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 31, 2014

Gay Rights, World Vision, and the Evangelical Pushback to Both



The Christian agency World Vision ran into the acerbic buzz saw of the evangelical machine last week and lost big time. Singularly proving yet again evangelicalism's adamant refusal to lawfully admit gay civil rights into the evangelical workplace by utilizing popular media outlets such as Christianity Today to acerbate public discord in an ungracious temper. It also betrayed its own disturbing religious judgment by deftly refusing to extend God's divine love towards all men and women, specifically the LGBT community. As well as by upholding its own discriminatory views towards any church, or church-related organization, that wishes to stand in solidarity with the gay community pertaining to individual civil rights in the workplace. Clearly this is wrong and has done very harmful things to intelligent, sensitive Christian organizations wishing to protect gay rights without projecting discrimination, bigotry, or bias.

It is an issue that is heart-felt by many and as plainly conflicted as it is maligned in the public conservative Christian press. And yet, we are talking of individual civil rights and freedoms that must have as much legal standing before a civil court of law as would any straight, non-gay, married, or divorce couple. Legally, this is not a sin issue. It is a civil rights issue. And it was this latter intent that World Vision had wished to rectify with disastrous results at the behest of its primary supportive constituents in the conservative world of evangelicalism. It is a disgrace which has been met with disgraceful behavior and intemperate words (see Huffpost's quotes below) not beholding to any proper church dogma or doctrine except those built upon social exclusion and religious intolerance.

The Lord of the Harvest, the I Am who I Am, the Holy One of Israel, Immanuel, the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus, spoke to the religious bigots of His day and found them distasteful to his tongue and speech. Jesus had far more gracious words to say to the harlot and tax collector than He did to the Jewish priest and scribe of His day. And it is as true now in today's amalgamation of church polities and ethics as it was then in Jewish society's politics and religious culture. It would be foolish to pretend to those religious zealots speaking hate with hateful actions that they are not fearfully heard and seen by the Judge of this good earth. That this God of grace and wrath does not listen to the plea of the sinner nor see the intemperate wrath of the unrighteous. Who Himself is that same divine Good Samaritan who hears the cry of the robbed and beaten. Who stops to kneel, bless, and assist, those lost souls of this land of ours in deference to the religious bigots that walked by with nary a concern or care to help or attend the harmed and despised. Nay, as a zealous evangelic pinned upon the pride of his or her religion, it would be a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God's holy judgment without seeking repentance from deed and work. Of doctrine and dogma. Of religion and faith until met with favor by the God of all grace who listens to the cries of all His children. And not just to those whom the religious church deems are favored by God and man, institute and press, organization and feckless law.

The Parable of the Two Sons

Matthew 21.28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Thus and thus is God the God of all grace, and not just some grace. Nor is He a God of a conditional grace. Or a bullying grace that is discriminatory and bigoted. He is a God who is present in His people as much to bless as He is to discipline and correct. And it should be a prayer amongst all His children that the winnowing fork held within God's holy hands not fall upon His redeemed people at the behest of this disgraceful thing that was done this past week towards an outstanding Christian organization wishing only to serve the impoverished family and orphaned child while conscientiously recognizing the civil rights of its serving employees, whether gay or not. Even so, it would be a hearty recommendation here that both board and staff let all go and proceed forthwith as a newly reorganized post-evangelic corporation re-committed to the rights and protections of all men and women everywhere. And not to those few whom it elects are religiously unworthy for corporate protection. To proceed forthwith and not look back to the unjust institutions of a discriminating church gone amiss in doctrine, speech, and deed.

Ironically, even so did Lot proceed from his own Sodom and Gomorrah as his dithering wife reconsidered God's very words and looked back upon its destruction to never again look forward to God's blessings so overcome with the salt of the gospel spilling out from her pores. A gospel that can leaven as much as it can kill if unwisely applied by only a secular wisdom. Was this backward look a longing for an old familiarity? Perhaps a fear of moving forward into an unknown wilderness at the hand of God? Or was it perhaps a more selfish wish to see God's vengeance fall upon a land hardened to His grace and mercy? Even so, it is a fearful thing to pretentiously be judge-and-jury upon God's holy creation if the Lord of Creation has said otherwise. Did not even Jonah condemn the Lord's mercy and seek his own death rather than preach the saving grace of God? Or the prodigal son flee his own Father than to serve at his right hand? The church need not give this lost world any more reason to hate the gospel. Its greatest enemy can be its very self. A thing which we wish to undo and not present should Christ be preached, lived, and exampled to all the nations, fiefdoms, gangs, and despots of this world. The church must not become that very thing it would preach against. It is made of a finer cloth, truer intent, and purer soul. Yea Lord, let it be so.

So then, let us do what is right in the sight of the Lord and not what is evil. It is right to proceed forward in recognizing the civil rights of all men. Even that of the gay community. And to share the grace of God to all men. Even to those whom we would judge and condemn. Part of that sharing is by altering both social conscience and legal constitution even as slavery was disallowed within the union to the great distaste and unholy judgments of its Christian churches and religious communions at the time. Henceforth did wickedness quickly arise to divide an already turbulent civil union of states bent upon unholy greed and illicit welfare when these godless acts did thus proceed and were not stopped, apprehended, or reconstituted, as a right of equality to all who lived within the American union. Whose discriminating laws protected only some of its population that were of the right colour, class, race, or gender, as deemed right-and-proper by its blinded slave masters to mammon and sin.

Even so dear Lord, have mercy upon your church and give to it your holy wisdom. Even now come into our midst to judge the work of our hands, the thoughts upon our overzealous hearts, wishing only to honor you but knowing not how aside from a contemptible legalism that is graceless and unwise. Give to us this day of Thy great grace and compassionate mercy in a time of much suffering, strife, and confusion, within the midst of Thy people seeking only to obey you but so easily led astray by the fears of our hearts. The spurious words of religious men and institutions. And the sin of our condemning hearts. Give to us your holy Spirit to guide and direct into your ways of grace that would impart a peace and goodwill to all - even to those unlike ourselves. Amen.

R.E. Slater
March 31, 2014


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World Vision


World Vision, Gay Marriage and Taking a Stand on the Backs of Starving Children
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristen-howerton/world-vision-gay-marriage_b_5025749.html

Kristen Howerton Headshot
Disgusted by your cowardice. How can you recognize a "marriage" that is not even recognized by God? This is disgraceful, and I am deeply saddened that I will no longer be able to support my child of 8 years because of your misguidance. You lost way more Christians today than you will gain in homosexuals. So so sad.
Tragic and unwise decision today. I hate that I have to pull my sponsorship but I will as soon as your phones open tomorrow since I can't do it online. The loss of support for kids and people around the world is the responsibility of those who made this tragic decision, not those who were given no choice but to pull their support.
WV, my wife and I will be pulling our contributions because of your stance in homosexuality. I am very saddened for the poor people you have compromised. The gospel cannot be taught by an organization who contradicts such a clear position in the bible.
These responses are so sad to me. We've sponsored children through World Vision for over 10 years, and anyone who sponsors a child knows that World Vision creates a very personable relationship between the sponsor and the child.


We currently sponsor Santiague, who is 15 and lives in Haiti, and Dalvin, who is 7 and lives in Uganda. Santiague lives with his parents, three brothers, and two sisters. His parents struggle to provide for the family. His mother and father are farm laborers, but they aren't able to meet their family's needs. With our help, Santiague is in school, and his community is provided with seeds and training on new farming methods. Dalvin lives in a community gravely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic and has lost his parents. He lives with his sister and grandmother. Our sponsorship helps meet his basic needs and also provides health-care improvement for the entire community. It has been a blessing to get updates over the years and watch them thrive.

It is unfathomable to me that people would choose to punish and drop the child they sponsor over a difference in doctrine -- or, in this case, an organization's decision to allow for differences. I visited the World Vision Facebook page and was so incensed by the number of people announcing their dropped support of sponsored kids. As my friend Nish said on Twitter, "Wanna piss me off? Pick debatable doctrine over giving a child food, water, healthcare, safety and education."

Is children's access to food, water, and education trumped by keeping gay people out of a job at a nonprofit? If we want to serve people, we should not make distinctions about whom we serve, and we should not deny those we serve out of disunity or division. It's astounding to me that Christians would take food from starving children because a gay person might have helped in getting it there.

I'm concerned that children who are served by World Vision will suffer, and I'd hate to see that happen. I'm also concerned that the exiling of Word Vision from certain Christian circles will further erode the divide between believers who are at odds over the issue of same-sex marriage, when their entire purpose was to avoid the division inherent in this issue. Are we really ready to excommunicate one another over this issue? I'm so tired of Christians trying to remove a seat from the table to keep away people who have different views on this.

I'm also just so, so dismayed that this is yet another instance in which Christians are telling the world that their feelings about gay people are stronger than their compassion, that their anger over gay employees is greater than their anger over starving children.

I am thankful that this does not represent all of us. I would love to see people who are concerned about this pick up the slack from the Christians who are dropping their children over this. I've decided today to sponsor another child. Will you consider it?




Sponsor a Child through World Vision



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Jacquelline Fuller, Google Executive Resigns
From World Vision Board Over Gay Marriage Decision
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/03/world-vision-google-board-member-resigns-gay-marriage_n_5085554.html?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000051

AP
Posted: Updated:

SEATTLE (AP) — A World Vision board member has resigned in protest after the Christian aid group quickly reversed its decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages.

Jacquelline Fuller, director of corporate giving for Google Inc., said in an email Wednesday to The Associated Press that she remains a "huge fan" of the group's work on behalf of the poor, but she resigned Friday "as I disagreed with the decision to exclude gay employees who marry."

She declined to comment further.

Last week, World Vision U.S. was at the center of an uproar after confirming it would hire employees in gay marriages. The charity, based in Federal Way, was started by evangelicals and grew to become a nearly $1 billion international relief agency.

Some prominent evangelical leaders condemned the decision, and several thousand donors canceled their child sponsorships over the new policy. Within two days, the charity backtracked, causing a separate backlash, this time from evangelicals and others who supported recognition for married gay employees. Washington is among the states that recognize same-sex marriage.

Fuller had served on the board for just over two years. World Vision President Richard Stearns released a statement thanking Fuller for her service.

A World Vision spokesman, Steve Panton, said no other board members have resigned. Panton said the board of directors met Wednesday and will meet again within the next few days "to assess our past and future actions."


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Follow up articles to read

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How Christian Orthodoxy must separate itself from
the Evangelical culture of conservative politics


April 5, 2014

"What millennials are calling for is for the old guard of Evangelicalism to return to orthodoxy and to stop putting their political and social positions on top of their definition orthodoxy and then using them as a measuring rod to determine who is in and who is out. We are calling leaders of Evangelicalism to repent of making Jesus in their own image by imposing on the Christ of the Scriptures social and political ideas that were completely foreign to him. And most of all, we’re calling the leaders of Evangelicalism to stop demonizing the next generation who is doing our best to worship, obey, and follow Jesus Christ in a cultural context that they know little about.

There are unique challenges that face the way millennials live out our faith in this ever-expanding new world that require us to rethink and reform what it looks like to be Christian. All of us truly desire to see our world transformed by the Gospel of Jesus and the way that is going to look for us will be radically different then the way it looked for them.

"At the end of the day, I think the unfortunate reality is that many in the old-guard of Evangelicalism are going to continue to refuse to hear out the millennial Evangelicals and continue to perpetuate the myth that we’re just trying to rid ourselves of orthodox theology and embrace hipster, social justicey, teddy bear forms of Jesus.

But this opposition should not stop us from pursuing Jesus with our whole lives. I no longer fear being called a “heretic” by more conservative Evangelicals, because I am confident that as long as I am pursuing Jesus as he has been revealed in the Gospels, then I am going to be okay. And it is precisely my love and desire to follow Jesus that is fueling my passion to do justice in the world. To work to un-politicize the Gospel. To work for a better world for all people. Jesus is my motivation. He’s my goal. And I firmly believe that for most millennial Evangelicals, this passion for Jesus will continue to empower and spur us on to a much more robust faith, hope, and love."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Aldo Leopold - Caring for this Good Earth


Key Ideas of Conservation

Aldo Leopold (c.1887-1948) was a naturalist who was ahead of his time. He was an early advocate for conservation and naturalism in America. Having been taught at Yale's School of Forestry to manage land he left with the strong feeling that land should not be managed but left wild. That it was important to save the wild places as they are and to protect them from the encroachment of man. His overall rule was to connect people back to the land so that they may understand its value and importance.

He wrote a thin journal of his experiences A Sand County Almanac over a 12 year span documenting his thoughts, observations, and philosophy. From this study arose the following ideas:

What is the Land Ethic? To retain and preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community in partnership and preservation of the land. It is positive concept that we must work towards at all times in planning and development, living and being, connecting and integrating.

What is Conservation? - Conservation is the state of harmony between men and the land.

What are the 3 key ideas behind a Land Ethic?
1. Land is a community of all living things.
2. Land is to be loved and respected.
3. Land creates an ongoing awareness of the connection between it and humans.

What should be our response to promoting a Land Ethic? - Public conservation efforts have little chance of success until private individuals, organizations, and corporations feel a strong personal relationship for the health of the land. Promotion of this relationship may take many forms.

Greenfire is a promotional film describing Aldo Leopold's conservation efforts. It may be found here.

Wikipedia BioAldo Leopold



“We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.
But when we see land as a community to which we belong,
we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

- Aldo Leopold



“The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants,
and animals, or collectively: the land... In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo Sapiens
from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect
for  this fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such.”

- Aldo Leopold



“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land.
We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. But when we see land
as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

- Aldo Leopold

“A conservationist is one who is humbly aware that with each stroke [of the axe]
he is writing his signature on the face of the land.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac



“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” 

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

“No matter how intently one studies the hundred little dramas of the woods and meadows,
one can never learn all the salient facts about any one of them.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River



“We shall never achieve harmony with the land, anymore than we shall achieve absolute justice or liberty
for people. In these higher aspirations the important thing is not to achieve but to strive.”

- Aldo Leopold, Round River: From the Journals of Aldo Leopold

“The problem, then, is how to bring about a striving for harmony with land among a people many of 
whom have forgotten there is any such thing as land, among whom education and culture have
become almost synonymous with landlessness. This is the problem of conservation education.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac



“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm.
One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery,
and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, the stability, and beauty of the
biotic  community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

- Aldo Leopold

Caring for Grasslands of the Earth

“Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them.
Now we face the question whether a still higher 'standard of living' is worth its cost in things natural,
wild and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more important than television.”

- Aldo Leopold

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of the wolf.”

- Aldo Leopold

Caring for the Seas of the Earth

“Civilization has so cluttered this elemental man-earth relationship with gadgets and middlemen that
that awareness of it is growing dim. We fancy that industry supports us, forgetting what supports industry.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

“That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology,
but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.”

- Aldo Leopold



“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent
this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet;
one need only own a shovel. By virtue of this curious loophole in the rules, any clodhopper may
say: Let there be a tree - and there will be one.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

“Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we
had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in.
Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

- Aldo Leopold

Earth Care Interconnectivity

“To those who know the speech of hills and rivers straightening a stream is like shipping vagrants -
a very successful method of passing trouble from one place to the next. It solves nothing in
any collective sense.”

- Aldo Leopold, For the Health of the Land: Previously Unpublished Essays And Other Writings

“Harmony with land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off
his left. That is to say, you cannot love game and hate predators... The land is one organism.”

- Aldo Leopold



“At first blush I am tempted to conclude that a satisfactory hobby must be in large degree
useless, inefficient, laborious, or irrelevant.”

- Aldo Leopold

“Wilderness is a resource which can shrink but not grow... creation of new wilderness
in the full sense of the word is impossible.”

- Aldo Leopold




Join your local chapter or conservation group today
promoting earth care and regeneration












Aldo Leopold: The Land Ethic




Aldo Leopold: Conservation Movement




Wildlife - Conservation: The Life and Legacy of Aldo Leopold
The GreenFire Film Project







Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Should Church Creeds and Confessions Change with Advances in Human Knowledge?




…while the reality of God and God’s acts for human salvation in Christ remain constant, human apprehension of their truth and significance changes and develops. Our access to the truths is through historically, culturally and socially conditioned interpretations.

Credal statements do not escape this and are therefore not immutable. That we live in different, and equally limited and partial, historical, cultural and social conditions entails…that, even when we repeat the same words as the writers of Scripture or the formulators of the creeds, their meaning for us is not guaranteed to be the same as it was for them.

The consequence is not that all doctrinal truth becomes relative but that the Church in succeeding generations, through it theologians and teachers, through its worship and practice, is inevitably involved in the hard work of interpretation of the truths that shape its life. It should not be surprising that advances in knowledge throw up problems that require rethinking the tradition. After all, one of the tasks of theologians is to explore and restate central doctrines in the light of developments in human knowledge.

The doctrine of creation is now rethought in the light of what is taken to be the case in respect to cosmology or evolution or genetics but nevertheless it is still a doctrine of creation when it affirms that the universe and its life as we know them depend for their existence on a divine Creator.



At Relevancy22 we have explored the question of "stasis and knowledge" frequently and often. By this is meant the idea of whether the church must remain in a state of doctrinal equilibrium - or spiritual imbalance - as caused by the equal and opposing forces we see occurring today demanding perceptive scientific, and philosophic, advancement to that of the church's lagging creeds of Christian dogma and understanding.

Relevancy22 was birthed on the heels of this reflection a short three years ago causing this author to necessarily reflect upon the present state of theology when confronted by the separate contemporary activities we do now see and hear propounded all around us.... From observed short-sighted statements to publically outlandish remarks made in print and media while all the while attempting to bring some idea of biblical centering to the many faith topics at hand.

To accomplish this task at once required identifying the theological barriers we have built around our Christian psyche (or is it psychosis?) that would disallow any kind of movement or questioning of a past orthodox system that had become outdated and outmoded. Having no previous examples or leadership in this area I began to undertake this task alone with the strength and passion laid upon my heart by the Holy Spirit. It became a body of work that slowly evolved requiring a newer epistemology that challenged past beliefs and religious training. But one that would utilize the best of the postmodern, post-evangelic church movement with all the resultant discoveries flowing forthwith in the burgeoning swells of delight and enlightenment.

Basically it required moving the goal posts if not the entire lines on the playing field in order to ask better questions while discovering more relevant data sets of  doctrinal reflection. My old set of "biblical" rules and logic could no longer keep pace with the many newer reflections and interpretations challenging the fundamental areas of systematic and biblical theology as I was observing it. All had to change. And change it did with a drive I had little expected.

The first order of business was to burn all spurious beliefs down to the ground and begin to rebuild again. This was my period of deconstruction and re-learning. It was a period in which I never had despair even though I did have a great heaviness of heart that Christian theology must be upgraded if it were to even pretend to meet the needs of our postmodern societies and faith. It was as if the Lord drove me to re-capture the very ideas He would have for His church if it should listen with a new heart, new mind, and new spirit. That the past church doctrines built upon Greek classicism and secular modernism could no longer effectively reach beyond today's newer thoughts and ideas about the Lord's Spirit and grace, work and rule. It required new words. New ideas. A new language. And most importantly, a new mindset seeking better questions - and not for solutions alone. A more liberal attitude that was less restrictive and restricting.

My task became one of not defending God but of discovering our Redeemer-Creator past the words of His people. Past the deeds of His serving church. And past the attitudes of fear and apologetics meted out by public pulpit and Christian rhetoric. At once these platitudes must be deconstructed, and when done, necessitated a holy fire of Spirit-reconstruction based upon the new theologies I next began to uncover beyond my older bible education, ingrained background, and formalized church training. It was as if my black-and-white glasses were replaced with a new kind of spectral vision lenses letting in all the colours of the rainbow and beyond. Colours that admitted the ultraviolet and infrared spectral frequencies of sight and sound. I felt overwhelmed and became burdened to share my journey on a day-by-day basis lest loss and become stillborn by working through my own questions and observations  by the medium of digital argument and dissertation.

To do this, I knew I must reflect on all the doctrines of the church including its "many spirits of beliefs and darkened knowledge" if ever I was to break past its withholding traditions and intolerant religious ideologies that went under the several disguises of a Christian faith. That I must resurrect its classic orthodoxies onto a more contemporary plane of grace-filled orthodoxies that were more flexible and self-reflective. More humble and less judgmental (unless it were to a judgment upon the church itself). That I must write of a new orthodoxy that was every bit as classic as its past 2000 years but one that moved those doctrines and dogmas forward into - and beyond - today's postmodern era of thought and inquiry.

That might reset the Reformational-Evangelical barriers of the church to be more centered around a post-Reformational, post-Evangelical Jesus, and not around its own enculturated doctrinal preferences, syllogisms, and traditions. One that might act with more introspection than I was presently observing. That learned to behave itself around scientific discovery rather than beat against it. To see our Creator-God on a larger plane of knowledge than the one we had fitted for Him to remain stoutly framed within. To question our need for those beliefs rather than to allow the Christian faith to become obscured or irrelevant should we entertain broader religious overtones to our Christian faith.

And to this end I strove to re-envision how church doctrine might become less evangelical and more post-evangelical. Less static and irrelevant, and more integrated with the larger discoveries of science and philosophic thought. A church whose orthodoxies were updated to the trends of human renewal. Whose dogmas and folklores could be delineated for what they were... dogmas and folklores. But the dilemma was how to do this without losing the centering foundations of the Bible and of the Christ within its holy pages.

Anyone can go about writing their own Bible. But the trick is to not do this when renewing its faithful pages. If not, we have only created a new gnosticism. Or a new set of cultic doctrines that have broken from its proper continuity to past church history and theology however imperfect and imperfectly conceived. But if done well, then we'll see a more enhanced view of an orthodoxy that is enriched, postmodern, and relevant, to societal needs and perceptions. Names like NT Wright, Peter Enns, Scott McKnight, Roger Olson, or John Caputo (all whom we follow here) have shown a willingness to update church doctrine while discussing along the way their reasons for doing so. Even as I and other fellow bloggers would do apart from the plausible restrictive confines of school or college, church synod or fellowship.

Hence, this newer vision of God and His Word comes at the expense of re-adjusting our minds and hearts to better bear the Spirit's message of new wine. But if we remain within the older cocoons of our old doctrinal wineskins and traditional outlooks than like the worn-out skins of our past we may expect all to break and spill upon the ground. It can be a nasty business causing personal loss of faith and even great disillusionment. However, in constructing a newer wineskin of epistemology and belief structure the new wine of the Gospel of our Lord should serve well all who would pour its gospel message of good news out onto the contemporary forums and public thoroughfares. One that can meet the needs  of the lost while binding up the wounds of the broken.

And so, it is the task of the theologian to lead church pastors and congregants towards this newer wineskin. How to properly let go of the old to rightly receive the vision of the new without loss of faith or pretention to "biblically unsupportive doctrines." It is by asking better questions that are less demanding of answers and specific-outcome solutions. By receiving a gospel more open-ended than its more recent forebearers squawking heresy and judgment. It is realizing that God is far larger than we had first imagined or been taught. And that His Word is fundamentally relevant for today despite the fact that it would seem irrelevant by our current attitudes towards its biblical structures and narratives as we now presently preach it through outdated apologetics of fear and uncertainty.

As with every new era, we must be patient in discussion by allowing all things to work out. As example - and in response to Andrew T. Lincoln's idea of the Virgin Birth of Christ quoted aboveI do continue to understand this event as miraculous and do not wish to explain it away as an un-miraculous event. Even so have I written of it once or twice on this blog against other ideas dismissing its validity from the pens of more eminent theologians and scientists. Today's quote above would be from yet another pen seeking its dismissal (or "newer" understanding). Though I favor his remarks on the church necessarily updating it creedal confessions - even as we have been working through here - I find his Webb-like "cultural interpretation" of Jesus' birth  unuseful as a proper anthropologic hermeneutic. Hence the tightrope we walk when updating church orthodoxy. It must be done. But it must be done properly.

However, I will be patient in the discussion and more discriminating about its spirit of conjecture without closing off its debates. For myself, it does indeed butt up against the other biblical doctrines of miracle, prophesy, and the nature of the incarnation of Christ. But these types of discussions do not dissuade me though they do tell me why it is all the more important to reset our conventional thinking within a larger epistemological framework of inquiry and investigation.

Hopefully this is being done well here at Relevancy22 while at the same time providing the balanced ingredients of Christian hope and devotion from other pens and tongues than mine own. As such, I have created this blogsite as a reference site that both teaches and inspires and not simply as my own personal blog. As a place one may go to ask meaningful questions and perhaps find helpful direction. That might point us towards newer theologies and contemporary thinking we once never thought to ask, study, or contemplate.

But it may also require the painful passage of disorientation. Of de-centering one's "biblical" beliefs with the harsher realities I had experienced before the Lord as He spiritedly began the renewing task of re-constructing the new wines of His Gospel about my spinning mind, heart, and spirit. The Christian faith is not an easy thing to comprehend. Even less when constructed about religious pride and misleading teachings. It can be as full of darkness and death as it can be of life and light. I pray that with me, your journey becomes one of proper sorrow and of a greater joy at its renewal and resurrection. Even so, may the God of grace bring His great love and peace to you this and every Lord's day.

R.E. Slater
March 26, 2014


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Addendum
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In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism
http://sarahbessey.com/ones-leaving-evangelicalism/

by Sarah Bessey
March 29, 2014

I walked this path years ago: it is not an easy path. But there are a lot of us out here waiting for you.

Can we ever really leave our mother church? Perhaps not. The complexity of tangled up roots isn’t easily undone. And yes, I think there is a way to reclaim and redeem our traditions with an eye on the future.

But maybe this isn’t your time to do that. Maybe this is your time to let go and walk away.

I know you’re grieving. Let yourself grieve. It’s the end of something, it’s worthwhile to notice the passing of it, to sit in the space and look at the pieces before you head out.

In the early days, when you are first walking away, you might feel afraid. You don’t need to be afraid. It can be confusing to separate from what so-and-so-big-guy-in-the-big-organization says about you or people like you. It can be disorienting to walk out into the wilderness on purpose. It can be lonely. It can be exhilarating. It can be terrifying.

My friend, don’t stay in a religious institution or a religious tradition out of fear. Fear should not drive your decisions: let love motivate you.

Lean into your questions and your doubts until you find that God is out here in the wilderness, too.

I have good news for you, broken-hearted one: God is here in the wandering, too. In fact, you might just find, as Jonathan Martin wrote, that the wilderness is the birthplace of true intimacy with God for you.

Jesus isn’t an evangelical. You get to love Jesus without being an evangelical.

Your pet evangelical gate-keeper isn’t the sole arbitrator of the Christian faith: there is more complexity and beauty and diversity of voices and experiences within followers of the Way than you know. Remember, your view of Christians, your personal experience with Christians is rather small sample size: there are a lot more of us out here than you might think. A lot of us on the other side of that faith shift, eschewing labels and fear-tactics, boundary markers and tribalist thinking.

There are a lot of us out here who aren’t evangelical theologically or politically. There are those of us who are evangelical perhaps in our theology still (I think I am but who can keep track these days of the master list we’re supposed to be checking?) while separating from evangelicalism culturally or politically.

I’m someone who believes that we are in the midst of major shift within the Church – what Phyllis Tickle calls a “rummage sale” – similar to the Great Schism, and the Reformation. The Church is sorting and casting off, renewing and re-establishing in the postmodern age and this is a good thing. The old will remain – it always does – but something new is being born, too. If it is being born in the Church, it is first being born in the hearts and minds and lives of us, the Body.

Maybe evangelicalism as we understand it doesn’t need our defense anymore: maybe we can open our fist, lay down our weapons for the movement or the ideology or the powerful, and simply walk away.

It was helpful when it was helpful. Now, perhaps, it is not. Evangelicalism doesn’t get our loyalty: that fidelity is for our Jesus.

Sometimes we have to cut away the old for the new to grow. We are a resurrection people, darling. God can take our death and ugliness and bitterness, our hurt and our wounds, and make something beautiful and redemptive. For you. In you. With you.

Let something new be born in you. There is never a new life, a new birth, without labour and struggle and patience, but then comes the release.

Care for the new life being born in you with tenderness. It will be tempting to take all the baggage with you – to bring the habits or language or rules with you. That’s okay. You might need to be angry for a while. That’s okay. You might need to stop reading your approved-translation-of-the-Bible and only find Scripture in The Message. That’s okay. You might need to stop praying the way you were taught and learn to pray as you work, as you make love, as you walk at night. That’s okay.

I’m not afraid for you: you are held.  You are loved and you are free. I am hopeful for you.

Nothing has been lost that will not be restored. Be patient and kind with yourself. New life doesn’t come overnight especially after the soil of your life and heart has been burnt down and razed and covered in salt.

Don’t worry about the “should-do” stuff anymore. It might help to cocoon away for a while, far from the performances or the structures or even the habits or thinkers that bring you pain. The Holy Spirit isn’t restricted to only meeting with you in a one-hour-quiet-time or an official 501-3(c) tax approved church building.

Set out, pilgrim. Set out into the freedom and the wandering. Find your people.  God is much bigger, wilder, generous, more wonderful than you imagined.

The funny thing for me is that on the other side of the wilderness, I found myself reclaiming it all – my tradition, the habits, the language. Your path may lead you elsewhere, but I’m back where I began with new eyes, a new heart, a new mind, a new life, and a wry smile.

Now, instead of being an evangelical or whatever label you preferred, perhaps you can simply be a disciple, a pilgrim, out on The Way, following in the footsteps of the man from Nazareth.

You aren’t condemned to wander forever. Remember now: after the wilderness comes deliverance.


A Jewish Perspective by Elie Wiesel - The Story of Jethro



Bodelian Library, Oxford, MS Bodley 2708, Folio 39V

A good man? Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, is a devoted family man, well respected for his advice on governing and his benevolent leadership of the tribes of Midian. This early 13th-century illustration from the Bible moralisée depicts Jethro (seated under the arch on the right) rewarding Moses (left) for rescuing his daughters (six of whom are pictured in the center) and their flocks from rival shepherds. Grateful, Jethro invited Moses to stay and break bread with him: “Moses consented to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah as wife” (Exodus 2:21).

Later, when Moses returns from freeing the Israelites from Egypt, Jethro proclaims the Israelite God’s glory, saying, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods” (Exodus 18:11). But, asks the midrash, was Jethro motivated by love of God or by fear of a divine force so powerful as to rescue the Israelites from their enemies?

Jethro in the Bible
Bible Review's Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/people-cultures-in-the-bible/people-in-the-bible/jethro-in-the-bible/

Elie Wiesel   •  03/19/2014

On first reading the biblical text, Jethro seems a simple person, almost monolithic, someone who impresses us most as a family man. When he meets a young refugee, Moses, whom he believes to be Egyptian, he thinks immediately of his daughter Zipporah, who is not yet married (Exodus 2:20–21). Later, when Moses, who is now Jethro’s son-in-law, returns from Egypt at the head of his freed people, Jethro brings to him his wife, Zipporah, and their two children (Exodus 18:5).

Moses has in the meantime become powerful and famous, and Jethro gives him useful advice on how to govern (Exodus 18:17ff). Invited by Moses to join the newly created nation, Jethro gracefully declines by invoking his obligations to his own family and tribe in the land of Midian (Numbers 10:29–30).

One can see Jethro clearly: His demeanor is surely elegant, sincere, irreproachable. He is present only when needed. He speaks only when asked. Everything he does, he does without guile. He never thinks of taking advantage of his position as first counselor to the great leader Moses. No one would ever accuse him of nepotism.

In the midrashic literature (a), as always, the character, or rather the attitude toward the character, seems more complex. To be sure, Jethro is shown in a positive light. After all, if Moses treats him with such deference, such respect, as to kneel before him, Jethro must deserve it. The sages go so far as to exaggerate his virtues. For most, he is considered to have converted to the Jewish faith. They call him Ger shel emet—a genuine convert or a convert to the truth. He is placed “within the shelter or on the wings of the shekhina,” God’s holy presence or glory. They put these words in Jethro’s mouth: “I have served many idols; there is no god I have not served; but none can compare to the God of Israel.” To emphasize his worth, he is compared to Esau. Even though Esau was a kinsman of Jacob, he was less favored than the alien Jethro.


 This article was originally published in Bible Review. Bible Review: The Archive (1985-2005) CD contains every issue of Bible Review, a nondenominational magazine of Biblical insights and exquisite art. It includes more than 800 articles, 2,500 photos and all editorial content. 


Better yet, on at least two occasions in the midrash, Jethro is considered more admirable than Moses himself. In the first, when Jethro offers his daughter Zipporah to Moses, Jethro tells Moses: She will be your wife, but on one condition—your first son will be consecrated to idolatry. The stupefying thing is that Moses accepted! In other words, in this account Jethro appears more loyal to his faith than Moses does to his.

On the second occasion, Jethro, having heard all that the people of Israel have suffered in Egypt, and how God has saved them on their flight from the land ing saved you.” According to the commentary of one sage (Reb Papos), this passage may be intended as a criticism of Moses and the 600,000 men and women who were with him. It is meant as a reproach for their ingratitude: “Despite all the miracles that were performed for you, you have not believed enough to praise the Lord until Jethro did.”

Having said all this, even though Jethro has no detractors, he does inspire a certain skepticism in some. Is this a way of balancing our understanding of the man? Perhaps. In the Bible, no one is perfect—neither perfectly good nor absolutely evil.

Thus some of the sages ask what are the real motives behind Jethro’s close feelings for Israel. Was it because of the Torah that God gave to His people? Or was it because of the defeat the Israelites inflicted on their enemies, the Amalekites? In other words, was Jethro motivated by love or by fear of this powerful God who makes other nations tremble? “Vayihad Yithro” the Bible says (Exodus 18:9). “Jethro rejoiced” at all the goodness that the Lord had shown to Israel. But vayihad Yithro could easily mean “his flesh crawled [with fear], he had goose bumps (b).”

Nonetheless, the general impression of the man is that he is better than good; he is glorious. Even when he refuses Moses’ invitation to stay with him, he has the perfect excuse, says the midrash: “I will return to my own people and convert them all to the study of the Torah.”

The practical and very timely lesson that our sages draw from this story: When a man comes and asks to be converted, we should not send him away.

Translated from French by Anne Renner.


Notes

a. Midrash is a genre of rabbinic literature that includes nonliteral elaborations of biblical texts.

b. The word vayihad is related to the Aramaic chiddudim, “prickles.” One Jewish Bible commentary explains that Jethro was so overcome with joy that he felt goose bumps. The great medieval Jewish commentator Rashi, however, says that despite Jethro’s happiness for the Israelites, he felt prickles of unease over the fate of the Egyptians.



Elie Wiesel
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and profiles of biblical figures, Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. This online publication is adapted from Wiesel’s article “Supporting Roles: Joshua,” which was published in Bible Review in December 1998. At the inception of Wiesel’s Supporting Roles series in Bible Review, BAS editors wrote:

"We are pleased—and honored—to present our readers with the first of a series of insightful essays by Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and human rights advocate. Wiesel is best known for his numerous books on the Holocaust and for his profiles of biblical figures and Hasidic masters. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His occasional series for BR will focus on characters in the Bible that do not occupy center stage—those who play supporting roles."






Jewish Teachings in the Bible Series
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