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

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Christian Education in a Postmodern Age

Let's just say that I'm beginning to be more hopeful for the outlook of Christianity when reading of yet another academic who sees the problems and knows something must be done. As I read through Hawthorne's article below its hard not to note the themes we've been ringing time-and-again through these past many months. Perhaps after all, it is possible to witness again the ancient faith of Jesus being resurrected from the too-diligent hands of man back into the Spirit's wondrous grasp. Let's continue to pray for a postmodern (and Emergent) vision for the church of Jesus Christ.
 
R.E. Slater
January 29, 2013
 
 
 
Christian Higher Education in a Postmodern Age
Framing a Positive Vision for Evangelicals and Higher Education
 
by John W. Hawthorne
January 2013
 
Last weekend I drove from Michigan to Massachusetts to attend the North Shore Writers Retreat sponsored by Eastern Nazarene College. It was a great time, with presentations by Karl Giberson, Peter Enns, Alissa Wilkinson, Jonathan Merritt, Lil Copan, John Wilson, and hosted by Jonathan Fitzgerald. Some of these people I’ve followed over the years. Others were Facebook friends I’d never met in person.
 
There were some very good between-sessions conversations about Christian Higher Ed. We had attended such schools and/or taught at them. We all shared some similar questions about the unique challenges of the Christian university.
 
I came away from the last session with Jonathan Merritt reflecting on two ideas he shared. First, he said that the postmodern world is drawn to story and operates inductively - where the modern world operates deductively through argument. I need to be far more attentive to the stories of my students and my colleagues to really build an image of what Christian higher education can look like in the future. Jonathan’s other point that struck home: It’s not enough to draw attention to a problem; you have to offer the compelling alternative.
 
On the drive home and in the midst of starting the Spring semester Thursday, I’ve been thinking of my arguments about Christian Higher Ed. What I’ve argued is that the past models aren’t sufficient and if we don’t change we run the risk of alienating a generation. But change to what? What does the non-negative vision look like?
 
The past few days have had me focused anew of the shortcomings of evangelical culture, and by extension, the universities that exist within that culture. On Thursday, Rachel Held Evans posted this blog titled The Scandal of the Evangelical Heart. Drawing on language from Mark Noll’s 1995 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, she argues that there’s a real challenge with compassion when “right belief” fosters ambivalence to suffering. Friday, Peter Enns posted a blog also building on Noll’s book. Pete suggests that a problem for evangelical academics is that we can be “free” to pursue ideas as long as they don’t lead to un-comfortable conclusions. Last night I finished The Great Evangelical Recession by John Dickerson. Dickerson makes some interesting points that have been made elsewhere but ties them together in some useful ways. He draws comparisons between the housing bubble and the exaggerated influence of evangelicalism and suggests a number of structural factors that present great risk (loss of youth, segmentation, financial strain, lack of discipleship, etc.). Today I read Ron Sider’s The Scandal of Evangelical Conscience. Sider effectively documents the statistical similarities between evangelicals and the broader culture on a range of issues like divorce, sexuality, abuse, finance, materialism, and so on.
 
Taking these pieces as a package, I’m left with a vision of American Evangelicalism which is 1) struggling, 2) culturally uncertain, 3) insufficiently prophetic, 4) interpersonally harsh or condemning, and 5) often very afraid. If these diagnoses are even half on track, this suggests some hard days ahead for traditional evangelical institutions.
 
So what’s the positive alternative? It’s fine to suggest “don’t be those bad things” but that doesn’t provide us much to go with. Dickerson calls for a return to biblical authority and a focus on discipling. Sider (like N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, and many others) suggests we need a better understanding of how Jesus was initiating a Kingdom and not simply providing a way to get to heaven.
 
There is something about Kingdom language that can be of value to Christian higher education. I’ll unpack some of these thoughts in future posts. For now, let me suggest that the key is to see the Christian university as a place where the Kingdom is in operation. This doesn’t occur in separation from the larger culture as it did in past times. It occurs because we embrace the theological significance of Jesus’ model of sacrificial love, of challenging pharisaicalism, of reaching out to the powerless, and of building a community that takes Paul’s body metaphors seriously. Toward the end of his book, Sider writes, “Indeed, the church ought to be not just different but far ahead of the rest of society.” That’s something I’m continuing to ponder about the Christian University.
 
Jonathan Fitzgerald, who did such a fine job organizing the Writer’s Retreat, just published an e-book titled Not Your Mothers Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better. I really think his idea of the New Sincerity has power. It’s something for us to consider in Christian higher education. We need to present the world as sufficiently complex, to investigate our past positions without abandoning our faith commitments, and above all to tell the truth.
 
Spring Arbor’s Concept contains the phrase “total commitment to Jesus Christ as the perspective for learning“. I’m coming to realize that this phrase is far more complicated than “What Would Jesus Do?”. It’s not just affirming a Christian identity. It’s really seeing about seeing the Kingdom that Jesus saw. The more we can learn to do that, the stronger our educational perspective will be.
 
 
 

Devising a Meaning for "Landfill," by Daughter

 
 
 
The Deconstruction of the Self before the Risen hands of the Spirit

A postmodern emergent tries to steer away from the dualistic tensions created between love and hate, flesh and spirit, man and God, whose allusions seem only to bring meaningless loss and pain by their acts of distinction. But rather we must find a resident interconnection between broken-ness and risen-ness that makes all one within the broader spectrum of humanity's joys and misery. By our own hands we seek the allusion of the well-being of our souls and yet, too often, we bring upon ourselves the very seeds of neglect and ruin we wish to avoid. Measured carelessly, if not unmercifully, upon ourselves, by the lies we tell ourselves in self-delusion and careless fantasy. However, in Jesus is the truer mirror of our reflection. A mirror willing to attest to the poverty of our ruin against the uplift of God's embracing love in the midst of our own personal ruin. Who meets us in the ruin and pain we know-and-feel to create a spiritual healing within our shattered lives on the very basis of our torn brokenness. A brokenness that God can use in our lives. For without its affects we will never seek A-nother beyond the otherness of ourselves.


To look up from the bottomless depths of our own personal landfills and dirt pits to there find the heart of God yielding His own broken body and soul thrown upon the same by an unforgiving humanity. A humanity that we stand within before a Redeemer-God who patiently interlocks His own past experience with our own present experience to recreate an open future that would release the poverty of our spirits. A future that would take the landfills and dirt pits we find ourselves ruthlessly cast upon to yield its own rich, earthen loams, measured out by a water that cleanses, and an altar that can call the dead to life. To a life renewed, rebirthed, revived, reclaimed, and restored.

 
Yes, love and hate are profoundly personal, but from each strong experience must we die to self, so sure of its ways, its schemes, its plans and assurances. For without brokenness and pain there can be no resurrection of our souls. Only the smells of rot and surety of death. A death that dies instead of a death that makes alive. That causes the soul to rise with a Savior from pain and ugliness when at-the-last overcome by the landfills of a its own brokenness. Or blinded by its own actions that have put to death afresh the Prince of life, as all have done, and must do, if personal deconstruction should come, and must come, before resurrection occur. Renewal lives all around us though we see it not. But it must begin we where are and not where we think we should be.
 
So then, let pain hurt. And let bitterness remain. Each as fresh memories to death's door we each must enter through - if only to discover the broader paths of life and love, healing and hope, found in the Prince of Life, our forerunner and redeemer. Who measures out each man's life by the power of His Spirit - mighty to reclaim any man or woman who would yield heart and soul to the freshly consecrated altars of new life and light in Jesus. For without death there can be no life. And without a personal deconstruction there can be no reconstruction. Not of ourselves nor of our churches and communities. The cross of Calvary shows this oft-ignored truth. Let us not deny our pain, but accept its horribleness while allowing God's love and grace to change all within the depths of our scarred lives.
 
R.E. Slater
January 29, 2013
 

Landfill, by Daughter
 
 
 
 
Lyrics

 
Throw me in the landfill
Don't think about the consequences
Throw me in the dirt pit
Don't think about the choices that you make
Throw me in the water
Don't think about the splash I will create
Leave me at the altar
Knowing all the things you just escaped

Push me out to sea
On the little boat that you made
Out of the evergreen
That you helped your father cut away
Leave me on the tracks
To wait until the morning train arrives
Don't you dare look back
Walk away, catch up with the sunrise

'cause this is torturous
Electricity between both of us
And this is dangerous
'cause I want you so much
But I hate your guts
I hate you

So leave me in the cold
Wait until the snow covers me up
So I cannot move
So I'm just embedded in the frost
Then leave me in the rain
Wait until my clothes cling to my frame
Wipe away your tear stains
Thought you said you didn't feel pain

Well this is torturous
Electricity between both of us
And this is dangerous
'cause I want you so much
But I hate your guts

I want you so much
But I hate your guts

Well this is torturous
Electricity between both of us
And this is dangerous
'cause I want you so much
But I hate your guts

I want you so much
But I hate your guts.

  

"I think the layered meanings in this vid are self-evident. Let's just say what
you see on the surface goes down a bit into our societal angst."  - re slater