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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Rob Bell: What People Talk About When They Talk About God



Toco Toucan, Pantanal Matogrossense National Park, Brazil


Rob Bell's newest book debuted yesterday at my church, Mars Hill, to a lot of hype and adulation, without any further word from Rob as to its contents. Rather than wearing his basic Johnny Cash black, Rob wore a silky California grey suit buttoned stylishly in the middle, complete with a white shirt and no tie, underneath a greasy mop of wavy auburn hair and shod in whitish-tan docksiders. He looked healthy, rested, restored, refreshed, and especially excited about his upcoming book tour for this next month. It was good to see him again, and especially good to hear of his future plans for a Christian talk show, more books, more hip-pastoral conferences, and more road tours (perhaps he'll use these to take his TV show on the road someday as Christianity's newest Jay Leno late night figurehead).

My prayer for Rob is that he is successful. Not in this world's sense of monies and riches - for Lord knows he's already got that compared to our simple Grand Rapids lifestyles here in Michigan. But that he is spiritually successful both in his own life, with his kids and family, and in his urban ministries wherever they may be. That God would protect Rob from the sin and harms of this world while allowing him to share Jesus with a world questioning all-things Christian. Certainly Rob's brand of Christianity will provoke, prod, rebuke, and reprove Christians about their faith and good works. As well it should. But I suspect it will also bring a magnitude of spiritual blessings and help to many who have been discouraged in their faith outlook about God, the church, by Christian friends and fellow-workers, to a degree that will be enlightening, absorbing, convicting, steadying. If anything, these past many years at Mars has been a testimony to the many fractured, broken lives that have found wholeness in Jesus against unhelpful religious upbringing, education, knowledge, worship, and self-imposed cynicisms. To me, that has always been the mark of a spiritually healthy church. Is Jesus preached? And, are people finding love and forgiveness?

So I got to wondering, in a Robbish-sort of way, about Toucans, and what they would talk about if they were to talk about the Jungle. Not being a Toucanologist I can only speculate if when a Toucan talks whether they talk about the latest sources of food supply, its quantity or quality, variety, and location. If whether they talk about water supply, its hazards or protection, its coolness or dank infested waters. If predators are in the area, perhaps from the air, or on the ground. And if they are knowledgeable about what can make them sick. If a certain source of tree(s) or bushes are available with fruits and nuts. Whether their plumage is colorful enough to attract the latest female of their interest. Whether their beaks are bright enough, long enough, large enough, strong enough. And whether in all this Toucan talk they enjoy the beauty of resident sunsets, the smells of the cool morning Jungle air, its liveliness and stream of avian consciousness.

Similarly, when we talk about God just what is it that we wish to know about God when we talk about God? I suspect I would like to know if God is real like the jungle-experience of the toucan. If He is present in my life or simply unconcerned with anything I do, how I feel, my troubles and woes. If He loves and cares for His creation, and especially me and my family, my friends, and all mankind like He says He does. Or, like History channel's recent movie about "The Bible," simply goes about killing women and children, beasts and burden with lasse-faire disdain, hardness, austerity, and holy zeal in religious wont and fervor. Using Ninja-like angels to mop up the blooded fields of urban battle and warfare against any who do not fear and worship Him. If whether my life actually matters to God in my dark loneliness and brokenness, questions and hazards. Or if God understands my heartaches, lies and deceit, and through them all still yearns to make Himself everywhere present in my toils and failures. And whether this God of the Bible, and of the Church, is the actual God of the universe and cosmos, or some misconceived, misplaced product of religious zeal, ego, pride, inward legalism, self-righteousness, and proud academic learning, that I, and others, have had to endure along with legions of other mind-numbed, cauterized penitents who only wish to gather around His forbidden, holy temple ushering freedom's joys amid man's grand, spiritual restrictions. And if, within this bonded servitude of ours to Christ, my heart is pained, wronged, angry, or despairing. Or whether this burden can be made right in Jesus - that He'll forgive me for my many faults and sins - and help me find His humility, modesty, divine favour and fellowship within this precious life that we live?

Hence, I suspect that Rob will be asking very similar question in only the way that he can ask them, because, as you can tell, I've yet to buy the book or read it (with, or without, Rob's requisite authorial signature, which I'm told makes reading his book all the more valuable to his ardent followers). I suspect I'll disagree with some things he says (as I have in the past); that I may wish he turn a phrase or a word one direction or another than he does; that I may make less harsh, accusational comments towards fellow brethren already beaten up within their church traditions; perhaps allow readers a little more grace against God's gathering convictions in their benighted lives. Being younger than myself (as Rob always has been to me), and growing in God's grace and glory, I've watched Rob learn about life as a young man, and now as an aging father of young children; as a maturing husband; and, as a tortured public figure that has sometimes been self-imposed if not relished. At times Rob says things that I can relate to, and at other times, he is learning things that I have already been through (without as high a public cost or its summary notorious consequences). As such, not everything may be as relevant, or as meaningful to me, as it is to him as he grows and learns, matures and learns humility before the hand of man and of God (sic, he reminds me at times of a modern-day version of the biblical "Job"). Nonetheless, I pray for his spiritual health and well-being against the religious onslaught that is surely to come from the world, Satan, sin's temptations, and even the church itself.

That overall, my prayer is that this world's success is disdained by Rob. And that its Hollywood allures and glories not go the way of so many other would-be public figures in Christian life. I really don't want to see his spiritual train-wreck should it happen. I rather would like to see Jesus preached against Christianity's many religious detours and non-sequitors. For in Christianity we worship God come in the flesh in the person of Jesus. However, we do not worship the church, its pulpiteers, its servants, nor its many letters and doctrines. But God himself. Unfortunately, it is inescapable to not make a religion out of Christianity like so many other sects and faiths have done with their beliefs. I suspect its part of the sinful fabric of mankind to want to put on an altar anything-and-everything that has to do with God. The wisdom here is that within Christianity is a religion that has at its faith center a person - Jesus. Not a tradition nor an institution. And this is where Rob comes in to help us with the task of keeping faith, and not a religion. By questioning us about ourselves, our wants, our needs, prides, ego, accomplishments, sin and disbelief. A good preacher is hard to listen to when the Spirit of God is upon him. And Rob is a good preacher. Quirky. Not quite my cup of tea at all times. But a steady preacher as a servant of Christ. Who convicts many with God's word, even to the point of exasperation at times. So then, let us give him his due, neither praising nor worshipping him, but together with him, seeking the God of the Bible who wishes to come to the hearts of man. Serving in the name of Jesus, the Son of God come in the flesh to mankind, who was risen as the divine Son of Man unto the right hand of God on high. And empowered by that self-same Spirit of God as Jesus was abundantly empowered. For we have now become fellow servants together in this postmodern age of faith and witness, service and solitude. And by these things may the God of grace and mercy, forgiveness and hope, redemption and salvation, be glorified and embraced until the end of mankind's illustrious days of sin and woe, bright choices and foul deeds. Amen.

R.E. Slater
March 11, 2013
edited August 22, 2013
 
 

May this light be you... however humble, however small

 
 
 
Join Rob Bell via USTREAM for the launch of What We Talk About When We Talk About God -- LIVE from powerHouse Arena in Brooklyn, NY on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 4:00 pm PST / 7:00pm EST. To watch the live event from your computer or other device click here: http://www.robbelllive.com/.