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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Shorts - What Does a Post-Christian Church Look Like?




Sunday Morning Thoughts

"What would a Post-Christian gospel look like? What would a Post-Christian church be formed around? And what would be its Post-Christian mission?"

In the old days this might be known as the subversive gospel. But of course enlightenment has come with Holy Spirit event and change. For myself, as for many others, it will be a welcomed relief from the past several decades of misdirection into unchurchlike activities, behaviors, and societal rants. The short of it is it'll be the same but the long of it is it'll be contemporarily different.

So then, here's what a post-Christian church might look like for starters...

Firstly, it'll be full of sinners saved by grace and deeply devoted to equality of fellowship with one another and to the world reading a bible more gracious than judgmental.

Next, as the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge to serve, share, embrace, and welcome all of humanity without codes, conducys, and qualifications.

Too, the gatherings will become less about itself and more about Jesus and the world he loves.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in every day life, and attending to their spiritual well being.

It is also the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church.

And the post-Christian church will be all about adaptive mission and innovative model. Not building programs. Not fund raising. And not divisive political speeches centered around ungodly capitalist values.

This is the hope of the redeemed and the glory of God undefeated by evil or by false prophets believing their own "interpretive take" on the gospel as the true word of God.

R.E. Slater
January 31, 2016
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10 predictions about the future Church and shifting attendance patterns
http://www.christianweek.org/10-predictions-future-church-shifting-attendance-patterns/

by CAREY NIEUWHOF, ChristianWeek Columnist
January 25, 2016

Every generation experiences change.

But sometimes you sense you’re in the midst of truly radical change, the kind that happens only every few centuries. Increasingly, I think we’re in such a moment now.

Those of us in in Western culture who are over age 30 were born into a culture that could conceivably still be called Christian. Now, as David Kinnaman at the Barna Group has shown, even in America, people who are churchless (having no church affiliation) will soon eclipse the churched.

In addition, 48% of Millennials (born between 1984-2002) can be called post-Christian in their beliefs, thinking and worldview.

I think the change we’re seeing around us might one day be viewed on the same level as what happened to the church after Constantine’s conversion or after the invention of the printing press. Whatever the change looks like when it’s done, it will register as a seismic shift from what we’ve known.

So what will the future church be like? And how should you and I respond?

Predictions…Really?

Okay, before we get going, a few things.

I realize making predictions can be a dangerous thing. Maybe even a bit ridiculous . But I want to offer a few thoughts because I’m passionate about the mission of the church.

So, borne out of a love for the gathered church, I offer a few thoughts. Consider it thinking in pencil, not ink.

While no one’s really sure of what’s ahead, talking about it at least allows us to position our churches for impact in a changing world.

10 Predictions About the Future Church

So what’s likely for the future church? Here are 10 things I see.

1. The potential to gain is still greater than the potential to lose

Every time there is a change in history, there’s potential to gain and potential to lose.

I believe the potential to gain is greater than the potential to lose. Why?

As despairing or as cynical as some might be (sometimes understandably) over the church’s future, we have to remind ourselves that the church was Jesus’ idea, not ours.

The reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated

It will survive our missteps and whatever cultural trends happen around us. We certainly don’t always get things right, but Christ has an incredible history of pulling together Christians in every generation to share his love for a broken world.

As a result, the reports of the church’s death are greatly exaggerated.

2. Churches that love their model more than the mission will die

That said, many individual congregations and some entire denominations won’t make it. The difference will be between those who cling to the mission and those who cling to the model.

When the car was invented, it quick took over from the horse and buggy. Horse and buggy manufacturers were relegated to boutique status and many went under, but human transportation actually exploded. Suddenly average people could travel at a level they never could before.

The mission is travel. The model is a buggy, or car, or motorcycle, or jet.

Look at the changes in the publishing, music and even photography industry in the last few years.

See a trend? The mission is reading. It’s music. It’s photography. The model always shifts….moving from things like 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs to MP3s and now streaming audio and video.

In the future, churches that love their model
more than their mission will die.

Companies that show innovation around the mission (Apple, Samsung) will always beat companies that remain devoted to the method (Kodak).

Churches need to stay focused on the mission (leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus) and be exceptionally innovative in our model.

3. The gathered church is here to stay

Read the comments on this blog or any other church leader blog and you would think that some Christians believe the best thing to do is to give up on Christian gatherings of any kind.

This is naive.

While some will leave, it does not change the fact that the church has always gathered because the church is inherently communal. Additionally, what we can do gathered together far surpasses what we can do alone. Which is why there will always be an organized church of some form.

The church will always gather. What Christians can do together
far surpasses what we can do alone.

So while our gatherings might shift and look different than they do today, Christians will always gather together to do more than we ever could on our own.

4. Consumer Christianity will die and a more selfless discipleship will emerge

Consumer Christianity asks What can I get from God? It asks, What’s in it for me?

That leads us to evaluate our church, our faith, our experience and each other according to our preferences and whims. In many respects, even many critics of the church who have left have done so under the pull of consumer Christianity because ‘nothing’ meets their needs.

All of this is antithetical to the Gospel, which calls us to die to ourselves—to lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.

As the church reformats and repents,
a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge.

As the church reformats and repents, a more authentic, more selfless church will emerge. Sure, we will still have to make decisions about music, gathering times and even some distinctions about what we believe, but the tone will be different. When you’re no longer focused on yourself and your viewpoint, a new tone emerges.

5. Sundays will become more about what we give than what we get

The death of consumer Christianity will change our gatherings.

Our gatherings will become less about us and more about Jesus and the world he loves. Rather than a gathering of the already-convinced, the churches that remain will be decidedly outsider-focused. And word will be supplemented with deeds.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right. Sure, that involves social justice and meeting physical needs, but it also involves treating people with kindness, compassion in every day life and attending to their spiritual well being.

This is the kind of outward focus that drove the rapid expansion of the first century church.

In the future church, being right will be less important than doing right.

That’s why I’m very excited to be part of a group of churches that has, at its heart, the desire to create churches unchurched people love to attend. While the expression of what that looks like may change, the intent will not.

6. Attendance will no longer drive engagement; engagement will drive attendance

Currently, many churches try to get people to attend, hoping it drives engagement.

In the future, that will flip. The engaged will attend, in large measure because only the engaged will remain.

If you really think about this…engagement driving attendance is exactly what has fuelled the church at its best moments throughout history. It’s an exciting shift.

7. Simplified ministries will complement people’s lives, not compete with people’s lives

For years, the assumption has been that the more a church grew, the more activity it would offer.

The challenge, of course, is that church can easily end up burning people out. In some cases, people end up with no life except church life. Some churches offer so many programs for families that families don’t even have a chance to be families.

Simplified churches will complement people’s witness,
not compete with people’s witness.

The church at its best has always equipped people to live out their faith in the world. But you have to be in the world to influence the world.

Churches that focus their energies on the few things the church can uniquely do best will emerge as the most effective churches moving forward. Simplified churches will complement people’s witness, not compete with people’s witness.

8. Online church will supplement the journey but not become the journey

There’s a big discussion right now around online church. I think in certain niches online church might become the church for some who simply have no other access to church.

But there is something about human relationship that requires presence. Because the church at its fullest will always gather, online church will supplement the journey. I believe that online relationships are real relationships, but they are not the greatest relationships people can have.

Think of it like meeting someone online. You can have a fantastic relationship. But if you fall in love, you ultimately want to meet and spend your life together.

So it is with Jesus, people and the church.

9. Online church will become more of a front door than a back door

There’s no question that today online church has become a back door for Christians who are done with attending church.

While online church is an amazing supplement for people who can’t get to a service, it’s still an off ramp for Christian whose commitment to faith is perhaps less than it might have been at an earlier point.

Online church has the potential to become a front door
for the curious and the unconvinced.

Within a few years, the dust will settle and a new role for online church and online ministry will emerge. Online church has the potential to become a massive front door for the curious, the unconvinced and for those who want to know what Christianity is all about.

In the same way you purchase almost nothing without reading online reviews or rarely visit a restaurant without checking it out online first, a church’s online presence will be a first home for people which for many, will lead to a personal connection with Christ and ultimately the gathered church.

10. Gatherings will be smaller and larger at the same time

While many might think the mega-church is dead, it’s not. And while others think mega-churches are awful, there’s nothing inherently bad about them. Size is somewhat irrelevant to a church’s effectiveness.

There are bad mega-churches and bad small churches. And there are wonderfully effective mega-churches and wonderfully effective small churches.

We will likely see large churches get larger. Multisite will continue to explode, as churches that are effective expand their mission.

The future church will become bigger and smaller at the same time.

At the same time, churches will also establish smaller, more intimate gatherings as millennials and others seek tighter connections and groups. Paradoxically, future large churches will likely become large not because they necessarily gather thousands in one space, but because they gather thousands through dozens of smaller gatherings under some form of shared leadership. Some of those gatherings might be as simple as coffee shop and even home venues under a simple structure.

We will see the emergence of bigger churches and smaller churches at the same time as the gathered church continues to change.

What Do You See?

---

About the author: CAREY NIEUWHOFChristianWeek Columnist

Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church north of Toronto and is author of several books, including his latest #1 best-selling work, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow. Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership, change and personal growth. He writes one of today’s most widely read church leadership blogs at CAREYNIEUWHOF.COM and hosts the top-rated Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast where he interviews some of today’s best leaders.



Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Sunni Marrakesh Declaration: (The Ehtical) Treatment of Religious Minorities in Muslim Lands



The Marrakesh Declaration:
Religious Minorities in Muslim Lands

January 29, 2016

If you haven’t heard yet, a statement has been issued by a group of hundreds of Muslim scholars, called the Marrakesh Declaration, on the subject of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries. After an extensive preamble explaining the context and background, the group does the following:

  • Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of “citizenship” which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.

  • Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addesses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;

  • Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;

  • Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.

  • Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;

  • Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, villification, and denegration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry; AND FINALLY,

  • AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

It is quite wonderful. In Sunni Islam, there is no hierarchical leadership structure, and so a statement like this is not binding in any strict sense. But precisely for that reason, a statement that both demonstrates and seeks to build wide consensus, while directly challenging issues that need to be addressed, is the most important and impactful kind of undertaking possible in that tradition.



* * * * * * * * * *





IN THE NAME OF GOD, THE COMPASSIONATE, THE MERCIFUL

The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands:
Legal Framework and a Call to Action

Introduction

In recent years, several predominantly Muslim countries have witnessed brutal atrocities inflicted upon longstanding religious minorities. These minorities have been victims of murder, enslavement, forced exile, intimidation, starvation, and other affronts to their basic human dignity. Such heinous actions have absolutely no relation whatsoever to the noble religion of Islam, regardless of the claims of the perpetrators who have used Islam’s name to justify their actions: any such aggression is a slander against God and His Messenger of Mercy s as well as a betrayal of the faith of over one billion Muslims.

At the same time, in these lands where the government’s central authority is weak, fading, or failing, the Muslim majority, in reality, is often no better off than the religious minorities. In countries where the Muslims are a majority and the authorities are aggressive, such conditions obligate the Muslim majority to protect the minorities, their religions, their places of worship, and other rights. This situation also demands that Muslim jurists, philosophers, and intellectuals engage in a serious study of the reasons for such egregious departure from normative Islam using a sound and methodical scholarship. This scholarly activity must deconstruct extremist discourse avoiding the typical responses which to date are invariably superficial, generalized, and vague condemnations on the one hand, or limited to the sphere of debates over the particularized legal proofs on the other.

Past Muslim societies were stunning examples of diversity with sundry sects, creeds, opinions, and worldviews. They all coexisted within an environment of tolerance, brotherhood, and mutual understanding of the other. History has recorded these details, and objective historians from various backgrounds have affirmed this.

It goes without saying that the Islamic tradition is based on revealed scripture, guided by the actions of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs and inspired by the noble aims of the Sacred Law. The religion’s scholars produced a vast, unprecedented cultural and legislative body of work concerning religious minorities, which have been, and which continue to be, part of the fabric of Muslim societies since Islam’s advent. Past Muslim societies were stunning examples of diversity with sundry sects, creeds, opinions, and worldviews. They all coexisted within an environment of tolerance, brotherhood, and mutual understanding of the other. History has recorded these details, and objective historians from various backgrounds have affirmed this.

In recent times, the world has experienced dramatic changes. Among the most striking of these changes involved the inhabitants of post-colonial Muslim nations adopting a new paradigm toward their minority religious communities: the contract of citizenship in which all people are equal, both in their rights and responsibilities, and with respect to their private religious affiliations, with no legal religious bias on the part of the government. Global accords, international law, and commercials systems of goods and services became a part of the local systems. These changes were instituted into the new constitutions that would become the founding documents of these nations. All of these changes are aspects of the phenomenon that is now referred to as “globalization.” It has lead to the dissipation of many of the cultural and political barriers and boundaries between societies and an increase in the phenomenon of the intermixing of ethnicities, cultures, and religions. In addition, a rise in international migration in search of economic opportunities or refuge from the fires of ethnic cleansing, religious oppression, and political exile has occurred.

Background

These radical changes beg the question: In light of these recent developments, what paradigm concerning religious minorities can the Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and philosophers advance in today’s world as an ideal goal to work toward? This paper presents the following points for consideration and scholarly discussion on this topic:

Examination and study of the primary sources of Islamic Law, employing a methodology that is holistic—inclusive of all that it contains, bearing in mind the context of their revelation, the stipulative injunctions khitab al-wad, weighing the benefits and harms, and using the example of the Rightly-Guided Caliphs—which provides two primary modalities of relations between Muslims and communities of other faiths: one in the context of peace and another in the context of conflict, whether actual or anticipated.

In distinguishing between the realm of legal rulings regulated by stipulative injunctions khitab al-wad, the role of context, and weighing the benefits and harms, and the realm of Islamic values and the higher objectives of Islamic Law, we find that those rulings which promote peace have both primacy and supremacy over other considerations, given that such rulings embody the core values and objectives that Islam asserts and confirm the primary mission of the Prophets: to perfect and exemplify the elevated ethics of revealed religion— values, such as the brotherhood of humanity that joins all of Prophet Adam’s offspring, the importance of mutual understanding between various peoples, the command to aid and comfort all people with virtue and piety irrespective of their religion or perspectives, the prohibition of impeding justice for those who have been wronged, and other such principles which cannot be justifiably violated by appealing to rulings with circumstantial and contingent particularities or understandings based on events that took place in a different historical context, time, and place, and involved different people, a time that had as its most identifiable trait the predominance of the culture of war.

Medina was a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society that was not founded as the result of conquest or peaceful surrender. There, the Prophet s composed a document governing the relations between the Muslims and other religious communities that would come to be known as “the Charter of Medina.” This document was, for all intents and purposes, a just constitution that established a type of contractual citizenship. It affirmed that those who were under its authority were one, cohesive, unified polity with all of its citizens enjoying equal rights and having the same duties. This document affirmed the unity of the society in terms of religious pluralism and freedom of religion, but, despite its obvious importance, it has not garnered much study. The main reason for this is that it relates to the founding of the community and deals with a society that was, by its very nature, multi-religious—that is, one in which each segment of society freely chose its religious affiliation.

Contemporary circumstances, including the tragic circumstances of religious minorities in some predominantly Muslim lands, highlight the need for the Charter of Medina to provide the basis for an authentic model of citizenship. This model would provide religious minorities with a new, historic, contractual status that has a basis in Islamic history. It would respect their private lives, protect their right to practice their religion, and include all citizens in the management of the society’s affairs in a manner consistent with the duties and rights as outlined in the constitution. This constitution would guarantee equality, the right to pursue happiness, the primacy of the rule of law, and provide the means to resolve political differences fairly and justly.

Conference Scope and Objectives

In order to examine more deeply what entails the rights of religious minorities in Muslim lands, both in theory and practice, His Highness, King Muhammad VI of Morocco, will host a conference in Marrakesh in the Kingdom of Morocco. The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs of the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, based in the U.A.E., will jointly organize the conference, scheduled to be held from 25th – 27th January, 2016 (15th – 17th Rabi al-Thani, 1437). A large number of ministers, muftis, religious scholars, and academics from various backgrounds and schools of thought will, God willing, participate in this conference. Representatives from various religions, including those pertinent to the discussion, from the Muslim world and beyond, as well as representatives from various international Islamic associations and organizations will be in attendance.

The conference’s discussions and research will focus on the following areas:

Grounding the discussion surrounding religious minorities in Muslim lands in Sacred Law:
  • utilizing its general principles, objectives, and adjudicative methodology;
  • exploring the historical dimensions and contexts related to the issue;
  • and examining the impact of domestic and international rights.

This conference, with God’s help and providence, aims to begin the historic revival of the objectives and aims of the Charter of Medina, taking into account global and international treaties and utilizing enlightening, innovative case studies that are good examples of working towards pluralism. The conference also aims to contribute to the broader legal discourse surrounding contractual citizenship and the protection of minorities, to awaken the dynamism of Muslim societies and encourage the creation a broad-based movement of protecting religious minorities in Muslim lands, and to...

[comments ended abruptly here at the linked in website]

Monday, January 18, 2016

Shorts - PostChristianity & Christian Eschatology, Part 1/2






I don't speculate on the after-life all that often. But this morning a thought crossed my mind.

It is only a thought, nothing more. What if 'heaven' is where we seek forgiveness from

those we have harmed...and always receive it? - Michael Hardin, January 18, 2016


Says a religious editor to an editorial review, "...My reaction to being assigned a book on millinnial positions... RUN!!"

LOL. I can sympathize.

In both "Open and Relational Theism" and "Radical Christianity" (which is more an a/theistic philosophy than it is a theology) there is no such thing as a "tribulation or millennial outlook" because in these systems the future is either "open and unpredictable" or "of no consequence."

In the first system God does not control anything nor can there be any prophecy because God does not know the future (which is a major difference with classical theological dogmas built upon differing doctrinal emphases and philosophies).

Why?

Because its how God created the world by fiat and decree with infinite opportunity and probability. As such, the future cannot be known nor can it be controlled. But this doesn't mean the future is without redemptive design because creation is imbued with divinity as an extension of God's very Being.

A great example of this is in the design of divine evolution - though random and chaotic (as one would expect) it still always moves forward towards life as far as it can go within any unlivable or unsustainable or hostile environment.

We may think of the same thing in terms of spiritual life - that against all hell and evil a spiritual life will seek divine fellowship with both the Creator-Redeemer as well as with all creation (at least, as far as it is possible).

Given these parameters then, the only future which can be predicted is one predicated upon the Person and Being of the One who made all life/living possible.

Thus, on an evolutionarily cosmological time scale the biology of all life will come to an end as gravity propels the universe away from itself (the Big Rip). But on a spiritual dimension it will persist eternally in the God of All Creation.

R.E. Slater
January 18, 2016

References - Wikipedia - Open Theism







Shorts - PostChristianity & the Death of God, Part 2/2




I don't speculate on the after-life all that often. But this morning a thought crossed my mind.

It is only a thought, nothing more. What if 'heaven' is where we seek forgiveness from

those we have harmed...and always receive it? - Michael Hardin, January 18, 2016


Following up on an earlier post re God's immutability and impassibility (both of which are denied here as unbiblical by both "relational process theology" as well as by "open and relational theology") a postmodern, postsecular, postChristian theology will also assert the following.... That the postChristian Death of God movements must grant a more positive outcome than is typically admitted to these systems by both it opponents or proponents. Namely that the evolution of Christianity has exploded away from its delimiting forms of secularized Western modernity cemented in fatalistic pessimism, meaningless existence, and consumptive materiality to a more positive outcome. Thus allowing historical Judeo-Christianity to not only survive through these stages of itself but also thrive across all nations - and especially non-Westernized, non-Cristian nations - in actively expanding its redemptive influences into the world of men.

Theologically this would then refer to Jesus' transformative death and resurrection as one that not only dynamically "insists" across all human and cosmic structures (as versus competing with, or subsisting within, humanity's socio-economic existential structures) but persists in God's empowered missional outreach. This means that Jesus' rule and reign is now occurring with an even greater force than before His death and resurrection. So that in this view God both dies and lives as an ontic Being and as a dynamic/living redemptive force regardless of the persistence of sin and evil.

Consequently, the DOG position would leave God in the grave at the Cross while raising His re-creative force as an affective transformative residue of His past conscious Being. However, for both the "open and relational"and "relational process" theologian God not only profoundly dies but also profoundly lives in renewed redemptive transformative event/power that re-enlivens creation from its own moribund state of sin and evil (in consequence to its profound state of free will). Now creational free will is redemptively enlivened with Spirit-filled force and power which both "insists against" and not simply "subsists with" sin and evil. The redemption of God through Christ Jesus is what gives hope, purpose, and meaning to a postmodern world seeking truths beyond secular Western modernity's fatalism, consumption, and materiality.

R.E. Slater
January 18, 2016







Monday, January 4, 2016

Jurgen Moltmann - "The Crucified God" & "How Moltmann Shaped Theology"


Theologian Jurgen Moltmann

From our friends at Homebrewed Christianity comes a lecture series by Jurgen Moltmann with a panel discussion afterwards. The website links to the audio files may be found at Homebrewed's website by clicking on the "blue link" below the title. Enjoy, and Happiest of New Years to you.

R.E. Slater
January 4, 2016
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The Crucified God with Jurgen Moltmann!

December 8, 2015

Jurgen Moltmann is on the podcast!

Moltmann is the most influential theologian from the 2nd half of the 20th century. In this episode you will get to hear Moltmann answer our questions like a theological champ. His one liners are inappropriately zesty!

This is the first half of the live HBC podcast from the American Academy of Religion. You will get to hear Tony Jones and I interview the zesty German one – Moltmann! During the podcast we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Moltmann’s ground-breaking text The Crucified God.

We were also joined by Jennifer McBride and Philip Clayton. Get ready for the excitement!!












* * * * * * * * *

How Moltmann Shaped Theology

January 3, 2016

It’s a new year and you better get your geek out for this one!

This is the second half of the live HBC podcast from the American Academy of Religion. After Tony Jones and I interviewed the zesty German one – Moltmann – we hosted an impromptu all-star panel of HBC regulars discussing the work and influence of Moltmann’s ground-breaking text The Crucified God.

First our friends Philip Clayton and Scot Paeth kicked things off with us discussing the pathos of God, the Trinity, liberation theology and a number of other topics.

Then Tony and I were joined by a number of the authors in the Homebrewed Christianity Guide series with our friends at Fortress Press.

: See that's Tony, Jeff, Adam, Grace & Tripp.

You can order the entire book series now!

Check out the upcoming live events on our new calendar.












The Importance of Being Missional and Not Just Welcoming as a Christian



WHY MANY WELCOMING CHURCHES ARE DYING CHURCHES
http://www.ministrymatters.com/all/entry/6580/why-many-welcoming-churches-are-dying-churches

December 31, 2015

I was listening to a sports radio show on my way to church one morning. The two DJs were doing their usual bit of asking each other trivia questions. One of the DJs asked, “What are the top nine favorite religious Christmas Carols in the United States?” The other DJ had a hard time answering. He got only one: “O Holy Night.” Upon learning that another popular carol is “Silent Night” he asked, “Wait, that’s a religious one? How?” He was familiar with the tune of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” but again, he didn’t know it was religious.

That same day, for our church preschool’s Christmas party, I was helping one of the teachers and her teenage daughter set up some decorations in the sanctuary while the musicians were practicing some Christmas carols. Unknowingly I was humming along and the daughter asked, “Oh, what song is that?” After realizing that I was humming aloud, I had to take a moment to think about what song I was humming along to.

“Oh. It’s ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.’”

“I never heard of that song.”

What is it about this song that no one knows about?

Out of curiosity, I started asking her if she knew other “well-known” Christmas carols. Nope. I don’t think so. Sounds familiar. I think so…? Manger? What’s a manger? Those were the answers to my spur-of-the-moment pop quiz.

It’s no secret that our culture is becoming increasingly “secular.” What’s frustrating is that a lot of our churches still operate with the assumption that everyone knows about the church. And when we meet people that don’t know the Lord’s Prayer, instead of trying to teach them, we become more outraged at the secularity of our culture.

Where I believe my church and others fall short is meeting people where they are and joining in on the conversations they are already having. We still seem to want people to meet us where we are. At a recent visioning meeting, we talked about how we can reach our community and let them know that our church exists. A majority of the ideas were something along the lines of a facelift for our campus so that we can look fresh, brighter, newer for the people driving by.

“If they see a new landscape, they might think there’s life in the church and may want to come and check us out.”

That’s all good, but a new landscape or change of color of the church building isn’t going to draw people in.

That’s the second mistake many of us make. Not only do we assume that a majority of our neighbors know about church, we also look at outreach through the lens of the question “How do we get people into our pews” rather than actually being missional.

My church is absolutely welcoming. Many other churches are also welcoming… and happy, gracious and grateful to meet new families. But a welcoming church can easily become a dying church. Welcoming suggests passively waiting for people to come to be embraced, much like a dog anticipating and waiting for its master to come home.

Yes, we need to be welcoming… but more importantly, we need to be invitational. That means taking a risk and putting ourselves out there for possible rejection when we invite people to our church. It means going out into the world, making contact with people and building relationships with them.

Many decades ago, people looked for the cross and flame (the United Methodist Church logo) when they moved into a new town.

We don’t have that luxury anymore.

We can’t just wait and assume people are going to show up — because they won't. We’re also going to encounter more and more folks who don’t know the things about our faith that we take for granted. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is for us to mistake the words of Jesus to “Go” for “Stay and wait for people to come” — no matter how welcoming we may be.

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Joseph Yoo is pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara, California. He is the author of Practical Prayer and Encountering Grace. He blogs at JosephYoo.com.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

BAS/BAR - How December 25 Became Christmas


A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566.
Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers
offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born. Scala/Art Resource, NYOn December 25,
Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies,
brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern
hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be
associated with Jesus’ birthday?


How December 25 Became Christmas
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christmas/

by Andrew McGowan
December 2, 2015

Read Andrew McGowan’s article “How December 25 Became Christmas” as it originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in December 2012.—Ed.

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.(a)

Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”

Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.(b) These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.

Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”(2)

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).(4)

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.

Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.

It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.(5) In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.(6) They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.

Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.(7)

There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.(8) But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.


The baby Jesus flies down from heaven on the back of a cross, in this detail from Master Bertram’s
14th-century Annunciation scene. Jesus’ conception carried with it the promise of salvation through
his death. It may be no coincidence, then, that the early church celebrated Jesus’ conception and
death on the same calendar day: March 25, exactly nine months before December 25. | Kunsthalle,
Hamburg/Bridgeman Art Library, NY

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.(9) March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.(10) Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.(d)

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”(11) Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”(12)

In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”(13) Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.(e)

Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).

Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.

The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)(14) Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.(15)

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.(16)

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“How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002.

Andrew McGowan is Dean and President of the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and McFaddin Professor of Anglican Studies at Yale Divinity School. Formerly, he was Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, and Joan Munro Professor of Historical Theology in Trinity’s Theological School within the University of Divinity. His work on early Christian thought and history includesAscetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christan Ritual Meals(Oxford: Clarendon, 1999) and Ancient Christian Worship (Grand Rapids, MI: BakerAcademic, 2014).


Notes

a. See Jonathan Klawans, “Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?” Bible Review, October 2001.

b. See the following Bible Review articles: David R. Cartlidge, “The Christian Apocrypha: Preserved in Art,” Bible Review, June 1997; Ronald F. Hock, “The Favored One,” Bible Review, June 2001; and Charles W. Hedrick, “The 34 Gospels,” Bible Review, June 2002.

c. For more on dating the year of Jesus’ birth, see Leonara Neville, “Fixing the Millennium,”Archaeology Odyssey, January/February 2002.

d. The ancients were familiar with the 9-month gestation period based on the observance of women’s menstrual cycles, pregnancies and miscarriages.

e. In the West (and eventually everywhere), the Easter celebration was later shifted from the actual day to the following Sunday. The insistence of the eastern Christians in keeping Easter on the actual 14th day caused a major debate within the church, with the easterners sometimes referred to as the Quartodecimans, or “Fourteenthers.”

1. Origen, Homily on Leviticus 8.

2. Clement, Stromateis 1.21.145. In addition, Christians in Clement’s native Egypt seem to have known a commemoration of Jesus’ baptism—sometimes understood as the moment of his divine choice, and hence as an alternate “incarnation” story—on the same date (Stromateis 1.21.146). See further on this point Thomas J. Talley, Origins of the Liturgical Year, 2nd ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 118–120, drawing on Roland H. Bainton, “Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 42 (1923), pp. 81–134; and now especially Gabriele Winkler, “The Appearance of the Light at the Baptism of Jesus and the Origins of the Feast of the Epiphany,” in Maxwell Johnson, ed., Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 291–347.

3. The Philocalian Calendar.

4. Scholars of liturgical history in the English-speaking world are particularly skeptical of the “solstice” connection; see Susan K. Roll, “The Origins of Christmas: The State of the Question,” in Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 273–290, especially pp. 289–290.

5. A gloss on a manuscript of Dionysius Bar Salibi, d. 1171; see Talley, Origins, pp. 101–102.

6. Prominent among these was Paul Ernst Jablonski; on the history of scholarship, see especially Roll, “The Origins of Christmas,” pp. 277–283.

7. For example, Gregory of Nazianzen, Oratio 38; John Chrysostom, In Diem Natalem.

8. Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte Chrétien, 5th ed. (Paris: Thorin et Fontemoing, 1925), pp. 275–279; and Talley, Origins.

9. Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos 8.

10. There are other relevant texts for this element of argument, including Hippolytus and the (pseudo-Cyprianic) De pascha computus; see Talley, Origins, pp. 86, 90–91.

11. De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae.

12. Augustine, Sermon 202.

13. Epiphanius is quoted in Talley, Origins, p. 98.

14. b. Rosh Hashanah 10b–11a.

15. Talley, Origins, pp. 81–82.

16. On the two theories as false alternatives, see Roll, “Origins of Christmas.”