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

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

 
Though himself neither cute nor a bunny, my friend James McGrath over at Exploring Our Matrix has posted this ever-so-cute response to creationism by the two ever-so-cutest stuffed bunnies you’ll ever want to see.
 
Of course, the point of this bunny dialogue is applicable not just to creationism but to other issues of theological disagreement where the familiarity and safety of an “authoritative tradition” collides with thoughtful and needed exploration that challenges that authority.
 
And, no, I’m not saying tradition is always wrong and exploration is always right. Sheesh. I’m saying that, well, gosh….if I have to explain, you’re the bunny in the dress and you wouldn’t get it any way.

With that, I give you… the bunnies.
 
 
Think Outside The Box
(The Cutest Response to Creationism Ever!)
by James McGrath
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Related Articles by Pete Enns -
 
3 Ways I Would Like to See Evangelical Leaders Stop Defending The Bible
 
 
 
 
3 Things I Would Like to See Evangelical Leaders Stop Saying about Biblical Scholarship
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cometh the End of Days in Postmodernism's Deconstructive Light




If the subject matter immediately following is unlike what you had hoped, then good. Welcome to the world of postmodernism. You have now entered into the wild, wacky world of postmodernism. For that was my experience not many years hence where my expectations did not match the reality of what I would soon discover. It will push at you from a lot of different places, sometimes making you uncomfortable, at other times confused, and even downright bothered, and all the while making you want to give up and return to the simpler worlds that you once inhabited and thought you understood.

In my journey (because postmoderns must always speak of their journey) I've gone through a wide range of emotions until finally learning that it was my own background that worked against me, instead of for me. It was a painful transition which I now think (had I not made it) would've held me back for the rest of my life, confining me to personal spaces I should not be living within, nor able to personally grow within. I suppose there were many factors that contributed to its occurrence in my life beyond the ones I shall talk about here in this present discussion.

It began formally when I finally admitted to myself that I had to ask the question of why my Evangelical faith had become so conflicted between what I believed and what I was observing in the church fellowships and organizations I was familiar with. Having noticed trends in both church and theology that were highly conflicted. Trends that needed better questions, and certainly a lot better answers if it were possible. And then, somewhere along the way, over the past generation or two of my lifetime, I found myself moving at a different pace from my more comfortable, very structured, past. Its internal drift was growing by the day and required some little investigation along with some mighty large answers that, if they couldn't be answered, at least needed a better place to land.

The other thing I noticed was that the emergent Christian fellowship I was joined to were also experiencing similar growth pains of movement and barrier, centrality and definition. For it's seekers were dealing with questions of what a follower of Jesus might expect in a lifetime of familiar and unfamiliar experiences, resulting from deeply personal upheaval, unwanted and unsought. For I know of no one purposely seeking directional change in life without some sort of catalyst to get it all started. And for me it was the catalyst of being out of sync with the cultures around me - mine own, my friends, the church, and with society at large. It was more than simply living as a Christian with all its fundamental differences. No, this was something else completely different.

My earlier, evangelical-period of life, marked completion of academic training from a large, well-known university during the end of America's Vietnam War. A bloody war whose ravages laid everywhere about the campus and society - from the cruel sacrifices of America's sons and daughters, family and friends, to institutional breakdowns, civil race riots, rampant drugs, sit-ins, and "peace" rallies of despair, hate, and conflict. All of which had come to my "Berkley of the Midwest" making it a microcosm of the moiling turmoils and deep strife found within the nation at large as I walked everywhere upon its campus. And as I pursued my studies in science, mathematics, engineering, humanities, and language, the hot cauldrons of deconstruction boiled over into the hallowed halls of academia, its grand dorms, civic life, and all things in between. The academic setting I had imagined were in deep conflict with what was being  personally experienced, so that after three years of nearly daily turmoil my heart, mind, and soul, were no longer at peace. My grades were slipping and I could no longer concentrate on the reasons that brought me here. I had become weary of contending the daily battles of atheism in all its ragged forms of deep despair and angled bleakness. And all the while, was discovering in my Christian witness and sustaining fellowships a need for more formal biblical studies than I could discover on mine own. I wasn't sure how to discern the mind-and-mood altering affects of the epistemological deconstruction witnessed about me, so that after three long years of absorbing godlessness and despair, and nearing my final two semesters of study in advance mathematics, I applied to a small, fundamental/evangelical college much to my family's dismay. All their hopes and dreams vanished overnight for me with that application. And I suppose a little bit of myself had died as well.

Before all this, I was raised in an isolated farming region that quickly was losing its past 150 years of  pioneering history and becoming overrun with the spreading blight of urbanization. Many of the old timers I remembered seeing and visiting with were quickly passing away. And the mangled social  interconnectedness that a  once futile land brought to our farming communities was fast disappearing. From my perspective, farming families were uniquely bound to the land in very similar ways to that of the native American Indian we had displaced. With the exception that our spirituality was disconnected from it, though in another sense, it too grew from the land we loved and found rebirth. Without the land and its heritage we had no identity. And with it we had no income. So that from around the start of the 20th century farming families began to find work off the land wherever they could. And as they did, so also began the educational "uplift" of time honored stories, superstitions, legends and folklores (or, was it the cultural lost of the same that I was observing in my small childhood?) Whatever it was, I could sense even then the conflict between the clash of very old worlds lost upon the newer altars of enlightenment and revered modernism. And in this way, the pioneers of the old days, and the old ways, had grown in companionship to the native American Indians of old, who too had lost their ancient traditions, time-honored customs, and land-bound heritages. The tie that bound was one of deconstruction. Ever faithful. Ever present. Ever disruptive.

In any event, as industry and urbanization spread, relatives and farming families began to leave the land of its heritage for the factory floors and business offices of the city. So that by the time I was raised, what then remained to me were the dusty shrouds of ancient artifacts hanging from the rafters of our failing, hand-hewn, post-and-beam, red-painted barns still seated upon their crumbling foundations. Or beheld in the rusted, empty stanchions of a dilapidated and crumbling milk house once vibrantly warm and alive with the life blood, and odorous manured stench, of fat dairy herds on a cold winter's morn. Closed in to the colours of the rising sun, and noisily ganged together eating underneath the stray coverlets of dimmed 40-watt light bulbs sparsely hung from the heavily strawed rafters seeping from double planked floor above. Or seen in the overworked and fallowing fields bounded by sagging barbed wire and disintegrating driftwood fencing. Once holding flowing fields of wheat and hay under a hot summer sun's risen heats, stained with the sweaty odors of working men dutifully labouring beside oiled remnants of mechanized machinery straining in the faraway turns and bends of distant fields, hearing the scrape of metal upon metal upon ungiving ground.

As well, my little one-room school house was in its last generation (my brothers and I we were the fifth, and last) of a long legacy of great uncles and great aunts. Since the age of 5 we learned to walk the fields and cross the broken fencelines between vigilant stray dairy herds ever watchful of our guarded, early morning crossings. Holding tin lunch pails in our  small hands, and wet up to our knees in the tall morning grasses, we marched faithfully day-after-day to learn about worlds to come. Sitting in our wooden, flip-top desks, in crowded aisles and rows ushering 19 other children more worldly wise than ourselves. Who lived in the "city" and not on the land of their birth. Listening to the wooden floor creak underneath the step of every waif, and feeling the billowing breeze of uplifted curtains flowing above the high shelves of very tall windows. There, in front, looking upon us was Lincoln and Washington, and with these great men we stood to present our daily lessons to the only grand teacher I would ever know (spare one many years later). Loving, kind, patient. Our link to a wider world of grandeur. And paean to our future. Too soon would come the public school fast looming on the horizon like the vista of our little school beheld in the early mornings. To which sixth grade was my induction into its darkened labyrinths and stonewalled dungeons. And with it, the age of modernized education commenced leading to a later university training that would take me far afield to an infinite degree beyond what once was old and familiar. A place were radically new, and turbulent ideas, imprisoned the land of my heritage, and its distant spirits, to another time and era. At once unfamiliar, and breaking apart at the seams, by its own undoing and destructions. For this was the heady era of glorious modernism which was all hail and fury. A fury that undid its charms and made me long for the better days of youth and mystery. Adventure and wonder. A youth unclaimed until modernism died by its own hands, and with it came the promise of a postmodern future more alive with the wonders of an ancient past lost.

Years earlier, at the age of eleven, I became a Christian. It was a significant event that still stands clear in my mind on a late summer's Sunday eve after hearing the gospel of Jesus and what it meant to me in personal terms of salvation. Having followed my Sunday School teacher's instructions to pray the believer's prayer that night around 8 o'clock just before bedtime, I went down the hallway to tell my mom, deeply engrossed in knitting and darning, patching and sewing. After which, to rest, she would play a new upright piano to the deeply glorious strains of the classics, black-noted upon the thick pages of her music books, remembering the days of her stage performance downtown at the Royce Auditorium. When telling mom of my prayer, she absently replied that that was nice and wished me lovingly off to bed for early school the next day. Which was about the extent of my Christian upbringing. We went to a Baptist church in the city many miles away once a week on Sunday. And occasionally that same church sent out a faithful country preacher to our little school house to share flannel graph lessons of Bible stories with us. It was a steadily growing community of warm believers, filled with warm ministries, to both children and community. Dad grew up there and mom started to attend when they married, leaving her Swedish/Lutheran background behind for a Scot/English one. She once told me the Lutheran hymns she sang as a  child made more sense to her in dad's Baptist church. Even so, during a length of several summers, I remember receiving "catechism" from mom's Lutheran church, experiencing the grand music and worship  of its massive sanctuaries and organ-strewn pipes held against the walls in silvery runs everywhere I looked. At our simpler Baptist church we had devotional Sunday School lessons in children's church, sang occasionally for the congregation, and in time, when coming of age, were allowed to attend "big church". There, we were to sit quietly. Listen. And try not to fuss too much under dad's ever diligent eye (learned in the trade of the police after coming back from the lines of the DMZ in Korea). Or bother those around us, as we sat in the hardened, smoothed pews of the backmost row, with my uncle's family (always to the left), and a blonde-headed girl ahead, sitting quite contentedly with her family, to my curious adoration and wonder (something my brothers and I seemed always to struggle with!)

After graduating from bible college I taught for a brief year out-of-state at a high school (a church school no less) and then returned with mixed feelings of whether to begin seminary education. My interest was still in biblical studies with a passing interest in pastoring (which both did, and didn't happen). My wife and I met, dated, married, and lived a long time without children, doing as much ministry as we could in her home church (fast becoming the city's main mega church supplanting mine own). Years past, ministries grew old, boards came and went, church families moved on, or passed away, becoming distant memories, and soon we found ourselves in our third church. A church that was birth from our past home churches and to become the city's next, newest mega-church. One that would change everything familiar, grand, and comfortable. While unknowingly to us - as well as to itself in those early days - it would soon become formed under the influences of nascent emergent Christianity. A new church movement feeling its way along a path both radical and new. Radical in that it wished to leave the failed days of modernism behind (to no dismay of mine own). And new in that the only thing to be put in modernism's place was a form of postmodernism, spun towards our religious/ideological drift and direction. It required of us a generation's worth of re-thinking what we had learned, had taught, had exampled, and must now change, much to our amazement. A change we didn't think was necessary until looking about and seeing that many Christian friends were hunkering down into staid, conservative forms of religion that felt unfamiliar to our own lively backgrounds of past university life and passionate Christian witness. Or, by those who had become road kill from Christian churches who said they didn't fit into the proscribed religious lifestyles and beliefs it held. Or, were simply overlooked in the busyness of life where careers, jobs, and wealth accumulation mattered most to the congregants of the church. At which point this "emergent" Christianity began to make sense, identifying as it were with our own turbulent past, and personal mandate, for Jesus-first ministry. So we stayed, learned to adapt, and worked through (yet once again) another formidable period of change (at least my third in a lifetime of fluid, and flexible, deconstructive boundaries).

Consequently, it is important to me to know how the evangelical churches and institutions that I was familiar with - where I found nurture and support - were likewise being affected by the same changes I was personally experiencing. I would like to know just what had occurred during those years between my graduation from seminary until now, a generation later, that would place me in the position of finding myself writing about a postmodern faith. An emergent faith requiring new thought tools, a more contemporary theology, and a more radical mission deployment, that my older faith had not given to me. A faith that would create a renewed focus upon Jesus, and His kingdom, and cause all things related to Jesus to be cruciform, and incarnational, in ministry and worship. That wishes to "work" its faith as much as "speak" its faith. And to understand how it is different - radically different! - from my own fundamental and evangelical past. And yet, not unlike my own past, where Jesus came in to my life and made all things radically new. Reinvisioning new worlds. New thought forms. New methodologies. New insights and practices. New embracements of a wider world. A wider culture. A wider global appreciation for those different from myself. Where the old wineskins of my earlier faith could no longer hold the new wine of  Jesus' postmodern gospel. And even though I didn't know it at the time, I needed the new wineskin of Emergent Christianity to move on with Jesus into relevancy to the world today.

Certainly it was confusing. And chaotic. Because how many times does one go through a 500 year seismic change in the history of the church? The early Remonstraters once did in the Age of the Reformation. And before that, those followers of Jesus did during the collapse of the old Roman, and later Ottoman, Empire. And before that, those early Jewish Christians did with the advent of Christ into their Old Testament Jewish religion. Even so, is the church of the early 21st century undergoing such a change. Reconfiguring from its formerly understood self, having worn for too long the outdated garments of Enlightenment and Modernism, while hesitantly looking at the newest runway apparels and designs from New York and Paris' latest fashions of deconstruction and postmodernism. The music has changed. The politics and economics have changed. The cities are growing to mega-proportions. The climate and ecology of the Earth has changed (what massive glaciers I once walked in my youth have disappeared). Man's scars and marks is on everything organic and structural. Our wars and disagreements have changed. Even our lifestyles have changed.

So then, it is of no surprise that our Christian faith must change. And will change. And will never be like itself from one era to the next. From one generation to the next. If it doesn't then the gospel of God in Jesus will have no relevance unless we learn to break down the barriers we seem to constantly placed upon it.  And to stop thinking we are diluting the Gospel by allowing relevant change to occur. To trust that there will be enough relevant theologians working within the fabric of society to help keep to the ancient faith without fear of losing it. While learning to accept it's more relevant expressions and forms of outreach, ministry, and mission. Count on it. For it must be so, even as there will ever be constants within the Christian faith of old. That will be assured through the patient study, and presentation, of the Bible into every era of mankind at the ever faithful hands of God.

Nay, God has not forsaken His church. Quite the contrary.... He is powerfully working within our midst calling to repentance, reform, revival, renewal, reincarnation, even resurrection. Do not make the error of the Scribes and Pharisees by calling God's redemptive work within humanity that of the devil, and putting to death the Son of Life. Jesus came to bring life. Not death. Learn to trust God and to distrust ourselves. It is  how the Spirit works by calling all afresh to hear God's holy name. Be at peace and rest in this knowledge.  You are not forsaken. Nor has your ancient faith been abandoned. Simply challenged to become relevant in its mission and message.

And so, not unlike Jesus, I've felt that we've entered into a long line of dissembling eras just as the church of yesteryear had until an Augustine, or a Luther, or a Calvin, stood up and spoke out, declaring new practices, new worship styles, new theology, new dogma. Even now is that occurring again - as hard as it is to entertain or comprehend. And this time by not only figureheads but by the masses of believers themselves as they serve, and work, and witness of Jesus each day around this nation, and this earthly globe.

For we have entered into that long line of "the first and the last" - the "first" to enter into new eras unsought and unwanted. And the "last" to leave the ruins of a crumbling past and precious memories to be forgotten in the long ruins of a more ancient, more distant past. Each journey was as unknown then, as it will be now. Each filled with adventure, exploration, rebirth, and renewal. As much as with uncertainty, hardship, turmoil, and a diminishing hold to the misty moorings of an earlier time. Eh verily, I suspect there might yet be a few new lands to discover until the end of days. But through all these many journeys does God walk with us - whatever the shadows or valleys, the mountains or glades. He is there. And will be our firm assurance. Our rear guard. Our advancing scout. And ever faithful Captain of the Hosts of the Lord. 

R.E. Slater
January 16, 2013

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


Defining “Evangelical”: Why It’s Necessary and Impossible

An Evening Prayer, by Sir Thomas Browne

 
Portrait, Sir Thomas Browne
English Classic Poet

 

An Evening Prayer
by Sir Thomas Browne, c.1605-1682

THOU whose nature cannot sleep,
On my temples sentry keep;
Guard me ’gainst those watchful foes,
Whose eyes are open whilst mine close;
Let no dreams my head infest,
But such as Jacob’s temples blest.

While I do rest, my soul advance;
Make me to sleep a holy trance,
That I may, my rest being wrought,
Awake into some holy thought;
And with as active vigour run
My course, as doth the nimble sun.

Sleep is a death. Oh, make me try
By sleeping, what is it to die!
And as gently lay my head
On my grave, as now my bed.
Howe’er I rest, great God, let me
Awake again at last with Thee!

And thus assured, behold I lie
Securely, or to wake or die.




... from Religio Medici, the Second Part, Section XII, 117, ed. Pickering

XII. We term sleep a death; and yet it is waking that kills us, and destroys those spirits that are the house of life. ’Tis indeed a part of life that best expresseth death; for every man truely lives, so long as he acts his nature, or some way makes good the faculties of himself. Themistocles, therefore, that slew his Soldier in his sleep, was a merciful Executioner: ’tis a kind of punishment the mildness of no laws hath invented: I wonder the fancy of Lucan and Seneca did not discover it. It is that death by which we may be literally said to dye daily; a death which Adam dyed before his mortality; a death whereby we live a middle and moderating point between life and death: in fine, so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers, and an half adieu unto the World, and take my farewell in a Colloquy with GOD.

... “In fine, so like death [is sleep], I dare not trust it without my prayers, and an half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God. [Here follows the poem.] This is the Dormitive I take to bedward; I need no other Laudanum than this to make me sleep: after which I close mine eyes in security, content to take my leave of the Sun, and sleep unto the Resurrection.”




continued -
 
Select Poems by Sir Thomas Browne