A New Blog

January 6, 2009 - One Response

Well, the time has come. I’m moving on to a new blog. Not just a new blog service, but a new title and a somewhat different outlook. So go check out my new blog:

http://adammoore.us

But before putting this blog to rest (though I won’t be deleting it), here’s a little pop quiz for you.

Answer True or False

1. I am changing blogs because I got bored with this blog.

2. I am changing blog titles because I no longer believe God is love.

3. The title of my new blog certainly proves I am no longer a Christian.

4. I designed a much more complicated blog and abandoned it before designing my new blog.

5. I will now be posting entries every single day.

6. My entire reason for blogging is that I want to be famous.

7. I really wish I was the creator of the Garfield Minus Garfield blog.

8. My new blog will be much better than this one.

9. The saddest part about leaving this blog is leaving my header image.

10. My new blog will be the fifth blog of my blogging career.

Answers
1. True 2. False 3. False 4. True 5. Yeah right 6. Absolutely 7. True 8. With/out a doubt 9. True 10. True

Note

December 19, 2008 - 4 Responses

So, I think I’m ready to re-enter the blogosphere…but not here. I’ve finally gotten bored with “If God is Love.” I’m ready for a new blog. I can’t stay in the same place for too long. I’m ready to move on.

A new blog is coming soon…I think…

Peter Rollins in Waco – Nov 14

November 1, 2008 - Comments Off

For more information and for directions, go to Emergent Waco.

If you’re on Facebook, check out the Facebook event where you can RSVP.

Faith the size of a mountain

October 22, 2008 - 4 Responses

The minister was quite impassioned as he delivered his Sunday sermon, proclaiming the necessity for people of faith to defend their ground against the onslaught of atheistic attacks against both God and Christianity. Speaking with power and authority about the need for warriors of faith, the preacher quoted a well known passage of scripture:

“One evening when the crowd had finally dispersed, Jesus’ disciples came to him in private and inquired, ‘Lord, why is it there are times when we can perform great miracles, yet at other times we find ourselves completely powerless?’

“Looking into the distance, Jesus replied, ‘Your problem is your lack of faith. Truly I tell you, you must have faith the size of a mountain to perform even the smallest of miracles. Nothing will be possible for you without such a faith.’”

Leaving the church that day, many from the congregation were newly committed to eradicating any seed of doubt from their faith, no matter how small.

Blogs to read instead of mine (since I don’t blog anymore)

October 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Since I stopped blogging, I also stopped reading most blogs. But I have kept a few in my handy Google Reader. Here are the top 10, in alpha order.

1. dear mr. supercomputer – Geoff’s blog is named after a brilliant Sufjan Stevens song. That’s why I read it. Never underestimate the importance of the blog title.

2. garfield minus garfield – not a true blog, but truly hilarious.

3. hold : this space – I really resonate with Cheryl’s thinking and I think the blog header is beautiful. Never underestimate the importance of the blog header.

4. Jonny Baker – I read Jonny because he is always breaking new ground.

5. Looking Closer – my film fix. I’ve been reading this one since I first entered the blogosphere.

6. nevermind the bricolage – Barry Taylor wrote one of my favorite books of the year. His blog is always pointing me to places and thoughts I would have never arrived at otherwise.

7. Peter Rollins – because everyone needs to read one blog from Northern Ireland, right?

8. Post Rant Rant – the blogosphere cannot exist without ranting. These rants are particularly thoughtful.

9. Real Live Preacher – the best blog in these here internets. Without question.

10. The Corner – a perfect mix of good links and good thoughts.

Time for a break

September 25, 2008 - 2 Responses

A strange thing happened over the past month – I haven’t blogged much, and I haven’t missed it. That’s never happened before. Since I started blogging in May 2005 I have never enountered a period of time when I was no longer interested in blogging. There have been times when I took short breaks, or didn’t post very often, but usually that was because I was just too busy to blog – I wanted to blog, I just didn’t have the time. This time has been different. Sure, I’ve been busy, and that has kept me from blogging, but I’ve also lost the desire, at least for now.

So I’m going to take a break. Will it be permanent? Probably not. But I do think it will be an extended break. Of course now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably get the desire back tomorrow and post every day for the month of October. Who knows.

I think part of the reason I’ve lost interest in blogging is because I’ve been working on a couple projects recently that are related to some of the ideas I’ve blogged about over the past few years. I’m working on actually doing some things and not just writing about ideas. We’ll see how that works out…no guarantees. I will probably end up writing about those projects on this blog, but I’m not ready yet.

Well, I guess that’s it. Thanks for reading.

Adam

A Woman Without Faith

September 2, 2008 - One Response

In a time of devastating war there was a woman whose husband was killed on the field of battle. Upon hearing the news, the woman dropped to her knees and cried out to the heavens, “I curse you God for taking away my husband and for stealing the father of my children!” At that moment she collapsed to the ground, her body limp and seemingly lifeless. Unresponsive, she was carried to her bed where she lay for two days, not saying another word.

On the morning of the third day, the local priest came and stood at the woman’s bedside. Though silent and without movement, the woman’s eyes were open, staring blankly at the wall across from her bed. For a long time the priest simply stood beside her with his head bowed and eyes closed, appearing to be in prayer. While the priest was still praying, slowly the face of the woman seemed to regain life. Seeing the priest beside her, she opened her mouth, and finding her voice said, “Are you the man who came to me in my dream?” Slightly startled, the priest said, “I have only been standing here, praying for you and your family. Tell me about your dream.” Still regaining her consciousness, the woman described her dream to the priest.

“I dreamed I was walking in a beautiful and lush garden. I walked for many hours as the garden continued to expand before me, appearing to be without boundary. For a long time I saw a man in the distance and then suddenly he was right before me. He did not respond to my words and did not appear to be aware of my presence. All the while, he was speaking loudly, almost shouting, in a beautiful language I could not understand.”

Contemplating the woman’s dream, the priest said, “Perhaps our Lord has appeared to you in your grief, seeking to give you comfort and rest.” With anger in her voice, the woman responded, “I have renounced my God and I refuse his comfort. Please leave me alone in my grief.” With sadness, the priest bowed his head and left the room. But after closing the door behind him, he stopped and quietly prayed, “O God of our fathers, I pray for this dear woman who has experienced such a tremendous loss. I pray for her and her children who have lost a husband and a father so prematurely. I pray you would help her to find her faith. Blessed Father hear my prayer.”

A Woman of Great Faith

August 26, 2008 - 5 Responses

In a time of devastating war there was a woman whose husband was killed on the field of battle. In accordance with her religious customs, and during the specified time of mourning, she went to see the high priest in the holy city. Arriving at the temple, the woman was brought before the priest. As she bowed before the holy man, she said, “Wise priest, I come before you in mourning but I have confidence in the scriptures, which assure me that my husband is now with our ancestors in paradise. Though I am devastated by this loss, I am filled with faith in our God. He sustains me and lifts me up in the midst of my grief. Please bless me and pray that I might be rescued from any doubt and that I might not question God’s reasons for taking my husband from my children and me.”

Filled with sorrow for the woman’s loss, the priest placed his hand on the woman’s head and quietly mouthed an ancient blessing. He then prayed for her, saying, “O God of our fathers, I pray for this dear woman who has experienced such a tremendous loss. I pray for her and her children who have lost a husband and a father so prematurely. I also pray you would rescue her from her great faith. Blessed Father hear our prayer.”

Opening her eyes the woman stood silently before the priest. After a few moments she opened her mouth and said, “I do not understand your prayer, wise priest. My longing is for an even greater faith. Why did you pray for me to be rescued from my faith?”

With much compassion, the priest looked into the woman’s eyes and responded, “Dear child, I also long for you to have an even greater faith than you currently possess. That is the reason for my prayer. For it is only when we lose our faith that we can truly gain it.

Minnekon – Reflections

August 20, 2008 - 17 Responses

How do I even begin to reflect on last week’s Minnekon experience? There was just so much. It was wonderful. I loved every minute – hearing Pete talk at least five different times in four days, learning so much from Sarah, Kellie and Jonny, participating in the workshops, eating meals and having great conversations with new friends, and having the opportunity to think about, reflect on, and even put into practice ideas I find very provocative and hopeful. This is certainly an experience I will be processing for many weeks. Here are a few provisional thoughts to give you an idea of the places my mind has been wandering because of the overall experience:

  • Pete Rollins is for real. Even after reading both of his books, there was still a part of me that wondered if perhaps Pete was just playing around with words and ideas. I didn’t think he was a crypto-evangelist, but you can never quite be sure… But now I’m completely confident that he’s for real. And more than that, he cares about helping others do the kind of thing he is doing. He thinks it is important. So do I.
  • Ikon is not a church. And it’s not necessarily Christian. It’s certainly influenced by, and perhaps even rooted in, the Christian tradition and the tradition of the Church, but ultimately it’s post-Christian, and this makes it different than much of the emerging church. Not in a better or worse way – it’s just different. I think Ikon, and the theology behind Ikon, is about creating open spaces – empty spaces – for God to give God (the transcendent, the wholly other, etc.). These spaces might be in church settings, they might not be. Whether or not it’s church is just irrelevant. I really appreciate this. I want to be a part of creating these kinds of spaces.
  • On a related note, I see the theology behind Ikon impacting various settings within the church. However, to really take the theology seriously, I don’t think it can fully work in the church. But that’s ok. I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think letting this theology loose in church is good. And letting it loose outside the church is good too. But there is still a difference. At Ikon all questions are open. In the church, it is always foundational that what is happening is Christian and church. At Ikon even these questions are open. Again, I see a place for both. It’s not an either/or.
  • Continuing this same idea, I think all of this is further evidence of the increasing diversity of Christian/religious/spiritual experiences that are available for people. Church, Christianity, spirituality, and religion are no longer relegated to a church building, or even to particular faith traditions. Religious and spiritual questions and experiences are everywhere. People are going to pick and choose from a variety of options and create their own church/religious life. There is a lot more that can be said about this. I know many people see this as a problem. I see it as a really good and hopeful shift in our culture. Again, I think the question is how we can create spaces (both inside and outside the church) for God to give God (and I say that in the broadest sense possible).
  • I am still considering how the ideas in Pete’s books translate into everyday life. Or as Tony Jones asked in his dialogue with Pete, “How does this work for a devotional life?” This is a valid question. Personally, I don’t know if Pete has a good answer to this question right now. But I think that is understandable. I think it is somewhat uncharted territory. I think some people are living this kind of life but we may not yet identify it as such (I think of Gordon Atkinson/Real Live Preacher). I am very interested in considering these ideas and perhaps doing some writing along these lines. A provisional title for the topic – “Living Life With/out God.” This is very interesting to me.

Well, thanks for following along with me through the Minnekon experience. I hope these posts have been beneficial. I have definitely had a lot more traffic on my blog over the past week, so this seems to be something people are interested in.

Do any of you have thoughts about all this?

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way Introduction

August 18, 2008 - One Response

[If you haven't read my "A.way" post about the Minnekon event that took place on Saturday, go read that post before this one.]

Here’s the introduction I wrote for the “A.way” event at Minnekon. Yes, this is my best Peter Rollins imitation.

_________________

Finding a way.

Away from here.

Many of us are searching for a way. Do you know the way?

Is the way to be found in the church?

In Christianity?

In a particular doctrine or creed?

What about those who have pursued all these things only to find something like a dead end?

Is this the end of the road?

Or is it the beginning?

There are those who speak of a long forgotten saying of Jesus. Perhaps it might help us. The story reads as follows:

One day when Jesus was setting out on another journey, one of his disciples, one who had been following him for some time, came up behind him and asked, “Teacher, I have been following you for many months, but I must ask you, how do I find the way?” Jesus turned to him and said, “Have you not heard me say, ‘Follow me, for I am the way, the truth and the life?’” Having heard this a number of times, the disciple replied, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the way. I have followed you on many journeys. I have listened to your every word, but I still seek to find the way. Tell me what to do and I will do it – anything you ask. I would even sell all my possessions. Just tell me the way.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said, “You lack one thing, go away from here, and follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, the disciple was sorrowful, for he did not want to leave Jesus’ presence.

Tonight we have left the home of our identities at the door. No matter where we find ourselves, no matter what baggage we have collected, we acknowledge the way we look for must be away from here. If we do not know where to go, if we do not know what to do, we must do it. We must leave – pursuing the destination that can only be found in the journey. And perhaps in the very act of leaving we will find a.way from here.

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – A.way

August 18, 2008 - Comments Off

On Saturday night I was part of the culmination of the Minnekon experience – an Ikon-like event. If you’ve never read How (Not) to Speak of God, then you might not have a feeling for what an Ikon event is like. First off, I recommend reading the book (the second half of the book describes ten different Ikon events, and is worth the price of the book all by itself), but basically Ikon events are experiential, experimental, creative, provocative, and theatrical attempts to knock people off their normal course – if even for just a moment. Peter Rollins describes these events as theodrama and transformance art. Ultimately, these events are an attempt to create a space where God can give God. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ikon events have seven elements: liturgy (theological words), ritual (interactive communal response), visuals, music, personal reflections, stories (parables, poetry, etc.), and a gift for everyone to take away from the experience. On Friday night (and into Saturday) we worked hard to prepare for the Minnekon event. I was part of the liturgy group and my primary task was to create an introduction for the event. I’ll share that later (here).

The theme of the event was “(finding) a.way (from here).” The entire experience was an attempt to play with the at times contradictory yet interactive ideas of finding a way and going away from here. The theme was actually very relevant for where I am in my life right now – but I’ll save that topic for my Minnekon reflections post…

The event started out with everyone receiving a name tag before entering. Each person was then told to write on the name tag some important elements of their own identity. The name tag was then taken away and replaced with a blank name tag that everyone put on as they went into the event. As people entered, someone was playing the song “Amazing Grace,” except the words were changed to “I once was found, but now I’m lost. Could see but now I’m blind.” After everyone had found their way into the room I went up to the mic and read my introduction. There was a story about being lost and looking for directions, there was an original song based on the theme, a few personal reflections/stories/poetry readings, a liturgy with a communal response, and Pete shared his parable about going away from here (the origin of the theme “a.way”). The ritual involved everyone coming to the center and using their blank name tag to write a burden they were carrying. Everyone put the tags into a basket and later everyone took someone else’s tag and put it on. Throughout this entire time there was background music/ambient beats and also video projected onto two screens in the room. There were also people shining flashlights around the room at different points during the event. A couple cool visuals involved doing live searches on Google Maps and Google Earth that were displayed on the screens. These searches involved words like “lost,” “hope,” “away,” etc. This was really very cool…but the whole thing is hard to describe. The intent is for the event to be very experiential so words certainly do not do it justice. But hopefully this gives you a little feel for it all. As everyone left they were given a few “gifts” – a small part of a map, a bus ticket stamped with “changes required,” and their original name tag which had been stained in tea.

So what does all this mean?

Some people did leave wondering this very question. But that is part of the whole idea behind theodrama/transformance art. The “meaning” is not what’s so important, or at least having one specific Meaning is not important. Hopefully the event as a whole encouraged an experience that shook people slightly off course and perhaps, just perhaps, God was able to give God in some way. Considering the short amount of time we spent planning the event, I thought it went really well and had some great content. Everyone seemed happy with it. One of the Ikon folks I talked to afterwards said it was remarkably similar in tone to a regular Ikon event (not that copying Ikon is the point). Overall it was a great experience. I am very intrigued by the creation of these kinds of spaces and I hope I can do something like this again in the future.

[My overall reflections on the week are still to come. I’ll also post the introduction I wrote some time later today (here).]

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon is over

August 17, 2008 - Comments Off

Minnekon is all over. The service tonight, “a.way,” was great. I’ll definitely blog more about that in the next couple days. However, right now it’s late and I’m going to bed. Tomorrow we travel back to Waco (or is it today?).

At least a couple more Minnekon posts will be coming…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 3

August 16, 2008 - One Response

Today Pete spoke on the church. Here are a few highlights:

  • Doubt is not what makes faith weak but what makes it strong.
  • Doubt and uncertainty make our decisions more courageous.
  • Embrace the world and all its joy and suffering – that is where God is (from Bonhoeffer).
  • Revelation as rupture
  • No distinction between hearing and heeding.
  • Being the miraculous is more important than believing in the miraculous.
  • How does this work in the context of the church?
  • 1 – Church should speak to our social self. Aligning our actions with our beliefs.
  • Doubt must be open rather than just allowing the people to let the pastor or institution believe on their behalf.
  • Church often speaks to how we should believe. Instead should talk to our social self that doesn’t believe these things. Pastors must show doubt and live fully in the world. They must break the spell.
  • 2 – Church needs to bring people to maturity. Leaders must be ones who refuse leadership.
  • The last teaching of a great leader is that you must betray me.
  • Love is always in excess. Loving disciple always goes beyond the teacher. Church must encourage this kind of betrayal.
  • 3 – Churche should be place of suspended space (epoche). Becoming nobody, nothing in that place. That’s the place God speaks. Enact the eschaton. God is always with those without identity. God is there when we divest ourselves. God speaks in the place of no place.
  • 4 – Belonging before belief.
  • Jesus didn’t talk much about theology.
  • 5 – Longing for the event of God.

After Pete’s final talk we did our serious work towards developing an Ikon-like service/theodrama/transformance art for Saturday night. The theme for the night is “a.way” or “(finding) a.way (from here).” The following are the elements of an Ikon event that we worked on developing for Saturday night:

  • Liturgy – theological words
  • Ritual – interactive communal response
  • Visuals
  • Music
  • Reflections – often personal
  • Stories – more theological content but through parables, poetry, etc.
  • Gift – something for each person to take away from the evening.

Well, that’s probably enough for now. I have to work on the introduction to the event (part of the liturgy). We’ll see how that goes…

[By the way, I plan on following up on all this with some general reflection on the events of the week]

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 2

August 14, 2008 - One Response

We just got back to the hotel from session 2 of Minnekon. More good stuff. Good conversations. Good talks. Good workshops. Another great day. Here are some highlights:

  • Pete talked about revelation
  • An icon is not something we just look at but is also where God looks at us. Where we gaze upon the invisible and where the invisible gazes upon us.
  • Our theology is a response to God’s incoming. Our theology indirectly relates to God.
  • Revelation is not about God whispering in our ear, but is about incomprehension, bedazzlement, and transformation.
  • Revelation more like enlightenment – changes how we see the world.
  • If revelation is a whisper in our ear, then knowledge and action can be separated. We can know the truth and not do the truth. Rollins says revelation doesn’t allow this. You are what you do. You are your social self.
  • Jesus was radical because he seemed to forgive people without condition. Perhaps unconditional forgiveness helps bring forth repentance. You see this in the prodigal story.
  • Tony Jones and Peter Rollins had some dialogue after Pete’s talk. Tony asked about how all of this works in real life. What does it mean for a devotional life with God? Would these things have been harder to come to in American life? Lots of discussion followed around these questions.
  • After the talks, Sarah, Jonny, Kellie and Pete presented more “lessons in evandalism.” This part of the night was primarily centered on Jonny leading us through some artistic exercises (Im not exactly sure what to call it…but it was good stuff). Lots of interesting stuff. Good group discussion and work. I have really enjoyed the contributions from the non-Pete Ikon folks. These are very bright, creative, and thoughtful people. They have much to offer and I have much to learn. Good thing we have a couple more days…

More tomorrow…now comes sleep.

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Emergent Cohort

August 14, 2008 - One Response

We just finished up a conversation with Peter Rollins and the Ikon folks with the Emergent cohort here in Minneapolis – the Twin Cities Emergent Cohort. Lots of good conversation. Here are a few highlights:

  • Rollins (when starting Ikon and after leaving his church): “I have no vision at all. I only know what I don’t want it to be.”
  • I’m a big advocate of not knowing what to do and doing it.
  • A big thing for me is not allowing ourselves to connect our ideas with God.
  • Instead of fulfilling your dreams, finding new ones.
  • Atheism for Lent – something Ikon puts together each year for Lent. They read the great atheist critiques of Christianity – not to critique them but to allow them to critique us.
  • Priestly role is to refuse the priesthood – helps usher in priesthood of all believers.
  • Pete’s role is to make sure no one colonizes these spaces.
  • Ikon is like a donut with a hole in the middle. Regular church is jam filled donut. No center, everyone on periphery.
  • At Ikon – only person who cares about you is the person next to you.
  • Create a void and allow God to give God.
  • Creating Ikon causes an orbit to occur. Interesting people are attracted to it. Pre-Ikon and Post-Ikon times are most important.
  • Leader is very important – to refuse leadership. Create and let it die.
  • Dreaming new dreams can’t have a plan – it’s uncharted, new wineskin. Can’t have a plan for starting a new community. The only thing you know is you must go somewhere that is not here. “Where are you going?” “I am going away from here.”
  • Create an atmosphere where people are ruptured – this is transformance art.
  • Repetition of difference – repeat things but differently.
  • Liberal and conservative – two different ways of trying to say the right answer. Alternative is to say views aren’t God’s views

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Session 1

August 13, 2008 - 2 Responses

Today was the first official day for the Minnekon conference/workshop in Minneapolis, featuring Peter Rollins and his friends from Ikon. The schedule is perfect. We start each day with a talk from Pete at 4:00 (which means we get to sleep in and spend some time around town during the morning and early afternoon. Today Brooke and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, which was wonderful). Pete has three talks planned. Today was about God, tomorrow is about Revelation and Friday is about Church. After the session we all ate dinner together which gives a good amount of time to hang out and chat with Pete, the Ikon folks, and other people attending the conference/workshop. After dinner are the more practical workshops led by all the Ikon crew. An excellent schedule. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Perfect.

So anyways, here are some highlights from today:

  • Rollins: “I agree with much of what I say, but not everything.”
  • Most churches follow the time line of “believe, behave, belong.” This should be turned around. Belonging to the community should be the first step, which may lead to a change of behavior, and perhaps a change in beliefs.
  • We are an object before God. We don’t name God, God names us. God is the absolute subject.
  • Not everything that exists can be made into an object (example: life).
  • Is Rollins’ view a fancy kind of agnosticism? Not exactly. Rather, whereas agnosticism is a middle ground between atheism and theism, approaching God in the way Rollins proposes is more like holding both extremes at the same time – and maybe being ripped apart as we are stretched by holding both ends of the spectrum.
  • Rollins: “I’m not going to let the word ‘God’ get in the way.” But the word God does have value. But even this important word should not get in the way of transformation.
  • Rollins: “Sharing rituals we have created is very important to me.” Belonging is very important.
  • At Ikon they have started an “Omega Course” (as opposed to the Alpha Course), which is designed to help people “exit Christianity in 12 weeks.”
  • Rollins: “My job at Ikon is to refuse leadership.”
  • The members of Ikon are those who would be greatly missed if they left. The word member comes from the idea of a body part. In this way, a member is someone who would be greatly missed, in the same way that a finger would be greatly missed as part of the hand.
  • The workshop part of today’s session was led by the Ikon crew – Pete, Sarah, Jonny, and Kellie. This part of the week’s activities is going by the name “Lessons in Evandalism” and will be an attempt to convey some of the things Ikon has learned along the way. These workshops will culminate in an Ikon sort of event on Saturday night.
  • In planning Ikon events, the creators consider the following: playfulness + provocation = rupture
  • Ikon tries to find the common ground between “cool” and “disturbing.”

Today was great. Of course there is so much more than what I have written here. These are just the ideas/thoughts that jumped out at me.

More to come…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

August 12, 2008 - 2 Responses

Brooke and I are in Minneapolis for Minnekon, a conference/workshop of sorts with Peter Rollins and a few of his friends (Kellie, Sarah, and Jonny) from Ikon, a religious collective in Belfast, Ireland. The workshop, put together by Chris Enstad, will run Wednesday-Saturday. I hope to post a little each day – we’ll see how that goes…

Tonight the Ikon crew were guests at Theology on Tap – a monthly theology discussion group here in Minneapolis. Brooke and I joined about 25 people at Glueck Restaurant and Bar for some good discussion to get the week started. Pete mostly gave an introduction to Ikon and some of the main ideas he has written about in his books. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

  • Pete gave a good intro about how Ikon got started. It basically started with just a name and an idea to do something of a religious sort in a local bar. He asked the owner if they could use the place and he said yes. Then he had to figure out what in the world he was going to do. If I remember correctly, that was about 5-6 years ago.
  • Pete said there are no members of Ikon – no one wants to claim to be a member. Instead there are only non-members. He said they are developing an official course on how to become a non-member, leading to receiving a non-membership card (ha!).
  • I appreciated Kellie’s words about how sometimes the faith we grew up with must die and how there is a grieving process that goes along with that. That may not be exactly what she said, but it was something along those lines. I was struck by the idea of there being many people going through this grieving process and needing hospitable spaces to grieve and move on in their faith, or loss of faith.
  • I’m really excited that Pete came with three other people from Ikon (and a fourth is here who used to be part of Ikon). I can already see that this will add a lot to the experience. They are all very different and approach the ideas in Pete’s books from different angles.

So those are just a few things I recall off the top of my head. I’m going to try and keep notes the rest of the week and post some about the talks, workshops, etc.

I’m off to bed…the day started way too early…

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: God is no stop-gap

July 31, 2008 - Comments Off

It has again brought home to me quite clearly how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved. That is true of the relationship between God and scientific knowledge, but it is also true of the wider human problems of death, suffering, and guilt. It is now possible to find, even for these questions, human answers that take no account whatever of God. In point of fact, people deal with these questions without God (it has always been so), and it is simply not true to say that only Christianity has the answers to them. As to the idea of ‘solving’ problems, it may be that the Christian answers are just as unconvincing – or convincing – as any others. Here again, God is no stop-gap; he must be recognized as the centre of life, not when we are at the end of our resources; it is his will to be recognized in life, and not only when death comes; in health and vigour, and not only in suffering; in our activities, and not only in sin. The ground for this lies in the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. He is the centre of life, and he certainly didn’t ‘come’ to answer our unsolved problems. From the centre of life certain questions, and their answers, are seen to be wholly irrelevant (I’m thinking of the judgment pronounced on Job’s friends). In Christ there are not ‘Christian problems’. – Enough of this; I’ve just been disturbed again.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Reading Rapture Ready!

July 28, 2008 - 2 Responses

Do you believe in parallel universes? Daniel Radosh found one. And if you’re reading this, you might very well be living in one.

Radosh is a secular Jew from New York who explores the world of Christian pop culture in his recent book Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture. With a combination of thoughtful critique, appreciation, good humor and above all graciousness, Radosh chronicles his year-long experience exploring the Evangelical subculture in America. A true outsider, Radosh immerses himself in the good, the bad, and the ugly of this sometimes bizarre world. Among other things, Radosh describes his encounters with “Jesus junk,” the Holy Land Experience, Christian romance novels, Bibleman, Stephen Baldwin, the Cornerstone music festival, Ultimate Christian Wrestling, Christian sex advice, creation museums, and even a Hell House. Seeking to understand this vast culture, Radosh does a fine job chronicling his experiences and offering some much needed outsider insight. I think this book is a must-read for Christians and non-Christians alike. Christians should read it for exposure to an outsider’s perspective on our strange world, and non-Christians should read it to better understand the growing diversity of the Evangelical movement. Everyone can read it for an entertaining and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny look at a much talked about but little understood element of American culture.

When I started reading Rapture Ready! I was hoping for a funny and entertaining read, and in that regard I was not disappointed. However, I wasn’t expecting such an insightful perspective, and I wouldn’t have guessed I would finish the book feeling challenged to live differently. Now don’t get me wrong, you probably shouldn’t read this book looking for a life changing experience. Read it to be entertained. But don’t be surprised if it challenges you to think seriously about your relationship to Evangelical culture (whether you are a Christian or not).

Radosh concludes his book with a call for greater interaction between the moderate and progressive elements of Evangelicalism and Radosh’s own secular culture. He believes an increasing interaction between these oftentimes separate universes will prove helpful for everyone. I agree. Radosh finds popular culture to be a good starting place for this interaction, but I don’t think he sees this as the only place for healthy communication. Personally, I finished Radosh’s book with two insights. First, I want to intentionally further separate myself from much of the Christian subculture I’m still part of. This separation has been happening fairly naturally over the past ten years but I think it’s time to cut the cord. I’m done with it. (Radosh is not necessarily calling for this kind of reaction) Second, I am more convinced than ever that this interaction between Christians and non-Christians should occur within environments open to the experience of God, the transcendent, and/or religious experience. In fact, I am most interested in the dissolution of this Christian/non-Christian divide. And I increasingly want to play a part in the creation of spaces where this very thing can happen.

In the final pages of his book, Radosh makes a statement I think Christians are in much need of hearing. After discussing the Christian notion of “lifestyle evangelism” Radosh takes it a step further and declares the following:

“Personally, I’m not sure how successful [lifestyle evangelism] really is in leading people to Christ, but I can attest that it’s a very successful method for generating positive feelings about Christians. The evangelicals I’ve felt the most fond of, the most comfortable around, and the most commonality with – regardless of political, social, or philosophical differences – were the ones who never tried to sell me on Jesus yet always seemed to be trying to live the life Jesus desired of them. The paradox of lifestyle evangelism is that while it might sound like a Christian’s loving, friendly actions are all driven by an ulterior motive, it only really clicks when they’re able to let go of that motive. The people who made the best case for Christianity were the ones who were genuinely unconcerned with whether I ever decided to become a Christian or not.”

I think this statement, and Radosh’s book as a whole, is something Christians need to hear. And hopefully we will take it to heart.

Reverend Billy and the Woot “Bag O’ Crap”

July 21, 2008 - 9 Responses

Perhaps all of you are well aware of the Woot “Bag O’ Crap.” I only came across it for the first time last week. In case you haven’t heard of it, here’s the main idea. Basically, an online store called Woot occasionally digs around their warehouse and gets rid of random items of mostly insignificant value. They put the items in the “Bag O’ Crap” and sell them for one dollar plus shipping. Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? Well, it certainly is ridiculous. But that doesn’t keep it from also being ridiculously popular. Apparently these “Bags O’ Crap” cause quite a frenzy and sell out in seconds. Yes, there are people who end up receiving “treasures” worth a hundred dollars or more, but most of the time the items are pretty much worthless. Woot even goes out of their way to make it clear that the great majority of people will receive exactly what they pay for – a “Bag O’ Crap.”

So why in the world am I blogging about this? Because I can’t imagine a better example of the troubling impact of consumerism on our culture. Not only do we spend unholy amounts of money to celebrate Christmas. Not only do we accumulate alarming amounts of debt. No, we also choose to spend money on a “Bag O’ Crap” at the mere chance that we may end up receiving something worth more money than we paid – even though that something is probably not something we need, or even necessarily want.

All of this makes me very convinced that we need people like Reverend Billy to raise the alarm and attempt to save us from the Shopacolypse.

In case you missed my previous posts about Reverend Billy (1 and 2), Wikipedia describes him this way:

“Reverend Billy and his Church of Stop Shopping is an activist performance group based in New York City, led by Bill Talen. Using the form of a revival meeting, on sidewalks and in chain stores, Reverend Billy and his gospel choir exhort consumers to abandon the products of large corporations and mass media; the group also preaches a broader message of economic justice, environmental protection, and anti-militarism…”

The reason I am bringing up Reverend Billy again is that I finally got a chance to watch What Would Jesus Buy? – a documentary that follows the good reverend and his rip-roarin’ Church of Stop Shopping on a Christmastime cross country tour to save America from the impending Shopacolypse. As many of you know, I was really excited to see this documentary, but when I got the movie from Netflix I was a little skeptical because Netflix viewers have given the movie a pathetic cumulative rating of 2.5 stars out of 5. But I now know we cannot give any weight to the cumulative Neflix community, because What Would Jesus Buy? is fantastic. Bump it to the top of your queue right now. Go. Now. It’s awesome. Reverend Billy is my hero.

I have to agree with Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann who compares Reverend Billy to the “guerilla theater” of Jesus and the prophets. Reverend Billy might not be a Christian, but he is certainly a prophet. He may use humor, but he is very serious about his message (he has even been arrested multiple times).

Reverend Billy is doing good work. We should all heed his call to STOP SHOPPING!

Check out some of the Revs prophetic antics on YouTube

Reading Books for Free (and I’m not talking about the library!)

July 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Because my blog is one of the top blogs in the universe, and because I am fabulously famous (which was the goal in starting a blog in the first place), I’ve started to receive free books as part of The Ooze Select Blogger Network. Yes, that’s right, I’m “select,” and you probably aren’t. Sorry. And don’t even think about being select until you start having at least five or six different people coming to your blog. And I mean every day.

[As an aside, I recently watched What Would Jesus Buy? and when Reverend Billy prays or conducts credit card exorcisms (yes, you read that right) he calls God the “fabulous creator” – or something like that. I like the word fabulous. Rolls off the tongue. I’m a fabulous blogger. Sounds good. Maybe it should be The Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network…I’ll see what I can do about that…]

So anyways, I’ve started receiving books in the mail with the expectation that I will read them and write about them on my blog. This is great news for you! Not only will you be reading a blog that’s part of a select fabulous blogger network, you will also be receiving free advice from me about books you should or should not be reading! Free advice from a fabulous blogger! You are very lucky people.

Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Here are my first reviews.

Hokey Pokey, by Mathew Paul Turner
Yep, the first book is called Hokey Pokey. It’s written by a former editor of CCM magazine and the book is about issues related to vocation and calling. These are issues I think about a lot. I’m not sure, but perhaps because I think about these issues a lot, this book didn’t do it for me. Turner is a good writer and has some good things to say, but no big revelations. And let me tell you, I need big revelations – especially when it comes to this topic. But if you are interested in a book to get you started thinking about vocation and calling, this wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Feel, by Mathew Elliot
I only made it through half of Feel, but I actually did like what Eliot is saying. He’s basically trying to debunk the myth that feelings are always to be discounted. He is particularly interested in showing that the Bible does not support this way of thinking. I agree. However, I thought the book was repeating the same thing over and over. After reading half the book I just had a feeling the second half was going to be the same as the first. I decided to trust my feelings and skip the second half. But if this stuff interests you, I do recommend the book (or at least the first half of it).

We the Purple, by Marcia Ford
Marcia Ford believes we’re in the midst of a growing revolution of sorts – the growth in the number and influence of independent voters. Ford is an independent voter and is quite proud of it. And very excited. But I’m not as excited. I have nothing to say about this book. I only read a couple chapters. I wasn’t interested. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later. If you want to read a thoughtful review from someone who actually did read the book, check out Makeesha Fisher’s review of the book (by the way, I agree that it’s probably a good idea to read a book before reviewing it. I’ll try to follow that rule.)

Songs for a Revolution of Hope, Volume 1
This is not a book, so I did not read it. But since it’s a cd, I did listen to it. Songs for a Revolution of Hope is a collaboration between Brian McLaren and Tracy Howe of the Restoration Project. It’s a cd that tries real hard to produce a different kind of worship music for the church. As you know, typical worship music is something I definitely have a problem with, so I really do appreciate what this project is trying to do. However, I just couldn’t get into it. I like the lyrics to the songs (for the most part). I like the sounds. But I just have this block against worship music. Sorry. I love McLaren and I love what he’s trying to do here. Please go and check out this cd. Or at least check out the lyrics. It really does represent a good change in direction for worship music. I just have a problem.

Well, that’s it folks. I’m sorry there are no strong recommendations here. I’m just now starting to read the next batch of books provided by the Ooze Fabulous Blogger Network. I am hopeful there will be some good ones. Right now I’m reading The New Conspirators by Tom Sine and Rapture Ready by Daniel Radosh. I’m particularly excited about Rapture Ready.

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

July 13, 2008 - 3 Responses

The third and final section of The Fidelity of Betrayal is focused on “The Event of God.” This portion of the book, as with the other sections, is very difficult to discuss in one blog entry. I could write many entries about Rollins’ notion that doubting God is not the same as doubting the miracle of faith – the intervention of God. I could also write many pages about Rollins’ call for communities where belonging comes before believing. And I think I could start a whole new blog to work through the ideas of the last chapter, where Rollins begins to discuss what it might look like to forge faith collectives where “transformance art” and “theodrama” provide space for God to give God. But I simply can’t address all of it. So instead I will leave you with a few of my final thoughts about fidelity, betrayal, and moving towards a church beyond belief.

First of all, I want to make it very clear that Rollins is not simply playing games with this call to betrayal. “The Fidelity of Betrayal” is not just a clever title to help generate interest in the book. Rollins is calling for us to betray Christianity. To betray the Bible, God, and the Church. But we must remember, Rollins is calling us to a faithful betrayal. Rollins believes our ideas about God and the Bible, which take form in the Church and Christianity, point to a transforming event, a miracle that we cannot deny. And this miracle is what provokes our faith and our attempts to explain our faith. But these explanations and beliefs always fall short of expressing the miracle that has transformed us from the inside out. The miracle is unexplainable but undeniable. So we must always betray the solidification of the radical miracle of faith into mere beliefs. This does not mean we cannot hold beliefs, but we must hold them with great humility, always being willing to betray these beliefs – to rethink and reformulate these beliefs. And we must always acknowledge that these beliefs cannot hold the transforming event they attempt to describe.

I sincerely appreciate Rollins’ call for faithful betrayal, but more than anything I am intrigued by Rollins’ call for a church beyond belief. Again, this is not merely clever wording. Rollins is challenging us to move beyond churches centered on commonly held beliefs. Again, let me make it clear, beliefs are not bad. But we must move beyond beliefs as the central focus. Instead, we must acknowledge the centrality of the life transforming miracle these beliefs attempt to describe. A miracle that is truly beyond belief. A miracle that is beyond the system of Christianity. So what might a church beyond belief look like? This is what interests me more than anything else. With Rollins, I am interested in the development of this type of church. In the past I have called it “a church that’s not a church.” (also see this post, which describes a significant shift in my thinking about church). Rollins plays with the terms “religious collective,” “transformance art,” and “theodrama” as he tries to describe such a group.

In conclusion, I leave you with some of Rollins’ thoughts about the formation and nature of these experimental collectives:

“Here I am referring to the formation of passionate, provocative gatherings, operating on the fringes of religious life, that offer anarchic experiments in theodrama that re-imagine the distinction between Christian and non-Christian, priest and prophet, doubt and certainty, the sacred and secular – gatherings that employ a rich cocktail of music, poetry, prose, imagery, soundscapes, theatre, ritual, and reflection: gatherings that provide a place that is open to all, is colonized by none, and that celebrates diversity.

“Such an immersive, theodramatic space would aim to affirm the need for (1) collective reflection; (2) a space where individuals can lay aside political, religious, and social identities; and finally (3) offer creative, ritualistic acts that invite, affirm, recall, and relate the event housed within the religion without religion that is Christianity.”

And finally:

“These temporary spaces will likely appear as much in art galleries, on street corners, in bars and basements, as they will in churches and cathedrals…[E]verything, absolutely everything, will be designed to invite, encourage, solicit, seek out, recall, remember, reach out to, bow down before, and cry out to that unspeakable miracle that dwells, quite literally, beyond belief.”

I realize this is all pretty wild and crazy. Would something like this even be a church? Would it be Christian? Personally, I think those are the wrong questions. I don’t care if it’s really a church or truly Christian. I think it might be something “other.”

What do you think? I’d really love to hear your thoughts about a church beyond belief.

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Prayer and Action

July 10, 2008 - Comments Off

Perhaps my favorite Bonhoeffer quote:

“Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two things; prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action…It is not for us to prophesy the day (although the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom…Till then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

A New World

July 8, 2008 - Comments Off

“You are Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical questions to the society you live in, so long as you emphasize the need of conversion both for yourself and for the world, so long as you in no way let yourself become established in the situation of the world, so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. You are Christian only when you believe you have a role to play in the realization of the new kingdom, and when you urge everyone you meet with holy unrest to make haste so that the promise might soon be fulfilled. So long as you live as a Christian you keep looking for a new order, a new structure, a new life.”

- Henri Nouwen

(HT: McLaren)

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer

July 5, 2008 - Comments Off

In Part 2, as Rollins is betraying God, he turns to both Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer to assist him in this betrayal. As you know, Bonhoeffer has been much on my mind over the past nine months or so, so it was interesting to read Rollins’ thoughts about how Bonhoeffer connects to some of the ideas of faithful betrayal. This was particularly interesting in the context of Rollins’ thoughts on Nietzsche, who certainly influenced Bonhoeffer’s prison theology.

With Nietzsche’s assistance, Rollins addresses the issue of finding meaning in the world. If the core of Christianity is related to finding purpose in our lives and knowing that God loves us, then is Christianity merely a way of finding meaning in life? Is this the primary purpose of Christianity – to give us meaning and purpose within the context of our understanding of God and his purposes for the world?

I think this is largely true of Christianity – faith in God primarily as a way to find meaning.

The problem with this scenario is that these intellectual beliefs can become a hindrance to us truly living in the world. And these beliefs do not necessarily lead to a transformed life in this world. In fact, in many cases, finding peace and meaning in life can lead towards a rejection of this world and/or the creation of a false dichotomy between believing and living.

Rollins contests that Nietzsche’s protest was against any system (including atheism) that provided an all-encompassing way of finding meaning in life. Instead, Nietzsche hoped for a time when we would live with a full embrace of this world – embracing both its beauty and its terror. Rollins concludes that Nietzsche’s argument was not necessarily for or against the existence of God. Rather, his argument “claimed that the question of God’s existence was redundant.” Instead of asking the big question “why,” Rollins sees Nietzsche undermining the question entirely. Rollins asserts, “In response to the question ‘Why?’ [Nietzsche] replied, ‘Why ask why?’”

As I was reading this I couldn’t help but think about how related this is to Bonhoeffer’s prison theology. So I was quite excited when the very next page introduced Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity” into the discussion! Connecting Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer, Rollins writes:

“[Bonhoeffer] wondered how to express the relevance of God (the God of faith) to those who do not feel the need for God (the Cartesian God that provides a matrix of meaning), while encouraging those who embrace such ideological religion to grow beyond it – helping those who have forsaken God (the Cartesian God) to find God (the God of faith) and those who have found God to forsake God.

“By exploring these issues he was responding to the idea that Christianity for a long time has been aimed at responding to a need in people (such as the feeling of guilt). As such it has been expressed as good news that can only be heard once a person has been brought low by the bad news…Bonhoeffer wondered whether it is possible to embrace God out of love and lightness of heart, out of a seduction that is caught up in the call of God rather than the need of God.”

How about that! Yes! The very questions I think are the most important regarding how to be a Christian/person of faith/lover of God in today’s world.

Any thoughts? Does this make any sense?

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying God

June 29, 2008 - One Response

In Part 2 of Peter RollinsThe Fidelity of Betrayal he takes up the topic of the being of God. Whereas in Part 1 Rollins’ argued that we must betray the Bible, in Part 2 he proposes we must also betray God. Rollins concludes this section with the following summary:

“…we must learn that in order to approach the God of faith and the truth affirmed by Christianity, we must betray the God we grasp – for the God who brings us into a new life is never the God we grasp but always in excess of that God. The God we affirm is then, at its best, inspired by the incoming of God and born there, but it is never to be confused with God.

“In the aftermath of God’s happening the true worshipper attempts to paint the most beautiful pictures imaginable to reflect that happening. It is this heartfelt endeavor to paint the most refined and beautiful conceptual images that speaks of God, not the actual descriptions we create.”

Rollins sees many problems with the common method for attempting to understand and speak of God. This method, which views God as an object of our contemplation, involves creating a distance between the believer and the source of the believer’s faith, so that we can dissect and explore the object (God), in much the same way as we might take apart and examine a computer. By attempting to examine God as a disinterested observer we have distanced ourselves from the most intimate and personal relationship in our lives. We have approached the question of God “as a problem to be pondered, dissected, and solved, rather than a mystery to inhabit and be transformed by.” Rollins believes this method hands over all authority to the experts and creates a false dichotomy between seeking truth and pursuing a life of devotion and service. Rollins is fearful of reducing Christianity to “a set of claims concerning ideas such as the world’s being created for a purpose, God’s loving us, and the existence of heaven.” By reducing Christianity to these claims we lose the transformational potential of the encounter with God. In addition, this view of Christianity can cause an unhealthy, and even dangerous, abandonment of this world, as we look solely to the next world.

Instead of viewing God as an object to be contemplated, “God is named as a verb,” and a happening being “made known only in action, only as blessing.” God is beyond understanding but is also intimately near to us. God is not an object but “a mystery to participate in,” giving new life. This new life “fundamentally changes how we interact with the things we see, touch, and experience.” God is not an object but is that which radically changes our own way of experiencing the world and everything in it. As with our rejection of the Bible, our rejection of God does not mean we can no longer speak of God, but it does mean we must always recognize that our words about God always come up short. God is always beyond our words and our conception of him. We must not attempt to distance ourselves from God in order to understand him. Instead we must welcome the incoming of God and embrace the mystery and transformative nature of this event we always fail to adequately describe.

(more to come on Part 2 – some thoughts about Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer)

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Individualistic Christianity

June 19, 2008 - 5 Responses

Hasn’t the individualistic question about personal salvation almost completely left us all? Aren’t we really under the impression that there are more important things than that question (perhaps not more important than the matter itself, but more important than the question!)? I know it sounds pretty monstrous to say that. But, fundamentally, isn’t this in fact biblical? Does the question about saving one’s soul appear in the Old Testament at all? Aren’t righteousness and the Kingdom of God on earth the focus of everything, and isn’t it true that Rom. 3.24ff. is not an individualistic doctrine of salvation, but the culmination of the view that God alone is righteous? It is not with the beyond that we are concerned, but with this world as created and preserved, subjected to laws, reconciled, and restored. What is above this world is, in the gospel, intended to exist for this world; I mean that, not in the anthropocentric sense of liberal, mystic pietistic, ethical theology, but in the biblical sense of creation and of the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Betraying the Bible

June 14, 2008 - 4 Responses

In concluding Part 1, “The Word of God,” Peter Rollins writes:

“It is all too common for Christians to attempt to do justice to the scriptural narrative by listening to it, learning from it, and attempting to extract a way of viewing the world from it. But the narrative itself is asking us to approach it in a much more radical way. It is inviting us to wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it, and contest it – not as an end in itself, but as a means of approaching its life-transforming truth, a truth that dwells within and yet beyond the words…And so, in our desire to remain absolutely, totally, and resolutely faithful to the Word of God, we come face to face with the idea that we must be prepared to wrestle with, question, and even betray the words.”

In Part 1, Rollins discusses the Bible. He begins by revealing the people of God in the Bible, Israel, as those who wrestle with God. In contrast to Islam, which means peace or submission, the people of Yahweh are called Israel, meaning those who wrestle with God. This notion of those who seek, follow, and love God being those who wrestle with God, is the central idea of the book. As he continues to discuss the Bible, Rollins proposes that in order to be faithful to the Bible, we must in fact “wrestle with it, disagree with it, contend with it…contest it…and even betray [it].” Rollins encourages us to refuse both of the common ways of dealing with the difficulties and ambiguities found in scripture – the two ways being 1) attempting to explain away the difficulties, and 2) accepting the difficulties but refusing to view the text as the divine Word. In place of these two options, Rollins proposes that we do not need to see the seeming contradictions in the Bible as a great dilemma. In fact, he believes the contradictions in the text are exactly what we would expect to find in a text inspired by God. Rollins sees the various stories of the Bible as attempts to put into words that which cannot be put into words, namely, the experience of God. So, in wrestling with the text we must realize that it is not merely an academic exercise in which we attempt to find the one true meaning of the text. Instead, to read the Bible in a truly transformative manner we must recognize that the text itself does not hold God. Rather, the text points to an encounter, an Event, that occurred in the lives of the authors. This encounter, this gaping hole in the text, is the Word of God, something behind and beyond the text itself. Rollins compares this to a crater, which is a sign of the occurrence of a volcanic eruption. The crater, or text, is not the Event itself, but rather points to the Event.

I believe Rollins’ view of the Bible has the potential to radically transform our reading of scripture. In fact, I believe this view saves the Bible and reinstates it as a text that can transform the reader. So much of modern Bible study is viewed as an academic exercise aimed at dissecting the text in order to find the original meaning and intention of the author. When taken to its logical conclusion, this method of reading robs the average reader and establishes the Biblical scholar as the only person capable of truly understanding the text. At best, with this most common method, we are all dependent on an expert who has been able to study the most recent Biblical scholarship. Rollins’ argument does not dispute the importance of Biblical scholarship, he simply desires to restore the rightful place of the Bible as a transformative text – a text that can radically change us as we struggle to encounter the true source, God, who is found beyond the words of the Bible.

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
2. An Introduction
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Retreating with St. Francis

June 9, 2008 - 6 Responses

This past weekend, Brooke and I had the pleasure of attending a Franciscan Retreat hosted by Real Live Preacher (Gordon Atkinson) and Covenant Baptist Church in San Antonio.

Here are a few notes and reflections from the wonderful weekend.

St. Francis and developing a rule of life

The entire weekend retreat was centered on the Franciscan monastic tradition (check out the wonderful retreat booklet). Between Friday and Saturday we participated in four sessions dedicated to learning about St. Francis and developing a personal rule of life in the Franciscan tradition. The idea of developing a rule of life, and the related notion of taking on communal vows, has been very much on my mind over the past year. I hope this past weekend began the process of creating a written rule for my own life. In short, the focus of these sessions was on considering the values we each have and whether or not these values are evident in how we live our lives. By creating a rule of life we are encouraged to consider our values, the spiritual disciplines that would accompany these values, and then the rule that would express how these values and disciplines should be lived out in our daily lives. I think the process of working through each of these areas and creating the rule can be very valuable. I began this process this past weekend and hope to continue it over the following months.

A monastic and contemplative spirituality

In addition to learning about St. Francis and beginning the process of creating a rule of life, we also participated in communal prayer and worship by following the Franciscan schedule for praying the hours. We all joined together in services for vespers (evening prayer), compline (night prayer), matins (3am prayer – I wimped out and skipped this service), lauds (morning prayer), terce (third hour prayer), sext (sixth hour prayer), and none (ninth hour prayer). These short but very meaningful services consisted of liturgical prayers, scripture readings, music, chants, songs, periods of silence and contemplation, and group prayer. Paul Soupiset, liturgical arts director for the retreat, coordinated these beautiful services and helped give me a new (and ancient) vision for communal worship involving music. Many of you know my difficulties with modern day worship and praise services (documented here). Participating in these services left me spiritually refreshed and nourished. In addition to these beautiful services, I was also encouraged by the lovely natural setting for the retreat. Covenant Baptist Church is in the midst of a wonderful wooded area and has done an excellent job of preserving the natural beauty around the church buildings. Prayer paths and a labyrinth complement this setting and provide a rich environment for prayer, silence, and contemplation.

Community and conversation

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the retreat was the opportunity to meet and converse with other pilgrims from all over Texas (including a number from the Covenant community) and from locations across the United States – Seattle, Durham, and New York City. As with Gordon’s blog, this retreat drew a diversity of spiritual pilgrims from various backgrounds, religious traditions, and varying places within Christianity. I am so glad to have made many new friends and spiritual companions. I am also thankful for the wonderful hospitality of Covenant Baptist Church and the many people who cooked, taught, and served throughout the weekend. Brooke and I were also able to join the Covenant community for worship on Sunday morning.

The entire weekend was such a joy. I hope you consider attending one of these retreats. You can find out more information at the Covenant Center for Contemplative Christianity.

________________________

Others who are blogging about the retreat

- Gordon
- Paul
- Lisa
- Amy
- Cynthia

________________________

A couple photos from RLP

(see all of RLP’s photos from the retreat)

Labels (Emerging? Emergent?)

June 4, 2008 - Comments Off

“Labels are useful only in so far as they set expectations among those with whom we wish to have a dialogue. The label that best taps the knowledge resources of the audience is the one we try to choose.”

- from an interview with Critical Art Ensemble

_____________________

related: Why the emerging church does not exist

Experimental Blogging and “Thinking Free”

May 29, 2008 - Comments Off

More and more, I desire to pursue experimental thinking with my blogging. I want to push out beyond the boundaries. I want to create rather than merely consume. I want to be more experimental in my blogging and thinking. It’s not always easy. I’m often very uncreative and quite stuck within my normal thinking patterns.

As I was considering experimental blogging, I recalled an excellent book called The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership by USC president Steven Sample (an electrical engineer). One of my favorite concepts from the book is called “thinking free.” Sample explains “thinking free” in a 2007 speech:

“Thinking free…goes beyond ‘thinking outside the box’ or ‘brainstorming.’ Thinking free takes that process of inventiveness to the next level.

“The key to thinking free is first to allow your mind to contemplate really outrageous ideas, and only subsequently apply the constraints of practicality, practicability, legality, cost, time, and ethics.

“…thinking free is an unnatural act. It therefore requires enormous effort. It also requires the suppression of a completely natural urge to immediately dismiss novel and seemingly ridiculous ideas. If they can do it at all, most people can bear to truly think free only for a matter of minutes. The process exhausts the mind.

“My favorite way to stimulate this kind of thinking free is to force myself to contemplate absolutely outrageous and impossible ways to address a particular problem.

“For example, in 1967 I was struggling to invent a new way to control a dishwasher… At one point I lay on the floor and forced myself to imagine hay bales, elephants, planets, ladybugs, sofas, microbes, newspapers, hydroelectric dams, French horns, electrons and trees, each in turn and in various combinations controlling a dishwasher.

“This exercise was, to say the least, extremely difficult and disconcerting, so much so that I could do it for only 10 minutes at a time. But after a few such sessions I suddenly envisioned an almost complete circuit diagram for a digital electronic control system for a home appliance. This system was unlike anything I or others had ever contemplated before [and] was eventually employed in hundreds of millions of home appliances around the world.

“As improbable as it might sound, this same approach to thinking free can lead to novel ways of addressing some of the many challenges you will confront, no matter what your field or vocation, may be. The key is to break free for just a few minutes from the incredibly tight constraints that rule our thinking almost all of the time, even when we dream or engage in so-called free association.”

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: An Introduction

May 27, 2008 - 2 Responses

After immediately devouring Peter Rollins’ new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief (read my initial thoughts), I am now going back and rereading the book, slowly sifting through the material and thinking through the implications of Rollins’ provocative work. As part of this process I will be blogging through the book over the next few weeks. I hope you join me as I wrestle with the significant concepts presented in this book. And I’d love to hear your thoughts along the way.

In the introduction, Rollins presents the question, “What Would Judas Do?” Rollins uses this question as a tool to delve into his notion that we must betray Christianity in order to remain faithful to it. He writes:

“In other words, what would Jesus do when confronted with Christianity today? Would Jesus do what Judas did, and betray it? In saying this I am not hinting at the rather mundane insight that Jesus would betray the anemic, inauthentic, self-serving Churchianity that so often festers quietly under the banner of Christianity today. I am not asking whether Jesus would turn the tables on what passes as contemporary Christianity in favor of a more robust and radical version that may have once existed in an age long past. Rather, by asking whether Jesus would betray Christianity as Judas betrayed Christ, I am asking if Jesus would plot the downfall of Christianity in every form it takes.”

Continuing the introduction, Rollins sees the consequences of this faithful betrayal as twofold:

“First, we are led to embrace the idea of Christianity as a religion without religion, that is, as a tradition, that is always prepared to wrestle with itself, disagree with itself, and betray itself. Second, this requires a way of structuring religious collectives that operate at a deeper level than the mere affirmation of shared doctrines, creeds, and convictions. It involves the formation of dynamic, life-affirming collectives that operate, quite literally, beyond belief.”

At the Emergent Village blog, Rollins further explains the core concept of the book:

“In this work I make the claim that, in order to remain faithful to Christianity, we must be courageous enough to betray the bible (section 1), God (section 2) and the church (section 3). Why? Do I think that we must abandon them as redundant relics of a by-gone era? Do I think that they have served their purpose? Or do I feel that they prevent the world coming of age? By no means! Here I argue for a betrayal that remains faithful to these very words by helping us to re-discover the truly untamed, white-hot, life-transforming reality that they house.” (HT: EV blog)

I hope these quotes intrigue you enough to join in as I discuss this book, and perhaps you will even buy the book and read it with me – I hope you do.

You can read the entire prologue and introduction online.

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

1. Initial Thoughts
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Happy Blogiversary (to me)

May 25, 2008 - 5 Responses

Today marks three years of blogging.

I cannot be stopped (and believe me, people have tried).

In honor of this most sacred of days, here are the Top Ten Posts of the past year (based on the number of total comments).

1. Where would Jesus go to church? (25 responses)

The top post probably provided some of the best conversation of the year. Of course I can’t really take credit for that – Roger Olson provided the fuel for the fire.

2. Why the emerging church does not exist (24 responses)

This might be my favorite post of the year. It probably didn’t make sense. And it probably caused lots of confusion. But hey, I liked it.

3. Reading unChristian 1: Intro (23 responses)

Yikes, I forgot about this one (a post worthy of using the word “yikes”). There was definitely some disagreement in the discussion of this one…and some clear misunderstanding (can misunderstanding be clear?).

4. Hell (22 responses)

A post I’d probably write differently now than I did then. And probably would write differently in six months than I would now.

5. Should you get circumcised? (20 responses)

This is one of my favorite posts of the year and is probably the most common post people randomly find on Google. At least a couple times every week someone will get to my blog by searching for “should I get circumcised” or “how do I circumcise myself” or other crazy statements like that. I don’t think they end up finding on my blog what they were looking for.

6. Beginning at the end [Why I am so screwed up – part 1 of 10] (20 responses)

I’m still working on the second post for this series…

7. Downward Mobility (19 responses)

Another favorite post. Very interesting conversation. I actually do want to continue this conversation in further posts. This is something I’m still thinking about quite a bit.

8. Evangelical (Idol) Worship (19 responses)

Sometimes you just never know what’s going to happen when you click “publish.” This post is a great example of that.

9. Raising Hell (17 responses)

More hell. Blah, blah, blah.

10. Evangelical Worship (17 responses)

Not a ton of agreement on this one but I still stick to my thoughts on the subject.

And here are a couple entries I liked but no one paid attention to (yes, very sad).

Do we need a new Jesus?

I just can’t imagine why people were scared away by this one…

Downward Mobility 2

Was Jesus both the Son of God and a madman? Turns out, nobody cares.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: God at the centre

May 22, 2008 - One Response

Religious people speak of God when human knowledge… has come to an end, or when human resources fail – in fact it is always the deus ex machina that they bring on to the scene, either for the apparent solution of insoluble problems, or as strength in human failure – always, that is to say, exploiting human weakness or human boundaries. Of necessity, that can go on only till people can by their own strength push these boundaries somewhat further out, so that God becomes superfluous as a deus ex machina. I’ve come to be doubtful of talking about any human boundaries (is even death, which people now hardly fear, and is sin, which they now hardly understand, still a genuine boundary today?). It always seems to me that we are trying anxiously in this way to reserve some space for God; I should like to speak of God not on the boundaries but at the centre, not in weaknesses but in strength; and therefore not in death and guilt but in man’s life and goodness. As to the boundaries, it seems to me better to be silent and leave the insoluble unsolved. Belief in the resurrection is not the ‘solution’ of the problem of death. God’s ‘beyond’ is not the beyond of our cognitive faculties. The transcendence of epistemological theory has nothing to do with the transcendence of God. God is beyond in the midst of our life. The church stands, not at the boundaries where human powers give out, but in the middle of the village. That is how it is in the Old Testament, and in this sense we still read the New Testament far too little in the light of the Old. How this religionless Christianity looks, what form it takes, is something that I’m thinking about a great deal, and I shall be writing to you again about it soon. It may be that on us in particular, midway between East and West, there will fall a heavy responsibility.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

May 20, 2008 - Comments Off

Part 5 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 - Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe

________________

The Christian religion, denominations within Christianity, and individual churches often operate as though their particular structures are strong castles that must be defended against enemy attack. In some ways this is understandable. These institutions hold sacred beliefs that are valuable to those involved. Many of these beliefs might even be worth defending. However, the emerging church is not a religion, a church, or a denomination. In some ways it is not even necessarily Christian. In fact, as we’ve discussed, the emerging church does not exist. And this is one of its great advantages. The emerging church has nothing to defend. Nothing to fight for. There are no gates to lock people in or out. Now, this does not mean there is nothing sacred, nothing valuable to those within the emerging church. It simply means that the emerging church is not an object to be held. Rather, the emerging church is something to be given away. It is a conversation. It is for anyone and everyone. No one is excluded. And no one holds all the power. I view the emerging church as a large table. A table where all are welcome. There is always an open seat. While there may be reasons for churches, denominations, and religions to create rules for participation, there are no rules in the emerging church. The conversation is open to all – and the conversation is a friendship.

Let me explain this a little. In many ways, religions, denominations, and churches can never be safe places. Too many things are held sacred. And when those sacred beliefs or practices are challenged, there are those who move in to protect the sacred. This can happen in very simple ways. Someone might question the Bible and be quietly corrected. Another person might express a lack of faith and be told to pray for more faith. These are subtle ways that sacred beliefs are protected. Rather than opening up the question of the Bible’s authority or allowing doubt to coexist with faith, these possibilities are suppressed. This is just one kind of example. There are many. I’m not saying the emerging church is simply a place to doubt. Instead, I’m saying that the emerging church is a place for open conversation without the restricting confines of the walls often found in religious institutions. And hopefully the emerging church also impacts the institutions by creating safe places for conversation among those who may be part of these important institutions.

Does this make sense?

In short, I hope the emerging church is an inclusive and safe place to believe/disbelieve while having conversation about matters related to faith in today’s world.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

If God is Love

May 19, 2008 - 2 Responses

I have often contemplated the title of my blog (I’ve blogged about it at least three other times – 1, 2, and 3). I don’t know exactly where the title came from. There is a book with the same title, but I’m pretty sure I encountered the book after I started blogging. Either way, “If God is Love” is a phrase full of meaning for me. Mostly it’s a phrase full of hope.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about this title and how it relates to “a new way to believe.” Upon reflection, I’ve realized that the phrase “If God is Love” contains within it at least two questions.

The question of God – “If God” – and the question of God’s Love – “If God is Love.”

At times it may seem that God is not real or at least that God is not love. But for me the giant “if,” the significant uncertainty in this phrase, is not only a signal for the question of God, but also a sign of hope. Hope that there might be a God of Love and a realization of what that means for everything and everyone. The “if” requires faith and hope. I choose to believe. I choose to hope. In the midst of the uncertainty.

This is not a blind hope and a blind faith. I’m not saying that there is an imaginary possibility that God is Love and I choose to believe in that – no, it’s more than that. I believe I have encountered this God of Love. But I also acknowledge that I have encountered the uncertainty.

And so I recognize that I have encountered both the presence of God and the uncertainty of God.

“If God is Love” is where I stand in the midst of this paradox.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Blogosphering

May 16, 2008 - 2 Responses

Going beyond the Christian “table”

Cheryl Lawrie has some interesting thoughts about alternative communities and looking outside the Christian community. I think she’s talking about “church that’s not a church.” You should read the whole post, but here’s a sample:

“Most conversations about new forms of church or christian community are about rethinking the table at which the disciples sit. True confession… this project doesn’t emerge from any interest in that table, or even really in the disciples. i think the really interesting stuff of the gospels is the other stories – the tables Jesus went to where the disciples weren’t invited, or where they were so absent no-one thought to mention their presence – the afternoons at Mary and Martha’s, the nameless person’s house where Jesus met the syro-phonoecian woman, dinner at Levi’s house, dinner with Peter’s mother, the ‘water into wine’ wedding table… i think they’re the fun tables.”

Listen to Peter Rollins

Check out this lecture by Peter Rollins entitled “On the supreme difficulty of atheism and why only the religious can attain it.”

Dear God: Hear us, one prayer at a time

Send your prayers directly to God, via this blog. Lots of good reading and quite a holy voyeuristic pleasure of sorts. (HT: Walking Away)

The Church Basement Roadshow: A Rollin’ Gospel Revival

Check out the press release for Mark Scandrette, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt’s upcoming tour. Here’s a snippet:

“Taking a page out of the Billy Sunday playbook, the authors will spread the emergent message of a generous, hope-filled Christian faith in the style and cadence of the tent revival preachers of a hundred years ago. They plan to have fun with it, wearing frock suits and selling “healing balm,” but the goal is, as in the revivals of yore, to preach the good news.”

Radiohead video for “All I Need”

Check out this powerful video from Radiohead juxtaposing two children from opposite sides of the world – one rich, one poor. (HT: Gathering in Light)

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Initial Thoughts

May 15, 2008 - One Response

Ever since reading Peter Rollins’ How (Not) to Speak of God I have been looking forward to his next book. In fact, I can’t remember a book I have anticipated more highly. So when The Fidelity of Betrayal arrived on Tuesday I was filled with excitement. That night I read about two thirds of the book and yesterday I finished the last third. I devoured it. I couldn’t read it fast enough. It was wonderful. Sometimes I find it helpful to start engaging a book by reading through it quickly, in order to gain the overall big picture, and then to go through it slowly, savoring every word. I am really looking forward to reading it again and blogging through it, just like I did when I read How (Not) to Speak of God for the second time. Hopefully I can start that in the next couple weeks.

Here are few initial comments related to the new book.

First, I think this book successfully builds upon the concepts in Rollins’ first book and takes them to the next level. So if you’re interested in Rollins’ work, I recommend buying both books and starting with How (Not) to Speak of God. Basically, The Fidelity of Betrayal builds on an idea Rollins started working with in the first book. In fact, he builds on the idea that most intrigued me in his first book – the notion of giving up Christianity in order to truly fulfill it. In his first book Rollins relates a powerful story from the movie Amen in which a priest in Nazi Germany gives up his Christian faith and becomes a Jew in order to identify with the persecuted, a move the priest believes is necessary in order to truly live his Christian beliefs. The Fidelity of Betrayal takes this concept and examines it through three lenses, the Word of God, the Being of God, and the Event of God, which forms the structure for the book.

Second, I’m convinced that Phyllis Tickle is right in her assessment of Rollins’ work. She writes, “Here in pregnant bud is the rose, the emerging new configuration, of a Christianity that is neither Roman nor Protestant, neither Eastern nor monastic; but rather is the re-formation of all of them. Here, in pregnant bud, is third-millennium Christianity.” I really believe it. What Rollins (and others) is writing about and doing may not be the future of Christianity but it is certainly a future of Christianity. And the possibility of this future gives me much hope. I believe the core concepts of this book are going to, and already are starting to re-form Christianity in our world. I’m not talking about a shift in the core beliefs of Christianity, but rather a revolution of how Christianity is experienced and expressed in the world.

Third, Rollins ends his new book with some discussion about starting communities that are forged in the midst of these ideas. He quite literally proposes “a church beyond belief” (the subtitle of the book). In short, Rollins is looking at the implications of moving from the church as a bastion of beliefs, towards communities of transformation. Just as Rollins argues for a “religion without religion” I think he is imagining a sort of church that’s not a church, which is exactly what I am most interested in.

So go buy this book. Read it. Think about it. Argue with it. Soak in it. And in the process, allow God to transform you.

[Check out my series on How (Not) to Speak of God]

________________

Reading The Fidelity of Betrayal

2. An Introduction
3. Betraying the Bible
4. Betraying God
5. Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer
6. Towards a Church Beyond Belief

Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe

May 14, 2008 - 2 Responses

Part 4 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 - Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

________________

In the previous post I described the shift that has occurred in my faith regarding how I believe. In many ways, the rest of this series will be a further elaboration on that one theme.

As I have moved towards a greater comfort with ambiguity, mystery, and uncertainty in my faith, one result has been a turn towards a more hopeful way of believing. By hopeful I mean a more positive view of the world and the people in the world. Again, I don’t think my theology has changed a great deal. I still believe in sin. I still believe we are in need of redemption. However, as my way of believing has changed, I have become much more willing to accept the ambiguity of our world. How is it that such good and such evil can come from both Christians and non-Christians? Why isn’t there always a marked difference? In dealing with this problem I no longer feel the need to draw thick lines between Christians, who are responsible for all the good in the world, and non-Christians, those unfortunate beings who bring us all down. Sure, this is an exaggeration, but I don’t think it’s far from how many Christians believe. It’s not far from how I believed. I’m now much more likely to see the value in all people, inherent in their very existence, rather than being caught up in such a divisive and destructive way of believing. This way of looking at people has also changed the way I look at the world. Rather than viewing creation as doomed for destruction, with hope I look for the redemption of this world and everything in it. And I don’t only look for transformation to occur in some afterlife, but in the here and now, little by little. As a result, my hope is that I can be an active participant with God in the redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and recreation of all things.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

One

May 13, 2008 - 6 Responses

Ivy turns one year old today. Amazing.

She has truly made everything better.

Ivy, I am so happy you came to us. Happy Birthday!

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

True or False?

May 12, 2008 - 4 Responses

Come one, come all!

Come and hear The Answer!

Enter these doors and be changed forever!

Hear the Word and never be the same!

Do you have questions?

Do you have troubles in your life?

Come! God is in this place!

He is the answer to all your questions!

All you must do is come!

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Feeling drawn to the religionless

May 8, 2008 - One Response

“I often ask myself why a ‘Christian instinct’ often draws me more to the religionless people than to the religious, by which I don’t in the least mean with any evangelizing intention, but, I might almost say, ‘in brotherhood’. While I’m often reluctant to mention God by name to religious people – because that name somehow seems to me here not to ring true, and I feel myself to be slightly dishonest (it’s particularly bad when others start to talk in religious jargon; I then dry up almost completely and feel awkward and uncomfortable) – to people with no religion I can on occasion mention him by name quite calmly and as a matter of course.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Why I am emerging: A new way to believe

May 7, 2008 - 9 Responses

Part 3 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 2 - Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

________________

Now that I’ve declared the emerging church to be non-existent, I hope to explain why I am emerging and how the emerging church has saved my faith. Yeah, I know, I’m trying to have it both ways. You’re right, I’m a cheater. I believe in emerging even though it doesn’t exist. I identify with this non-reality. In fact, I find great hope in this nebulous something-or-other. Call it “emerging,” call it “emergent,” or call it nothing at all, ultimately I don’t care. I’m with you. I’m in. I’m just not going to spend much time talking about terms, or fighting for them one way or the other. I don’t plan on talking about it anymore. I’m interested in the how and not the what. I desire to be productive and constructive. From here on out this series is going to be focused on the hope I find in this new kind of Christianity and how it has helped save my faith.

To begin the discussion of “why I am emerging,” I want to return to the Peter Rollins’ quote I mentioned in the first post.

“This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs.”

I see this as salvation from the dictatorship of having to know with certainty. I no longer feel the need to have proof for all my beliefs and “evidence that demands a verdict.” I feel much more secure with ambiguity and mystery. Now this doesn’t mean I check my brain at the door, and there is a lot more involved in all this than I am discussing here. But ultimately this change in how I believe, rather than in what I believe, has set me free. For the last five or so years this process of changing how I believe has really brought me new hope for my own faith. More than anything else, this has been the greatest service the emerging church has done for me. And I hope this way of believing is the core theological influence the emerging conversation ends up having on the larger church.

In case this still seems somewhat murky, here’s a practical example from my own life.

Brooke and I went through a significant tragedy in experiencing the stillbirth of our first child. This really shook up our world. How could this have happened? We had gone through so much to get pregnant in the first place. God had at last heard our prayers. Everyone spoke of the goodness of God and how he faithfully answered our prayers. We were overjoyed with being pregnant, we were looking forward to the life of our son. But when we lost Zach this whole way of looking at things feel apart. If God had answered our prayers, why had this happened? Did we lack faith? Was God a scam? What about all the promises of the Bible? It was difficult (and still is difficult) to reconcile this event with our beliefs. Were our beliefs simply all wrong? I don’t think so. I still believe God is loving. I believe God hears our prayers. I believe he didn’t want any of this to happen. My beliefs have not really changed all that much. However, how I believe these things has changed considerably. What Rollins wrote has really been true for me – in a sense, nothing changed and yet the shift was so radical that absolutely nothing was left unchanged. I still believe most of the same core concepts about God, but my faith is much more open to doubt, uncertainty, and even at times, unbelief. I feel much more able to hold these seemingly opposing forces in a kind of constructive tension. This doesn’t mean I have everything figured out. Quite the opposite is true. I still don’t understand what happened or why it happened. I have a lot of difficulty with prayer. I still struggle with doubt. But I’m learning how to believe with doubt. I’m learning how to love God even when I am angry at God and do not understand him. Without this shift in how I believe, I don’t think my faith would have survived.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Why the emerging church does not exist

May 5, 2008 - 29 Responses

Part 2 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 1 – Come, emerge with me
Part 3 - Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

________________

In writing about the emerging church, I must first inform you that the emerging church does not exist. That’s right, there is no such thing as the emerging church.

You might think I’m joking. I’m not. You might even think you’ve read articles and even books about the emerging church. You haven’t. And most confusing of all, you might think I’m writing a series on the emerging church. But that is not true, because the emerging church does not exist, and you can’t write a series of blog entries about a topic that does not exist.

Please, allow me to explain.

People like to talk about the emerging church as if it is something you can point out and identify in the real world. But that is simply not the case. Just like there is no such thing as the emerging church, there is also no such thing as an emerging church. The term is simply too subjective, it is defined in widely varying ways, and ultimately it is too broad to mean much of anything. As a result, I don’t think it exists. It’s a myth. An apparition.

One person hears the term “emerging church” and thinks of the use of candles and media in worship services. Another person hears the term and thinks of moral relativism. Still another person thinks the term relates to the church’s engagement with culture. Some people might think the emerging church encompasses all of the above, while others might say all of the above is wrong and actually we should be talking about the emergent church and not the emerging church. That’s right, some people find it important to distinguish between the emerging church and the emergent church. But personally, I don’t think it’s very helpful to replace one meaningless term with yet another.

So what am I getting at? Two things in particular.

One, the term “emerging church” has lost any real meaning or value (if it ever had any in the first place). It is seldom helpful for conversation. In fact, I think using the term is usually a hindrance, rather than an aid, to good conversation.

Two, rather than writing thousands of blog entries trying to describe the emerging church, and creating numerous fancy charts identifying the emerging church, I think we should simply avoid using the term altogether. Instead, just say what you are really talking about – get past the term and talk about something that really does exist, in terms that most everyone can understand and agree upon. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are probably times when it makes sense to use the term (even though it refers to something that doesn’t exist) but for the most part, it only causes problems.

Well, I’m glad we worked that out. The next entry in my series on the topic that shall not be named, will actually work to describe what I am talking about, rather than what I’m not talking about.

What do you think about all this nonsense?

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Come, emerge with me

May 1, 2008 - 11 Responses

Part 1 in a series on the emerging church

The rest of the series:
Part 2 – Why the emerging church does not exist
Part 3 - Why I am emerging: A new way to believe
Part 4Why I am emerging: A hopeful way to believe
Part 5Why I am emerging: An inclusive way to believe

________________

This post will be the first in a series on the so called “emerging church.” Get ready. The emerging church is scary (just look at the picture). It’s heretical. And it might just cause you to lose your faith altogether. Well, at least that’s what people say.

To get us started, here are some intriguing words from Peter Rollins about the emerging conversation.

Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess. In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today’s context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have. This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs. In short, this revolution is not one that merely adds to or subtracts from the world of our understanding, but rather one which provides the necessary tools for us to be able to look at that world in a completely different manner: in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that absolutely nothing will be left unchanged.

I think this notion of changing how we believe, rather than what we believe, is very important. I anticipate that much of my understanding of the emerging church will be centered on this idea.

What do you think about Rollins’ statement?

Are you scared?

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Blogosphering

April 30, 2008 - 2 Responses

A confession of over indulgence

At Next-Wave, Josh Brown writes:

I am a hypocrite. Hear me roar. I sip my smoothies and blog with my expensive technology. I listen to my indie music with my utilitarian wardrobe. Don’t mess with me! I give money to the poor. I pay extra to get our electricity from “green energy”. Come! Come follow me. Downward mobility is the way to go. But wait . . . I am not going downward. I’m accessorizing my middle mobility. This is not change I am doing. This is not life that I’m creating. I’m perpetuating a myth. I’m soothing my guilt. I am the great politicizer. The great moralizer. The great theorist!

Why does God allow suffering?

Writing as a guest blogger at RLP, Sarah Bickle refuses to accept some of the “bull-oney” theories people offer to those dealing with suffering.

NT Wright on the Kingdom of God

Paul Fromont points us to an interview with NT Wright where he reminds us that “we don’t know how the Kingdom works” and that it “is always a surprise for us.”

Too much emphasis on the Gospels?

Michael Spencer reminds us of the danger of the gospels. I couldn’t agree more.

You could get a lot of wrong ideas reading the Gospels too much. You could start thinking that Jesus is in favor of some kind of social gospel where people give away lots of things, live in community, get in trouble for their radical compassion and stand outside of the religious establishment much of the time.

In fact, really….the Gospels have some good stories, but wouldn’t we be better off to study things like Romans 3 more often, so we really know what the Gospel is about?

Should men be ordained?

Eugene Cho points us to ten compelling reasons to reconsider.

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Downward Mobility 2

April 28, 2008 - 2 Responses

In discussing downward mobility and the way of Jesus, I think it is important to stop and consider Jesus for a minute.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote: “You must make your choice. Either [Jesus] was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”

There is a lot we could discuss about this statement, and there are even potential problems with the statement, but I simply want us to consider that Lewis left out at least one other option.

What if Jesus was the Son of God and a madman?

I think we need to seriously consider this option.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Jesus was mentally insane. But that’s not the only definition for a madman. Webster defines a madman as “a man who is or acts as if insane.” I propose that Jesus taught and lived in ways we would certainly consider crazy, bizarre, reckless, and yes, even insane. One definition for insanity is “something utterly foolish or unreasonable.” I think much of Jesus’ life and teaching fits under this description.

Consider a very small portion of the evidence (just nine short verses from Matthew 5):

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

This is all very unreasonable. And seemingly, quite foolish.

So let’s not dismiss the idea of downward mobility (as I would like to) simply because it appears unreasonable and foolish. We must remember, when we look at Jesus we are looking into the eyes of a madman.

More to come…

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Bonhoeffer Thursdays: Speaking of God without religion

April 24, 2008 - One Response

Bonhoeffer continues his discussion of religionless Christianity:

“The questions to be answered would surely be: What do a church, a community, a sermon, a liturgy, a Christian life mean in a religionless world? How do we speak of God – without religion, i.e. without the temporally conditioned presuppositions of metaphysics, inwardness, and so on? How do we speak (or perhaps we cannot now even ‘speak’ as we used to) in a ‘secular’ way about ‘God’? In what way are we ‘religionless-secular’ Christians, in what way are we the ecclesia, those who are called forth, not regarding ourselves from a religious point of view as specially favoured, but rather as belonging wholly to the world? In that case Christ is no longer an object of religion, but something quite different, really the Lord of the world. But what does that mean? What is the place of worship and prayer in a religionless situation?”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Letters and Papers from Prison

________________

(I have compiled a comprehensive collection of excerpts from Letters and Papers from Prison that are related to Bonhoeffer’s concepts of “religionless Christianity,” “Christianity in a world come of age,” and other related matters. View the PDF document.)

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Speaking of Silence

April 23, 2008 - 2 Responses

Meister Eckhart
“Nothing is so like God as silence.”

Thomas Keating
“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation. In order to hear that language, we must learn to be still and to rest in God.”

St. John of the Cross
“The Father spoke one word from all eternity and he spoke it in silence, and it is in silence that we hear it.”

Thomas Merton
“It is in deep solitude and silence that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brother and sister.”

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Silence

April 22, 2008 - 4 Responses

“The history of God is a history of silence.”

For some reason this phrase, these words, have been stuck in my mind for the past few days.

Thinking of Scripture.

Considering history.

My life.

Our world.

“The history of God is the history of silence.”

What do you think?

________________

Subscribe to comments

Subscribe to blog

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.