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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Foundations for a Radical Christianity, Part 3 - Jesus




What is Radical Christianity?

So what is Radical Christianity? At its core, in its simplest and most sublime form, it is Jesus. One's entire theology, dogma, religion, beliefs, ethics, and morality is centered upon Jesus who becomes both the foundation stone and builder upon whom we build out God's kingdom in as many ways as there are people and talents, dreams and hopes.

It is to Jesus whom we bow and must submit the philosophy's of our day to His holy person. Whether it be our personal philosophies held in religious folklores. Our enculturated philosophies of existential dialectic (how we would interpret the world around us). Our societal philosophies of global communication, trade, and common effort. Even our ideas of our self and our identity of who we are before God. Everything, and in every way, must be submitted to Jesus as the Master Builder of our lives, our families, our businesses, our communities, our nations, and our world.


What Do You Want?

Jesus Calls the First Disciples (ESV)

35 The next day again John [the Baptizer] was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he ([John]) looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour.[h] 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus[i] was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter[j]).

In John chapter 1 Jesus asks John the Baptizer's disciples a question, "What are you seeking"? Or, asked another way, "What do you want?" This is the sublime question of any man or woman. "What do we want?" At once Jesus shows a rude insightfulness into the lives of His new adopted followers that borders on a personal invasiveness to all that they believe they are in their identity and commitments of themselves to the gospel of God. And rightly so. Especially for the servant of the Lord. And so Jesus asks, "What do you want!?"

So too with us when we come to Jesus in God's Word: "What do I want!? What do I wish to get out of this Jesus-thing?" Or, thought of in another way, we might diagram Jesus' statement in three different ways:
  1. You are what you love.
  2. You might not love what you think you love.
  3. You make what you think you love into what you think you want.
Each of these statements are a truth to themselves. The first asks us "What is our core identity?" Not what do you know, nor what do you believe, but what do you most want our of life.

Statement 1 - "You are what you love."

God has made us as lovers and so it is natural to ask "What do you love?" as Jesus does here in John 1. What is your deepest longings? Your greatest desires? What drives you when you get up in the morning?

We're not talking about agape love (selfless love) but eros love (fleshly, guttural love). This is how God made us. Desire is not a bad thing though it can become a bad thing when used in a wrong way. Hence the question, "What do you most desire, crave, yearn for? What makes you get up in the morning?"

Statement 2 - "You are what you love but you might not love what you think."

What if there is a gap between the answers to the questions we have versus the deepest part of our being which unconsciously hungers for the things we don't know or don't realize we carry within us?

For example, imagine if there was a magical room that you could enter that could  give you not what you thought you wanted but what you really wanted. Would you enter it? Would you take the risk to enter this magical, all-knowing room?

Or, like many, would you hesitate? Would you reconsider your first impulsive to go into this room for fear of discovering something you really hadn't thought about before. Because, quite naturally, what we thought we wanted is not actually what we really wanted all along. Just some facsimile of what we thought we wanted all along. And if what we really wanted turns out quite differently from what we thought we wanted we could be in for quite a little disappointment, or shock, or even dismay!

So what does this mean? Simply, Jesus is "the room." Jesus is the one who will transfer your desires from what you think you want to what you truly want in a process known as "conformity." A process that teaches us to unlearn our first desires of ourselves so that we might discover our heart's greatest desires. It's deepest cravings. It's most powerful longings.

It is the process of discerning who we are and not what we think we are.


Statement 3 - "You make what you think you love into what you think you want."

This latter idea is known as our "rival story of ourselves." That is, it is the lies and delusions we tell ourselves all the time - and then re-inforce them in some narcisstic or harmful way. And let us not count out all the legalisms and self-righteous works we use to tell God just how good-and-valuable we are to Him! Sure, we can blame our actions on the devil or on others or evil but in truth, it is us. It is us telling ourselves a rival story to the real story that lingers in our heart but cannot get out.

What is the solution? To discover ourselves and our rival stories so that they might be re-framed into a truer story of ourselves within the story of Jesus. The better, more conflicted story in which He asks us the dreaded question, "What do you really want from Me?"

It is here where the work of the Holy Spirit comes to us through the story of Jesus and into the stories of ourselves to help us begin to chisel away all the false images of our delusions down into the bedrock of our deepest desires we keep hidden far, far away from ourselves.

Neither the "Christian faith" per se, nor "a belief in God," is the answer here. In point of fact there are many Christian men and women who have hidden from themselves - and Jesus' studied question - by taking on the false imagery of conformity which is more me-lead than Spirit-lead. A false image where we hide ourselves even deeper from the God by telling ourselves we are closer to God because we are doing all the right things, thinking all the right thoughts, believing all the right messages. To this Jesus asks, "What do you want!?" 

This is the Jesus who loves us through our "good" works, penance, and absolutions. Who sees us beyond the fig leaves we have stitched for ourselves. Who walks with us in patience and faithfulness as we wander and bobble about in our lives like toy boats on the waves of life as we try to figure out who we are and what we really want.

The Truer Story of Us

Nay, our story isn't so much about what we are doing but what God is doing in our lives. He, who is the shaper and molder of our lives-and-dreams-and hopes into the identity of ourselves freed from the former self to the transformed self. What Paul calls the "new man" that casts away the "old man."

Yes, even in this new spiritual version of ourselves we can "make what we think we want" from it. But the real trick is to learn to listen to the Spirit and to be willing to move through the process of self-discovery at His pace and not our own. To relax in the providence of God and let life happen as we steer our course through its turbulences.

The image of God within our breast is a deep thing. Far deeper than we know. Not only has God made us to be lovers but He has made us to be makers. We are natural born creators as God's image bearers. Ultimately we are in the process of being re-created by the Holy Spirit as God's image bearers. To be involved in this task and confident that with humility and grace we might survive its chaffings and tortured route.


Our Commission and Mission

And what is this image-bearing-thing that we possess? To re-create God's world in all the vocational, recreational, and personal things that we do in this life now by His love. Whether we can ever discover our deeper selves truly, or not, the simplest thing we can do is to bear God's image of love to the loveless, the forlorn, the unempowered, the overlooked, the condemned, and despised.

By this activity we discover ourselves by discovering the image of Jesus indwelling our hearts. We come to the identity of ourselves by unlocking all the potentiality of God's creation to become what it can become by God's Spirit. To translate the story of us into the story of the world. And by that translation release the rival story of ourselves from our hearts into the truer story of ourselves in Jesus.

This is our narrative ultimately. Not of us - but of losing ourselves into God's greater story which frees us from ourselves to release the burden of our creative, loving being upon a world locked in sin and woe.

Ultimately the Christian story is the Jesus story of unleashing God's image through us as His image bearers. And to not worry about all the psychological mumble-jumble of "desires, and cravings, and guilts, and penances." But to love as Jesus loved. This is our commission and mission.


Go Unpack All that I have Made for you

We are the recipients then of a Jesus message that is both a blessing and a necessity. Jesus' story doesn't end in His resurrection but begins with His ascension to become what He truly was on earth. To unpack all that He had created in His lifetime even as we are to enact it by unpacking His truths of love and witness, fellowship and forgiveness.

Like the centripetal force of the centrifuge which gathers in the liquid solvents of the science lab Jesus becomes the gathering force which spins us into Himself as the real center of the world against all the lies and delusions it tells us. So that in the process we might be separated from our former selves into the purer form of our new selves in Christ by His Spirit.

This is the process of transformation by conformity and when done spins us outwards into the world when released from the grip of the devices holding us from breaking out. It is through the process of worshipping together each week that the church is called out to break out during its weekday lives as a commissioned body propelled to missionize our communities by the simple acts of repentance, conformity, and transformation.

There is no real mystery to Jesus. There is no deeper philosophy than God's Spirit. It is the language of love that is the greatest reformer to the world's deepest needs and darkest delusions. And it is the language of conformity to Jesus who spoke in the simplest, but most sublime terms, when saying, "Learn to love. And when loving then do what you will." 

If you love rightly you will do precisely what God's will is by being in His will. This is the radicalness of a Radical Christianity. It begins with Jesus and is sewn through-and-through by Jesus even unto its ends. A Radical Christianity takes its postmodern faith and hermeneutic and re-captivates its message with the person and work and love of Jesus.

Whether we understand ourselves or not. Or this world or not, in all its "velocities of self-implosion" and "accelerations away from itself," to the lies and delusions it holds in front of us as the truer false-paths of self-discovery. No, the power, the source, the engine to all of this is Jesus. Without Jesus there can be no discovery. No release. No truth or fulfillment. Just endless, empty strivings after the winds of our own demise and misplaced stories that we tell ourselves.



The Little Prince

There is a story out there that says "If you want to build a ship than teach people to long for the sea." Not how to build a ship, or to go through the mechanics of building a ship, or even attend apprenticeship classes around the marine industry. No, the truer story is to long for the immensity of the sea. To long for its endless bounty recreated upon every new sunrise as it embeds itself into all that it is from day after day after day until the last dawn of all new mornings.

It is in the story of longing that we may act out the story of us that we don't even realize we are acting out. For it is not a story that we may simply read of - we must become active participants in it. Mark Twain, the great American literarist once said, "He who carries a cat by the tail learns something that can in no other way be taught." So too with Christianity.

It is not enough to read of it, to study and dissect it theologically. It must be lived. Experienced. Used and witnessed to by our very selves as the actors upon God's lively stage.

We attend the communal practice of Christian worship with the mindset that we are to burst from this Sunday assemblies into the worlds we live to really want what God wanted us to want and not the unleafed pages of unlived lives unsullied from trying, failing, or attempting to live life by God's grace and Spirit.

This is the truer story of us. It is the story of Jesus within the greater story of God. It is the truer narrative of who we are in Jesus. We have become the "little prince of our story' who sails around the world dauntless of its fears, ceaselessly yearning for adventure and discovery. To become one with the horizons of our lives lived too meanly upon the leaden pages of our rival stories of ourselves. Lost on the wings of the wind until Jesus came into our lives to become the captain of our ships and the Lover of our souls. He, who is the Lord of creation and the God of our imaginations. Praise ye the Lord.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
May 13, 2015



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