation" in presentation and discussion, attitude and approach, work and deed. A reformation that Emergent Christianity already had started in the early 1990s, and is even now resetting once again in light of conflicted social platforms and transparent postmodern movements (meaning that Emergent Christianity is changing as a movement, just as we do ourselves as people, from decade to decade, life stage to life stage, as it matures in message and content).

Hence, my understanding of a relevant Christianity must be one that includes re-visioning and re-imaging the church.... A church which might have to be burned down before it can arise up again from its denominational ashes like that of Jesus life and ministry (which more-or-less is classic Emergent doctrine). But unlike the past, today's new Emergent Christians must be willing to push forward beyond Evangelic Christian doctrines in a positivistic sense of health and healing. For not all can remain ashes for long. One must begin anew rebuilding a theologic house in which to live... but importantly, one that is Emergent in temperament, and expansively relevant to today's societies. And importantly, one must remember the ashes we've come from as a movement - if not having already learned to live uncomfortably within - by holding onto faith's holy elements of doubt and mystery (as versus more popular religious folklores expressing hardlined biblical certainties) when thinking of all things God.... For anybody who has experienced their epistemologic views of the world being burned down, you will understand what I mean. Unfortunately, we too-quickly-embrace the next new-and-more-promising doctrine, dogma, or movement, which unfortunately can end up not unlike our first epistemological marriage that burned down earlier in life (kinda like a quick "second' or "third" marriage, poor examples though they may be). My sense is to caution one from rebuilding their life too quickly. To trust God with the anarchy that exists in our lives before attempting to move on too soon lest we build more structures on sand that are not theologically (nor existentially) sustainable. Why? Because there can be had valuable insight learned from these times of doubt and skepticism, fury and anger, that cannot be obtained at any other time in our lives. And mostly, it is because we ourselves must first be broken down by the Spirit of God in order to see the living God again in the lights of His all-healing love and redemption. And so, as hard as it is, do not run from these times of foundational upheaval - be they personal or institutional. But learn to embrace them, to accept them, to allow God's fullness to dwell within them as He guides us towards a complete(r) restoration as only our Lord can provide in His love and wisdom (I think this was profoundly expressed by David Guetta's, "Titanium ft. Sia").

And please understand that Emergent Christians are ones  who have been born out of the ashes of their old worlds of faith-belief. Who fear to return to their former ways and life unwisely. Wishing to hang onto God's mystery and paradox, as much as to investigate just what good doctrine might portend, when unleashed from the codified docks of indefatigable declarations, deceptive assurances, and Christian platitudes. The Christian message is simple. God is God. God has done all things because of His love for creation. Jesus is God's supreme expression of love (and misunderstanding, and hate, and death). We each bear value to God as to one another. We each were built for community and fellowship, both with God, and with one another. Anything which tears away at these truths does so to its own peril. Anything which lessens the impact of these truths cannot survive. Anything which wishes to demarcate itself from these truths does so to its error. For those who wish to be "missional" God bless you. But in your "missional outreach" be receptive to being broken and remade in the image of Christ so that all your worlds become like sweet incense to the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

And as for my fellow Emergents... do not be afraid to rebuild again. Its something we must do. If not, than another will, and perhaps less vigorously, if not unwisely. Though we live as broken people we must also live towards restoration of faith and hope. And if the attitudinal perspective of Emergent Christianity is to survive than this task must be our pledge and banner. For I look to an expansive, embracing, borderless, Christianity - more than the one I was born into and trained within. One that is broken. That is as much institutionally, as it is personally, transformational. That is less sure about things. But whose center is truly Jesus in all things, conformities, ministries, and goodwill. Which is at all times at work discriminating itself. One that is more open to our faithful Redeemer-Creator's revelations of Himself for this day and age. A Christian faith which can openly re-envision classic church doctrines and missional practices for postmodern ministry. A faith that challenges religious beliefs to the radicalness of the new gospel of Christ as first set forth by our Lord in the Scriptures.

From ashes to ashes, from dust to dust, yea verily the church must proceed. But within these redemptive ashes of burned up lives may there beat hearts of living gold and silver. Not works of tinkling brass and conforming dogmas decrying whose "in" and whose "out" of  God's holy love. Where the wheat of God's living Word is bravely proclaimed and wisely discerned beyond the dark creeds and confessions of disempowering denominations and overweening scholars. Where its life-giving bread is eaten and consumed giving strength to the life of faith and belief. Where the leavening yeast of dithering words and spoiling feast be culled from the dying vineyards of gaping mouths fed by pulpit or press,  to be then burned upon an altar's rising infernos of the dying dead. Where may be found receptive schools of unified fellowships not only proclaiming the word missional, but seeking within their bodies politic to be truly transformational. No longer seized upon Christianity's pre-packaged structures and stanchioned beliefs presented to the pandering public listening between the gaps of our ostracizing words and spurning deeds. And if unwilling to be transformational, than claim not the banner of missional, for it deceives a church's congregants providing title where there is no life of the Spirit. For the church has entered once again into a spiritual period of Reformation not unlike its rebirth out of classic Medievalism 500 years earlier, causing it to e-merge from Modernism's timorous fears and pilavorous claims as it became transformed by e-mergent spirit and enlightened inquiry. Listening to the words of her Lord afresh through the many eyes and ears of those surrounding it - be they friend or foe - who had discerned the gospel's proclaim to its sin and transgression. Yea, even so, as God's holy love is missional may our charitable forbearance be as well. A forbearance that seeks all men to dwell in the shadow of the divine before the Father's grace of mercy and forgiveness, hope and charity, as we now enter upon new worlds to come filled with Son and Spirit promising challenge and conflict to the tension of faith's apprehension.

R.E. Slater
June 21, 2013
 
 
Is “Prodigal Christianity” Sustainable?
A couple of weeks ago, Tony Jones posted an introductory video [(see below)] to a new book by Geoff Holsclaw and David Fitch called Prodigal Christianity. I posted my initial thoughts, and then began a conversation with Geoff about the book via email. I told Geoff that I would read the rest of the book, and then try to write a review. But, once I got the book and starting reading it, it felt like I was being taken back in time three years. I hope that doesn’t sound condescending, so let me explain:
 
When my family and I left “the church,” I had spent the previous several years heading in a certain direction theologically. The understanding of gospel and mission that I was attracted to – and what I felt best represented what the Bible was all about – was influenced by Lesslie Newbigin, N.T. Wright, Chris Wright, Tim Keller, Michael Goheen, Michael Frost, Alan Hirsch, Brian Walsh, and many other similar thinkers. But, for me, theology was not a solely intellectual thing. I had made a commitment to not only learn things but to embody them. So, while I was on staff at a large neo-Reformed church, I was also teaching classes and leading a community group in our home, trying to live out the kinds of things I was learning with a group of people.
 
Reading through this book has been a sort of deja vu. I’m not sure how different the authors’ understanding is from where I was three years ago. If I would’ve come across this book back then, I’m sure I would’ve endorsed it wholeheartedly, and it would have become part of the “curriculum” for my own teaching and practice.
 
I have sat down several times and tried to write a review of the book. If I could put it all together, I have several posts worth of content. But, to be honest, it’s been so weird for me to have this experience that I’m not sure how capable I am of doing that. Or how helpful to anyone it would be. So, rather than doing that, for now, I’m just going to take a couple of posts and respond to a couple of things in the book.
 
This first post is a response to an idea in the book that suggests that what loosely goes under the names “emergent” or “emergence” or “emerging” is not “capable of providing direction” as a “way of thinking about church in mission.” Basically, the authors are trying to recognize and praise the influence emergent has had on their thinking, while wanting to encourage their readers in a different direction. Thus the term “Prodigal Christianity” in contrast to Emergent or Emergence Christianity.
 
I’m sure that the authors would admit that their exposure to Emergent has been limited [by their background and traditions - res]. None of us has a God’s-eye-view on anything. We can only speak from our experience. And, they may have some legitimate critiques of many aspects of the movement. But, from my perspective, I don’t think they’re seeing the bigger picture. What I am seeing (and hoping) to be the case is that emergent has a truly sustainable structure and ethos that no other movement within (Western) Christianity has. I think the future of Christianity, at least in this part of the world, is actually to be found among those who go under the broad umbrellas of emergent or progressive Christianity. This movement has even made space for atheists/agnostics/skeptics (the “nones”) like myself who can no longer believe in much of what orthodox Christianity requires, but who nonetheless find much common ground with emergent. Honestly, I don’t see how any of us could “exist” within the traditional structures of orthodox Christianity.
 
So, how have I come to these kinds of predictions?
 
Western culture has shifted – and will continue to shift – to such a degree that much of what passes for traditional/orthodox Christianity is not going to remain within the next few decades. That which does not evolve will become extinct. It used to be the case that slavery was considered “normal”; now, it is pretty difficult to find reasonable people who think it should not have been outlawed. I think many other beliefs and ideas within orthodox Christianity will increasingly be seen as archaic, oppressive, ridiculous, etc. “The church” can either embrace this shift as “the new normal” and “reform” itself, or it will likewise become entirely irrelevant to the majority of people. Those who are trying to “go back” to some different time or place are simply building the walls of their own museum.
 
Much of what goes on under the umbrellas of “evangelicalism,” “neo-Reformed” and many other related movements (including “missional”/”incarnational” visions) will morph into what the culture at large will continue to perceive as “the new fundamentalism.” It seems that the main distinction is between those who see the Bible as the primary source of knowledge/truth, and those who don’t [this mainly cuts across how we think of the Bible - as a revelation from God about Himself, His message, His plans, or as an "All-in-One" Book that can ignore scientific discovery which also can tell us about our Creator Redeemer - res]. Even those who reject the modern concept of inerrancy fall into this same fideistic trap. Now, of course, the Bible is an amazing and interesting set of documents; I think we ignore it at our own cultural and literary peril. But, the future of Christianity will be open to diverse sources of knowledge from many different streams.
 
Finally, no matter how much “relationship” is established between people coming from very different perspectives, the majority of people will not “convert” to those archaic forms of Christianity – at least not permanently. Of course, there are always waves of change, but in the long term, I think we will see a lot more people rejecting Christianity altogether rather than embracing a “bibliocentric” way of life. People have become a lot more aware of these subtle but sophisticated conversion techniques (missional as evangelism), and will be on guard against all attempts for someone to turn them into a project – a means to an end – via bait-and-switch hidden agendas.
 
I, for one, am very hopeful for the future of Christianity. But, the kind of Christianity that I think will remain, the kind that will benefit the most people, will look very different from many of the loudest voices who claim to speak for Christianity in our culture today. I hope to continue to lay out out my own vision for what that kind of Christianity might look like through my personal blog.
 
 
Prodigal Christianity - Why This Book? by Fitch and Holsclaw
 
 
 
 
Some Honest Talk about Labels (Emergent, Missional, Etc.)
 
by Tony Jones
February 20, 2013
 
I was interested to see the above video, promoting the new book by my friends David Fitch and Geoff Holsclaw. It was particularly interesting based on how they used some terminology in the promo video. They repeatedly used the terms “neo-Reformed” and “Emergent” as opposite poles, and they used their own preferred term, “missional,” as the middle way between those two erroneous options.

That was most intriguing to me is that I first met both of these guys at an Emergent Village Cohort. Indeed, Geoff ran the Chicago cohort for many years — it was, under his leadership, one of the strongest cohorts in the country. Meanwhile, Fitch was injecting his own missional-Anabaptist theology into the emergent movement in a powerful way. Fitch has gained an audience for his theology in large part because of his generous engagement with the emergent movement.
 
In other words, these guys are among the most responsible people for the growth and development of the emergent movement, from which they are now trying to verbally distinguish themselves.
 
I’ve written before about the term “missional.” It bends a lot of ways. It’s a term that basically anyone can use for what ever purpose they want — from a stalwart Southern Baptist neocon like Ed Stetzer to an Anabaptist pacifist like David Fitch. And then you’ve got the neo-Barthian camp like Darrell Guder and John Franke. They’re all “missional,” and so are a dozen church planting networks like TransForm, Forge, and the Parish Collective.
 
So here’s a test. Imagine a Christian leader saying this: “I’m not missional.”
 
No one’s going to say that. Not a PC(USA) pastor, and not a PCA pastor. Not a just-war Augustinian, and not an Anabaptist pacifist. Scot McKnight will say he’s missional, and so will Brian McLaren. So will the pope. So will I.
 
You might say you’re not Presbyterian or you’re not emergent. But you’re not going to say that you’re not missional.
 
Meanwhile, we all know that the term “emergent” has been redefined by conservatives. As hard as we tried to use it as an open-handed term for an ongoing theological conversation, the theological police jumped up and down screaming that “emergent = liberal” that people started to believe it. Publishers, for instance, once loved the term; they now want nothing to do with it.
 
So my prediction is that people will keep using the term “missional” and defining it in their own ways. And I think that’s fine. But let’s all remember that with such a broad term that “missional” — like “evangelical,” or even “Christian” — what it really means lies in the definition of the speaker, and the interpretation of the hearer.
 
Would you say that you’re a “missional” Christian? Or would you say that you’re not?



Thursday, June 20, 2013

Exodus International Apologizes to LGBT Community

An Exodus From the 'Ex-Gay' Movement?
http://www.advocate.com/politics/religion/2013/06/20/breaking-exodus-international-shuts-down-end-ex-gay-movement?page=full

The movement, which suffered the latest blow on Wednesday as Exodus International's board voted to shut down, is the subject of a new installment of Our America With Lisa Ling.
 
by Trudy Ring
June 20, 2013
 
Art (left) and Sean are two of the ex-gay survivors appearing on Our America With Lisa Ling.
 
The nation’s most prominent ex-gay group, Exodus International, announced on its website late Wednesday that it will shut down and reemerge as a new ministry.
 
The group had for most of its existence insisted gay people can be turned straight. Exactly what its newest iteration will become is unclear from the announcement, and a new website called "Reduce Fear" hasn't even been completed.
 
Decades after leading U.S. mental health organizations agreed that being gay is not a disorder, a small segment of American society, driven largely by religion, has persisted in saying homosexuality is something that can and should be “cured.” While there has always been ample skepticism about the “ex-gay” movement, recent developments indicate the movement is becoming more marginal than ever — it’s not dead, but it’s certainly in critical condition.
 
Stories are legion of those who’ve gone through so-called reparative therapy, seeking to turn from gay to straight, only to find the therapy is not only ineffective but downright harmful. Mainstream mental health professionals have condemned it. One state has outlawed it, and others are likely to follow. Even the president of Exodus International has renounced such therapy and says Exodus is no longer part of the ex-gay movement.
 
That man, Alan Chambers, appears Thursday night on Our America With Lisa Ling, on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, delivering an apology (of sorts) to LGBT people who’ve been harmed by ex-gay efforts. It's timed with a written apology issued this week via the Exodus website. The shift by Chambers and Exodus, however, raises the question of just what the movement is about now — if it doesn’t profess to make gay people straight, is it offering only celibacy or the closet?

A year ago, at Exodus’s annual conference, Chambers announced that the organization was renouncing reparative therapy, saying it offered false hope to those who undergo it and even harms them, while treating homosexuality differently than other “sins.” But he continues to believe that sex should be confined only to monogamous heterosexual marriages.
 
Recently, Chambers, who had been interviewed for Our America’s “Pray the Gay Away?” episode in 2011, contacted Ling to say he wanted to make a return appearance to issue an apology for the hurt caused by ex-gay therapy. She suggested that people who had left ex-gay groups be present. “I was really surprised that Alan agreed,” she tells The Advocate.
 
It resulted in a three-hour meeting that “was exhausting emotionally,” Ling says, and that is readily apparent in the portions featured in the new Our America episode, “God and Gays.” Chambers and his wife, Leslie, met with 10 survivors of ex-gay programs, including Michael Bussee, an Exodus founder who eventually left the group and became an out and proud gay man; Jerry, a former pastor who came out of the closet after a 26-year marriage; Catherine, who was a counselor with an ex-gay ministry and calls it “the greatest regret of my life”; Art, who believes his bipolar disorder was brought on by ex-gay therapy; and Christian, whose experience attests to the gender stereotyping and misconceptions about gays that permeate such therapy efforts — he was urged to give up his found-object art projects and pursue more “masculine” activities such as sports and gym workouts. They and the others were enlisted from an online support group run by Bussee.
 
They gathered in the basement of Hollywood Lutheran Church in Los Angeles, a congregation affiliated with the LGBT-affirming Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ex-gay movement is largely a phenomenon of fundamentalist Christianity, with mainline Protestant Christian denominations accepting gay people as they are. There is also at least one Jewish ex-gay group, and the Roman Catholic Church has a ministry that seeks to help gay people lead celibate lives.
 
Chambers says of Exodus, “Today we cease to be an ex-gay organization.” He apologizes for the hurt it has caused by promoting efforts to change sexual orientation, and he tells the survivors of ex-gay therapy, “You haven’t ever been my enemy, and I’m sorry I’ve been yours.” He says he recognizes the right of LGBT people to campaign for equality. But he also says he will not apologize for his beliefs about biblical constraints on sexual behavior.
 
The others in the room confront him about just what Exodus is. “My cynical side would say it’s the recloseting ministry,” says Jerry. He sees Exodus’s new message as “We cannot change you, we cannot give you a happy life, but we can help you get back into the closet more comfortably.”
 
“No matter what you change, you’re still selling that lie [about changing sexual orientation], and you know it, that’s the worst thing,” says another, Sean, who had been told he was demon-possessed and contemplated suicide because of the pain caused by ex-gay therapy. “You know, deep down inside, Alan, that it is still a bald-faced lie.”
Alan Chambers and his wife, Leslie, respond to survivors of ex-gay therapy.

Chambers responds that Exodus remains “a Christian ministry” that will serve a demographic in need — Christians with same-sex desires who nonetheless want to adhere to biblical teachings about sexuality by being celibate, and the small number, like himself, who will enter a heterosexual marriage.
 
But that demographic, it appears, is diminishing. Exodus’s annual conference, which is going on now, was expected to draw fewer than half the attendees it had three years ago. Some other ex-gay groups have split off from it, finding Chambers’s position too conciliatory.
 
“As long as there’s prejudice and discrimination, there will be some form of these groups,” says Wayne Besen, executive director of Truth Wins Out, an organization that seeks to combat the ex-gay movement. But Besen (who is not involved in the Our America episode) sees the movement as being significantly weakened, at least in the United States.
 
In addition to Exodus’s renunciation of reparative therapy, Besen points out, other blows to the movement include psychiatrist Robert Spitzer’s apology last year for a study he did that was used to justify such therapy, research he now says was scientifically unsound; onetime ex-gay spokesman John Paulk’s recent announcement that he is no longer ex-gay; a law enacted last year in California to bar state-licensed professionals from performing reparative therapy on minors (it is currently being challenged in court); and a similar law under consideration in New Jersey. More states will approve such legislation, he says: “I guarantee it.”
 
Besen, who says the ex-gay movement is now being run by a mix of “charlatans” and “true believers,” spoke with The Advocate as he was on his way to join other LGBT activists to counter an ex-gay conference in Oklahoma City, sponsored by the Restored Hope Network, which broke off from Exodus. Restored Hope Network’s leader is Anne Paulk, the estranged ex-lesbian wife of John Paulk.
 
“We are winning this battle, indisputably,” Besen says. “We have discredited them.” He adds, however, that the ex-gay movement is gaining strength overseas, particularly in Russia and in many nations of Africa. In Brazil, evangelical lawmakers are pressing to overturn a ban on so-called conversion therapy.
 
But stateside, he says, “our opposition is weak.”
 
Ling, a straight woman who has been an LGBT ally since she saw a gay friend bullied and beaten in middle school, says the ex-gay movement “is in the midst of an identity crisis.” She’s not sure what its future holds, but with even onetime advocates like Chambers acknowledging the ineffectiveness of reparative therapy, the movement could fade away.
 
She calls the “God and Gays” episode “one of the most important shows I’ve ever done” and says she “was honored to be in the room” with the survivors. “I want people who are watching this to understand what these survivors have gone through,” she says. She found them inspiring, and she’s impressed with how some have even strengthened their religious faith after accepting their gay identity. “Watching this episode,” she says, “you’ll have no doubt that people can be gay and Christian at the same time.”


Sneak Peek: Lisa Ling's Special Report - God & Gays
 
 
  
Exodus International Apologizes to LGBT Community 
 
by Rachael Held Evans
June 19, 2013
    
It takes a lot of guts to issue an apology as honest and as public as this one from Alan Chambers of Exodus International. 
An excerpt:
Recently, I have begun thinking again about how to apologize to the people that have been hurt by Exodus International through an experience or by a message. I have heard many firsthand stories from people called ex-gay survivors. Stories of people who went to Exodus affiliated ministries or ministers for help only to experience more trauma. I have heard stories of shame, sexual misconduct, and false hope. In every case that has been brought to my attention, there has been swift action resulting in the removal of these leaders and/or their organizations. But rarely was there an apology or a public acknowledgement by me. 
And then there is the trauma that I have caused. There were several years that I conveniently omitted my ongoing same-sex attractions. I was afraid to share them as readily and easily as I do today. They brought me tremendous shame and I hid them in the hopes they would go away. Looking back, it seems so odd that I thought I could do something to make them stop. Today, however, I accept these feelings as parts of my life that will likely always be there. The days of feeling shame over being human in that way are long over, and I feel free simply accepting myself as my wife and family does. As my friends do. As God does.
Never in a million years would I intentionally hurt another person. Yet, here I sit having hurt so many by failing to acknowledge the pain some affiliated with Exodus International caused, and by failing to share the whole truth about my own story. My good intentions matter very little and fail to diminish the pain and hurt others have experienced on my watch. The good that we have done at Exodus is overshadowed by all of this.
Friends and critics alike have said it’s not enough to simply change our message or website. I agree. I cannot simply move on and pretend that I have always been the friend that I long to be today. I understand why I am distrusted and why Exodus is hated. 
Please know that I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents. I am sorry that there were times I didn’t stand up to people publicly “on my side” who called you names like sodomite—or worse. I am sorry that I, knowing some of you so well, failed to share publicly that the gay and lesbian people I know were every bit as capable of being amazing parents as the straight people that I know. I am sorry that when I celebrated a person coming to Christ and surrendering their sexuality to Him that I callously celebrated the end of relationships that broke your heart. I am sorry that I have communicated that you and your families are less than me and mine. 
More than anything, I am sorry that so many have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God’s rejection.  I am profoundly sorry that many have walked away from their faith and that some have chosen to end their lives. For the rest of my life I will proclaim nothing but the whole truth of the Gospel, one of grace, mercy and open invitation to all to enter into an inseverable relationship with almighty God.
I cannot apologize for my deeply held biblical beliefs about the boundaries I see in scripture surrounding sex, but I will exercise my beliefs with great care and respect for those who do not share them.  I cannot apologize for my beliefs about marriage. But I do not have any desire to fight you on your beliefs or the rights that you seek. My beliefs about these things will never again interfere with God’s command to love my neighbor as I love myself.   
You have never been my enemy. I am very sorry that I have been yours. I hope the changes in my own life, as well as the ones we announce tonight regarding Exodus International, will bring resolution, and show that I am serious in both my regret and my offer of friendship. I pledge that future endeavors will be focused on peace and common good.
You can read the letter in its entirety here.

It sounds as though Exodus International will be making a big announcement tonight regarding its future. My prayer is that this will be a turning point in bringing an end to the evangelical “ex gay” movement, which I know from conversations with many of you, and with many other gay friends and their parents, has created a lot of trauma and pain.

Much of this seems to have been prompted by a special report by Lisa Ling for OWN called “God & Gays,” which based on this clip, is going to be difficult to watch. (Hey, remember when Lisa was a reporter for Channel One – like the program you watched in high school in the morning?) [There just is] so much pain here.

May this apology be a step toward justice and reconciliation.
 
- Rachael
 
 

Michael Bussee and his Fight Against Exodus International
 
Michael Bussee was the co-founder of Exodus International in 1976, but he left and renounced the group two years later announcing his intentions to live as an openly gay man. Hear Michael's powerful story, and learn why he has decided to bring a group of "ex-gay" survivors together in a powerful confrontation of Alan Chambers in hopes of closing Exodus once and for all.
 
To view a scrolling, historical timeline of events since the first Our America episode of "Pray the Gay Away?" click here.
 
Read more: