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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What or Whom Do We Choose? The Bible or Jesus?




For a Post-Christian Church What, or Who, Does It Choose? The Bible or Jesus or Both?

The Tale of Two Scriptures

I am submitting three articles for review below. One from a progressive Christian who has grown tired of conservative evangelical Christianity's harsh language and unloving posturing to the masses. It is deeply disgusted by the lack of gospel-sensibilities heard and seen by the Christian church at large. Many from this group may be described as progressive Christians who daily listen to the cluttered airwaves reflecting principles of an unwanted form of Christianity. A form that is deeply critical, sharp, cantankerous, and basically an abandonment from any form of loving "biblical" messaging of the Christian faith not reflective of a "Christ-like" response. We'll call this the "Jesus loving crowd" who would freely jettison the bible of any of its un-Jesus-like responses. As such, they would prefer to lead out with God's grace, mercy, forgiveness, unity, and unconditional acceptance to all mankind, including their enemies. Moreover, one suspects that many in this group will easily identify with a form of Arminianism (free will) that places the onus of missions squarely upon the shoulders of the church rather than waiting around for God to come out of His heavens to do something. It is a  muscular, or vigorous, vision of the Kingdom of God come amongst men and women into a post-millennial world of postmodernism.

The Tale of Two Churches

The second article submitted speaks to the larger audience of moderate/conservative Christians who tolerate (neo-) fundamentalists claims of Scripture but fear to confront it even while cringing at the rancor it is causing. The fear comes from being seen as a "liberal" Christian should they speak out against it, though some do, while somehow managing to control their message to reflect that they haven't left the mainstream of evangelical ranks. We'll call this "the bible-loving crowd" who put their Christian dogmas (or religious views of the bible) ahead of Jesus' commands to love and to serve both neighbor and enemy. This group prefers to lead out with divine control and ordained judgment to come; certainty of sin and moral lapse; various iterations of divine vengeance or inscripturated violence; and cling to various forms of biblical literalism built upon commonly accepted traditional grammatical-historic interpretations (sic, "hermeneutics") of the bible. Many in this group would identify with a form of Calvinism (sic, replacing "free will" with "divine determination").

The Tale of Christian Messaging

The final article submitted bookends the first article by declaring that "biblical" or traditional Christianity must declare a choice for divine spiritual power and authority. An authority that portrays itself in weakness while allowing for mankind generally (irregardless of the distinction between church and non-church) to respond to God's message of peace, love, and unity. A power which comes crucified upon a Cross of sin and shame declared authoritative by God the Father to rule over all sinful men's hearts when resurrected upon its death to self and empowerment to love. This Jesus was sanctified as the God-man come to serve and to rule as God's renewed power over sin's dark reign. Who is the very God who dies to the creation He has created in order to powerfully release it into fellowship back to Himself in new and wondrous ways. And it is this principle here that is declared by this last article asking to choose the Servant-King Jesus over any extant biblical dogmas.

A Tale Both Old and New

Of course, my one reaction is (as it always has been) how does one "renew" the pages of Scripture in order to presage the best of God's heart and sovereign plan from the dark narratives of Israel's violence committed towards the ancient nations and neighbors it lived amongst. In past writings and articles we have here jettisoned any need for an inerrant bible in favor of a more intelligent approach for an errant bible built upon a sophisticated stream of biblical interpretation and theology. A theology that ultimately is open and not closed based upon a bible that is open and not closed to today's academic discoveries and perturbations. So that in some sense, the Christian church must learn how to re-interpret the bible so that its Author is more clearly seen throughout its pages without relenting of the bible altogether in favor of some moralised version of the scriptures (or even the gospel of Jesus). For myself, as for many other, an errant bible is the only way to proceed in these dark times of literal biblical interpretation. And though errant, its message is one that is authoritative and Spirit-endowed. Thus the paradox, the mystery, the riddle that is the Scriptures themselves. But nonetheless, Christianity is deeply disserved when Christ's message is neglected against more preferential interpretations of theologies that are unChristlike. Remove the author from His Work and you'll get a man-centered gospel built upon vengeance and judgment. Keep Christ in His Work and you'll draw the rancor of the "religiously-Christian" rank-and-file unskilled in biblical interpretation and ready to acreed serpents and vipers into the pulpits of the church. Let us be wise and chose love, chose Jesus, even choosing death to our dark ways, for the uplifting of the Cross of Jesus which draws all vipers to itself to die so that the camp of the Living God's children may be cleansed and live.

R.E. Slater
December 6, 2015
edited December 7, 2015




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"So what does a DONE and a NONE look like?
They wish to look and act and be like Jesus...."
                      - r.e. slater, 12.2.15

My Emancipation From American Christianity
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-pavlovitz/my-emancipation-from-american-christianity_b_8718400.html

by John Pavlovitz, Pastor and Writer
Posted: 12/04/2015 9:33 am EST Updated: 12/04/2015 9:59 am EST

I used to think that it was just me, that it was my problem, my deficiency, my moral defect.

It had to be.

All those times when I felt like an outsider in this American Jesus thing; the ever-more frequent moments when my throat constricted and my heart raced and my stomach turned.

Maybe it came in the middle of a crowded worship service or during a small group conversation. Maybe while watching the news or when scanning a blog post, or while resting in a silent, solitary moment of prayer. Maybe it was all of these times and more, when something rose up from the deepest places within me and shouted, "I can't do this anymore! I can't be part of this!"

These moments once overwhelmed me with panic and filled me with guilt, but lately I am stepping mercifully clear of such things.

What I've come to realize is that it certainly is me, but not in the way I used to believe.

I am not losing my mind.

I'm not losing my faith.

I'm not failing or falling or backsliding.

I have simply outgrown American Christianity.

  • I've outgrown the furrowed-browed warnings of a sky that is perpetually falling.
  • I've outgrown the snarling brimstone preaching that brokers in damnation.
  • I've outgrown the vile war rhetoric that continually demands an encroaching enemy.
  • I've outgrown the expectation that my faith is the sole property of a political party.
  • I've outgrown violent bigotry and xenophobia disguised as Biblical obedience.
  • I've outgrown God wrapped in a flag and soaked in rabid nationalism.
  • I've outgrown the incessant attacks on the Gay, Muslim and Atheist communities.
  • I've outgrown theology as a hammer always looking for a nail.
  • I've outgrown the cramped, creaky, rusting box that God never belonged in anyway.
  • Most of all though, I've outgrown something that simply no longer feels like love, something I no longer see much of Jesus in.

If religion it is to be worth holding on to, it should be the place were the marginalized feel the most visible, where the hurting receive the most tender care, where the outsiders find the safest refuge.

It should be the place where diversity is fiercely pursued and equality loudly championed; where all of humanity finds a permanent home and where justice runs the show.
"I am a Christian and an American, but I refuse to settle for this American Christianity any longer or be defined by it."

That is not what this thing is. This is FoxNews and red cup protests and persecution complexes. It's opulent, big box megachurches and coddled, untouchable celebrity pastors. It's pop culture boycotts and manufactured outrage. It's just wars and justified shootings. It's all manner of bullying and intolerance in the name of Jesus.

Feeling estrangement from these things is a good thing.

For the past two decades I've lived within the tension of trying to be in the thing and not be altered by the thing, but that tension has become too great. Ultimately it's a spiritual compatibility issue.

It's getting harder and harder to love all people and still fit into what has become American Christianity, so rather than becoming less loving and staying -- I'm leaving.

I'm breaking free from religion for the sake of my soul.

I'm not sure practically what that looks like, but I can feel myself consciously and forcefully pulling away; creating distance between me and a system that can no longer accommodate the scale of my God and the scope of my aspirations.

Jesus said that the Spirit moves where it pleases, and with it go those in its glorious grip. In my heart and in the hearts of so many like me, that Spirit is boldly declaring its emancipation from the small, heavily guarded space that wants to contain it, and taking us out into the wide, breathtaking expanses of unfettered faith.

Every day people tell me that this great releasing is happening within them too; that they are finding freedom beyond the building and the box, and rediscovering a God right sized.

I am a Christian and an American, but I refuse to settle for this American Christianity any longer or be defined by it.

I know that there is something much greater beyond it worth heading toward; something that looks more like God and feels more like love.

Maybe you see it in the distance too. Maybe we can go there together.

Fear is in the rear view, freedom in the windshield.

This post originally appeared on JohnPavlovitz.com.


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A Call for American Evangelical Leaders to Confront Evangelicalism’s Lunatic Fringe
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/12/a-call-for-american-evangelical-leaders-to-confront-evangelicalisms-lunatic-fringe/

Roger Olson
December 3, 2015

Every religious movement that grows sufficiently large has a lunatic fringe; extremists attach themselves to religious (and other) movements to gain respectability and a “voice”—to influence the movement and others through it. Then, inevitably, critics of the movement accuse it of fostering lunatics and identify the latter with the center of the movement itself.

This is self-evident to anyone who studies religious (and other) movements. It’s relatively easy to notice and identify the lunatics, the extremists, attempting to attach themselves to movements—especially insofar as those movements gain a certain momentum socially and culturally.

A “movement” is different from an “organization.” An organization has a center and boundaries; a movement has a center without boundaries. American evangelicalism is a distinct movement with a relatively identifiable center. I have argued here and elsewhere that it is fracturing; the center is not holding. Still, it remains real in perception (especially to the pseudo-journalists of the mass media and its critics) which gives it a kind of reality.

Gradually, over the past thirty to forty years, “the public mind” has come to identify American evangelicalism with the movement’s extremists, its lunatic fringe, who have pushed themselves forward as self-appointed spokespersons for “evangelicals” in general. Television talk show hosts, popular (uninformed) journalists, critics of Christianity with platforms (blogging, writing, speaking) have tended to identify American evangelicalism with one particular wing of the movement—what I call neo-fundamentalists (because their real religious ethos is more akin to the fundamentalist movement that arose in the first half of the 20th century than to the postfundamentalist evangelical movement that coalesced around Billy Graham in the second half of the century). Many of these neo-fundamentalists, who call themselves “conservative evangelicals,” have adopted a triumphalist political agenda of using the power of politics to enforce their vision of Christianity on a pluralistic public.

Among these neo-fundamentalist evangelicals are some out-and-out lunatics. I don’t use that word in a technical sense—if it has one. I use it in the popular sense, the one most people think of now, of extremists who would be dangerous if their beliefs were to gain traction, momentum, real influence in the social realm—including especially politics. I do not mean they are literally insane in any DSM-5 sense. They may be religiously and politically delusional, but they are not literally mentally ill (so their extremism cannot be dismissed that way).

Even most American Christians, especially relatively educated and enlightened ones, those whose main “compass” is driven by Jesus and the New Testament and who are reasonable people even if others strongly disagree with their beliefs, reject the ideologically-driven proposals of these “evangelical lunatics” on the movement’s extremist fringe.

In my considered and hopefully informed opinion, for whatever it’s worth, I identify two main groups gaining real traction and influence by manipulating their claim to be “evangelical Christians”—even if that claim amounts primarily to allowing the media to so label them and then build on that bestowed identity.

The first I have written about here several times and include its ideology and spiritual-theological program in my book Counterfeit Christianity (Abingdon, 2015): the so-called “Word Faith” “Prosperity Gospel” of “Health and Wealth” that turns Christianity into a get-rich through prayer scheme.


The second I have not written about as much; it is variously called “Christian Reconstructionism” and “Dominion Theology.” (Yes, I realize these are not exactly the same thing, but for my purposes here their similarities are strong enough to lump them together.)

Some, perhaps most, Christian Reconstructionists and promoters of Dominion Theology teach it is the duty of Christians, inspired and led by God, to “take back America for God” in a legal sense of enforcing even Old Testament commandments and especially traditional Christian ethical norms (as they interpret them) on America through political (broadly defined) power. Some go so far as to believe and preach that the Kingdom of God itself could appear on American soil if enough Christians rallied to their cause. Some go so far as to advocate executions of homosexuals—based on a very selective reading of the Old Testament. (They rarely if ever advocate the execution of everyone God allegedly commanded the Hebrew people to execute!)

Rarely do advocates of this theology name themselves by these labels (viz., “Christian Reconstructionists” or “believers in Dominion Theology”). Sometimes they wrongly call themselves “Theonomists”—a less objectionable term that can mean many other things. (Liberal theologian Paul Tillich, for example, promoted “cultural theonomy” without ever hinting at establishment of a theocracy.)

There are many degrees of Christian Reconstructionism and Dominion Theology. These ideologies and political visions can be detected, though, in the subtleties of some preachers’ (and others’) visions for the future of America. “Take back America for God” is an imperative I always suspect of being inspired by some kind of Christian Reconstructionism or Dominion Theology—even where the people making it are not directly influenced by the ideology’s books, blogs and sermons.


This lunatic fringe of American evangelical Christianity is often popularly identified, especially by Christianity’s critics, as a natural extension of evangelicalism itself. And, unfortunately, many evangelical Christians I know (some of them are relatives!), express strong sympathies with it—even if they do not identify themselves with any of its many organizational expressions. Many of the latter tend to think that being an “American evangelical” would naturally lead a person to their theocratic vision for future America.

Most unfortunately, in my opinion, some American evangelical pastors, even some who stand in the pulpits of denominations associated with the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), are worming their way into the political process by holding innocent-sounding “rallies” and “banquets” and other kinds of events to whom they invite candidates for public office. I suspect most of the candidates who attend these events know little to nothing about the Reconstructionist/Dominionist theologies of these pastors. They are just glad to get a forum for promoting their candidacies. However, should one such candidate gain political power through the organizers’ help they will be called upon to move the American legal system in their direction.

What should be done about these evangelical extremists? First, evangelical “movers and shakers” need to publically distance themselves from them, even reject them as what Luther called “false brethren.” They are not “us.” They are hangers on of evangelicalism whose motives and goals are different from authentic evangelical Christianity. Second, if they belong to a denomination, their denominational leaders need to use whatever means are available to expel them. Third, when one of them holds an event (such as a recent one in the city where I was born in the Upper Midwest and where some of the first presidential caucuses will be held in the nominating process), evangelical pastors in that areas need to come together publicly to denounce their ideology. (I hesitate to call it a “theology” as it seems more driven by power motives than by true interest in God.) Fourth, evangelical Christian opinion-shapers need to use their platforms to proclaim to America and to the world that “they are not us.”


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




"Try this for a game changer, because this is where the church is at in a post-Christian world
questioning why Jesus' words and life example is being "thrown under the bus" for good old
fashion OT vengeance and hate by Christian groups. When the bible is lifted up over Jesus
we have a problem. Say what? Yup, its a problem for church groups trying to figure out who
they will follow... their dogmatic party lines or the Way of grace and truth. Get this latter
straightened out and you get the Spirit of God's movement among men and women figured
out. Refuse it and we get another 2000 years of acrimony, division, and eschatologic woe."
                                                                                        - r.e. slater, 12.2.15


Jesus is Ultimate
http://www.jrdkirk.com/2015/12/02/jesus-is-ultimate/

by J.R. Daniel Kirk
December 2, 2015

Bible As Final Authority?

“Christians don’t believe in the Bible. Christians believe in Jesus.”

I still remember when Ralph Wood dropped that bomb on a room of starry eyed freshmen and sophomores at Wake Forest University. I remember the vigorous conversations that ensued. How uncomfortable it made me.

I think that the story of my life for the past fifteen years has been discovering how deeply right he was. But before that, I resisted.

When I was preparing to go to seminary I tried to engage my grandparents on my choice of schools. So I sent some info on the conservative Reformed seminary I had chosen to those former Baptist missionaries. Grandfather picked out the opening line about scripture as the final authority and wrote in the margins for my perusal: “What about Christ?”

I thought he was naïve. How can you know about Jesus except through scripture, after all?

I think that the story of my life for the past fifteen years has been discovering how deeply right he was.

Jesus is Ultimate, Scripture Isn’t

Actually, there is a paradox here. The paradox is that the scriptures themselves paint a picture of Jesus who is more ultimate than those texts that attest to him, a Jesus who is more ultimate and the work and words of God that preceded him. That means that when we make scripture ultimate we should hear in its own voice the demand that it be given second place, that it retreat to the penultimate position, leaving Jesus (rather than scripture itself) as the final word.

You can find this claim across the New Testament.

There’s this moment in Matthew’s Gospel when the primacy seems like it is going to be left in the hands of scripture itself: “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law and the prophets, I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” But then follows a beautiful engagement with the Law that shows us that “fulfillment” places Jesus, the one who fulfills, above the Law itself.

When he engages the people by saying, “You have heard it said… but I say to you…” we learn that scripture is not ultimate. Neither the Torah itself nor its interpreters have the final word. Jesus claims that for himself.

In John’s Gospel a running theme is that all would-be divine spokespersons derive their value from the faithfulness with which they witness to Jesus. This includes scripture.

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have life. But it is these that testify about me.” Scripture isn’t ultimate. Jesus is.

In Romans Paul insists that saving righteousness comes apart from the Law and the prophets–but that they testify to it. He later says that Christ is the end or goal of the Law. Law is not ultimate, final. Christ is. And, Law and prophets are only rightly read when read as a witness to this coming Christ.

In the famous passage about scripture as God-breathed in 2 Timothy 3, we often skip the Christological purpose: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.”

And then there’s Hebrews. From front to back the point is that there were the former days and diverse manners of speaking, but in the last, the ultimate, days God has spoken through a son. A son who is greater.

From Sign to Substance

Jesus is the thing. Scripture is the sign that points toward the thing. Scripture provides a series of portraits so that we will know the real thing when we see it.

The difference between scripture and Christ is the difference between the menu and the food. The one describes the reality of the life-giving substance, the other is that life-giving substance.

Or, if you prefer the analogy of Colossians, scripture is like a shadow cast by Christ’s body. It shows us that there is someone there, but it is not the person himself.

One thing that I have become increasingly aware of is that this ultimacy of Christ, and its role in setting scripture back to a penultimate position, changes everything. And our awareness of it has the capacity to change how we view just about everything.

It shapes our understanding of God, of the world as it is, of the world as it will be, and of how we are to act here and now in order to embody the image of the God in which we have been (re)fashioned.

And, of course, it changes how we read the Bible.

Looks like that’s where we need to head over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned for discussion about how Jesus changes everything. After all, isn’t that what Advent is all about?